Monday, December 31, 2012

December Photo Challenge: Week 4

With Christmas over and New Years Eve prep in the works, I have found myself some time to add another week of December Photo Challenge pictures. I've had a lovely holiday week seeing family and eating (too much) delicious food. However, now it's time to get back to blogging! Here's the list of pictures:

And here are the pictures!
Dec. 21
No, I don't image it was peaceful when Jesus was born. However, I think it was
peaceful in those late moments of that night when Jesus was sleeping and Mary
rested, knowing that she delivered the son of God. Scary, yes, but peaceful

Dec. 22
We always read the Christmas story from the Bible Christmas morning.
That's our tradition.
 Dec. 23
Self explanatory. 

Dec. 24
Favourite part of Christmas Eve
My favourite part is really the candle lit service we have at church.
However, I forgot to bring my camera, so I settled for the second
best thing. The food. We have all sorts of finger foods and munchies.

Dec. 25
This is a picture of part of a gift that my sister and I gave my parents.
We wrapped up all the money gifts in different ways and this one was
my favourite. Its no fun just handing over the bills!

Dec. 26
This is a picture of my grandparents. I'm grateful for them, and they
are some of the most grateful people I know. 

Dec. 27
Night Time
This is a picture taken out the window of my grandparents
apartment. They just had a heavy snow and there was ice on the windows
and snow in the air still. 

Dec. 28
This is kind of an opposite picture. We were
playing Christmas Carol Pictionary. When we
guessed the song, then we sang it.

Dec. 29
Sky View
Driving home. 

There we go! The last two will be up sooner or later. I hope everyone's had a great 2012 and will have a very happy new year! So go and enjoy your New Years Eve celebrations!

What I'm reading: Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
What I'm watching: Arrow
What I'm listening to: Philip Phillips "Home" (What a name!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

December Photo Challenge: Week 3

With all the flurry and hurry of December it's hard to believe Christmas is here tomorrow!!! I wanted to squeeze in one last post before the festivities go into full swing and give you last week's pictures. As for the writing aspect of this blog, which has been sorely ignored this past month, I'm happy to announce that I am a proud winner of the 100 for 100 challenge. I wrote 100 words everyday for 100 days! Have we got any other winners or participants out there?

Dec. 15
Favourite Holiday Song
This is more of an abstract one, but my favourite Christmas song is Ding Dong Merrily on High.
I just put some bells on top a card I made using an old hymnal. You've got music and bells;
I figured you all were smart you could see the connection! What's your favourite song?

Dec. 16
Outdoor Christmas Lights
You may or may not remember the story I told you a few posts back
about my dad's Christmas lights. Well, here they are again. Unfortunately
that day we had no snow. We've got some now though! Yay!

December 17
Self explanatory. 

Dec. 18
My grandparents gave my sister and I these stockings many years ago.
They actually sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in mouse
voices. However, the batteries are dying so it sounds more like
a possessed stocking. It's not creepy at all.

Dec. 19
Candy Cane
Self explanatory. A Candy Cane on the tree.
Dec. 20
Tree Topper

This is our angel that goes on top of our tree. We've had a couple
different ones over the years, but I like this one the best! Also,
this day was my birthday! 
There you go! Another set of pictures. We're not quite up to date, but I didn't want to overload this post. Normally I have something intelligent to say at the end of a post, but I'm aching to get into bed with my book. Christmas morning will come soon enough! Merry Christmas everybody! Enjoy whatever time you get off!

A question for the comments: What's your favourite holiday song? Angel or star tree topper or something else entirely? 

What I'm reading: Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
What I'm listening to: Mumford and Sons
What I'm watching: Christmas concerts

Monday, December 17, 2012

December Photo Challenge: Week 2

It's time for another episode of December Photo Challenge! After a crazy week that seemed to be filled to the brim with European History (a course I'm taking right now) and Marie Antoinette in particular. Blogging is a nice break from my formal essay, that is current staring a me like I'm guilty of something from underneath my internet browser. Minimized it. There I feel less guilty about procrastinating, tehe.
Anyways, this is the list of the pictures that I'm following for each day:

And here's the pictures for this week!

Dec. 9
"Something You're Reading"
I read this book for school and since have finished it.
I have mixed opinions about this book. I may or may not
write a blog post in the near future on how I feel about classic

Dec. 10
Wrapping Paper

This worked out perfectly! I had to take a wrapping paper shot,
and I also had to do a studio lighting assignment for a photography
course I'm taking. So there ya go! A friend of my was a very willing
subject and I'm quite grateful that she was willing to go along with
my crazy ideas.

Dec. 11

This is one of the trees that we had up at our Youth Christmas Banquet for church.
I just realized that they used the same decorations we used for our wreath! It was
quite a nice time. 

Dec. 12
A Beautiful Sight

Ahhh, pointsettas. 
Dec. 13
My father, Christmas tree shopping.

 Dec. 14
Christmas Tree
This is the tree we ended up picking! It's not quite decorated;
it's a process with us. I think it looks quite nice, with no big
gaps or bare spots. We've had some pretty....uh charming
trees over the years and my mom says this one is the best!
 There you go! The pictures aren't quite up to date, but I figured that I'd better stop while I was ahead. Since this blog has been absent of writer-y things for a few weeks, I wanted to send you to a short article that I've found quite interesting about cultivating your inner critic.

