Posts Tagged “guides”

Good morning everyone! Here’s a post to continue my last one about Writing About Writing. This time, we’ll be talking about outlining.


There are a bunch of different ways to go about doing this. I’ve experimented with quite a few of them. Here are a couple of methods that I’ve tried:

No Outline: Also known as “pantsing”, aka, you’re “flying by the seat of your pants”. This is the classic NaNoWriMo scenario: you have, at most, a vague idea of what you want to write about and you’re making it up as you go along. I wrote “Windshifter” this way. The upside was that I got very, very emotionally invested in my story because it was so raw and new to me. The downside is that the flow wasn’t very natural, and as such, editing took forever.

No, really... FOREVER.

A Big Ol’ Paragraph: Most of the plot for “Cricket Song”, the book I am currently editing, came to me in a dream. I woke up, stumbled over to the computer, and pounded a long, rambly synopsis out into a text file. The final first draft followed this text file very closely (although not exactly.) Pros include a largely very tight and cohesive story which won’t require quite as much editing as a “pantsed” draft. Cons include losing that exciting feeling of throwing yourself into the unknown, and also the fact that you still might get stuck at a few points where you haven’t elaborated in your synopsis.

Chapter by Chapter: “Windshifter” actually isn’t my first novel. I wrote three or four of them when I was in high school. Writing a chapter-by-chapter outline was my modus operandi back then, and I’ve gotta say, it worked pretty well. Basically I decided in advance how many chapters I wanted my novel to be (say twenty), then I looked at what my page limit was (back then I was writing by hand in notebooks, so a 240 page notebook would turn into a 240-page book), and then I divided the number of pages by the number of chapters and gave myself that amount of pages, plus or minus a few, to write a chapter. I gave each chapter its own synopsis, so each one became its own little self-contained unit. Pros included a very tight outline and never having to worry about what, exactly, I was writing next. Cons included the fact that sometimes sections of the plot would just drag on forever because I wanted to fill my chapter up.

FUN FACT: Two of my novels back then were about my toys coming to life and declaring war on each other. No, really.

Using Tools: Lots of people use writing software to organize their thoughts and book ideas. Scriviner is a popular and widely lauded example; it comes with all sorts of neat tools to help you organize in the way you feel most comfortable with. It does cost money, though. I’m cheap and, in the past, have used a free software product called Kabikaboo, which doesn’t have half the options of something like Scriviner but allows you to make a “tree”-like outline, of sorts, which you can branch off into other thoughts. The pros to using these products are that they’re often very, very helpful for helping you get organized and keep things together. The cons are that sometimes you need to “re-wire” yourself for using these instead of just going the traditional route, which involves a bunch of text files in a folder. Still, a great many writers swear by these once they get them all figured out.

In Summary!

Outlining is one of those things that you should experiment with and figure out which option works the best for you. Hopefully, by giving you a few examples of methods I’ve tried in the past, you’ll be able to try some of these out for yourself and find out what you like.

Next time we launch into the actual writing process itself! ๐Ÿ˜€

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I’m glad I was able to help some people out with my previous post on the matter. I’m still getting some questions and the like; here’s what I’ve been able to ascertain thus far from my own experiences:

The ALSA sound driver doesn’t seem to play nice with SC2. It will crash the game on startup and throw an error box in your face… at least, it does for me. The best workaround I can find for this so far is to go into the Audio tab in winecfg and set the sound to ESound. If you play WoW and have been running it with ALSA, as I have, you’ll just have to deal with manually switching back and forth (until I can figure out an automated way to accomplish this.)

There will be some sound glitches but not many. I’d say the sound is about 95% workable.

I have to run with the graphical settings all the way down but I think that is because of my own personal computer setup more than because of Linux/Wine. My computer is a self-built machine from about four or five years back and it’s definitely starting to show its age. Similarly, videos/cut-scenes are low-quality but run and are watchable. Be sure to make sure you are running the game in opengl mode. I accomplished this by adding “-opengl” to the end of the command on my SC2 desktop shortcut. There is also a way to edit it in the config file, I’m sure.

I experience slowdown on occasion; it helps to close most of your other programs in the background. Still, the game is very playable, and everything that I have tried works so far.

