On Reading Widely

On Reading Widely Title

Reading widely. In this post, I will go over what I think reading widely is and my feelings about its importance for writers. But it boils down to one thing: reading widely brings new and innovative ideas into whatever genre someone is writing in.

I could leave it at that, but it wouldn’t be fair. You, hopefully, came are reading this post to hear my own views on the topic. So, without further stalling, let’s dive into the dark and inky depths of today’s subject.

What Does “Read Widely” Mean?

To put it simply, reading widely is when a reader or writer and in this case, someone who is both, reads more than just their normal fare. It’s looking beyond the confines of Romance, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and other genres a person may prefer in order to broaden our horizons as readers.

Why Is It Important?

Reading widely can be argued to be important for every reader, whether they’re also a writer or not. I would argue it is especially important for writers because it brings in new or little-used ideas that may otherwise have not been brought in.

One example that comes to mind is a Horror writer branching out into big-R Romance. Romance, for good or ill, is a major desire in our society. Most people want to find love. This adds an entirely new subject to the Horror writer’s repertoire of terrifying life events.

Imagine, if you will, a someone using a typical Romance genre plot with a pair of serial killers, a cannibalistic serial killer and a normal if slightly fucked up person. Or a demon from the depths of hell and an otherwise normal person who gradually comes to accept their demonic love’s nature. None of these is a pretty scenario. Though, as someone who wrote a short story about two serial killers who fellow in love, I admit a fondness for turning the mundane and even sweet terrifying. And these scenarios are right up my alley.

Now imagine someone taking a normal Mystery plot and transplanting it into a made up Fantasy world, or the very ancient past. I’m talking Homo Neanthalensis levels of ancient or early human society. While neither of those are exceedingly rare genre combinations, they’re very much still extremely fertile ground for both potential readers and the writer.

This brings us to the next topic…

How Do You Read More Widely?

I’m sure this section seems needless to some. Reading more widely is, after all, a matter of just reading things you normally don’t read more often. However, not everyone is prepared to jump right in and read more widely from here on out. Some tips seemed to be in order so that people can inch their way out of their little niche and into the wider world of reading.

  • Widen horizons in your normal genre first.
  • Try a genre closely related to your own.
  • Read works outside your normal genre by authors you already enjoy.

I won’t pretend any of these are easy. A writer may only like one genre, for example, Fantasy. But, eventually, branching out into Historical Fantasy or some other genre can gradually lead to an increase in the desire to read more standard Historical Fiction. The same can be said of Gothic Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, or any other genre. And as I mentioned previously, this makes a writer better at the craft. Benefiting not only the larger story overall but subplots as well.

A good story, whether Fantasy, Horror or another incorporates minor plots/plot variations from other genres. Learning how to master those genres and plots by reading and understanding whys and hows enhances our own work.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.


Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: Being 17

Listening To: H.I.M Razorblade Romance

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

Researching| Contemporary Settings

Researching Contemp Fic Title
Now that we’ve covered Historical Fiction, I thought we would talk about contemporary settings before moving on to the last part of the series, Secondary Worlds.

What is a contemporary setting? To do answer that, we have to answer the question of what Contemporary Fiction is. And the definition I favor is a story taking place now or in the recent past without fantastical and/or Fantasy elements.

But a contemporary setting isn’t just limited to Contemporary or as it is also known, Realistic Fiction. It can be found in certain sub-genres of Fantasy, in some Literary Fiction stories, Horror, and Mystery/Thriller/Suspense. In short, anything with a recent or present day realistic setting can be said to have a contemporary setting.

Similarities In Research

Since both Historical Fiction and contemporary settings require research, there are some ways in which they’re the same.

The most obvious is that research needs to be done in both cases, no exceptions. Even if it is a topic they are familiar with, a writer should still be checking recent developments in the topic and checking their basic facts. This allows the writer to more easily draw the reader in, to ensnare them and keep them reading the rest.

Less obvious is the benefit to the writer of doing research on and checking things they’ve assumed they know the answer to. Because as contradictory as it seems, checking facts gives the writer more room to play around and better story ideas. More room because they’re more likely find a loophole to exploit, which is especially great for those writing in genres such as Urban Fantasy. Better story ideas because each new or reaffirmed fact can potentially spark a new story or bring to light a facet of the current story which the writer hadn’t thought about.

This means that research for both Historical Fiction and contemporary settings makes for a better, more enjoyable story when done right.

