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Wednesday Musings

organizer-146189_1280Wednesday seems like a good day to talk about what I’ve done in the last two days and what I want to do in the next two days. This assumes, of course, a normal five-day work week. Not true but let’s pretend that I only work five days per week.

On Monday, I decided to analyze the book, Along Came a Spider by one of my favorite authors, James Patterson. Patterson is a favorite for several reasons. He’s a prolific author. He is a terrific writer. He has written 19 books about the hero of this book, Alex Cross, a Washington DC detective. He writes chapters of about 3 to 4 pages in length.

I’ll cheat a little bit on my five-day workweek and reveal that I began my analysis with the Prologue of the book on Sunday. This is the way the analysis is proceeding. (It may change as I get more experience.)

This is the way the analysis is proceeding. (It may change as I get more experience.)

As I’ve stated before, I have a goal of writing at least 750 words (or more) every day. For well over a year, I “wrote” with my keyboard instead of with pen and paper. Since I learned how to touch type in high school, I have not done too much traditional writing. I can type faster than I can write. And I like the ability to edit as I write. Not recommended by writing teachers but hey, that’s the way I learned to write in volume and I’m not going to stop now.

Now, whenever I can, instead of tappity, tappity, tap on the keyboard, I dictate to my iMac using Dragon Dictate, the Macintosh version of Dragon Naturally Speaking. Instead of 750 or so words a day, I can easily knock out about 2,000 words in the same amount of time if my mind is up to it.

And instead of the traditional paper or text editor file, I use Scrivener, an application created especially for writers. It is a very visual record of the entire writing process – the text, images, notes, chapters, all in the same place. I like that. It keeps me from wasting time trying to find where I have filed various parts of my work.

Back to the Prologue. This was not my usual original work. I fired up Dragon Dictate, opened Scrivener, created a project called AlongCameASpider, created a file called Prologue and began to dictate.

Sometimes, the dictation is not 100% accurate. I use a website called grammarly.com to check the grammar and spelling of everything I write/dictate. I know it’s probably a bit presumptuous to check an author of James Patterson’s stature, but I need to get a feel for his style.  The analysis of the Prologue content shows an occasional use of passive voice, a missing hyphenation or two, stand-alone phrases. No problem because this is also the way I write. Just checking to get a feel for his style.

Statistics are more meaningful to me at this time than how Patterson writes. I go to a website called readability-score.com and submit what I’ve written for statistical analysis. Below is the result of what I got after dictating the Prologue.

Readability Score
Average Grade Level 5.9

Text Statistics

Character Count 3,341
Syllable Count 1,050
Word Count 770
Sentence Count 74
Characters per Word 4.3
Syllables per Word 1.4
Words per Sentence 10.4

During this process, I lost a bit of my objectivity when I began to get very interested in the story being told. I wanted to continue reading. But I decided to limit myself to one chapter a day – to read, to measure, to document, to anticipate the next day’s offering.

On Monday, I followed the same process with Chapter 1. Patterson got a bit wordier than he had been with the Prologue. Here are the results of  Chapter 1.

Readability Score
Average Grade Level 5.1

Text Statistics

Character Count 3,132
Syllable Count 1,039
Word Count 787
Sentence Count 77
Characters per Word 4.0
Syllables per Word 1.3
Words per Sentence 10.2

Just about the same number of words as he wrote in the Prologue.

On Tuesday, I dictated Chapter 2.

Readability Score
Average Grade Level     5.1

Text Statistics

Character Count     6,063
Syllable Count     1,949
Word Count     1,467
Sentence Count     170
Characters per Word     4.1
Syllables per Word     1.3
Words per Sentence     8.6

He wrote almost twice as many words here as he did in the Prologue and Chapter 1.

Today, Thursday and Friday, I will dictate Chapters 3, 4, and 5 and see how the numbers stack up.

