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my random ramblings about crafts, writing, books and kids

Tools of the Trade: Random Tools

In the past I told you about 4theWords and Habitica–role playing “games” that keep me motivated; ScrivenerLiquid Story Binder and Aeon Timeline that I use to keep projects organized; and sites for white noise to help with distractions.

Today, I’m going to highlight ten other programs and sites I like to use to keep myself organized.

  1. wordcounter.net
    counter1WordCounter is my go-to site for counting words in my writing. Everyone knows the counter in Word is highly inaccurate and every program has its own algorithm. Some count words separated by em dashes as one word and another didn’t count words if they were followed by a curly end-quote (WTF is that about?).

    counter2I tested out a bunch of online counters and found wordcounter to be the most accurate. What’s even better is that it offers a whole slew of features to help you evaluate your writing.

    As you can see from the screencap, you can keep track of not only the number of words but the number of sentences, paragraphs, and pages. There are other stats it tracks like reading level, average lengths of sentences, shortest and longest sentences and words, unique words, and syllables (I’m guessing for poetry).

    The keyword density feature is great to check how many times you say “and” in a story (way too many times in my case).

  2. wordkeeperalpha.com
    wka1WordKeeperAlpha is the site I use to make those colorful monthly charts on my round-up posts.wka2

    It’s a simple site that lets you keep track of your daily word count with the ability to break things down by project. wka3

    There is also a graph representing the entire year and a pie chart that breaks your cumulative words down by project. It’s not a super important site if you use other spreadsheets to track words, but those graphs sure are pretty.

  3. LibreOffice
    LibreOffice is a freeware alternative to Microsoft Word. It takes a little getting used to, and I find some of the functions clunky, but it does everything Word does–sometimes better.
    storylist
    Besides using it as a word processor, I take full advantage of the spreadsheet file type. I use it to keep track of every story I write. The example above is from my “storylist” file. It lists title (or working title), fandom, main characters, ships, summary, start/finish dates, word count, rating, warnings, prompts, LJ community (if written for a prompt/challenge), dedication, beta, series, and which sites the story is posted to. That’s a lot of info. And as you can see, it goes back to when I first started writing fanfic in 2005.
  4. thesaurus.com
    Thesaurus.com and dictionary.com are an easy given. They are my favorite places to look when I’m in need of that perfect word. There are other dictionary and thesaurus sites out there, but why would you go anywhere else?
  5. songfacts.com
    songfactsThis might seem like a completely random site, but I use Songfacts to find song titles to use as titles for my fanfic. You can search by theme or word. There are also random categories to look through, and they all link to the lyrics of the song. It’s a great place to get inspiration as well (song titles and lyrics always breed plot bunnies for me).
  6. Scapple
    scapple2Scapple is a “mind mapping” tool from the makers of Scrivener, and it’s one of my favorite programs to play around with.

    scapple1Mind mapping is when you place the topic of your project in the center then connect it to sub-topics (arcs, characters, and plot points in the case of stories) around it. You then connect details to each of those points. So on and so forth. It was probably my favorite writing exercise as a kid. You can get really fancy on paper with drawings, colors, and notes. Digital mind, though, mapping often lacks that flexibility.

    scapple3Scapple is fairly basic. Topics/ideas are placed anywhere and connected by arrows or lines. Different box styles and colors help organize. They can also be used to set apart notes that aren’t connected to the diagram. There are limitless ways to use the program. I’ve used it to track plots, relationships between characters, family trees, and even used it to break down supplies needed to finish quests at 4theWords.

  7. random.org
    Random.org is the site I use to randomize my prompt lists. The site offers other randomizers, like numbers and dice, that can be useful.
  8. shutterstock.com and other stock photo sites
    No, you don’t need to buy a subscription or pay for rights to use these sites. Because you are only looking for inspiration. It’s helpful to be able to picture your characters, so I use the sites to find photos of people that look like the characters I have in mind. And sometimes photos I find inspire the look of new characters (or even entire plots).
  9. houseplans.com and other sites like it
    In the same vein as the stock photo sites, sites that offer house plans help visualize the living spaces of your characters so you don’t accidentally move the bathroom to the opposite side of the house five chapters down the line. That is if you don’t get sucked into finding your dream home.
  10. Pinterest
    Pinterest isn’t just for over-achieving super moms and bored housewives to find elaborate and pointless DIY projects to attempt. It’s also great for keeping track of those stock photos and house plans you find using different boards for each project. BEWARE: this site is a total timesuck. Enter at your own risk.

There are a multitude of other sites and tools out there–word processing software, inspiration and prompt sites, and motivational tools to name a few. These ten are the ones I use most often.

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

from a fic for Red Vs. Blue:

“You organized them by color?”

“Yeah, of course. Why? How do you organize them?”

Church fought the urge to throttle Tucker. “Oh, I don’t know—how about in alphabetical order!”