The game occasionally crashes on startup, at random. This is a kernel issue, not a Wine issue. (For the record, this is the same thing that now causes WoW to occasionally randomly crash on login, if you have noticed that these past few weeks as well.) I dunno about everyone else but this problem seems to be showing up less and less for me so I just suck it up and live with it. If you really don’t like it, though, you can patch the kernel. If you want to do that then I would recommend searching up instructions specific to your distro.

Some people still seem to be having problems with the installer, I am not sure how to help you with that, but I would direct you to the Wine subforum on Ubuntu Forums, or the Starcraft 2 entry in WineDB.

I’ve been having a blast with this game, and I’m constantly impressed with the Wine team for maintaining this software and making these great Blizzard games available to us ‘nix-heads. Between playing World of Warcraft on Linux for more than three years now, the original Starcraft, and now Starcraft 2, I think it’s safe to say that I basically owe the Wine people a good chunk of my soul, or at least my firstborn child. Much love, guys! <3

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I’d had Starcraft 2 on pre-order from GameStop since who-knows-when (I remember pre-ordering it at the same time as I did Wrath of the Lich King, so that should tell you something.) Anyways, this morning I ran out to GameStop, nabbed it, and prepared to install on Linux/Wine. The Beta worked flawlessly, so I was expecting this to be smooth sailing.

Not so! First half of the files on the CD appeared to be hidden, and then trying to get the Installer to run would tell me “Access Denied”, blahblahblah, and I couldn’t do anything even as root.

Apparently this is an Ubuntu issue and not a Wine issue, so if you are also afflicted with this problem, read on. This is a bit of a kludgy workaround, but it’s a workaround nonetheless.

Step 1: Make the CD Show the Files

Fire up a terminal and enter the following to remount the CD:

sudo mount -o remount,unhide /dev/cdrom

Step 2: Make a folder on your desktop called SC2 or something.

Step 3: Copy over the files on the CD to the folder on your desktop.

(Note: you may have to tweak the code a bit to get it working on your specific setup.)

sudo cp -r /media/cdrom0/* ~/Desktop/SC2

This will take a little bit as it does its thing, so give it ten minutes or so. Then fix the permissions:

sudo chown -R username:username ~/Desktop/SC2

You should now be ready to go. Navigate to the file on your desktop and install it that way. (Or do it via the terminal, since you’re already there:)

cd ~/Desktop/SC2

wine Installer.exe

And that should do it! I’ve got it installing as we speak, though I’ve got to run off to work now so a test run of the thing will have to wait until later. If I botched up some code or something let me know and I’ll fix it tonight when I come home.

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“Write a book” is one of those things that is on most everyone’s list of things they’d like to do at some point in their life, so much so that it’s almost become cliche, itself. Well as most everyone knows by now, I’ve written a few, and while I can’t claim to speak for the professional side of things seeing as I have not yet been published or anything, a lot of people still seem to be interested in the process I’ve gone through because they want to do NaNoWriMo or whatever. So here is my list of five things I wish I’d known beforehand, in the event that it helps anyone else! <3 1.) NaNo/Deadlines are AWESOME

Prologue Story:

When I was about, oh, 14 years old or so, my parents gave me a watch. It was accompanied by a little ceremonial sort of thing wherein I was informed that the present was because they knew I always made good use of my time. I don’t remember anything about said watch, I don’t recall what it looked like or even where it is now, but it was my first real “grown up” watch and I wore it everywhere, and thus launched both an obsession as well as the terrible feeling of nakedness I have if I am not wearing one.

Going without a wristwatch for a week while waiting for this thing to arrive was utter torture.

I digress, though. The point is that looking back on it I have no idea what my parents were on about when they said I made good use of my time. I really don’t. I mean yeah, I generally have a good idea of what time it is, because I am an incessant clockwatcher, but then I procrastinate… and procrastinate… and procrastinate…

Enter NaNoWriMo, which not only throws a deadline at you, but peer pressure, too. I dunno about you, but for me, this is a dangerously effective combination. NaNoWriMo’s little daily-word-count graph prodded me into writing 50,000 words in 28 days, all while I was working a full time job and trying to keep up with my WoW blog. In contrast, the seed of “Windshifter” had been percolating in my brain for at least a decade, through countless summer vacations before I even had a job. All that time to write, and I didn’t, because I had no motivation.

