Writing Tips for the Busy

This Winter Break I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I really dove into my hobby and I made it work for me. I’ve got one fully polished manuscript, and I’m about 10% of the way through the first book of a trilogy (doesn’t that sound impressive!). But in just a hot minute, I’ll be back at classes, this time with a field placement and I’ve realized that I’m going to need to block my time more prudently. So.

  • Make the time

I’ve got a calendar all set up, which shows me what my major obligations are. I’ve got class days marked in one color, homework blocks in another and writing blocks in a third. This way, it’s the most important date with myself-and I’ll be able to keep on track. (Famous last words, I know.)

  • Change scenery

I’m not talking field trips here, I’m talking the thing you’re looking at. Sometimes the words just don’t plop on the page as quickly (or numerous) as you beg them to. Change fonts. Change programs. Switch handwriting (or languages!). That difference will let you pick out editing mistakes, and may just get you out of the slump.

  • Word Sprints

I learned this trick from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Sometimes all you have is 15 minutes. And that’s plenty. Take your 15 (or 10, or 5) and jam as many sentences as you can into that time. Don’t go for edited masterpiece-just go for words on a page. Do this 4 times and you’ve got your hour of writing for the day.

  • Start with your favorites

This one I learned the hard/easy way. For me, starting at “Sentence One” and taking my idea start to finish is hard. Great for continuity, terrible for inspiration. I’d always have that “But I wanted to write THAT scene” syndrome. So with the polished manuscript, I jumped out of my habit and wrote what I call “Scenes Out Of Context”. (I even label them as “SOOC: Scene Name”). I have a list of scenes that I know need written, and I start working on whichever one seems the most awesome to me at that moment. About halfway through, I’ll decided none of them sound awesome and then I’ll start “Sentence One”. Which, by then, I’ve got a great idea of how I want the tone to be, I’ve got enough to do some foreshadowing and I’m not offended by linking the chapters together (which adds to my word count).

  • Use said, then add

This last piece of goody info is actually an editing piece. I discovered that the easiest way to come up with the basic manuscript is to low-ball it. Write through the skeleton of it, using only the most basic of dialogue tags: said. Don’t describe things unless absolutely necessary to the scene. Don’t describe the characters unless absolutely necessary to the scene. And give yourself the most basic of word counts. For a 62k book, I gave myself a 35k skeleton goal.

And then? As you edit, you’ve got a feel for the people. Apart from the obvious editing (grammar, punctuation, etc) you can now search your document for “said” and add in fleshed out dialogue tags (any number of which will give you an additional 1-10+ more words). Then add in the descriptions that you left out: buildings, aromas, the way the food tasted, what the characters were wearing, any mannerisms that weren’t obvious in the skeleton but you knew were there. (Leave notes as you add bones, so you can add in stuff later and not forget!). I added several plot-hole-fixers during that point, and an additional 15k words in just “meat” that I’d left out. That way I knew my structure was solid, and the rest added layers.

See anything I missed? Any tips you’d have added? Any of these not work for you? Let me know!

Perks of Poverty?

appropriation.pngI came across this article today: The Troubling Trendiness of Poverty Appropriation and while I was reading it, I felt a familiar rant coming up. I actually agree with the level of disdain this author shows. I don’t know how familiar ya’ll are with a book written about 15 years ago called Nickel and Dimed. The cover looked like this (there was also a 10th anniversary edition which looked similar, but different):
Nickel_and_Dimed_cover

The premise of the book is a reporter/journalist attempts to live a life of poverty for her job. Sounds great right? I mean, a woman(!) digging into the roots of poverty, trying to find out why it’s so hard to live at the lower end of the money spectrum. Which sounds like an awesome case study.
Except she did it wrong and then wrote as though she understood.
Ms. Ehrenreich made three rules for her experiment. (1)
1. she can not fall back on any skills derived from her education or usual work
2. she has to take the highest-paying job she is offered and do her best to keep it;
3. she has to take the cheapest accommodations she can find, with a reasonable consideration for safety and privacy.
She also has some additional considerations. (1)
1. she will always have a car
2. she will never allow herself to be homeless
3. she will never go hungry.
Now, before I get into my thoughts, the author makes note that she understands she will never know what poverty is. The tone of her writing suggests otherwise.

It’s not okay to take something which is a source of great discomfort and shame, put a spin on it and use it as something to glorify (if it is a choice-not a lifestyle). That’s the problem with cultural appropriation. It’s great if there’s something which was founded by one group then shared and used for the benefit of all. It’s another thing entirely to glorify something like poverty. It’s not right.