I also wanted to give you all a tip for helping your blog get more traffic that I forgot to include in this post. When you upload a picture, instead of leaving it with the automatic camera mumbo-jumbo name, give it a descriptive name. Before uploading a file like IMG_1234, rename it an appropriate name like "Decorated Christmas Tree". This is kind of a strange way of attracting traffic, but when people do a Google images search, your pictures are more likely to pop up if they're named. When people click on your picture, they are also seeing your blog in the background.

So to keep with the theme of things, a Christmas question for the comments:

Real vs. Fake Christmas tree? Which do you have?

What I'm reading: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
What I'm listening to: Mumford and Sons, and Florence + Machine
What I'm watching: Elementary

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December Photo Challenge: Week 1

I have decided to condense a whole week of pictures into one post for the sake of your blog feeds and for the sake of my sanity! As for the usual, here's the post that explains what's going on in the last few paragraphs.

Date: Dec. 4
Theme: Joyous
"The angel said to them 'I bring you great news of
great joy that will be for all people'" Luke 2:10 

Date: Dec. 5 
Theme: Today's Temperature 
Self explanatory, tehe. Not too cold that day!

 Date: Dec. 6
Theme: Shopping

This one is kind of lame, haha. I haven't been Christmas shopping
 all month, because I've been working so much! My sister went to the mall, and this
 is what she brought back. So this is my small encounter with shopping so far. 
Date: Dec. 7
Theme: Bright
Speaking of my sis, this is her. I got her to smile on the front step with the lights
 that my dad just put on the tree in the background. He's been going on about his
 grand idea to wrap the lights around the tree since last year, and he finally did it!
Date: Dec. 8
Theme: Ornaments

Remember the close up picture of this wreath in the last post? Well,
I finished it! We just bent a  hanger in a circle then attached the little
ornaments, in it in bunches of three, with wire. We haven't got
our Christmas tree yet, so these are my ornaments!

There you go, the pictures of this week! I thought I would link you back to a post I did last December about writer-y things you can do this Christmas in case you want to check that out. A question for the comments:
I have obviously not been Christmas shopping yet, but have you?

What I'm reading: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Has anyone seen the trailer for the 2013 film version yet? Doesn't it look great?!)
What I'm listening to: Mumford and Sons - Babel (FINALLY!)
What I'm watching: Haven

Monday, December 3, 2012

December Photo Challenge: Day 3

Today's subject: "Red"
This picture is of a half finished wreath that my mother and I are making. We're attaching a bunch of cheap globe decorations to a bent-into-a-circle-clothes-hanger. Our colours are red and silver, a stylish pair if I do say so myself. Yes, we picked those colours with a higher design in mind...*cough* that's all the dollar store had *cough* Maybe the finished product will show up again this month!

In case you're wondering what's happening here, let me fill you in. For December I'm doing the photo-a-day challenge that I found on Pinterest. Here's the topics for each day:

Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your blog if you're doing this as well! Has anyone else got the DIY decorating bug this year? 

What I'm reading: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey 
What I'm listening to: Casey Abrams and New Orleans Christmas album
What I'm watching: Castle

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Photo Challenge: Day 2

If you don't know what's going on, read the bottom of this post. As always, if you want to participate feel free to leave a link in the comments. Today I decided to post the master list as well as my picture for today.

The Master List

Favourite Holiday Movie

So this was a toughy. How do you take a picture of your fav holiday movie? I'm sure there is more creative ways, but this is what I came up with. A little illustration by moi! What's your favourite Holiday movie?

What I'm reading: Uglies Scott Westerfeld
What I`m listening to: Phillip Phillips
What I'm watching: Improv Everywhere

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How to Increase Blog Traffic: Part 2

As you might remember last week I did part one of increasing blog traffic, so now we're onto part two. Check out last week's post here. In addition to the blog traffic tips in this post, I am going to introduce new a blogging event I'm doing in December, so stay tuned for that!

Anyways, lets get on with the tips!

2. Publish posts regularly.
If you want people to read your blog, you have to put content on it. Some people like to have a schedule (eg. twice a week) and some people don't. I would personally suggest having a lose schedule, especially when you're just starting a blog. For me, I try to post at least once a week, sometimes I don't get around to doing it, and sometimes I post more than once. However, I do not by any means have a rigid schedule where I post every week on a certain day. Find what works for you and gets posts turned out.

3. Have a niche, but let yourself evolve over time
Have a topic or subject that you want to write about, but don't be too specific. For this blog, I write about writing and books. It's general enough that I have many options for posting, but specific enough to target an audience that will keep coming back for more. That being said, if you start a niche and see that you're limiting yourself or don't have enough content to write about, let your blog change and adjust. SOI went through a little expansion a while back, to include more than just writing advice. You can read my post about limitless blogging here, if you're interested.

4. Be Genuine
Don't self censor yourself too much, allow yourself to have a voice. It's way to hard to try to write and think like someone else, besides blogs that are too-correct are boring.

5. Don't have any surprises on your homepage
This is a pet peeve of mine. I click on someone's blog, and I'm assaulted with loud background music or a popup graphic. My first reaction is to close the page, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this.
So avoid any surprises that will immediately turn people off, even before they read your content. If you want to have music, have it as an option not a must (see my song of the week in the sidebar).