It’s funny because I had heard of NaNo before but never participated, primarily because I didn’t like the idea of having one’s creativity confined to a timeline. It sort of bothered my inner free-spirit-artist. Never again will I doubt, though.

Now, I will say that NaNo does not work for everyone. I know of some people for whom the deadline is a serious hindrance or distraction. But keep in mind that I felt that way, too, until I actually tried it. Any aspiring writer who has trouble with motivation should give this a shot at least once, in my opinion. If it works for you, the results will be amazing.

2.) Have an Outline

When I wrote my book for NaNo I quite honestly made it up as I went along. While a few of the characters had technically existed in my brain for years, they were completely revamped for this book, as was the entire story and even the setting of the story. The idea of my book when I started writing was very different than how it ended up being.

…somehow it managed to turn out all right (hopefully), but a lot of editing was needed to hammer everything into place. This all would have been a much smoother process if I’d had a basic outline (even just a couple sentences) that I was working off of, instead of just a nebulous concept.

3.) (If you want to be published) Don’t Just Write For “Everyone”

If you are one of those people who is of the mindset that your book is for whoever wants to read it, regardless of age, then congratulations, you are just like me and like tons of respected authors. The trick, though, is that publishers and literary agents don’t see it that way (did you know there are a such thing as “literary agents”? I sure didn’t, until I had actually finished my book. GG, me!)

I have come to the conclusion that you have to sort of balance the belief that your book can be for everyone but can still be marketed to a specific audience, because that latter one there is what the publisher is looking for. This is more complicated than one might expect, because for example, did you know that there is a type of novel known as “middle grade”? Yeah I didn’t know that either, until a couple months ago. From what I understand it’s the type of stuff you read in middle school. Well I look back at the type of stuff I read in middle school (Watership Down, His Dark Materials, etc.) and most of it falls into the “But that was a pretty deep book that I still enjoy as an adult” category, further muddling things up. As you can see, this whole thing can be pretty complicated.

As such, I wish I had known all of this before I started writing. I don’t think it would substantially change my book, but it might have helped to focus it a bit and perhaps given me some inspiration from similar books.

Man, this book is just an allegory for Linux! Pike must've written it.

4.) Your Main Character Needs Some Sort of Tangible Personal Problem/Character Arc

For the first draft of my book I went off of the idea that my main character was sort of a socially awkward geekface, and that would be his character flaw. Unfortunately I got some feedback that this didn’t work very well, because while being a socially awkward geekface is all well and good, it’s not really a tangible flaw, unless he stops being a socially awkward geekface at the end (which he really didn’t.)

Readers don’t really buy it unless the character has an actual flaw that manifests itself throughout the book and which said character learns from or corrects by the end. It sounds pedestrian and like something you’d see on saturday morning cartoons but there is a reason it’s pedestrian, and that’s because that’s really how stories work.

I managed to get away with this problem in the first draft because I had a secondary character (who I think could be argued as the “true” main character of the story) with lots of Emotional Baggage so I think I was able to keep the audience’s interest that way, but that is tricky to pull off and I think it’s best to make the most prominent character of your story have his own character arc.

And so here I am again doing tons of editing with a big ol’ scalpel which could have been prevented if I had planned this from the start!

5.) Ask Your Characters Questions

This is one of those ones that probably sounds either silly or insane, but it is endlessly useful. Learn how to pretend that your characters are real and that you are interviewing or chatting with them. Ask why they are helping your hero, or what their motivation is for doing some plot point that happens seemingly out of nowhere. This will help tons in the long run not only for making realistic characters but also for making your inevitable deus ex machinas seem not quite so deus ex machina-ish.


Welp, I hope that list was of some use to someone out there. NaNoWriMo is coming quick and it’s never too early to get a headstart on thinking about it. Regardless on if you plan on participating or not (and yes, I fully intend on doing it again… I want to make this a yearly thing from here on out, seriously), happy writing! <3

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