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#SamWIP: 12K Day and a Trip to the ER

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WHEW, I had a big day! 😀


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in printand short fantasy A SHINY FOR TRICK (forever free for your entertainment!).

Check out the #SamWIP category every Monday to hear about Sam’s current projects!

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#WriteTip: Why Scrivener is the Best Thing to Have Ever Happened to Me

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I’ve been hyping this program for quite a long time now, and it’s TIME. It is time for me to tell you why I love this program so much.

Scrivener is a word processor (think like Microsoft Word) specifically aimed at novelists, though it also has its uses for journalists, bloggers, students, professionals, etc. For anyone that is planning on writing a long project, this program is indispensable. Of course, there are a few comparable programs out there, but for ease of use and ‘bang for your buck,’ my opinion is that Scrivener is King.

The reasons for this?

  • It’s incredibly easy to use
  • You can import existing files to start using it mid-project
  • It’s fantastic for chapter and scene separations
  • You can drag and drop entire sections in seconds
  • It will format your book for you for eBook, paperback, or other formats
  • It’s remarkably CHEAP for how powerful it is
  • You can get it 50% off for winning NaNoWriMo

How I Used to Write

When I first started writing, I, like many writers, started with Microsoft Word. But as you probably already know, Microsoft Office is very expensive. Furthermore, for writing novels it’s actually not very good. You have to become a formatting expert and know how to use pretty much every feature of Word, for starters. And, writing chapters is a total pain in the ass. Either you write the entire book on one document with section breaks – which bogs down the program and makes it difficult to use – or you make a new document for every chapter – which makes it difficult to edit, compile, etc.

My workaround was to combine the use of Word and Excel. I’d use Excel to do all of my planning and keep the novel organized, kind of like a map of the novel. And then I’d make a separate document in Word for each chapter. As I’ve said, this is a total pain. Google Documents made it slightly easier, as I could hyperlink my documents in the spreadsheet, so I could use it as a launch pad for the novel and go anywhere I wanted to fairly quickly.

Why Scrivener Blew My Mind

Scrivener was both of the things that I needed in one place. I watched a friend drag and drop a whole chapter from one place to another and my jaw dropped. I was already sold. She outlined the whole book with shell chapters, wrote the descriptions on the index cards marking each one, and then wrote within them. If I decide later that I want to move a scene, a chapter, etc, I can just grab that and move it – drag and drop. The sidebar containing the chapters became my Excel spreadsheet. The window for writing became the Word document.

Better yet, I could load up pictures to the Research section for inspiration, as well as upload or fill in sheets for every character and setting, which I was also using separate documents for in Word and Excel.

The Best Part, and Why This is Totally Worth the $40

Scrivener formats your book for you.

If you’ve never tried to format, it takes a ridiculously long time and a LOT of patience. Endless tweaking, just to get it to look right. Having a program take your words and doll them up for you is fantastic. It only takes a few seconds, and it will put my novel into whatever format I want, whether it be ebook or print paperback or just a PDF for sending to friends.

Complaints

I have trouble with simple formatting features like setting a permanent font and page indents. It seems like mine differ from project to project. It’s probably just something I haven’t figured out quite yet.

Frankie and I have also run into some issues like setting ‘Gutter Margins,’ which are margins that are wider where the book’s spine would be. These are staggered, meaning some pages have a wide left margin and some have a wide right margin, and Scrivener will do them for you…but only if you have the Mac version apparently. Frankie runs Windows, so sometimes she and I find some differences in what we are dealing with, and my Mac version seems to be slightly superior.

I also have not quite figured out Front Matter, but after watching this video I’m going to end with, I think I have a lead on how to figure this out.

Conclusion

If you win NaNoWriMo, you can get this for 50% off. That’s $20. It’s so worth it. Some people don’t love Scrivener, but at least 90% of the people I talk to who have tried it are rabid fans of the program (myself included). I love how organized the program is, and how much of the more nitty gritty legwork the program will do for you, like formatting.

I highly recommend this to anyone who is starting to take themselves seriously. There’s a certain air of sobriety that happens when Scrivener boots up.

It’s like, “Yeah…I bought a program because I’m going to write the fuck out of this book and things are starting to get serious.”

Because you just bought a program whose sole purpose is for you to finish this thing. You’re going to love it, though. Sometimes I just boot this up and stare at it, admiring the raw beauty of it.

It’s not because I can’t think of what to write, I swear.


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!

#SamWIP: Back on Track with the Blog

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Check out the #SamWIP category every Monday to hear about Sam’s current projects!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

#FrankieWIP NaNoWriMo Ends and Hardback Malevolence!

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Finished NaNoWriMo on just over 85 thousand words! I also ordered a hard-backed copy of Malevolence and it is so COOL!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

Our books are HALF OFF right now!

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Sam says:

OK, normally I’m not one for shameless plugs. I mean, I know I’m supposed to try to market my book, but I’ve been pretty lazy about it. I figure it will be easier to market if I have more variety to offer.

Disclaimer aside…can we talk about this AMAZING OFFER?!?