6. Interact with your readers/followers
This goes with what I was mentioning in part one of this post, but I thought it good to expand on this. A huge way that I try to interact with my readers and make them feel important is to respond to their comments. I also like to comment on their blogs and get involved with their blogging events.

7. Don't Ramble
I am the biggest hypocrite to say this, but try to be concise. Split posts into parts if you feel that you have more to say on a topic, and narrow in on one particular topic. Don't try to say everything to be said about character development in one post, instead focus on a sub-topic like developing character's backgrounds. This is easier to read and gives you more content to write about in the long run.
BONUS TIP: Use lots of short paragraphs. White space is good!

8. Be search engine friendly
a) Keywords.
Use the "money" words that relate to what you're writing about. Are you writing about photography? Use words like shutter-speed, aperture  etc. Think of keywords that relate to your topic, that people might be looking up.
b) Titles
When you title a post, think about what questions you're answering and what help you are giving. I haven't always done this; I used to try to come up with clever snappy titles (see my first few posts), but I've learned that the most viewed posts are the ones that have titles that clearly say what's in the post. I like to think about what people might be Googling and make it my post title. Example: How to increase blog traffic; Summer story starters; and How to develop a character's back story.

9. Link Back
Put links to other posts that you've written that are relevant to the current post. This will lead people to other posts you've written, generating traffic. See examples in this post.

10. Be Visual
I love pictures, and I love seeing pictures with posts. This can be a tricky business with copyrights and the such, but I highly recommend putting in the effort to either take your own pictures to put with blog posts or looking through free pictures.
Another thing to consider is how the blog is laid out. Don't cram and clutter up your sidebar with distracting, tacky widgets. Think about everything you put there and make sure it fits. If you want to add bigger items like pictures in sidebars, consider making a new page for that. I always tend to hang around longer on blogs that are pretty, it shows me that the writer actually cares about the appearance and thus cares about their content.

If you're still with me, I applaud. The last tip is the perfect segway into the bit of news I promised at the beginning of the post. In December, I will be doing something a little different. To get on with Christmas cheer I will be taking place in a picture a day challenge and posting my shoots to SOI. If you want to do the same on your blog, leave me a link in the comments I'd be happy to check it out! Here's the pin that the idea's from. Without further adieu my picture and the topic:

Your View Today

What I'm reading: Uglies Scott Westerfeld
What I'm listening to: Regina Spektor's album "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats"
What I'm watching: Haven

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Increase Blog Traffic: Part 1

Traffic, train style.
When writing SOI in the early days, I remember my sole mission was to attract readers. I had carried on a fun blog with a few friends called Super Hyper Human Beings, for a few years that kept the three of us connected and laughing. It was great, but I wanted to try something solo.

I started off with a blog about my life and my beliefs called A Day in the Sun. Haha, get it? Sunny, sun. Anyways, that blog (and another) has since gone out the window in favour of this one. Since the beginning of SOI back in 2011 I have learned a few things about attracting readers. I've been meaning to write up a post on the few blog traffic nuggets that I have learned, and the day has finally come! Without further adieu, the first part of a list of ways to improve traffic on your blog:

1. Be present in the blog-o-sphere
a) Make intelligent comments on other people's blogs that relate to the content.
Don't use comments simply for self promotion. I usually don't put a link to my blog in the comment. Personally, I find that a little presumptuous, unless the blogger asks for it in the post.

b) Follow other people's blogs
Don't feel obligated to follow someone's blog just because they've followed yours. I only follow blogs that I'm genuinely interested in, because I don't want to litter up my notification  box with stuff I don't really want to read.

c) Get involved with linkies and different contests
It's okay to say no to some of these. It's better to do a good job on one, than a bad job on two.

The power of getting your name (and thus a link to your blogger profile) out into the blog-o-sphere depends on people's curiosity. If they click through to see who you are,whether they see it in a linky, comment or as a follower, then they will find your blog on your profile. I am super curious so anytime someone comments or follows, that I haven't seen before, I always click through to check them and their blog out. I also check out people who have commented on other blogs that I read, if they have made a really profound comment. I've attracted most of my followers by simply getting my name out there.

Stay tuned for the next post on attracting blog traffic! I had intended to condense it all into one post, but as usual I rambled more then I intended, so this topic will be continued. As always, comment if you have any further thoughts on attracting traffic to your blog and let me know how you found SOI.

What I'm reading: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
What I'm listening to: New Orleans Christmas album
What I'm watching: too much Youtube! In particular, Paint

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Free Writing: A Tip

You've probably heard this term before, but if you haven't...

Free Writing (according to Sunny Smith): the act of writing without inhibitions and/or without a solid purpose in mind. Writing words as they come to mind.

There are two parts of free writing in my mind.
1. Writing without inhibitions. Turning off your inner editor
2. Writing without a plot, just whatever comes to mind.

Some people swear by the second part of free writing, and think it is the end all be all of writing. They believe their best work comes from free writing. Think the "pantser" method of writing a story. Do I think my best writing comes from writing a story with plot that's made up as I go, with no real direction? Probably not.
For me, I find that writing without a clear purpose in mind, just ends up being more work in the long run.

