Saturday, January 9, 2021

A Fascination with Numbers


gday gentle reader,  

Me and WotF

On further analysis (see my previous post) of my eight (8) award-winning stories over 4 years of consecutive submissions to L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest, I  have yet to get a mention in the second Quarter that runs from January 1 to March 31.

As Spok would say: Fascinating. Is it that I slack off during our southern hemisphere Summer, or does the northern hemisphere Winter put more northern hemisphere bums on writing seats for longer periods? I shall turn up the aircon and try harder this quarter.

Word Counts

And one more fascinating thing about my most recent Silver Honourable Mention The Starbuck Chronicles, but let me digress a moment.  

Back in 1999 I won 2nd prize in the 1st Aurealis Millennium competition for a story that was and had to be exactly 1000 words not including the title. But wait there's more, most of my early submissions to Antipodean SF, under the mistaken impressions that Ion wanted no more than 500 words, were close to and often exactly 500 words. By now you're starting to get the picture. 

The Starbuck Chronicles,  

my Silver Honourable Mention has exactly 750 words (not including Chapter# and title) in each of its 17 chapters. 

 I am now left to wonder if unbeknown to the judges, the pattern (the rhythm if you will) of the chapters, played part in the win.  Did it lift it up to Silver H M or lower its chances of attaining higher or did it not make a scrap of difference. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the challenge of making a longer story hold together despite the self-imposed artificial strictures.    

 ooroo Rob

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Writing Aids & Awards

g'day gentle reader

The result of all my wailing and gnashing of teeth over writing programs is I decided to buy Scrivener, to organise big projects like my 600,000 word trilogy and an anthology of my Writers of the Future awards,

speaking of which, 2020 was another good year for me.  4 submissions to WotF returned 2 Honourable Mentions and a Silver Honourable Mention. 3/4 ain't bad. Ain't good either. Only 1st 2nd or 3rd count.  I did the same only better in 2018. 3/4 and one was a Semi-Finalist.

The awards however are asymmetric. The Table shows awards given for the Quarter.  My Silver HM Qtr.4 was equal 134th. if it had been in Qtr.3 it would have been equal 67th. Conversely my HM ranked better for being in Qtr.3 equal 330th, rather than Qtr.4 where it would've been equal 458th. As the contest grows the competition get stiffer, I am happy to still be winning awards, I must be improving.  

I also decided to buy ProWritingAid (Black Friday sale) for checking grammar and style and everything else chapter by chapter since with anything more than a chapter the incredibly detailed checks it does will slow you down. For example: Part 1 of Book 1 in the trilogy (90,000 words) took 9 mins and gave me 1473 errors and I accidentally hit the [Realtime] button instead of the an [issues] button. It restarted and wasted another 9 mins. And if you don't correct (or ignore?) the errors then save, it restarts next time you open.  

The error count was a lot bigger first time around but I had corrected the spelling issues, (again almost exclusively my Character Names) and saves the story 

The firsts lesson: don't open a whole book in PWA, do a chapter at time.

These comments subject to change without notice, I'm on a steep learning curve.    

I practiced with a couple of paragraphs (326 words) from my next sub to WotF, fixed all the issues and then sent it back to gold fashioned,  to format ready to submit. Word found a grammatical error PWA  missed.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

The GRim error count ... continued

g'day gentle reader  

as promised  ProWritingAid's five remaining errors turned out to be ordinary boring abbreviations of a space opera kind:  comms (2) for communications , 1 each of  techos (1) and unsuit (1).  ProWritingAid informed me there were 'no such words'.  The fifth and last error was  a preference for air-con rather than aircon (1). PWR also had a couple of

style suggestions 

hot water spigot: can you use a stronger adjective than hot  (boiling scalding scorching) This was a simple case of misconstruction, which hot-water spigot solved. 

and a couple of rubbery eggs ...  readability may be enhanced by and two rubbery eggs. It may, but it will also loose the comic flavour - I left that one alone beside Australian usage (er - mine) does not necessarily mean exactly two.   (give it a couple of days, she'll be right = 2 at least days.) 

hadn’t damaged anything  to had damaged nothing  readability again (  more positive - accepted) 

[ "Both were crammed" into her life pod ] passive verbs make your writing less direct. Good advice but the suggestions were nonsensical in the context  [ "I/we/they crammed both" into her life pod ] they are already there.

like Word, PWA wants to convert all We'll have to to We must,  but must is not always appropriate it depends on the context. Sometimes what is mean is We aught to. 

