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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

9/11… We Remember

11 Sep

If you have an American character and the time frame is early September, you must make note of this iconic day.It can be as simple as that your character:

  • lost someone on that day
  • remembers what they were doing that day
  • was inspired to [join the military] because of that day
  • avoids NY Ground Zero
  • knows someone who will be out of touch, remembering those s/he lost that day

America, we love you.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

 
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How I’m Doing on ‘To Hunt a Sub’

01 Sep

tridentAfter a four-year hiatus from the first book in my Delamagente-Rowe series, I finally think I’ll get it done. I had a few interruptions–agent interest in the series’ second book, deadline for two non-fic series I write–but I think I’m going to make it this time. The short blurb for this thriller–still a work-in-progress is:

…a brilliant PhD candidate, a cynical ex-SEAL, and a quirky bot team up against terrorists intent on stealing America’s most powerful nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine.

Here’s what I did this past month:

  • queried agents. I’ll be doing this for a few weeks.
  • waited on agent responses. Tick tock…
  • collected marketing ideas from you-all. Here’s a master list of 29+ marketing ideas from writers like you. Share it with writer friends; add your own ideas.
  • talked to professional editors. Just in case. It’s good to be prepared. I’d like this on the virtual shelves in time for Christmas.
  • thought about the cover. I have found a few people who might be able to help with that.
  • tried to clean up other writing obligations so I can concentrate on To Hunt a Sub‘s next step.

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7 Tools I Use to Organize My Stories

28 Aug

Efriend Sacha Black interviewed author Jillian Davis and asked about the tools she used to build her story. Sacha wasn’t asking whether she used a computer or pen-and-paper, rather what literary tools-such as character profiles and timelines. I found myself nodding my head over every one Jillian mentioned.

But I wonder how many people use the sort of tools I do. When you Google pictures of writers, you often get something like this:

writer

…or this:

writer

I’m more this:

writing

Let me share my writer’s tools and tell me if you do the same:

Pre-draft

I pre-draft in a spreadsheet. It’s about a dozen columns and hundreds of rows. I often rearrange the rows as a plot point changes and add rows to enhance detail. When I’m done with this pre-draft, I convert the spreadsheet to text and start the editing process.

Here’s what it looks like:

pre-draft a novel

Character profiles

I fill out an extensive questionnaire on each character. I want to get to know the traits, motivations, interests that each of their friends or family would know about them. Invariably, it proves inadequate as the story unfolds and I end up looking at events through their eyes to answer the question, “What would my character really do in this situation?”

Here’s an example:

character profiles

Timeline

I build this in Excel/Google Sheets so I can make it as detailed as possible. When I’m trying to find a character’s activity, I Ctrl+F (see my yellow highlights for ‘Zeke’) to find their name! Truth,it’s most beneficial when I’m setting it up as it clarifies actions and points out temporal problems. Once it’s established, it almost becomes cumbersome to use.

story time line

Support Materials

This is information I’ve collected while researching for my story. Sometimes, it’s the entire bit; other times, just a link. For my current story, it’s so long, I had to add a Table of Contents with internal links to the sections so I could find what I was looking for. A simple Ctrl+F search returned too long a list.

Here’s what it looks like for To Hunt a Sub:

THAS_support_materials

Google Earth map

This was to track my character around the world as the story progressed. Often, I needed detail like:

  • How long did it take to get from Point A to Point B (I measured with Google Earth’s ruler
  • What’s around Point C (I zoomed in on Google Earth)
  • Where was a geographic location that fits the needs of the story (for example, I was looking for a North Korean sub base–found it, thankfully in a spot that worked for my story)
  • Needed the latitude and longitude of a location (Google Earth grid lines provide that

Here’s a screenshot of the Korea geographic activity in my story, mapped in Google Earth:

Google Earth for writing

Pictures

So I can visualize what’s going on. Here are some I’ve used:

Cuts

I keep all the cuts from my story in case I change my mind. That happens more than I’ll admit to. For To Hunt a Sub, it’s 11 pages, size 10 font:

novel cuts

How about you? How do you plan and write your story?