Differences In Research

Similarities aside, there is what I find to be one really obvious difference between researching contemporary settings and researching Historical Fiction.

The research is quicker.

In both, the writer needs to know more than the reader in order to give the impression of an expansive and living world. But there’s a far greater volume to be done when the story is Historical Fiction. Even when a writer hyper focuses on topics relevant to their story, the scope of those topics isn’t so broad most of the time. The only time this is really true is if the character is of a different faith or is from/ live in a different culture from the writer.

A Brief Genre Talk

I mentioned earlier that some subgenres have a contemporary setting for their stories. Even gave you a glimpse at the start of this post. But it seemed silly to not give you more of an idea of what I’m talking about. With that in mind, I’ve picked four genres that use or may use a contemporary setting.

Urban Fantasy, as the name suggest, tends to have a modern, city-based setting. This can be highly involved if the writer isn’t familiar with the city and/or the country the city is located. It also means the writer needs to check the lore for the Fantasy element if it exists and check the technology. Introducing the wrong sort of phone, car and such is important for engaging the reader.

Paranormal Fiction often takes place in an urban setting and has much of the same concerns as Urban Fantasty. However, it may also take place in a small town. The second isn’t common in Urban Fantasy and means a writer not familiar with small-town life will need to research what life is like in a small town.

Non- Historical Horror opens up an entirely new can of rotting flesh for a writer. A Horror writer may need to research the lore of a monster, ways to kill people, and things like serial killer stats. They may even wish to look up historic killers/serial killers for inspiration.

You would think realism wouldn’t matter as much with Non-Historical Horror. But, speaking as a Horror writer and reader, Horror readers like their scares to make sense. If it seems silly, then it isn’t likely to scare them.

Non-Historical Literary Fiction, on the other hand, has both the least involved and most in-depth research of all four example genres. Literary Fiction or Lit Fic may mean the writer needs to look into stats on rape, abuse, the psychology of both the abuser and the abused. Racism, economics, and other such topics may be a factor as well. Never mind a myriad of other topics depending on the premise of their story. It’s a manifold type of research because of the nature of Literary Fiction regardless of setting.

I originally wanted to give you basics questions researching contemporary settings, but that seemed moot. As you can tell, the list of topics a writer may need to research when working with a contemporary setting isn’t consistent across the board. That means there are no defining questions to answer. No template. But if you need one, modifying the questions in the first post in this series may help.

You’ll probably notice a new section at the end of this post. I’m tentatively calling it Reading, Watching, and Listening To. In it, you will find bits off media that I’m focused on at the moment. Some will end up reviewed on the blog, others won’t be and are just things I’m currently enjoying. All will include purchase links in case anyone is interested in them. For those who don’t like it, my Bullet Journal posts won’t be including it in order to give people a bit of a break.

Until next time, I can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: Being 17

Listening To: H.I.M Razorblade Romance

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

Researching| Historical Fiction

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This being late thing is starting to become a pattern. I don’t like it. Hopefully, I can get back on track this month.

Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. I love a wonderfully researched story that transports me into the past. So it should come as no surprise that I would start this series, which I’m calling Researching For Writers, with researching Historical Fiction. Not only do I love the genre, I firmly believe being able to research this story translates into being more easily able to research stories with Secondary World and Contemporary settings.

What Is Historical Fiction?

There are a few accepted definitions of the genre, but my favorite is that Historical Fictions is fiction set at least fifty years in the past, and not something the writer experienced themselves.

I particularly like that definition because it makes sense. It’s concrete and separates Historical Fiction from Autobiographical Fiction, fiction based on the author’s life. A type of fiction that doesn’t have a set time period of its own.

Primary Sources and Secondary Sources

I think anyone who remembers research papers in school and college vaguely remembers what primary and secondary sources are. I certainly do. But no in-depth post about researching Historical Fiction would be complete without defining these words for the sake of clarity.

Primary Sources are sources of information from the time period you’ve chosen to set your story in. A letter from the American Revolutionary War, World War I or World War II would be a great example of a primary source. This type of source is really great at giving a writer a feel for the era they’re writing about. The thoughts, the lives, and technology of the time. Which can lead to even more ideas about how to fit the story into the era it is set in.

Secondary Sources are sources of information from after the event. Sources such as documentaries, books, and magazine articles about a certain era in time. Because of their separation from the event, these sources are great for learning basic facts and how to interpret the primary sources you’re coming across in your research.