Issues I have with the author’s take on the book are numerous. Of my issues, at the top of the list are the fact that this book was marketed as a woman exploring poverty by experiencing it. She didn’t. Not even close. Let me explain to you how she should have done her experiment: She shouldn’t have.
Poverty isn’t an experiment. It’s a tragedy.

The issues I have with her rules (by rule):
1. her experiences included being an adult with a job. She knew how to get an interview.
2. she should have taken the FIRST job she was offered-high pay or no.
3. poor people will often sacrifice safety, privacy and comfort for what can be afforded.
The issues I have with her additional considerations (in order):
1. being poor means taking the bus, or walking. Having a running car is a luxury.
2. this one, while reasonable is still a heavy assumption.
3. poverty means hunger. Trust me, I know.

Now, some additional things to consider. She kept her car from her old job. So it wasn’t a beater. She also had an emergency fund. There is no such thing as an emergency fund in poverty because literally every purchase is necessary and money is spent before it comes in. Also, she had health insurance. Now, I know that it’s 15 years later and insurance is required. But at the same time, you and I know that that means, if anything, money doesn’t go as far at all. And I remember a time when health insurance was a luxury-and if you didn’t have it, you went to work sick. Because I have insurance, and I can’t afford to go to the doctor. So I don’t.

Let me tell you a story, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from. It would be sixth grade, history. It was the week of my birthday and I knew my parents were strapped for money, so I hadn’t asked for anything extravagant. I just wanted Chinese food from the store in town and some frog toys (I loved frogs). I walked into class that day and the principle was in class as well, which was odd. We were told that there was a shortage of money in the school district, that we would now have to pay 10 cents for each page of our tests, our work sheets and everything which needed printed, and that in order to have access to the homework that day, we were going to have to give up two dollars right then.

I was 11 years old. Two dollars was all the lunch money I had. I was a straight-A student, never missed an assignment, all my teachers liked me. It was the week of my birthday and I was being told that I was going to have to pay a LOT of money in order to go to school. My parents were a little broke and I hadn’t had lunch yet.

As an 11 year old with a wild imagination, the only thoughts I could entertain as I put my money on the table and the principle checked my name off, was about how I was going to cause my family to lose our home, we were going to be on the street eating from trash cans. And, because my birthday is in December, I naturally assumed that I and my family were going to freeze to death. All because I wanted to go to school.

That is the reality of poverty. Little children being afraid that their existence is going to cost too much. That they are going to die because they cannot afford to live.

And for those of you who are curious, I did get my lunch money back. And no, we didn’t have to pay money for paper. It was an exercise to demonstrate how the colonists felt about the unfair taxes imposed by Britain. The principle had been there to reinforce the lesson (make it seem realistic and believable), and as a precaution, I’m sure. About a third of the class was crying as they left for their next class that day. I remember that the kid I sat by went to the bathroom and called his mother who came in to school and cursed out the teacher. A woman teacher (math) later told me that she wished she could bring her subject to students in such a relevant way. I remain appalled.

For the record, I never forgave that teacher. I know I should, but I consider him a monster. He ruined my birthday and taught me that the people who are often trusted to lead children aren’t necessarily the ones you want doing just that. “Derision for disappointed hopes” is a good quote to use here.

Nickel and Dimed was touted to me as an examination of the inner workings of poverty by the professor who required it for one of my classes. I ripped it to shreds in my review because the author knew nothing about the realities. As far as I know, she never required the book again. And that’s why the things the article’s author pointed out are also valid.

There is nothing chic about surviving on dollar menus, discount carts and living in trailer parks. People look down on you, it’s constantly worrying about money, about safety and you feel like the scum of the earth. People who “choose” to experience that don’t even understand the realities of the situation they flagrantly mock. All it does is damage the value of human beings who are fighting to get by. And that simply won’t do.

And if you’d like to hear some excellent words on millennials in 2016, here’s a video. But I will say, there’s some “adult” words. It doesn’t matter to me, but there are people who have concerns like that, so be aware. Snooze by Snow Tha Product (It’ll be featured in other stuff-because I REALLY like it.)

Citations

  1. Staff, TheBestNotes. “TheBestNotes on Nickel and Dimed“. TheBestNotes.com. 19 August 2016. 19 February 2015
    <http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Nickel_And_Dimed/Nickel_And_Dimed05.html&gt;.