More on writing a novel:

Plotting with a Spreadsheet

How to Write a Novel

7 Reasons For and Three Against Critique Groups


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. 

 
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Use Photos to Develop Your Novel

25 Aug

My current ms is so far from its beginnings that I’d almost forgotten it started with photos to draw character profiles. I remember how much fun it was browsing through internet images of paleoanthropologists, staring into their eyes to see if they were Kali or Zeke (my two main characters). Did they have her fragile spirit or his swash-buckling SEAL-gone-scientist persona? Was there that geeky spark in her eye that indicated no wild data point was going to derail her concentration. Once I found the right image, I read everything I could find about that sort of person and came up with a character that worked. Then, I pasted the pictures to the walls of my office so every time they were in scene, I’d see them–notice how they moved, remember how their head tilted in thought or furrowed their brows in confusion.

Look at these pictures. Do you see a character in your story?

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Writer-Teacher? Join Me For an Online Class

22 Jul

If you’re a writer and a teacher, we have a lot in common. I’ve published over a hundred books/ebooks on teaching in today’s classroom. At my other blog (Ask a Tech Teacher), I talk a lot about teaching, technology, and balancing the two. I write on organic topics, publish how-to’s on everything from using images to running a Genius Hour, and teach online webinars and classes.

In fact, I have two classes coming up:


tech-infused teacherThe Tech-infused Teacher: The 21st Century Digitally-infused Teacher

College credit (MTI 562)

Next class: July 27th, 2015

Next: September, 2015

(email askatechteacher@gmail.com for more information)

The 21st Century lesson blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, you will use a suite of digital tools to make that possible while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, digital publishing, and immersive keyboarding. You will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, publish digitally, and differentiate for unique needs. Classmates will become the core of your ongoing Personal Learning Network.

Price includes course registration, college credit, and all necessary materials.

Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.


Diffeentiated TeacherDifferentiation: How Technology Makes Differentiation Fast and Easy

College credit (MTI 563)

Next class: August 10, 2015 

Differentiation in the classroom means meeting students where they are most capable of learning. It is not an extra layer of work, rather a habit of mind for both teacher and student. Learn granular approaches to infusing differentiation into all of your lesson plans, whether you’re a Common Core school or not, with this hands-on, interactive class. Ideas include visual, audio, video, mindmaps, infographics, graphic organizers, charts and tables, screenshots, screencasts, images, games and simulations, webtools, and hybrid assessments.

Price includes course registration, college credit, and all necessary materials.

Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.


Others you might like (that are coming soon):

webtools for education20 Webtools in 25 Days (How to Find Webtools that Serve Your Classroom)

College credit

Next class: email askatechteacher@gmail.com to be notified when available)

Participants will explore twenty popular digital tools educators are using in their classrooms to extend learning and differentiate for student needs. Participants will review between one and four during the five-week class (by themselves or in groups) and present their review to classmates in a weekly Google Hangout. Participants will respond to the reviews of their classmates with comments, suggestions, personal experience, and questions. Both curations can be used as resource tools in the participant’s upcoming school year.

Assessment is project-based so participants should be prepared to be fully-involved and eager risk-takers.


Click for take-aways from the last sessions of these classes.

I’d love for you to join me. Questions? Email me at AskATechTeacher@gmail.com.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

 

How to Talk to People Online

18 Jul

social media chatTalking to people online is nothing like in person. Sure, you must do this to build your PLN, but quickly, you realize how much communication is transmitted by body language, pacing in speech, facial expressions–all characteristics that can’t be conveyed with the black-and-white of words. That makes sarcasm challenging. Even humor–how often do you know someone’s being humorous because of their grin, exaggerated expressions, or laugh. None of that comes through online.