I’m not only reading and writing about Along Came a Spider, I’m also studying Google things, like Google+, Google Hangouts, Google Hangouts on Air. I’m participating in a pilot sleep and brain fitness program. I’m involved almost daily in the company of my main munchkin, 3-year-old Thomas. And, oh yeah, I’m redesigning my website with the intent of creating a step-by-step basic WordPress tutorial.

So what will I be doing the rest of my “work week?” Watching and listening to videos about what I’ve studied in the first two weeks of my Plus Your Business Course. Watching and listening to videos about what I’ve studied in the first two weeks of my Hangout Mastery course. Creating and documenting steps in the creation of this website. Reveling in a couple of hours a day with my youngest grandson.

Life is good.

My Writing Goals – At least 750 Words Per Day

office-583841_1280I write every day. My goal is to write at least 750 words a day. Since September 8, 2013 when I got serious about writing, I’ve written a little over 630,000 words. These are not all the words I’ve written. The count doesn’t include emails, tweets, or Facebook entries. It only includes the words written against my 750+ word per day goal.

When I’m stuck about what to say, I write what I’m thinking about. The writing is for me. I call it building my writing muscles. No one else has to see it. In this manner, I can write whatever I want, no matter how dumb, profane, or useless it may be. It’s a mind-cleansing.

I have not alway written this way. During September 2013, I was involved in a project called The Challenge that focussed on writing, publishing, and selling a Kindle book on Amazon.com. I didn’t complete this challenge but as part of one of the exercises, I woke up my writing muse.

That exercise was to write for five minutes non-stop. Pen to paper, write, write, write. Don’t stop until the timer dings at the five-minute mark. If you get stuck, write blah, blah, blah until something pops into your mind that you can write about.

As I did that exercise, I did have to resort to a single blah, blah, blah but then I got into the spirit of the exercise and got so engaged that I was mildly upset when the timer went off. So upset, in fact, that I didn’t want to stop writing. So, I continued for another 10 minutes.

As I reported this to my fellow Challengers, many of them agreed with me. In fact, one of them pointed me to the 750words.com website where people have the opportunity of writing as a member of an informal group and posting their writing for counting purposes only (no sharing).

Some 2000+ of us pursue the goal of writing at least 750 words per day. There are rewards and statistics. The only thing missing is direct social interaction.

This website is based on a concept that I first saw in the book called “The Artist’s Way”. It discusses a process of writing three pages each morning about whatever comes into your head.

I have been at it now for 552 days. I’ve missed a few days along the way – not because I haven’t written every day but mostly because I forgot to post what I had written. I enjoy writing this way. I seldom share what I write. It is for me. It’s a nice way to start the day.

I usually write about what I have scheduled for the day, what I did yesterday, what I might get involved in today if I have the time, and anything else that may be generated as a result.

I don’t write with pen and paper. I find that my wrist and fingers have developed different muscles after all these years of using a keyboard. I can write just a few words before discomfort sets in. So, back to the tappity, tappity, tap of the keyboard.

Do you write? What do you write about? Are you an author? Are you a blogger? Are you a technical writer? Do you keep a diary or a journal? WHAT do YOU write about? Inquiring Lindseys want to know.

FOOTNOTE: Now that I’ve written this article, I will run it through readability-score.com and Grammarly.com to see how I’ve done.

The readability score is:
Average Grade Level 5.3

Text Statistics
Character Count 2,359
Syllable Count 805
Word Count 604
Sentence Count 53
Characters per Word 3.9
Syllables per Word 1.3
Words per Sentence 11.4

I like numbers. :)

Grammarly.com tells me that I have 26 critical errors including passive voice, unrecognizable words, prepositions at the end of a sentence, and wordiness. Since I like to write the way I speak, I don’t always agree with Grammarly’s assessment, so I only change what makes sense to me.

At this point, I’m ready to post my writing to 750words.com and in some instances, like today, I’ll put it in my blog.

NOTE: This article is short of 750 words but the file that contains it has more data that I collect each day that I will not share with the world. Curious? Good! Tell me about it.