Stargate SG-1 fic: Home Improvement

[Sam & Jack friendship]
Sam gets a surprise visit from the colonel and his tools.
341 words | rating: G


Sam woke on a Saturday to a loud crash that rattled the walls of her house. She shot out of bed, reaching for a gun that wasn’t there. It took her a few seconds to relax and remember she was at home, not off-world. There was another smaller crash then a lot of banging. What the hell?

She padded down the hall into the kitchen. More noise came from the backyard. She really considered finding that gun when a large shadow passed the door. Wait a minute. Sam cocked her head—that was a shadow she recognized. In her barefeet and pajamas, she opened the back door, finding her porch in pieces

“Sir?” Sam said, crossing her arms as she leaned against the door frame. “What are you doing?”

The colonel started, dropping a hammer. He looked up at her, three nails hanging from his lips. He mumbled something around the nails then pulled them from his mouth. “Hey, Carter. I just-” He looked around at the mess. “Did I wake you?”

“It’s oh-seven-thirty, sir.”

“So I woke you.”

She glared at him. Then at the mess.

He cleared his throat. “I just noticed that your deck was looking a little worn. I mean, the last time we were here for team night. It’s a little battered. But the frame is still good. I just thought I’d spruce it up-”

His rambling was kind of adorable. She forced her mind away from those dangerous thoughts and put a hand up to stop him. “I appreciate the thought, sir, but this is a rental. I’m not sure what my landlady will think of your home improvements.”

“Oh.” He ducked his head, a blush creeping up his neck. Very adorable.

Bad Sam.

Sam bit her lips to keep from smiling while the colonel stood there looking awkward as hell. When she thought he’d suffered enough, she shook her head. “Well, since you’re here—you want some coffee? There might be donuts, too.” She went back in the house, knowing without a doubt that he’d follow.

Camp NaNoWriMo Redux

Camp-2017-Participant-Profile-PhotoIf you’re having a bit of deja vu, that’s okay. You’re not imagining that I posted about Camp NaNo before. Unlike NaNoWriMo, you get two opportunities to go to Camp NaNo–April and July.

It took me a while to decide whether or not to do Camp this month. April burnt me out. I haven’t really wanted to write since then and did almost no editing on all of those stories I started. That is not good.

Yesterday, I started convincing myself I really needed to do this–I need to get stories finished and posted online. What I lacked is real motivation. And then the newest Untu zone opened at 4thewords.com. And that’s just what I needed. New monsters. New quests. Lots of writing to be had. But I needed new goals to achieve.

So instead of starting a new story and forcing myself to write 1,000 words each day, I’m toning things down. My goal is to add at least 100 new words to projects I started in April (or March) and edit those projects for at least an hour each day. That seems doable. 100 words is less than ten minutes of writing. The harder part will be the editing. Made even more difficult by the fact that the kids are on summer break, so they are interrupting me even more than usual.

But I shall persist.

So here’s to another successful Camp NaNoWriMo! Anyone else joining me?

July Goals

Recap from June:

Reading: D+ Read 3 books (2 novels and 1 novella) out of 11 books I needed to catch up.
Writing: A+ Completed all goals.
Finishing/Editing: F+ Only edited on one day (and that wasn’t for an hour). Didn’t finish any new stories.
Posting: F Only posted one of five stories.


July Goals:

Reading:

  • read four books to make up for missing May’s goals
  • read four books to make up for missing June’s goals
  • read four books for July goals to catch up with my Goodreads challenge

Reviews:

  • finish reviews for each book read
  • post at least two reviews

Writing:

  • write every day in my writing journal
  • maintain my streak
  • keep up with #writeastory
  • write 100 words each day
  • add words to at least 15 unfinished stories from April
  • make weekly Camp NaNo recap post

Finishing/Editing:

  • do at least one hour of editing each day
  • finish at least 5 WIP stories

Posting:

  • post two fanfics from May
  • post two fanfics for June
  • post two fanfics for July

Montly Round-up

All things reading and writing.

Reading:

Three books finished. Wow! That’s just so… underwhelming. I’m now 8 books behind schedule. Technically, Shadows was included in Opposition, but I’m treating them as two books because I can. I even managed to write reviews for each of them, but neglected to edit and post them. Time to get busy on that.

Reviews:

None posted. 😦

Writing:

I hit my GYWO (Get Your Words Out) goal! My total for the year is 254,151. My month was a little slow, though. Only 26,526 words. I had a couple productive days, but the last week and a half I averaged under 100 words. I was too busy crocheting and binge-watching Being Human.

Streak: 181 days. Haven’t missed since January 1.

june2017wordchart

Editing/Finishing:

Another failure. I edited two projects, but only one of those was posted.

Posting:

When I’m Gone (Stargate SG-1)

Stargate SG-1 fic: When I’m Gone

Just a little team miscommunication courtesy or Jack’s twisted sense of humor.

190 words | rating: G


“Remember me when I’m gone,” Jack said, appearing at the door of Sam’s lab. Sam and Daniel looked up from the plan they were working on.

“Why?” asked Daniel. “What’s wrong?

“Are you sick, sir?”