International Women’s Day

Ah, today. My favorite interest group day during my favorite interest group month, as part of my favorite topic to discuss. I love being able to talk about women and their cultures, ideals and abilities. I’d thought about doing an interest piece about the Jenner/Kardashian news that’s been popping up, but then I thought-isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of International Women’s Day? And I thought about doing a Hillary Clinton feature, and about women in power, but she’s already “equal” in many ways. So what do I want to talk about today? Mental Health? I could. Unnecessarily gendered goods? Possibly. But I think at the heart of today, there are two concepts which really embody what I want to focus on: respect and equality.

I had to read a book for one my classes (Women and Democracy) called “Companeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories”. A zapatista is a member or supporter of a Mexican revolutionary force working for social and agrarian reforms, which launched a popular uprising in the state of Chiapas in 1994. (Thanks, Google!)

zap

I know that seems kind of “old” news, but the story is actually really inspiring, and some of the quotes from the book are just phenomenal. The main point, from my understanding, is that the indigenous people of Chiapas wanted control over their own land, their own resources, and wanted the government and military powers to remove themselves. The women, although also heavily involved in this movement, went about things a little differently, collecting themselves for the ideas of equality, freedom and opportunity. Some of the quotes from the book are:

where indigenous communities have taken their destiny into their own hands, where villages find solutions to their economic problems by working collectively, where community members walk proudly…

The dignity with which these women carried themselves, set against a backdrop of centuries of racism and exploitation…

I know they seem a little disjointed, but the quotes themselves are part of the larger ideal of what I was explaining before. The next thing, is the outcome of this movement (specifically on the women’s side. This is the Women’s Revolutionary Law of 1994.

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

This next quote comes from a book called “Decolonizing Democracy” and I think it has the best potential to be a slogan which I will print on everything. It talks about when the (Indian) government should be doing for its people. I think it’s applicable to ALL governments.

dec

and at the same time provide safeguards for the fundamental rights of individuals and groups living in this country and for safeguarding the fundamental rights of minorities

So I was thinking, about all the women who have fought for their rights, their freedoms and their ability to live their lives as they see fit. I thought about all of the stories I had been told about female naval officers, pirates, warriors, samurais, wordsmiths, protesters, politicians, activists and leaders and realized that there is so much that has been done for women, by women.

But the fact remains that 1 in 3 girls (in developing nations) will be married as children.(girlsnotbrides.org)

One woman every hour in India will die a “dowry death” (death caused by a dispute in her dowry) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The average life expectancy for a woman in Botswana is 33 years (America is 78). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

68% of women in Bangladesh suffer (or have suffered in domestic abuse situations. The U.S. spends over $1 BILLION in domestic abuse related medical costs EACH YEAR. 28 cases are reported in Thailand each DAY. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

2% of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. That number is .01% in Canada (That’s 1% of 1% or 200 times less than Sierra Leone). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

40 MILLION girls are missing from the world’s population due to son preference (most of these girls have probably been abandoned for dead or murdered). China makes up 30 million of that total. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

Ohio (where I am from) has the following statistics on sex trafficking:

-More than 1,000 children are trafficked around Ohio each year. This number does not include adults. (ohiobar.org)

-Only 289 cases were reported in 2015, most of whom were US citizens. (traffickingresourcecenter.org)

Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. In Japan, only 5 of the 104 gang rapes reported had convictions in 2005. In Burma, marital rape is not a crime unless the victim is under 14. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

at

So, although today is a day for celebrating women globally, we also need to be severely reminded that we have to fight harder, fight faster, to protect those very same women. We are half of the sky and we must hold each other higher. The first step, is education. To be aware is the only way to help.

 

Every Word’s The Same

I have to say

There seems to be a miscommunication

I thought secrets were for the living

But the only secrets are kept in death

If every second lasted just a second longer

Maybe the trust I thought I deserved 

Would shatter before my eyes

Instead of behind my back

My shoulder blades itch, 

Could you move the knife up and to the left?

Or should I just fall on my face

The beauty of the fall is my disgrace

Is that your heartbeat

Or is it just the echo of a chest that’s hollow

Because you’ve been a tin man your whole life

And I guess that makes me the one without courage.

It takes a tribe to raise a kid, but 

Maybe it was a village of idiots.

You thought you were so clever, so sweet

That I could save you from your own disasters 

You should have looked for a parachute

Because this plane’s about to go down.

I never thought it’d come down to this

A thief and a liar, oh but the twist,

We are the same, you and I

Connected by the handcuffed scars on our wrist.

  (Photo from Pinterest!)