Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Latest Exploration into CRAYONS!

crayon drip fish art

If you recall, my friend crocheted me the awesomest dragon ever. So I wanted to make her something in return. After much introspection and stalking of her Pinterest page, I thought up the idea of crayon-drippery, koi-flippery art. She's a fan of koi fish, and she had some crayon drip-art pinned.

My blog seems to have turned into a Sarah Creativity Blog rather than a Strictly Writing Blog (although still a Mostly Writing Blog). This is yet another arty post because, honestly, I think my artwork's cool, and I think making art is cool.

I watched a few tutorials (I particularly liked this one) for some ideas on how exactly to do this whole melty crayon business. Thanks to the linked tutorial, I bought a heat gun (because I've no patience for that hairdryer nonsense and other tutorials said that took ages) and a ruler to help spread out the crayon-waxy goodness.

Then I drew, markered, striped crayons, cut crayons, glued crayons, and got to melting. Since that is an incredibly boring statement, I have photos!

crayons for drip art
I've just denuded my crayons, oh my.

making art
The markers used on my fishes and the crayon papery bits.

And now for the before and after photos! First comes the fish drawing, then the finished colorful crayony fish.

Sadly, for my third fish, I forgot a "before" photo, so you got to see it up top. I did five total.

koi crayon fish
Meet Fish #1.

I think of Fish # 2 as my French Fish.
Mai Oui!
(Pre-crayon, he's my favorite.)

The top two were easy to put side by side because they're vertical. I couldn't come up with a good side by side solution for the last two, so they're a bit bigger. But I like them better anyway. They're more vibrant - I got better at that as I practiced.

koi drawing
koi crayon drip art

koi drawing, sarah hipplekoi crayon art, sarah hipple

And to think, I just spent all that time googling how to put two photos side by side in Blogger, decided mucking about in the code wasn't worth it, and now I just accidentally did it. Just for that, things are staying as they are. (I forgot my last fish was vertical as well until I went to add her.)

Sometimes in art, writing, and life you accidentally hit upon exactly what you were looking for. Doesn't happen too often, but when it does it's pretty cool. As are my fish.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Which A Computer Tells You If You're A Jerk

Thanks to Reddit, I happened across IBM's Watson text analyzer.

dingy computer haven
Photo by Rudolf Schuba

Here's how it works: You put in a paragraph of your writing, click "Analyze," and it spits out a bunch of graphics and percentages that are incredibly confusing but also a short paragraph that tells you what Watson thinks your personality is based upon your writing.

weathered magic book
Photo by scmanica

And here's an example of the "Summary" analysis from Watson when it analyzed my blog writing:
You are unpretentious and somewhat compulsive.
You are laid-back: you appreciate a relaxed pace in life. You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. And you are intermittent: you have a hard time sticking with difficult tasks for a long period of time.
Your choices are driven by a desire for organization.
You are relatively unconcerned with taking pleasure in life: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment. You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you.
*Compared to most people who participated in our surveys.

I don't know about all this laid back nonsense, but it's fun to see my results!

And I'm kind of annoyingly persistent. But, hey, each blog post spits out different results based on who I was being that week. I'm a bloggin' chameleon. But there's definitely some of me in that description.

fairy land
Photo by Greg Westfall

I started putting pieces of my books into the analyzer and was really confused by the results. These descriptions weren't me at all! But they could be my main character.

It was actually really cool. I put in a bit of writing from my main character Eric Ortega's point of view and got out info about an impetuous, empathetic kid. 

Throwing in a paragraph from main character Cat Pearce's POV, I got info about a take-charge, empathetic kid.

evil chess land
Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Then my husband said, "Put in your villain! I'm starting to think it tells everyone they're empathetic."

And so I did. My villain's Summary paragraph was about a ruthless, ambitious dude.

There were definitely a few pieces of the description that didn't work out, but it was still a fun experiment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wrenching My Plot Down Tight

On the pretty photo front: there was a cool, green moth hanging onto the frame of my back door. Googling has led me to believe it's a Actias luna. I googled "big, green moth" in case you're curious.

pretty green moth

On the writing front: received some critiques, paused in writing to tighten plot of my MG fantasy, reworked Dragon Lure query (again), and then wrote some more.

big green moth

I'm still brewing over the critiques and exactly how to address them, so let's save that for another week. This week's topic: my plot tightening.

There is so very much that's been said about writing a tightly structured plot, but I had fun reading Chuck Wendig's recent post on the topic (and his general, critiquey tips).
Note: He uses Not Safe For Work language.