As a result, online conversations need to be sorted differently than in-person conversations. Consider these quick rules:

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4 Reasons for a PLN and 13 Steps to Building One

14 Jul

plnWhen a colleague tells you s/he heard about a writing competition from someone in her PLN, do you first wonder what she’s talking about–not the contest but the three-letter acronym? Or maybe you think, ‘Of course [Amanda] has a PLN. She’s a geek.’ You might even understand the purpose of a PLN–to provide writers with a collaborative learning environment–but think you don’t need one, or the two yearly conferences you attend is all you can handle.

What is a PLN

According to D. Johnson, a PLN is:
..
“a self-created set of experts, colleagues, and resources…that meet one’s daily learning needs.”

More simply, it’s:

…an extended group of knowledgeable people you reach out to for answers, and trust to guide your learning.

These individuals can be anywhere in the world, but are always carefully selected by you for their expertise in your subject area. It doesn’t mean they have all the answers. It means that when you have questions, you trust them to inform your thinking, guide your research, and provide answers and directions scaffolded from their personal experience. You may never meet them in person, though you likely collaborate through Google Hangouts, Skypes, or pre-arranged TweetUps.

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What’s Trending on WordDreams

08 Jul

applauseIn the past quarter, I’ve posted about 40 articles on topics ranging from writer resources, how-to’s, descriptors, and opinions. During this quarter, I hit the 1 Million Visitors mark (cue the applause!) and got more comments from my community than in any other quarter.

I like to step back a few times a year and determine what readers are most interested in. WordPress makes that easy with their statistics. Here’s this period’s run-down:

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination
  2. How to Describe Nature
  3. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  4. 103 Most Beautiful Words? You Decide
  5. How To Describe Noses, Mouths, Legs, and more
  6. How to Describe a Landscape
  7. 35 Weird Traits Your Characters May Have
  8. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  9. How to Describe Your Character’s Home II
  10. How to Describe a Person’s Clothing

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How to Build Your Personal Learning Network

01 Jul

plnWhen a colleague tells you she heard about a new tech tool from someone in her PLN, do you first wonder what she’s talking about–not the tool but the three-letter acronym? Or maybe you think, ‘Of course  [Amanda] has a PLN. She’s a geek.’ You might even understand the purpose of a PLN–to provide educators with a collaborative learning environment–but think you don’t need one, or staff development provided by your school is all you can handle.

What is a PLN

According to D. Johnson (2013), a PLN is:
..
“a self-created set of experts, colleagues, and resources…that meet one’s daily learning needs.”

More simply, it’s:

…an extended group of knowledgeable people you reach out to for answers, and trust to guide your learning.

These individuals can be anywhere in the world, but are always carefully selected by you for their expertise in your subject area. It doesn’t mean they have all the answers. It means that when you have questions, you trust them to inform your thinking, guide your research, and provide answers and directions scaffolded from their personal experience. You may never meet them in person, though you likely collaborate through Google Hangouts, Skypes, or pre-arranged TweetUps.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Writers Tip #98: 18 Tips on Grammar from William Safire

01 Jun

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

William Safire, speechwriter for President Nixon, Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times (and one of their few conservative columnists), died in 2009, but lives on through both his writing and his wisdom about writing. The highly-acclaimed column he started in 1973 for the NYTimes called “On Language” (now written by Ben Zimmer) established him as one of the most significant voices on how to write well. His wildly-popular approach to the who-whom problem  is now called Safire’s Law of Who/Whom:

“When whom is correct, recast the sentence.”

Despite the assumed dullness of his topic, Safire had a wonderful sense of humor. Read these quotes:

The wonderful thing about being a New York Times columnist is that it’s like a Supreme Court appointment – they’re stuck with you for a long time.

Only in grammar can you be more than perfect.

Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day.
Here are eighteen grammar tips that include his wry humor I found useful:

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