Our print publisher, Blurb, is offering 50% off its books. Yes, the ad says “photo books,” but I’ve found that any time they run an ad, it applies to my book at checkout as well. So if you go to purchase either (or BOTH?!) of our books, MALEVOLENCE by F.R. Donaldson or THE BLOOD OF NERYS by S.K. Balk, you can get it for 50% off between now and November 29…INCLUDING SHIPPING!!! 

I know there are over a hundred of you followers out there. Maybe you’re following because you find us entertaining (love you!), or maybe you’re waiting for the right book.

But…HALF OFF?! And that INCLUDES SHIPPING. Seriously!

Like, this would be a fantastic time for me to stock up on hardcopies (because I also get half off, and the more I buy, the cheaper it gets as it is). But, let’s be real…in two days, it’s going to be Black Friday. And this is one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.

If you’ve got a friend who loves to read and might be interested in the stories we’ve written, there hasn’t been a better time to give it a whirl.

Blurb runs these discounts quite often, I find, but 50% off is about as deep a discount as I’ve seen. I’m excited to tell you about this. I hope you’re excited to hear it!

And if our stories aren’t your thing, no hard feelings. Writers tend to be pretty noncompetitive. Readers are as special and unique as writers are. Finding an author you enjoy is like finding a secret best friend, and finding readers that like you is like finding out you have a secret admirer. It’s a pretty awesome, special relationship. So if our books aren’t to your liking, but you do follow and enjoy this blog, we’d really appreciate if you’d just share this offer with your friends. If someone is out there that might enjoy our stories, we want them to be able to take advantage of this amazing deal, too.

Thanks guys! We love you so very much!

Happy holidays to you and your families, whichever holiday(s) you celebrate! Love and joy and peace and all those warm fuzzy things!

–Sam and Frankie (penned by Sam)

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#SamWIP: What is this monstrosity? (I like it!)

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I am VACATION!


Check out the #SamWIP category every Monday to hear about Sam’s current projects!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

#WeCreate NaNoWriMo Update and Ponies Galore!

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Hello everyone!

I completed my fifty-thousand word goal for NaNoWriMo a few days ago. I’m continuing to write as Emergence isn’t quite finished yet, but I am very happy with my progress.

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The injury to my hand appeared to get better with the heat and splinting. I felt it was in a good way so I took off my splint day before yesterday and managed to worsen the healing injury. As a result, typing is slower than usual! I’m finding even the most tiny of things difficult as the hand is such a complex joint, and you forget how much you use your hands–even your non-dominant one! But, I’m getting there!

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I’ve received most of the My Little Ponies for my collection which I ordered this past week and a half. Very pleased with all of them, and even included a few G2 and Equestria type, even though they are not my favourites. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I hate Equestria and think G2 ponies are ugly, but they came in a couple of bundles so I have them as part of a more fuller collection. (Though, I am getting to like the G2 a little XD) I’ve lost count of how many I have in my collection. It was over 700 last year, but I sold some so I need to do a recount of all the ponies. I bought the little houses and castles and nursery for display purposes. I have been collecting these for years and don’t have a single pony on display!

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As for drawing, I haven’t even attempted to draw a thing for a few weeks. I did buy a My Little Pony adult colouring in book, purely as a part of the collection you understand….and I coloured some of that in while I was unable to type! Colouring in is almost as relaxing as sticking stickers into my sticker albums XD

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My attempt at colouring in! I think I need better pens XD

That’s it for now! I hope you are all well and enjoying the weekend! I’m away to write for a while 😀 Bye for now!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

#WhateverWednesday Goal Achieved!

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Well, I managed to hit the NaNoWriMo 50k word goal today and I’m still writing. I’ve not finished Emergence quite yet, only completed the 50k NaNoWriMo challenge. I’ll keep adding to the total as I go and hopefully will be finished soon 😀
I hope everyone taking part is doing well! Just remember, it’s not a race, nor a competition, it’s simply a goal to achieve or strive towards. Whatever you manage to write, well done! Keep going! 😀

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F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

#SamWIP: Well. Na2NoWriMo?

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I think I’m just going to write two books.

Yeah, I said it.

November is a weird month for me. I know a lot of people look at our burgeoning word counts and think we’re something that’s somewhat superhuman. It hardly even looks fair. NaNoWriMo was put in place for the struggling writer to have an attainable goal. It’s not meant to be crushed. It’s not meant to be a place where established writers gloat about smashing records.

So for starters…sorry about that.

Recently, a fellow Wrimo asked how I do it. The answer is pretty simple: shove aside the distractions and surrender to the plot. Good characters with a goal in mind should pretty much write themselves if you give them the effort to do it with.

But to balance out that scale…remember, since you’ve been here this whole time…Frankie and I are seldom this productive. It’s pretty much a November-confined awesomeness. I can’t answer for Frankie, but for me I know it has something to do with the camaraderie of all the other writers geeking about being creative at the same time. Of course, part of it is because I am insanely competitive. Word sprints get me every time. I’ll sprint even if I don’t think I am ready to sprint. And then I’ll usually have the highest word count in a sprint (though Mandie gives me a run for my money for certain!). Anything less than that gives me the grumbles.