Basic Questions

History is vast. This is especially true if we’re counting pre-history as part of human history, which we really should if taking Historical Fiction seriously as a genre. And because it’s so vast I want to take a brief detour and talk about some basic questions to jumpstart your research before getting into where to find your sources and evaluating them.

I find these questions are most effectively answered if I start by reading a general text on a historical era I’ve chosen to write about, but don’t be afraid to try to answer in a way that works for you. What works is more important than strictly following someone else’s methodology.

  • What do people eat?
  • What is their clothing like?
  • How are they governed?
  • What is the technology of the time like?
  • What is the prevailing opinion on various topics?

They’re very general, but at this stage, that’s perfectly OK. Remember I tend to read a general text on an era or event before delving deeper into things. Those texts tend to provide me with the basic answers to those questions, which then inform more in-depth questions I wish to research later on.

Location, Location, Location

Perhaps more important than having a set of questions handy for directing your research is being able to locate your sources. There’s no shortage of ways to do this. But this also brings to mind a quote from a great book to dealing with research, Going To The Sources. In it, the author notes that people are prone to starting and sometimes ending their research on the internet. This is completely true. And while I’m certainly not as anti-internet as the author of said book, I can honestly say I don’t think this habit is a good thing.

Depending on how close to the location of our story we live, basing everything on the internet at the very least robs us of being able to absorb the setting we’ve chosen. The internet, great resource that it is, can’t replace visiting real historical locations or the feeling invoked by handling or even just seeing the primary sources we’d previously seen pictures of. It can’t orient us in time so completely like those experiences often do. So with that in mind, I thought I would talk about finding sources in real life.

Public Libraries are great for locating secondary sources that can introduce you to the time period. But they’re also a place where the local paper tends to store their older editions on things like microfiche, which is sadly becoming rare as time moves on. This makes them great for local historical research.

University Libraries are a great option for those with access to one. Especially for those who are going to school or can get permission to use the resources at a given university as they tend to have a more varied collection than your typical public library.

Museums are great for really getting a look at something. While you generally won’t be able to handle things in a museum unless under special circumstances, being able to just see a bit of history really brings the time to life.

Historical Societies are a great way to actually be able to get your hands on local records that can inform and enrich the story you’re writing. Though, there are general rules about handling the material, which tend to be primary sources instead of secondary ones. What you can handle, what can be taken into the rooms housing the materials, if you need protective gear of any sort in order to be able to access the material etc.

Much like seeing the object in a museum, being able to come face to face with history in this way makes the time period and its people more real. Even if you do come across views and attitudes you find disturbing during the process, which you likely will at some point.

Evaluation

Now that you’ve found your sources, it’s time to examine them. Unreliable sources are the bane of a researcher. Here are some quick tips:

  • If starting somewhere like Wikipedia, make sure article cites its sources and they’re easily traceable, the author of said sources being in good standing with the academic community.
  • The same can be said of books. Citing sources and being in good standing is important for all of them.
  • When reading documents from the era, keep in mind that even modern texts tend to show the biases of the author.
  • When handling artifacts, if you have the chance, look for indications of the era. Sometimes things can be dated incorrectly and it’s up to you to be able to spot the differences.

Until next time, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Monthly Review| April 2017

April Review Title

I’m noticing a pattern that I don’t like.

Each month I start out optimistic, I make goals and I’m sure I will either meet or smash them into tiny pieces. Then the month progresses and I quickly fall behind on my goals. Eventually, it becomes clear that I won’t reach them and the month quickly starts to go downhill from there. I end up done and just wanting the month to finish the hell up.

But it occurred to me last week while creating the title card for this post, I was telling people about my goals. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when I actually like talking about the things I plan on doing. However, that also doesn’t seem to work for me. Make no mistake, I need to make goals in order to get things done. My brain enjoys organization and being able to make steady progress towards something. It’s just the sharing those goals that does not work for me. So I will leave my goals for the month at saying I’ve made them and put them on the to-do list portion of my Bullet Journal’s Monthly Log.

Don’t get discouraged though, I have other things to talk about. I sent out a poem this month. Not a big thing in retrospect, but I was happy to finally be sending things out again. It seems like forever since the last time I did that.

I sent out a poem this month. Not a big thing in retrospect, but I was happy to finally be sending things out again. It seems like forever since the last time I did that. It was rejected, but I’m not going to let that bother me too much. Submitting things is pretty hit or miss. An idea has to be interesting, what the venue’s editor is looking for, and well written. While I like to think my poem had the first two traits, it clearly wasn’t what the editor at the venue I submitted to was looking for.