However, I can't deny the value in first definition of free writing -in the sense of writing without inhibitions- especially when it comes to breaking a writer's block. After all, you can't edit a blank page.

The tip that I wanted to mention today goes with that first definition of free writing: writing without inhibitions. I believe I read it in some writing magazine (probably Writer's Digest). The tip is this: if you are having trouble writing, cover your screen with a towel or book and start typing your story. Just write and allow yourself to be terrible without looking at the screen.

I gave this method a try before I wrote up this post and found it oddly freeing. There was spelling mistakes and words that ran together, but it didn't really matter. The content was there and ready to be edited when I got to that stage.

So if you're feeling "blocked", try out this method and see if it works for you. Even if you just do it for a few minutes, it will get you in the free writing mood that will ultimately get you further with your story then trying to perfect everything the first time around.
Have you got any free writing methods? Did you try out this one? Let me know in the comments.

What I'm Reading: Rebel Hearts by Moira Young
What I'm Listening to: Josh Garrels
What I'm Watching: Arrow

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to Format a Manuscript: A Video

I am no where near the submitting stage, but I've always been curious about formatting my manuscript and the such. You can imagine that I was quite interested when found this video over at Go Teen Writers (you can find their link on my inspiration board) about just that. I thought you all might enjoy as well.

Did you learn differently? Find this helpful? Let me know in the comments!

What I'm Reading: The Hate List by Jennifer Brown
What I'm listening to: The Fray
What I'm watching: Downton Abbey season 3!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Should I Do NaNoWriMo?

Website: click here
As you all know NaNoWriMo is the talk of the blog-o-sphere right now because it is just around the bend. Last year, I attempted it and failed miserably. This year I thought about it and decided that this NaNoWriMo  goal isn't for me.

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and the goal is to write fifty thousand words in a month. That works out to...let me pull up my calculator...aprox. 1666 words a day.

I have been participating in the 100 for 100 challenge hosted at Go Teen Writers over the past seven weeks. My goal is to write 100 words for 100 days. Some days, I find that challenging. Not for lack of words, but for lack of time (work, school, etc.). I don't think I could jump to 1666 words a day for a whole month without missing. It just isn't a wise goal for me, and that's okay. I've learned that I don't have to do every writing meme or blog hop, I just have to pick the ones that are right for me and my story.

There is so much advice on writing goals and what they should be, but I think the key to a successful writing goal is to produce consistent work. Some people write 1000 words a day, others 5000 or even 500; it doesn't matter. The best way to produce written work and improve your craft is to set goals that are based off your lifestyle. Having goals that you can't reach are worthless and discourage you from writing. Sure writing 1666 words/day would challenge me, but I know I wouldn't be able to reach that consistently, and I would end up feeling like I hadn't accomplished anything. A better goal for me would be 200 words/day it's still increased, but manageable. Good goals push you, but still turn out consistent work. 

Some tips for setting your writing goals:
-Set up a weekly goal instead of a daily goal, so if you miss a day, you can make it up guilt free
-Assess how much time you have in your day. Factor in school, job, homework, family time, activities etc. Is a certain time of the week/month more busy? Adjust your goals to accommodate that time period
-Try setting scene goals instead of word count goals. Eg. "I'm going to get to the end of this scene today" or "I'm going to get halfway through the scene"
-If you are at loss for what to write, set aside time to plot out the story in your weekly goals. This will help you get the words down when you know what you want to happen. Eg. Instead of writing 500 words today, I'm going to figure out the particulars of the next two scenes
-Give yourself time to adjust to the goals and revisit them after a few weeks. Maybe it's too much to ask of yourself, or maybe you could be doing more (I love it when I succeed a goal!)

Yes, smaller goals result in my story taking longer to get down to the page, but so long as it's getting to the page consistently, it's fine by me. How about you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Do you have any writing goals or tips about them?

What I'm reading: The Hate List by Jennifer Brown
What I'm listening to: "My Boyfriend's Back" by The Angels
What I'm watching: Elementary

P.S. Props to all the NaNoWriMo participates out there! Good luck!
P.P.S Last year I put up some links to help out with the beginning of NaNoWriMo, check them out here

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Writer's Inspiration Page

I just wanted to give you all a heads up that I finally finished the inspiration page. I have it set up so that you click on the picture and then it will led you to the little nugget of inspiration. In the future I hope to add to it, but for now that's what I've got. You can check it out in the pages bar at the top under "Inspiration Board". If you have any feedback, like always I'll be happy to hear it. Enjoy!

A few items that I want to highlight are the Pinterest boards and the Writing Music playlist. Occasionally Pinterest goes down, so if the link doesn't work for those (they're the top three and bottom left boxes) try again in a couple hours. If it still doesn't work, then leave me a comment to fix it. As for the music playlist (via  Youtube), I have added some songs that I listen to when I write and will add the song of the week every time I put up a new one, as well as other music that inspires me. Maybe it will inspire you too!

Hopefully everything makes sense and works right!