He just happened to put the plot structure part of his post into a handy, dandy tweet:

Obviously, the middle part of the story is where things go wrong and then wronger. Then they keep going wrong until the climax when things go the wrongest of all.

fuzzy green moth

I must have a simple mind because while I've read nuanced analyses of plot structure and have tried to use these awesome spreadsheets that author Jami Gold created from the books of some highly acclaimed plot masters, I just cannot seem to use them effectively. But I loved following Chuck's structure.

Maybe I just needed a little humor in my plotting process.

Actias luna moth

In case you were curious, I did plot this book out before I started to write it (or, rather, since it's a reimagining of an old project, "re-write"), but as I went along I realized the pacing was just too slow. So I started cutting, and then I got to the point where I needed to revisit my plot structure and make sure it all still holds together.

So for us non-masters of the tight, tense plot structure, a book can be plotted about five different times. Altogether too easily.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When You Don't Feel Like Writing (Read)

crochet robot
Photo from Christelle

I haven't been talking about my writing lately. I'm in the midst of a re-write of one of my older books. I fleshed out the world and beefed up the outline, and I was making progress.

But recently I hit a spot in the writing that I'm almost positive I'm going to have to hack to pieces when I finally start revising. I feel bored just writing it. I might feel that way due to self-doubt and general self-uncertainty, but I'm sure I'm at least a little bit right.

I know what I need to do. I need to keep writing until I get through this part and then go back and see how I can fix it when I'm editing (or, rather, what I can just chop out). But it's kind of hard to keep writing when I know what I'm writing is not actually useful.

I make myself keep going, but it's slow going, and I need more breaks than usual. So I've been trying to catch up on some reading during those breaks. Some noteworthies in the last month:

  1. Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  2. electric sheep
    Photo from Mann Library
    • Quick Summary - Classic Science Fiction and the basis for the movie Blade Runner. Dick, despite his mildly unfortunate name, is one of the masters of early(ish) science fiction. This book is from the '60s, and its views on women's roles in society are a little bit dated (but not as much as another sci-fi master, who I just cannot get into - Heinlein). Androids are being used as slave labor on Mars; Earth is in sad straights; and Rick Deckard, android bounty hunter here on Earth, is our main character. He's just been assigned to take out some particularly smart (and human-esque) androids.
    • My Take-Aways - Themes. This book is chalk full of the question, "What does it mean to be human?" So many different characters contribute to this question in different ways. Dick builds the world and plot around the question. And then, of course, there's the whole "Mankind is going to kill itself" bit too. But that's more world-building than thematic. This book has cool world-building, philosophical questioning, and interesting characters with interesting dilemmas. There's a lot to be learned here. If I can figure out how.
  3. Magyk (the first Septimus Heap book) by Angie Sage
  4. fortuneteller, teenaged boy
    Image from Sean McGrath
    • Quick Summary - there's a bad wizard dude who wants to take over the kingdom of The Castle, and the good guys are fighting back! Generic, right? But it was such a good read! Also: the Castle's princess was abandoned in the snow and taken in by a wizarding family that just lost their son - who would have been a seventh son of a seventh son.
    • My Take-Aways - How to freshen up a standard idea & How to use a ton of characters without losing your reader. To be honest, I'm not certain why the plot didn't feel old and used. Maybe it was because of the extensive world building that drew on some slightly unusual characters and some different ideas of how magic should operate. She used a few unusual twists and built such a cohesive world that it didn't feel stale. Also: she managed to keep introducing new characters but in ways that really related to the existing characters and helped tie everything together.
  5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  6. creepy, dark tree
    Image by Carlos AndrĂ©s Reyes
    • Quick Summary - Boy wakes up in an elevator as he's being sent up to a world surrounded by a dangerous maze and populated by teenaged boys. He's missing memories about himself but remembers about the world in general.
    • My Take-Aways - Honestly, I'm having a difficult time getting through this book. It's pretty original and the concept is interesting. And, weirdly, enough, my own main character has really similar memory issues (from a book I started writing about the time this book came out). My problem with the book is that the boy is really impulsive and super complainy about how people won't tell him stuff and how he can't remember stuff. And since I find that annoying it's a good lesson in stuff I need to avoid in my own writing. And I'm sure I could take a few action writing lessons from Dashner as well.
  7. Greenglass House by Kate Milford
  8. ominous stained glass
    Photo by Michael Kooiman
    • Quick Summary - a mysterious pack of strangers arrive at Milo's parents' ramshackle, old inn. His town is famous for smugglers and thieves, and his house holds many secrets.
    • My Take-Aways - Building tension/mystery & The impact of a title. I think this book suffers for its title. I was reluctant to read it just because it sounded like it was about a greenhouse, and books about greenhouses don't seem that interesting. Milford successfully takes what could be a slow book and captures the imagination by dropping little hints here and there about what all of the characters are hiding. It's a bunch of people snowed in at an inn, and I'm loving this book. It reminds me of both Agatha Christie and The Westing Game.