I loved this one 

the electrics are shotas one character says to the other meaning the electrical circuits no longer function.  PWA said they/I/we/it shoot/s the electrics Seriously? 

Of course the program was objecting to the passive verb "are" It pays to keep in mind, ProWritingAid et al are sets of algorithms, perhaps a bit more sophisticated than most but still just programs.   

And it seems to me the program does not yet have a handle on dialog. 


Monday, October 5, 2020

The GRim Error Count

Once more unto the blog, gentle Readers, once more;
Or finish the story up with our English words

(with apologies to the Bard)

Now let me be clear from the start. I'm back unto the blog in an effort to promote my writing and lift my profile a little above sea level. All post will now be solely about the writing and nothing but the writing.

My earlier trilogy of blogs begun in 2004 were meant to be about

original blog
The original Blog

Life: called "That's Life" subtitled 'A Baby Boomer's thoughts on the privilege of aging. (concerned as ever with maintaining my
(live donor) kidney transplant)' 

the Universe: called "A Writer's Blog" and tagged: 'I write, therefore I am' survived until 2014 and the one you're reading now that I'm resurrecting.

and Everything: called "Eye of the Robot" which was set up in 2004 and got its first post in 2007. I had such plans but it never really got off the ground.  

In the end due to failing kidneys and a transplant "That's Life" usurped "Eye of the Robot"  which  in  2015 was itself transplanted into "A Writer's Blog" (the 2004 entry is embedded in a  2007 post)

So, to begin again as I have begun so many times

gday gentle readers

I've been experimenting with Pro Writing Aid.  I uploaded The GRim, a tongue-in-cheek satirical comedy, or perhaps a comical satire to (here-in-after PWA) This story analyser (free online to limited of 10,000 word) is supposedly the best thing since sliced bread for writers - assuming writers like sliced bread. Its definitely a step up from, which is only marginally better than words Grammar & Spelling checker.

The Grim @ 7000 words is one of my shorter stories, and it appears in the anthology Out of the Dark, edited by Robert N. Stephenson and published by Altair Australia Pty Ltd.

PWA found 256 errors, divided thus: 160 grammar issues, 63 style issues and 33 spelling issues starting with "unusual capitalisation" in reference to the title The GRim. (as explained in the story GRim is how the characters of the story refer to their environment ~ the Galactic Rim)  

As in most of these programs there is a choice of fixes. In this case "ignore" or "disable rule".  I chose to ignored, until it popped up again. I then chose disable rule which PWA chose to ignore.

As with word, once I added character names  to "my dictionary" the spelling issues dropped from 33 to 5.  I'll discuss those 5 in my next post.

to be continued ...

ooroo for now 

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Writer's Lost Thoughts

g'day gentle readers  

I dreamt last night I was a writer. (That's a first - I sometimes have the weirdest dreams or salacious ones, even boring ones but never in any of them, have I been a writer) 

The dream writer was in, metaphorically speaking, a dream location. A farm of magnificent beauty and scale much like a film set. (Recent visits to real film locations like Hobbiton and Monument Valley probably played into the setting. Me the dream writer took notes and photographs much the same as me the real writer does. 
And then me the dream writer had what all writers dream of, sudden inspiration and I dreamt up a solution to a problem, I the real writer has had from book one of the trilogy. At the same time, the dream solution provided the seed for a scene that will become the trilogy's epilogue. 

Then I woke up. 

Now let me digress a moment because the dream solution solved a problem that should never have existed. It arose out of the way I write. I start knowing only where I want to end and make it up as I go along. Problem is I often forget little but significant details made up on the spur of the moment (with good reason at the time) and dismissed until stumbled over during the edit, at which point I scratch my head and say, "What was I thinking?"

For example from Book 3: The Arch of Restoration.