What I'm reading: almost done Frankenstien by Mary Shelley (YAY!) and The Hate List by Jennifer Brown
What I'm listening to: Dashboard Confessional
What I'm watching: Covert Affairs and Haven

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Better Dialogue, Less Fillers

I came across this video today and immediately applied it to writing dialogue. We all want our dialogue to come out sounding natural, right? Of course we do; no one wants to read stilted conversations. However, something important to remember about writing dialogue is not to be TOO natural. When we have conversations with our peers, co-workers, friends, family etc. we often use many of the filler words mentioned in the video and a ridiculous amount of small talk. When writing fiction we want to delete all of the filler words and small talk unless it's vital to a characterization (eg. an awkward exchange that needs to happen), because it clogs up your writing.

See example:

"Hey June, what's up?"
"Not much, Peter. How about you?"
"Oh you know, school, work, the usual."
"How's work?"
"It's so hard! I never get any time to myself."
"I heard that your new boss is awful! Mary told me she was going to quit."
"Really? But her and I were going to partner up on a new product design next month."
"Well, she did say she wanted to quit."
"She can't leave me hanging. She has some explaining to do!"

Now clean it up to get straight to the point:

"Hey June, what's up?"
"You work with Mary right?"
"Yeah, why?"
"She just told me that she was going to quit!"
"Really? But her and I were going to partner up..."

The flow is much better in the second one and doesn't confuse the reader with information that they don't need to  know. Try to make a point to get rid of the filler or "peanuts" in you writing this week and see if it strengthens your piece.

What I'm reading: The Comet's Curse by Dom Tessa
What I'm watching: Haven
What I'm listening to: Florence and the Machine

P.S. Inspiration page is commmmming and be sure to vote in the poll in the sidebar!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Word Wednesday: October 10/12

Long time no W.W. , but I decided to do one today as I found an excellent graphic that fits perfectly. Excuse any of the weirdness. Enjoy!

What I'm reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
What I'm listening to: Hawk Nelson
What I'm watching: Haven 

P.S. I'm working on an Inspiration page, so be on the look out for that!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Insecure Writer's Group: October 2012

For more info click here
I'm on a role! A post three days in row! Unfortunately though, I can't say the same for my story writing. Since school started up again about a month ago, time has been eaten up with homework and work and sleep and (let's be honest) watching random stuff online. Students (and adults) can relate to feeling like writing time is lacking in their lives. You start questioning whether or not writing is worth your precious time, or get discouraged over not writing anything for a few weeks.

Here's what has been helping me through those feelings. I've been participating in the 100 for 100 challenge which challenges the participants to write 100 words every day for 100 days (with a grace day each week). If you're interested in that, see my post here. It's such an easy goal to accomplish that keeps you at your work consistently and the real kicker is that you have to log your word count every week for everyone else to see (so you can't cheat!).

So my advice to you if you're having a hard time finding time is to set a small daily goal to accomplish and give yourself one grace day every week (but be sure to catch up and write double your goal another day). Don't worry that other people write x amount words a day, just worry about you. Only increase your small goal if you know you can do it. If you miss a day, well, kick that guilt to the curb and get back at it the next day.

Some days we will miss, but that's okay if we catch up. Getting over those guilty feelings can be hard, but it's necessary to keep moving forward with your story.

What I'm reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
What I'm listening to: "All I Want Is You" by Barry Louis Polisar
What I'm watching: Hawaii 5-0

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How to Center a Title in Blogger

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've changed the header on Splash of Ink to a new picture and centered title. I had a difficult time getting the title centered, so I wanted to give you simple instructions to save you some time that will work in case you want to do this on your blog.

What I used:
Google Chrome
Windows Seven (this probably won't make a difference)
Blogger (as of 02/10/2012)

Step One:
Go to your blog on your dashboard and look for the template button on the left hand side. It should take you to the page that looks like this:

Click on "Edit HTML". It bring you to a warning that says not to proceed unless you're advanced. Click proceed. I know it's scary, but you'll be fine. You should come to a screen that looks like the one below. To make it a bit easier, go into your tool bar and click "Find" (or "Search" if you're using IE). Type in "header" and it will highlight all the times the word "header" shows up in the HTML script so you don't have to manually search the script.

Next you want to find the highlighted "header" that says .Header h1 (it's four lines above the red box in the picture below). It will probably be near the top. Your four lines will probably have some different info than mine depending on your font and colour. Right after the last semicolon before the curly bracket (does anyone know the proper name?)start a new line then copy and paste this:
text-align: center;

You're almost finished, just click "Preview" at the bottom right hand corner beside "Save template" and make sure that the blog title is centered. If you put the text in the wrong spot then it might show up as an error, or not have changed at all. If that happens just close the preview screen and click "Clear edits" and start over. Do not save anything without previewing it first. If the preview is right then close the preview screen and click "Save template" and you're done!

It really is quite simple (even know it might seem challenging to root around in the HTML stuff) if you follow the steps. Let me know if you have any questions and what you think of my new header.

What I'm reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
What I'm listening to: Turning Pages by Sleeping At Last
What I'm watching: Hawaii 5-0 (the new one)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stop Thinking Start Doing

 You guys are going to laugh at me, but let me put it out there:

I'm inspired by this commercial. A car commercial.

I'm not going to go on about the parallels that you can snatch from this and writing a novel. You're smart, you can do that, but I will draw your attention this line:

"Start with a simple idea...think...think more...stop thinking start doing."