Importance of Images in Posts

spider-web-617769_1280  +Martin Shervington of Plus Your Business talks about the importance of images in increasing engagement via Google posts and on the Web. (See how I sneakily justified the image on the left?)

He says that Google+ is a very visual environment and posts that get the most attention are usually those that include an image or images. He has a lot of experience in that area so he should know.

This led me to start thinking about my own posts and the fact that I don’t use images that much. It further led me to think about the availability of images. I have several hundred family digital photographs that are usually not appropriate for the posts that I have been writing. Images purchased on the Internet, while usually individually inexpensive, can become, more expensive as more and more are needed. The goal is to find a source of free images.

I have located several sources that meet my requirements – the images must be high resolution, at least 1920 pixels by 1920 pixels, searchable, and free for use even on commercial sites.

I didn’t locate these images by myself. I give thanks to +Pamela Wilson, whose excellent guidance I have been following for a few years. But I have to pat myself on the back for being smart enough to have Pamela as a valuable resource.

The first source I want to talk about is Pixabay. You can use any Pixabay image without attribution in digital and printed form, even for commercial applications. They say they have over 310,000 free photos, vectors and art illustrations.

To use their service, you must register. You can upload some of your own images if you meet the exacting standards set forth in their quality guidelines.

cat-38251__180For those of you looking for Caturday photos, Pixabay has 3,406 cat images, most of them much better than this one. This one reminds me of the feral cat living under my back porch who accepts my food offerings but makes awful hissing sounds if I get too close. Here, kitty, kitty. Ouch!

What I’m Learning While Using Google+

What I Learned from Google+ Today
I learned about today’s topic as a result of using Google+
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the +ATXHangout
with friend   and we were discussing ways of using Google+

I said that I wanted to start up an HOA (Hangout on Air) to teach basics of WordPress. Paul said that he would help me promote that if I helped him promote his ATXHangout.

I didn’t tell him that the present hangout was the first one I had attended. Instead, I went a’googlin’ to see what I could find.

Among other things, I found  at  Hangout Mastery  and
 at  Plus Your Business

I decided to sign up for the Plus Your Business course and as a bonus for joining the premium Plus Your Business Academy, I received a 6-week Hangout Mastery course for free.

Study. Study. Study.

Lots of info about Google+, circles, communities, etc. Lots of good digital face-to-face meetings with newly found friends from many countries and US cities.

This was proof enough for me that this Google stuff wasn’t THAT difficult to USE. It may be TEDIOUS to learn because of the volume of information flowing my way, but it’s not that difficult.

So, I’ve been on a group of Hangouts in the past two weeks.
One of them was on Wednesday night when I found myself once again in the company of Paul Walthus, as well as  and
During the course of the next hour and a half,  Nathan and I began talking about things WordPress
.
I said that I was working on a step-by-step description of creating a website with WordPress and that I was creating a new site for each major step. This involved a WordPress installation for each of these steps.
Nathan suggested that I might want to create a multisite where there is only one copy of the WordPress files that is used by all the sites.
He suggested that I Google for the term “Create a Network”. I did that and found just the site needed.
There is a pretty good write-up here about how to create the WordPress multisite thing. So, I did. More details later.

 

Day 30 of NaNoWriMo and Day 70 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener

November 30, 2014 7:08 AM BP: 135/90/68 fitbit: 1692

Day 30 of National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo).
Target number of words for today: 0 (I’m done)
NaNoWriMo Words written and reported today: 0
NaNoWriMo words: 50,128 of 50,000 words

Day 70 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener – Current writing streak: 54 days in a row –  1948 words today (so far)
==================================================================
Yesterday I surpassed the writing goal of 50,000 words for the November 2014 NaNoWriMo event. One hundred and twenty-eight (128) words over and a day to spare.