"There seemed to be no end to the flickering torches, they filled the park, the roads and all the gaps between the houses. Jorgena had seen crowds before but this was something else; this was a population on the move, a vast flowing beast like a herd of Wilderbeef." 
Rowena: “I take it the relays are in place.” 
Jorgena: “Yes.” 
Author: "Relays? What relays?"

As Sarah inspects the hull, she wonders why Jorgena went to such trouble to remove her implant but had no objection to her twin daughters having them. 
Author: "I'm with Sarah. Why?"

Thanks to Burnell’s slip as he began the scanning process…
Author: "What slip?"

“Look on the bright side,” Jorgena said hiding her one true regret. 
Author: "Which regret was that?"

Now the problem the dream writer solved, which the real writer created at the start of the trilogy, was a headless body in a dam overflow pipe. The scene in Ch7 of Book 1 is a precipitating incident for a major POV character. The problem is - whose body is it, who killed them and how did it get there? 

In creation, I had a few quick thoughts: I'll make it a bloke who is going to disappear anyway and have this person who is both mysterious and powerful do the deed - solved, forget until later, write on, 500,000 words to go. A decade and 500 Kwords later, I have never revisited the question and the first reviewer of Book 1 wants to know who the body belongs to - so do I.  

The original thought for 'who' got blown away, he turns up alive in Bk3. There are no other logical contenders without unbelievable contrivance. It would be better to invent a character and integrate he/she into the story but that adds more words to a book that is way too long already. Secondly, the person I had in mind to do the deed would not leave a body. She has the resources to make a body vanish completely. Then there's the location where body turns up: on a farm in a dead end valley with a single track in. Who would be stupid enough to drag a body all that way then dump it where it is bound to be found. 

So like the above examples, I have to scratch my head and say, "What was I thinking?" It plays on my mind and then my dream writer comes to the rescue and writes dream notes which when I wake and look for them, don't exist. I do remember however, I have the answer but of course, it's not something I want to reveal. 

Here's a hint: Think iconic phrase from 

ooroo until my next post

Monday, February 24, 2014

Done ... almost

g'day gentle readers  

The title sums up. The summary is done ... almost. As posted on Facebook the result was somewhat uneven and unexpected 

of the 58,854 word summary for the 581,270 word trilogy
Bk 1: 8,312 / Bk 2: 18,883 / Bk 3: 31,659   
I started summarising chapters and ended summarising paragraphs, so now I'm summarising the summary from book 2 trying to get them all under 10 Kwords.  As I say, done ... almost.  

The exercise however, condensing the work to 10%, covering years of effort in a couple months, was useful. Some passages jumped out and smacked me in the face. 

For example: In Book 2 FACE, I deliberately created
a villain (Hyatt), easier and more fun to write than a hero. Then as I summarised the second half of book 3 ARCH, I was struck by how many enemies the poor guy now had. He has to die (the reader will expect it) but I'm hard pressed to settle on which character will do the deed, and satisfy the reader that justice has been done; everyone in book 3 wants to, including his mother.

Again during the summary some of my vague ideas gelled as I got a grip on story as a whole. 

For example: Way back (both in time & words) in Book 1 BREAK, I put in a scene where Averil wields two named swords, Willard's and her own. This isn't supposed to be possible with swords keyed to the user. The scene and its problem were left to be dealt with at some future date once the rest was written. 

Later I settled on keying the sword to the users DNA in such a way that a close relative (i.e. parent|sibling|child) could also use the sword but that meant I had to make Willard and Averil siblings. That became a new problem; the crux of this tale is these two having a child destined to save the world.

But then during the summarising of Book 3 ARCH it became clear what needed to happen and the solution to that problem cleared a heap of other niggling problems throughout books 1, 2 and 3.

Come now, you really don't expect me to reveal the solution ahead of publication.       
'ooroo until my next post 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Quick Update

g'day gentle readers 

As usual despite what life throws my way I do progres, I write (as in summarise, which inevitably includes writing) daily - almost (I did lose 2 days)
 to do 

I'm now summarising the last part of the trilogy's seven parts? 

ooroo until my next post (once the summary is finished)