What I'm reading: The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa
What I'm listening to: Juno soundtrack and Fun
What I'm watching: Castle and Hawaii 5-0 (the new one)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Writing a Con Artist

You may or may not remember a few weeks ago when I was reading The Con Artist Handbook: Secrets of Hustles and Scams by Joel Levy. Well, I've decided to take bits of information I've gathered from this book and write a few different blog posts on it, to help of you writer's out there write the perfect con man.

Personally, I love con man characters. There's something about their charm that just reels me in (think basically any character from Oceans 11, 12 and 13, or Neil or Mozzie from White Collar). It's always been a secret dream of mine to write one, and if it's yours too then here are some things you need to know.

First off, some terms:
The mark- this is the victim of the scam. Also known as the "apple", "bates", "green", "dupe", "john", or "Mr. Goodman".
A shill-An accomplice who lures the mark often by pretending to be a member of the public
Angle-the approach or role taken by the con artist
Depot worker- a con artist who works transport hubs, such as station and airports

In this post I want to talk about the psychology behind the success of a con artist.

The con artist needs to know these two main things about the mark:
-People are greedy and want "something from nothing"
-People have to desire to trust
With knowing these two things, the con artist can play them to their advantage to scam the mark.

These are the methods of psychology that a con artist can use to persuade a mark:

The Halo Effect:
The mark will automatically associate certain feelings and make assumptions unconsciously according to the few things they see or hear from the con artist (think connotation). 
The con artist dresses in a suit and tie, has articulate language, and is self assured. The mark's automatic reaction is that the con artist is smart, trustworthy, and competent.
Suit=business = smart
Articulate language = refined, dignified, above dirty schemes = trustworthy
Self assured, if you're confident in your abilities then others tend to be as well. So the mark is more likely to give the con artist his money that will supposedly double with the CA's guidance.

The con artist doesn't once do anything that proves he is smart, trustworthy or competent, but the little things give off the halo of other traits. 

The Conformity Urge:
This is a pretty simple one, but effective. Nobody wants to get left behind or miss out on something that everyone else is doing. This tactic is where shills come in handy.
The con artist is selling forged ancient coins on the side of the street. The CA's accomplices, the shills, buy one and comment on how they can make a ton of money reselling it. More and more people (aka shills) by the coins. The mark sees this and doesn't want to miss out on this money making opportunity, so they buy one too.

The Authority Figure:
The mark generally listens an authority figure and asks less questions. It doesn't have to been an authority figure (eg. policeman, politician, lawyer etc.) impersonated exactly, it even works if the CA talks in an authoritative fashion.
The CA is pulling a heist and someone walks into the building. The CA reprimands them for coming onto a construction site and kicks them out of the building before they discover the heist even though they have no authority at all. 

The "Barnum Effect":
The con artist compliments the mark and "strokes his ego" in order to make the mark want to prove, the con artist's compliments correct. The CA will make it so their compliments only apply to the mark; they will make the mark feel smart.
The con artist says "I see you're a shrewd investor"...

There you go, the first post of Writing a Con Artist. Let me know what you think, or if you're planning a con artist character in the comments. Some further watching/reading that you might find helpful are White Collar (USA Network), Oceans 11, Heist Society by Ally Carter, and No Coins Please by Gordon Korman. Any more books/movies/tv shows that feature con artists that I'm forgetting?

What I'm Reading: The Comets Curse by Dom Testa
What I'm Listening to: The Beatles "Come Together"
What I'm Watching: White Collar and Covert Affairs

Monday, September 10, 2012

100 for 100 Challenge

Although the official sign up for this contest-type thing is over, I would encourage you to think about trying this challenge that is hosted by Go Teen Writers. Basically, you write one hundred words in one story every day (that takes like ten minutes!) for one hundred days, so by December (ish) you have 10 000 words. You get one grace day a week where you don't have to write, but you have to make up those hundred words another day that week. It's a simple way to work writing into your daily schedule. The challenge starts today! However it will only work if you don't cheat! I'm doing it; are you?

For the official info check out this post.

What I'm reading: Bitterblue by Kirstin Cashore
What I'm listening to: "Stare into the Sun" by Graffiti 6
What I'm watching: Alphas

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insecure Writer's Group: September 2012

It's time for another addition of The Insecure Writer's Group! If your new, you can read all about what this is here.

Today I wanted to address an insecurity that I've had and know that many other writers have had. For me, I am most confident with my plot and doubt myself when it comes to the actual stylistic elements. For example:

"Does this sentence sound right?"
"Is my description vivid?"
"Is this too dry?"

Although that stuff so SO important, what I'm finding makes a huge difference in my writing is tension management. I first heard that term over at Go Teen Writers (great blog btw) said by Marlo Schalesky. It was like a light bulb going off in my head.

I don't have to worry myself so much that it's hard to put a pen to paper over small things like sentence structure. The more nitty-gritty stuff can be edited later, but I do need to worry about tension in my scenes. Worrying about the pull between two characters (or some other force) in a scene is much more manageable than worrying about the small things that can be so overwhelming in the first draft. It really does produce better results and page turning content. This is a great post talking about tension and how to apply it.

So what am I trying to say? Forget about the small stuff -don't get held up on your insecurities- and focus on the big things like tension management when you're writing your first draft.

What I'm reading: Bitterblue by Kirstin Cashore and The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

What I'm listening to: Owl City's All Things Bright And Beautiful

What I'm watching: Abby and Brittany

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Should I Read Next?

This is just going to be a quicky post on some ways to find your next book to read that I've complied over the last little bit. It can be a really hard question to answer sometimes, especially after a few books that were less than impressive leading you to doubt your ability to pick good books!

Here's to helping you find a good book!

  • Check out this website. You type in the name of a book that you liked and it comes up with a list of other books/authors that you may enjoy.

  • Join Goodreads. You can enter all the books that you've read with your ratings and then it will come with recommendations for each genre that you've read books in. Goodreads will also keep track of all the books you want to read so you never forget a book! Here's my recommendations based on my favourites shelf:
  • Pay attention to what other people (online and off) are talking about. Often bloggers will post reviews or have a list a favourite books which are good places to start. I have a little favourites bookshelf down at the very bottom of this page. Also, you can talk to librarians and other bookish people and ask them for their opinions. They will love that.

There you go, three ways to find a good book. I know the last one is kind of "duh", but you'd be surprised how many people don't even think to do that. Have you got any sure fire ways of finding a good book?

What I'm reading: Fire by Kirstin Cashore and The Con Artist Handbook: The Secrets of Hustles and Scams by Joel Levy

What I'm listening to: United States of Pop 2009: Blame it on the Pop by DJ Earthworm (I know, classy)

What I'm watching: Covert Affairs and White Collar

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Interview With Teen Writers: Part 2

Hello everybody, it's time for part two of the interview! If you missed part one you can read it here. Enjoy!

The interviewees:
Jane Shaw
Elizabeth Watson
Ravena Guron - Ravena Guron
Dakota Densmore - My Frantic Scribblings
Bria - Pursuing Stories