This is my second consecutive year for completing the event and because I was using Dragon Dictate, it was much easier than last year when I just banged away at the keyboard. It was more productive in that I gained a month’s experience in the use of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener as well as a better knowledge of storytelling as explained in the book I dictated from, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

  • Did I write a novel? No.
  • Did I write 50,128 words of original content? No.
  • Did I improve my pronunciation? Yes.
  • Did I get a better idea of story structure? Yes.
  • Will I ever write a novel? Probably not.
  • Did I enjoy meeting the average of 1,667 words per day every day? Yes.
  • Was I more productive because I had a self-imposed deadline to meet for 30 days in a row? Yes.
  • Will I do it again next year? If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.
    [Couldn’t help that last sentence. You can take the boy out of Kentucky but …]

    What will I do today and for the next eleven months until NaNoWriMo 2015 rolls around? Today I plan to continue doing what I’ve been doing for the past 29 days. I have dictated chapters 8 – 36. There are 14 more chapters. Could be over in about 2 weeks if I decide to continue. Let’s see what I will do.
    Today, I will do chapter 37, The Second Plot Point.

    And oh, by the way, I used some of my NaNoWriMo results in my 750 words per day goal that runs for every day of the year and was able to win the 30 Day Writing Challenge for November at 750words.com

Day 27 of NaNoWriMo and Day 67 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener

November 27, 2014 7:16 AM BP: 127/88/67 fitbit: 1,526

Day 27 of National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo).
Target number of words for today: 1,667
NaNoWriMo Words written and reported today: 1,303
NaNoWriMo words: 47,554 of 50,000 words

Day 67 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener – Current writing streak: 51 days in a row – 1,858 words today (so far)
==================================================================
I’ve been participating daily in NaNoWriMo but have not been posting about it. As shown above, I have 47,554 of the words toward the 50,000 word goal and I have 3 more days to create 2,535 more words. If my daily writing continues in the same way as it has from the beginning of the month, I should be through in 2 days at most.

My dictation of the book, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks as the center pole for this yearly event has educated me greatly in what goes into writing a fictional novel. It is a formidable process. It can been months (or years) of concentrated effort to not only tell a story but to make it interesting and cohesive.

While still contemplating the writing of my story about the death of an old man and the transfer of his experiences, education, and values to the mind/psyche/essence of his grandson, I thought it would be a straightforward explanation of who, what, where, when, why and how. Not so.

There are specific events that must occur in a somewhat formulaic manner. No longer do I think of a novel as having a Start, a Middle, and an End. There are phrases to consider and implement in the right order like: character arc, plot, First Plot Point, Second Plot Point, the Midpoint, conflict, inner demons, protagonist, antagonist, and more.

Now, I’m suffering from overwhelm. Not to say that I am stopped. I still want to write the story and I now have some of the names of the tools that I can use to do so. The secret now is how to use those tools. This will not be a short term effort. It will take daily efforts over at least a year to tell the story and tell it right. [Takes a deep breath ….]

Going to do a little exercise while cooking breakfast. Will use the treadmill for something other than a clothing storage device. Will watch a Ted Talk and try to run up my FitBit mileage a bit. More details after the fact. Fitbit reading now is 261 steps. After 7 minutes on the treadmill, my fitbit device shows 804 steps. Not a great athletic achievement but about 550 steps more than this time yesterday. I MAY do some more treadmill stepping before the day is over.

The Ted talk I watched during this exercise was Marc Abrahams: A science award that makes you laugh, then think. https://www.ted.com/talks/marc_abrahams_a_science_award_that_makes_you_laugh_then_think One of those awards went to the woman who invented a bra that could be easitly be separated into two gas maskes. She is shown fitting it to two Nobel prize winners.

Looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner with son, Chris, his wife, Sunnie, and Señor ToMas, my youngest grandchild.

Day 22 of NaNoWriMo and Day 62 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener

November 22, 2014 6:59 AM BP: 165/88/63 fitbit:1572
Day 22 of NaNoWriMo.
Target number of words for today: 1,667
NaNoWriMo Words written and reported: 1,772
Day 62 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener – Current writing streak: 46 days in a row – 2,116 words today (so far)
NaNoWriMo words: 38,424 of 50,000 words
==================================================================
IMG_1114I have been writing as a habit for the last 441 days, since September 8, 2013. Unfortunately on 20 of those days I did not post my output. Some days I forgot and some days I just didn’t write. However, during that period I have written more than a half-million words.