What I really need to be able to do is funnel that power into writing throughout the rest of the year, and there so far I have fallen a little flat. I find all the excuses again outside of November. I’m going to try to hone my discipline.

Writing consistently gives me a huge influx of ideas. If I can keep the energy going, I have a lot to say. I have so many plot bunnies right now begging indulgence…so many ideas I need to check out.

And for that reason, I think I’m just going to write two books. I have this toxic romance brewing in my imagination that needs out. I also have a couple of half-finished novels that I feel better about now. I’m probably not going to finish the second book this month, but hopefully I can get a good jump on it.

Back to the actual update, though.

Frankie’s right. I have 45K written (45,602). My goal is to have it finished by the halfway point, Nov. 15. The book may need an additional 5-15K, but shouldn’t need much more than that. I love it again, thank goodness. The characters are getting to be pretty interesting. I am having a little bit of trouble in key places. There are a few scenes in the middle I blanked on and skipped. And then there’s the loose ends at the end that I’m having trouble keeping concise without it getting boring. Honestly, though…that’s the kind of stuff I save for editing. If I can’t figure it out soon, I’ll probably just leave it for now and get back to it in a few months.

And maybe I really can finish a full second book because…well, I have a 9-day vacation. No joke. I always like to be able to burn up my accrued Paid Time Off (the best benefit an employer can offer, in my opinion) in November. Usually, I take it earlier than this. Last year I think I took it between the 9th-15th and the weekends thereabouts. This year, I didn’t have enough saved up to take it earlier because I took time off for my mom. I’ll be visiting Jori and Kevin for part of it and we usually get quite a lot done together. For another part of it, I’ll be visiting my mom, and she doesn’t have the internet (which does WONDERS for productivity, let me tell you!).

It’s funny…I talk to a lot of people in November, and this has been an odd year. Everyone I know is either kicking butt and almost done or at least a week behind. I have yet to meet anyone who’s hovering right around goal.

Back to Life…

I think most of us can agree that 2016 has sucked pretty badly. It was one of my worst years mentally. The world looks like it’s going to shit. I hardly wrote much at all.

So if you’re still here and you’re still reading this, let’s make the world a better place in 2017. Try to accentuate the positives and lift up good people. Try to be a better person yourself, even if that means confronting the ugly truths you don’t even like to admit to yourself. The world needs better people in it. The world needs some hope and affection.

The world needs some doers.

Right now it seems like a lot of us are just kind of…watching. And complaining.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

We’ll talk more about what we’re planning in 2017 soon enough. For me, I’m working on tackling some debt, aggressively, to try to make room in my life for the idea of children (if the world isn’t in some kind of nuclear winter by then). I’m reflecting on the state of my mind because my fail-safe defenses…you know, failed.

Finances.

Mental Health.

Productivity.

I can write more. I just haven’t. But I need the finances to improve my mental health, and I need the mental health to write. The words simply don’t happen if I’m exhausted by my own brain. So that’s the rough outline of my plan.

If you’re also out there writing, may the word gods be merciful. Good luck!


Check out the #SamWIP category every Monday to hear about Sam’s current projects!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Frankie and Sam are Winning NaNoWriMo!

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Hi all, Frankie here!
I know the blog has not been regularly updated as usual, but as you are aware, Sam and I are taking part in NaNoWriMo this month. It is always a busy time for us; writing for hours every day, trying to get the first drafts of our next books ready!
I’m pleased to say it will not take the entire month to do this. We are already at the forty-thousand word mark and both of us hope to crash through the fifty-thousand word barrier soon. This does not mean that either book will be finished at this point, but it does mean we are closer to completing our first drafts! At present, my NaNoWriMo word count is 40,359 words. I believe Sam is just over 45. With a full tally of approximately eighty-thousand words for Emergence, it is well over halfway written! I am managing to get at least a chapter a day written, and on good days I’m managing up to four!

Unfortunately, I had a fibromyalgia flare up a few days ago. For the first time in a few years it actually left me quite immobilized. I was unable to walk properly, or move easily and had to take a day or two away from writing. It also resulted in my left hand seizing up so I couldn’t write as much as I would have liked. Thankfully, the main symptoms have began to disappear so I am back on my feet and raring to go, but my left hand remains terribly painful and does not function well.

For the life of me I couldn’t remember injuring it at all, but today I remembered I caught my hand between trolleys in the supermarket at the end of last week. It jammed tight when someone pushed their trolley into the bay at the same time I did mine! I had to tug my hand free, but at the time it just smarted a little and didn’t cause me any problems so I thought no more on it. Well, it sure is causing me problems now! There is a possibility I strained dorsal carpometacarpal ligaments, which would account for the fact I am unable to move my hand in a normal range of motion, as well as the odd painful bumps on the back of my hand. I’m treating it with painkillers, heat/cold and splinting. Because of this I am still able to type a little. It’s a good job I’m right handed! I won’t let it stop me writing Emergence, that’s for sure!

Anyway, that’s where we are at the moment, and why there’s not been frequent updates! Hopefully our normal schedule will resume after November, but we will be in editing mode by then, so will still be busy. Massive thanks to everyone who is supporting us, we really appreciate it!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE