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Archive for April, 2010

Using a Writing Journal in a New Way

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I am a world class procrastinator. I can usually find something else to occupy my time when I have a mounting list of things that need to get done. Even as I write, this I realize that my to do list has no possible end in sight.

It has been weeks since the last time I worked on my story. I simply cannot find time to fit it into my schedule.  I have toyed with the idea of making myself write for at LEAST 5 minutes a day and no more than 45 minutes.

However, as I stare at my mounting list of things that simply must be done, I cannot force myself to do that.  So the problem continues to exist on how I am ever going to complete at least one of my three or four story lines I have been working on for several years.

I sit here and ponder my choices on these multiple story lines. Do I put them aside and hope that in the near future I will have more time, which is doubtful when I look at my schedule for the upcoming months.

I think what I am going to do is start keeping a writing journal at night. I can write how long I have worked on a story and any new ideas that I might want to introduce to the plot. Usually as I sit in bed and try to relax, I read a few chapters in a novel.  As I read, I usually think about ideas in the novel and how those ideas can be used in my stories.  However, I do not keep a journal (as of yet).

A journal can be a powerful tool though. A few years ago, I had the chance to briefly skim through three of the numerous journals my great grandmother, Margaret, kept during her marriage to my great grandfather, George.  Margaret could have been a wonderful novelist. The letters she frequently wrote to me and the letters she wrote in her journal reflect her values, traditions, her views on raising five children in the middle of the Great Depression and World War II, while living on a small but profitable dairy farm in West Michigan.  She writes as though she is carrying on a conversation with the reader, which is how I inspire to be as a writer.

Her insights can be compared to an author’s thoughts as they try to relax for the night.  An author’s work is often time consuming and not without its toll on the life of the author.  So it is hard for an author to divorce his or her works during the time when they are not working on a novel.  I know that many authors get so many brilliant ideas when they are trying to get a good night’s sleep. I think that those nightly insights make wonderful material. So take a few minutes each night and write those ideas in a notebook along with how many total minutes you got actually work done on your story. Set a weekly goal and use the journal to help yourself keep track.

I plan to do this starting tonight and see how far it gets me to working on my novel each week.

Finding Sci-Fi Inspiration from Today’s Science

Monday, April 26th, 2010

A friend of mine found this article and passed it along to me.  I encourage you to read the article, and especially to watch the videos (both are different than the one I provide here).  It’s amazing what technology we as a society are able to create.

As a writer, though, I look beyond just the “coolness factor” of seeing robotic penguins flying through the air, or robotic arms that mimic elephant trunks.

For example, in the video above, look at the self-reassembling bricks that move along each other to use the best strategy to accomplish a given goal. These are similar in concept to the Replicators shown in Stargate SG-1, or even the Cylons building special-purpose machines in Battlestar Galactica. You might be able to figure out other ways to use this technology in never-before-seen ways, or realize potential consequences of the technology (or next steps) before anyone else.

Wouldn’t it be cool to capture that in a story?

What effects might walls that respond to people walking by have? Would it change society? Would we grow used to it like televisions playing as we walk by a store?

Or would we create new, interesting forms of artistic expression? Would people add these devices to movable platforms that you could rearrange to create some kind of singing floor? Could this even be a form of entering in a password before entering a home, using the game of hopscotch (or one of the Indiana Jones movies) as inspiration for this type of password?

Today’s technology is already pretty amazing. Sci-fi writers should look around for inspiration in today’s technology as they work on creating tomorrow’s science fiction. What new things can you see coming down the line?

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