Writing on a daily basis is one of the best habits I have ever developed. Excessive drinking and smoking are two of the most obnoxious habits that I have broken. I’m happy to be writing. I’m happy not to be drinking or smoking. There may be hope for me yet.

I am still tinkering with my Windows laptop and trying to get it to accept Wacom digital tablet driver. I’m currently in the middle of doing a complete restore on the laptop software because it would not accept that driver. I’m almost at the point of running back to Best Buy and whining to them to “fix it.” I need this laptop to be operational so that I can install the Xara software which I intend to use to finally get around to making digital cartoons.

Today’s exercise of writing at least 1667 words for NaNoWriMo is done. It is a Saturday morning and I started late and I finished late and sporadically but below are the results of that writing or should I say dictation.

The task was completed sporadically because of the constant assistance from my new kitty, KC. She is so proud of her help.
==================================================================
Average Grade Level 8.6
Text Statistics
Character Count 7,732
Syllable Count 2,526
Word Count 1,810
Sentence Count 103
Characters per Word 4.3
Syllables per Word 1.4
Words per Sentence 17.6
_____________________________________________________________________

Day 21 of NaNoWriMo and Day 61 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener

I woke up. I wrote 1,565 words. I posted them to NaNoWriMo accounting. I have written 36,652 of the 50,000 word goal. I’m ahead of my writing scheduled goals by at least 1 day.

I reset my ASUS Windows laptop back to its default settings. I tried to install the Wacom Intuos digital table driver. The system crashed. I cursed. I sulked.

Day 20 of NaNoWriMo and Day 60 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener

November 20, 2014 5:44 AM BP: 134/88/65
Day 20 of NaNoWriMo.
Target number of words for today: 1,667
Words written and reported:  2,067
Day 60 of Dragon Dictate and Scrivener – Current writing streak: 44 days in a row –  2,412 words today (so far) 34,907 of 50,000 words
==================================================================
Starting out writing today with my kitty handicap.

We’ve had KC (Kitty Cat) for a bit over a month now and she has staked her claim on everything. My keyboard when I’m writing. My plate when I’m eating. She even comes into the bathroom when I’m … well, you know.

She just finished scarfing down a 3oz can of liver and chicken and is breathing and purring mightily in my face. Cute and icky at the same time. When she runs through the house, she sounds as if she would weigh more than two pounds based on the thundering pounding of her furry little paws.

Now she is clawing at my headset cable which dangles as I dictate this post. Kitty handicap.

It has been three days since I got the ASUS Windows laptop ready to run Xara. All I need to do is to connect my digital drawing tablet and begin. Truth is, all I have to do is to find an accommodating electrical outlet – I’m pretty overloaded around my desk. Guess I’ll need to set up a cartooning corner – the Kartoon Korner. Yeah. Maybe a kitten free one? She’s walking around my shoulders now.

Dang. I keep buying books about how to write and I still don’t have an idea for a fictional story that has enough bones. It’s like have stones and mortar and nails and hammers and saws and not knowing what to build. Frustrating? Yes. I know I can write. Not sure about how good I write. I’m an amateur writer. Not in the big leagues. But I can dash out a few hundred words every single morning and have been doing it on a schedule for over a year.
Maybe the secret is to get more knowledgeable about my tools and how to use them and THEN decide what to build, er, write. What a novel idea! Get it? Novel idea. Sigh.

As a result of a conversation with friend, Jeff, yesterday, I installed a WordPress plug-in called WordFence which shows every hit on my website. It’s frightening – Russia, Ukraine, China, France, Canada, Buda. Some of them are multiple hits from the same IP address. I’m sure that I’m not that popular with the Russians but they are the most frequent visitors.