Writing Tip Wednesday: Writing in code

As a web developer, I tend to think in code logic when writing. It’s a lot simpler than you might think:

If this happens, do A. But if this does not happen, do B. 

Writing involves a lot of this type of thinking in order to produce a story without plot holes or inconsistencies. From a reader’s perspective, plot holes, inconsistent characters, and poorly executed plot escalation can leave you feeling disappointed, annoyed. or even make you ditch the story completely.

Thinking and planning a story out using this logic-based exercise will help you:

  • think through all the possible scenarios that are within the realm of your story’s world,
  • keep your characters from making uncharacteristic decisions, and
  • plan escalating plot points on a large and small scale.

For example, I am currently thinking through how my antagonist, Xander, should proceed. Xander needs a promotion in order to gain access to top-secret information. He is eligible for promotion and a position is about to open up that will give him the access he needs, but the protagonist, Lana, is also being considered for the position.

With that scenario in mind, now I have to think through Xander’s options and what is within his character’s realm of reasonable actions. Xander is desperate to prove himself and knows the promotion is vital to gaining the top-secret information he desperately needs. Would he kill for it? Definitely.

So what are Xander’s options?

  • Plan A: Xander gets the promotion. Xander gets the top-secret information.
  • Plan B: Lana gets the promotion. As runner-up, Xander can try to kill her to get the promotion. Xander gets the top-secret information.
  • Plan C: Lana gets the promotion. Xander’s plan to kill Lana fails. Xander can try to coerce her or trick her into giving him the top secret information. Xander gets the top-secret information.

Believe it or not, this could be turned into a logical code sequence, like the one featured below.

2016-06-19_1349

How do you plan a story?

 

Writing Tip Wednesday: Editing with narration

The hardest aspect of editing for me is reading what is actually on the page, not what I think I wrote on the page.

We all do this; when reading back over a draft you miss those places where you accidentally typed a word twice, had an incomplete thought, or misspelled a word. You are just reading what you want it to say because you are intimately familiar with the story, and unable to see it with a fresh eye at times, no matter how hard you try or how long you put it on the shelf.

The best solution I have found so far for this is the text to speech tool built into most computers.

The text to speech tool, or any other type of screen reading tool will read the text back to you.

Highlights:

  • An outside perspective on your own prose: Hearing your story read aloud, from someone other than that little voice inside your head, gives you “helicopter perspective”; you can see the bigger picture.
  • Nixing minor mistakes: Using this tool early on will eliminate minor mistakes, that way when you revise the entire manuscript you can focus solely on improving the story, not getting sidetracked with typos.
  • Living your story: I think it is safe to say most writers are readers, and for a reader, the thrill of losing yourself in a story is exhilarating! Having your own story narrated to you will give you the experience a reader might have, and putting yourself in your audience’s shoes is always a good strategy for success no matter what genre you write.

How I use this tip: On my computer, after I finish writing a chapter, I go paragraph by paragraph with the text to speech tool and listen to the voice read my prose back to me. After the first draft of the manuscript is complete, I go page by page to make sure the story flows and catch any plot holes or lingering typos from my revisions. And just when I think I have the final, ready to send to agents and publishers, version I go chapter by chapter to ensure the story is solid.

Below are instructions for using the text-to-speech tools on OSX and Windows computers.

Macs:

  1. Open your Systems Preferences.
  2. Click Dictation & Speech.
  3. At the top of the window, make sure you are on the Text to Speech settings.
  4. From here you can set or see the keyboard shortcut for initiating the voice. My keyboard shortcut is Command+Shift+T. You can also make settings to:
    • The System Voice: Choose from male or female voices, and voices with different accents–whatever sets the mood for your story or speaks the clearest. You can also find other voices to install online.
    • The Speaking Rate: Choose how rapidly you want the voice to read.
  5. To use Text to Speech online or in a document, highlight the portion of text you would like read aloud and use your keyboard shortcut.
    1. NOTE: The more text you highlight the longer it might take for the Text to Speech tool to initialize (i.e., do not highlight your 100K+ novel unless you’re planning on growing your beard out–I’ve been there, and I didn’t like having a beard). I find it best to do a couple of paragraphs at a time that way I can stop in between and edit them.

Windows:
I’m sorry the Windows instructions are a little sparse, but I’m a Mac owner so I’m just going off of instructions I found online: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/hear-text-read-aloud-narrator#1TC=windows-8

  1. Open your Settings.
  2. Click Change PC Settings.
  3. Click Ease of Access.
  4. Click Narrator.
  5. Turn on Narrator by using the slider.
    • I am not familiar with how to use Narrator on windows once it is activated, but this at least gives you a starting place.