7. What's your motivation for writing?
Dakota: Motivation? You sound like an over dramatic actor being paid way too much to do little of anything. Ah, my motive it FUN, and of course, the dream of any aspiring author, to be published. Perhaps even made into a movie. ;)
Bria: I love stories (as if that wasn’t obvious from my blog name). I love telling stories, I love listening to others tell stories, I love stories. My love of writing is based on this love –and obsession with –stories. Everyone has a story and everyone’s is different (even twins’ stories are unique!). This intrigues me and so I pursue stories. I creep on them and I find them and then I write them. It’s just so fascinating to me!
Ravena: I have no idea. No, seriously. I think that even though at times I have to force myself to write, or it feels like I would rather stick needles in my arms then sit down and make words appear, I love it.
Jane: Everything, no seriously everything. I find motivation mostly in other books, movies, and T.V, shows. I find inspiration when I'm at work, or when I'm on the way to work, or when I'm taking ling trips, and when I'm trying to sleep and my mind is running a mile a minute.
Elizabeth: My motivation is what I call my “writer’s waves”. If I get an idea, I have to write it down.
8. How has your writing evolved since you started writing?
Dakota: Well, it's not written in crayon anymore, for one thing. Haha, I use a computer now, instead of scribbling in notepads held together with tape. Erm, I suppose it's become more mature, hopefully more in-depth and involving....but probably not. ;)
Bria: My voice has certainly improved as I’ve been writing. When I first started to write consistently about two years ago, I was childish in my writing. I liked to make my writing seem clever by telling jokes. Of course, this didn’t make my writing clever; it only made me look stupid for sacrificing the story for petty jokes. And now, instead of that, I sound like this. Let me tell you: this is much improved. The only way this evolution in my writing came about is because I write, so write. There’s no way to become better at writing if you never write.
Ravena: I used to fill up notebooks. Now I use a laptop. (On a serious note... I like to think I've gotten better, that I'm using less unnecessary words and am able to end up a piece of writing which is closer to what I imagined in my head. I can't really say though. I mean, it happens over such a long period of time, evolution, that sometimes it seems like nothing has changed at all. Oh no wait... nothing has changed at all. I still write like I did when I was eight. *Cries.* Let's move onto the next question :)
Jane: Refer to 6th question.
Elizabeth: My writing evolves constantly as I get older and my writing improves. It also evolves based on my current major influences and inspirations, as well as my experiences.
9. How do you feel about teens being published/self published?
Dakota: It's awesome!! :D I applause them with a vigor spurred by both jealousy and pride. I SALUTE THEE, SIR!! And madame. ;)
Bria: Respect. I am nowhere near publishing anything (besides blog posts). I have so much respect and admiration for teens (anyone, really) who can control and motivate themselves enough to not only finish something, but to publish it too. If you’re reading this and you’ve published something: you’re awesome!
Ravena: OMG I AM SO PROUD OF THEM I WANT TO GIVE THEM ALL A GIANT HUG. Good for them for proving the stereotype all teens are lazy dodobrains (yes I made that word up) is wrong.
Jane: I think it's awesome, but only if they have talent. I'm always drawn toward books written by teens, I feel that they have a pulse on how teens actually think, and do. Better then a 30 year old woman. I'm not saying that the 30 year old woman doesn't have any talent, but sometimes a teen just hit's it on the nail.
Elizabeth: I think it’s great that teens are published. It’s valuable experience, and it shows that creativity isn’t restricted by age.
10. How do people react when you tell them you write, if you tell them at all? If you don't like to talk about it, why?
Dakota: If I tell them, they're usually like, "Oh, that's cool. What do you like to write?" If I don't tell them, it's b/c I don't think they'll care/appreciate it, or b/c I'm still insecure/self-conscious about what I'm writing. Also b/c doing something, no matter what it is, without anyone knowing about it, gives whatever you're doing a secretive, dramatic, spy-like feel, and makes it 10x more fun!! :D
Bria: People know that I like to write, but not many people realize that I want to be a writer. This is probably partially due to one of my friends. You see, I told one of my best guy friends that I wanted to be a writer. He looked at me and he was confused. “Why?” he said. I told him, but the confusion didn’t go away. “Why would you want to do that?!” …yup. Just so you know: this guy is not a jerk. Some people just don’t understand.
Ravena: I hate telling people I write, unless they're other writers. People don't understand how much it means to me, or they generally tend to think I'm strange (I've only talk about it with a few of my closest friends (hi Asli, Mariana and Jodie) plus my mum but she doesn't count.) I guess I don't want to bring it up, because I feel weird.
Jane: I don't really tell people. Writing is more of a hobby for me, then a serious thing. When I tell my friends there okay with it. I don't really bring it up, because it's kind of hard to bring it up without bragging, so I don't unless I'm asking for advice or trying to work out a plot point.
11. How would you like people to treat teen writers?
Dakota: As equals? As interesting people that matter? As individuals with more things to say and more creative ways to say it than most people realize? Something like that, I suppose.
Bria: Respect would be nice. And encouragement. We are going after our dreams and an awareness of that would be awesome. Awareness by way of less homework would be especially nice. Hint, hint, cough, cough.
Ravena: Like royalty. Only joking (a little.) I would like people to encourage teen writers, but take us seriously too. Is that possible?
Elizabeth: People should give teen writers a chance. We don’t all write high school dramas or vampire novels. There are some extremely gifted young writers who are just as good as older writers and they deserve to be taken as seriously as anyone else.
12. What is acceptable content for a teen to be writing in your opinion? (Eg. genre, romance elements, age etc.)
Dakota: Hmm, anything but smut. SMUT MUST NOT BE WRITTEN!! BY ANYONE!!! EVER!!! But especially by teens. Mature (in body) and independent as they may be, THEY'RE STILL JUST KIDS!! Basically, anything you wouldn't want your parents, or grandparents, to read, you probably shouldn't write it.
Bria: I don’t know. I’ve never thought about this. Generally, I don’t write characters who are older than me, because I don’t know if an eighteen-year-old will have different thoughts than little sixteen-year-old me. But that’s just me.
Ravena: I think anything is acceptable. Teens know about the goodness and the badness in the world, and all the little bits in between. They should be able to write whatever they want.
Jane: Basically anything, except hardcore erotica or any romance novel where the characters aren't teens.
Elizabeth: In terms of content, I hate smut in books from any age, but I think it’s something teens especially should avoid because it reaffirms stereotypes about young writers.
13. What advice do you have for teen writers who are just starting off?
Dakota: Hm...For starters, ignore the doomsayers, or course. ;) And, DON'T be like me, meaning that you should have a writing schedule, even if it's just, "I will write 100 words this week," or, "Every Tuesday at 6, I will sit down and write for 15 minutes." It doesn't have to be a lot. Hm, what else? Write whatever you like (yet remembering what I mentioned before), however you like. Sci-fi in a notebook, fantasy on the computer, mystery on you iPod. Whatever, it's entirely up to you. Never let anyone tell you a certain genre or way of writing is stupid or wrong. And....PUNCTUATION MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE!!! Example:
"Let's eat grandpa!!
Let's eat, grandpa!!"
You see????
Oh, and one more thought; A cup of tea (or coffee, but mostly tea) is a writer's best friend. ;)
Bria: You tend to hear the same advice so I’m going to try to throw something new in. “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, the Bible) Don’t be discouraged and don’t believe that others are better than you simply because they are older and “wiser.” I’ve read plenty of books written by people who should be old enough to realize their writing stinks. (That sounds harsh, but we all know it’s true. Some people write bad books.) Get yourself some confidence, get your writing out there (blogs, contests, etc.), and live by this quote from Ray Bradbury: “If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories –science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Ravena: Don't ever give up, no matter how many rejections you get. And there's no rush to get published. Some of our favourite authors weren't published until they were waaaay out of their teens, but look how happy they are now!
Jane: Take inspiration from everything. Write different things until you find the one that's your fit. You don't have to be an author to write, just write. If you’re good, good for you, if not that's okay because no one has to see it.
Elizabeth: I advise young writers to practise constantly. It’s the only way to get better. Experiment with other genres you don’t usually write in, and read lots! Reading different genres from different periods from an array of different authors also helps a lot. Keep exercising your creativity. Challenge yourself to be inspired by anything – this helps avoid writer’s block. It gives you a chance to discover what works and what doesn’t. Also, do not get stuck in one genre (especially fanfiction!)
Hope you enjoyed the interview! Feedback on the interview is most welcome. What would you have liked to see more of, less of? What did you like?
What I'm reading: Fire by Kirstin Cashore
What I'm listening to: The Barr Brothers
What I'm watching: Suits
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