Jack sat heavily on one of the stools. He didn’t even spin. “Yes, sick.”

“Oh, god. What is it? Cancer? Poisoning? What was that alien thing SG-9 caught last week-”

Sam interrupted him. “Sir, is it serious?”

“Very.”

Daniel looked panicked. “What can we do, Jack? Is there a treatment?”

Jack sighed. “Unfortunately, no.”

“No,” Daniel yelled, “this isn’t right. You can’t die. We’ll talk to the Tok’ra. They owe us.”

“Who said anything about dying?”

Sam and Daniel exchanged looks. “You did,” they said at the same time

“No, I didn’t. I said to remember me when I’m gone. Hammond just told me I’m being sent to Washington for the week. This is serious business. There’s no treatment for boredom by politician.”

Sam rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Sir-”

Jack just smiled.

“Sometimes I hate you,” said Daniel.

“Well, my work here is done,” Jack said with a clap. “See you next week.”

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

Something I was working on the other day.

His heart leaped into his throat. He took off like a shot, hopping logs and ducking branches. His lungs burned and his legs ached as he pushed himself faster. He broke through the trees around the dropship as the storm lit up the sky. Lightning crackled overhead followed by a rumble of thunder that shook the ground. But all Bellamy could see were the flames gobbling up one half of the wall.

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

A dream sequence in a story I was working on the other day:

Finn looked at Bellamy then shrugged. “You’ll probably want this,” he said, tossing something to Bellamy.

Bellamy snatched it out of the air and looked down, horrified. It was a heart, and it was still beating. Across the room, Raven giggled as Finn lifted her, setting her ass on the table. He ran his hands up her back, leaving bloody hand prints all over her shirt.

Tools of the Trade: Aeon Timeline

aeon4

One of my all time favorite tools for writing is Aeon Timeline. I first heard about through NaNoWriMo. As soon as I tried it out, I knew I had to have the software. It was exactly what I was looking for to organize events in stories. It would have come in handy in 2008 when I was writing a complicated story told from several points of view in three different locations at the same time. Some of the features of Aeon were things I did on my own to organize scenes in the story. I was hooked as soon as I saw this.

I’m still getting used to the new version, but I’ll muddle through my favorite parts.

aeon1First off there’s the main timeline. The newest version of Aeon allows for nested events and connecting different event that happen consecutively. It’s a nice feature that I’m still getting used to using. With this version you can see the title given to the event, the date/time, and the little bar showing the duration. This gives a nice quick overview of your events. Things can be customized by color so different arcs, acts, or characters can easily be identified in an instant.

aeon5

The parent/nesting feature is a nice improvement over the previous version. It allows you to break a sequence down into tiny increments that would get cumbersome on a full timeline. Here, each small even can have it’s own entry but when it’s not important to know the details, the main event can be collapsed, showing the time frame of the entirety of events under it. This has been helpful as I’ve been using the timeline to plot out every episode (so I can make my stories fit within the framework).

Besides the main view of the timeline, each event can be expanded to look at the details.

aeon3

Mine shows the details I’ve entered for event #45 in the timeline. There’s the basic info of title, time, and duration that you see on the timeline, but then other info is added. In this case, it’s the characters involved in the scene (and their ages because I like that feature), the location, arc, a photo, and a summary of events. This can be really helpful when you have a lot going on and need to quickly check something out.

aeon7All of this info is entered through the “inspector.” You can control the title, color, characters involved, and a whole slew of other info, much of it customizable by you.

One of my favorite features from the older version is how you were able to see which characters were involved in each event. It was similar to how I plotted that complicated story with each chapter going across a paper and a line extending from each one down through a list of characters. I would put a dot next to each character in the scene and a circle around the dot of the POV character. That’s nearly identical to what Aeon did. I loved it. And then they changed it.

I’m still not sure what I think of the new version, but you still get all of the information.

aeon2In this case things work horizontally instead of vertically. As you can see, each event is listed on the left with a string of characters going off the screen on the right. I like to put my characters in alphabetical order then color code them through the whole spectrum. No real reason other than it looks pretty. It makes it difficult to add new characters into the list. I really love that you are able to see how old the characters are at any given event. That can be really helpful when you’re doing coming of age stories.

aeon6The information on the top of the page isn’t just about characters. In my case, I also have locations marked (also in a rainbow), story arc, and season. That way I can easily keep things sorted.

When I make my TV show timelines, I like to plot out each episode to get a global canon timeline. Then I plot my stories around that. Groups of events can be separated by “arcs” so I can have the canon arc, story #1 arc, story #2 arc, etc. Arcs I don’t need to see can be hidden. I like having the timeline for every story in one place.

There’s a lot more I didn’t even touch on, like the fact that it syncs with Scrivener. I’ve never used the function, but it’s a highlight for many people. And I’m still trying to figure the ins and outs of the new design.

I don’t often buy products I try online. I usually look for freeware that offers similar functions, but with Aeon, it’s well worth the price. And they usually have discounts during November and for NaNo winners.

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