I also happened to come across a really awesome French drama called Being 17, which I virtually fell in love with. It’s on the docket to reviewed some time this month, so watch out for that.

But perhaps the highlight of my month was attending the Simchat bat of the granddaughter of one of my friends from my writer’s meetup. For those wondering, a Simchat bat is the Jewish welcoming ceremony for a daughter. She’s blessed and given her Hebrew name, which will be the name used in a religious context for the rest of her life. The baby was absolutely adorable, the name chosen for her was gorgeous, and it simply an experience not to be missed.

On a closing note…I finally got back to writing Written In The Stars! It took throwing out the outline and previous draft to start over. But now I have the first quarter of the story outlined, and I have a new first chapter that has much more tension than the previous one. I’m counting it as a win for my Romeo & Juliet-based story.

Until next time, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook. Come and talk if you want to. I enjoy it.

 

Bullet Journal Basics| The Monthly Log

 

Bullet Journal Basics- Monthly Log Title

Once again this post is a day later than I anticipated it being. And once again, I’m sorry for the delay.

Last week we talked about the Future Log. How to use it, what it is, and some of its many variations. This week I want to focus on the Monthly Log. It’s not only a standard part of the Bullet Journal system itself, but also the first in what I like to call my three-tiered approach to planning. Though, if I really consider it, the Future Log makes more like a four-tiered approach as I use what is called a Weekly Log as a mid-level overview of my week.

But, I’m digressing. Let’s move on.

What Is A Monthly Log?

A Monthly Log is one of Ryder Carroll’s original Bullet Journal® modules. It is essentially a combination of monthly to-do list and monthly scheduling at its core.

How Is The Monthly Log Used?

There are a variety of ways the Monthly Log can be used by Bullet Journalists. Most common is a way to keep events happening that month on the monthly calendar. At its simplest, which you will find if you look at the website, being just the day of the month down and week down one side of the paper and things you know need to be done this month that aren’t appointments or the like on the other.

However, it is worth noting that the one-page monthly calendar is only usable in larger formats. Those in an A6, B6, pocket or B7 notebook/setup with have to break it across multiple pages that depend upon the variation someone is using.

Monthly Log Variations

Now that I’ve covered the what and the how in a fairly basic way, I would like to move on to talking about variations in the Monthly Log. Specifically, the calendar portion of things. I’ve found that there’s only so many ways one can discuss the to-do portion of the Monthly Log. A simple list, batched lists, Eisenhower Matrixes. Unless focused on entirely and in their own right, these useful variations on the to-do list portion of the Bullet Journal® tend to overwhelm people new to the system.

That in mind, I would like to focus on the two most common variations of the Monthly Log’s Calendar. What I like to call Traditional Plus and the Calendar Method.

Traditional Plus

Like the name suggests, the Traditional Plus monthly calendar is a modified version of the traditional monthly calendar. The most typical of this variation involves writing the date and day down on the left side like normal. The next two pages or more separated into columns labeled according to the needs of the Bullet Journalist.

Someone may, for example, need one column/page for personal appointments or events like Birthdays and one for College/Grade school/Teaching events and appointments. Another person may need to divide things into all day, personal, and work. A writer may wish to use one side of the calendar or a column to track research time and other writing related things. Like if they sent out a piece on a certain date or were contracted for a piece.

In a smaller notebook, like the previously mentioned A6 and smaller, these sections will be split into the first half of the month on one set of pages and the second half on another.

Calendar Method

What I like to call the Calendar Method looks exactly like the calendars people are used to.

It’s great for people that need to see the days as blocks in order to place events and appointments. But it does have a couple of drawbacks. If someone isn’t using a Grid composition notebook, letter-sized notebook, or A4 notebook it can feel a bit confining due to lack of space depending on the person. This is especially true in notebooks that are B6 and smaller.

Monday I to finally be talking about Camilla as Queer Fiction. Wednesday was meant to be the second in my research series, but I didn’t post the first part of the series this week. Instead, Wednesday will be the first post of my research series. Friday will, as per usual, be a continuation of this series with a post about the Daily Log.

In the meantime, I can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to come and talk; I’d enjoy it.

Book Review| Outline Your Novel

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Outline Your Novel is a great book on, you guessed it, outlining.

Published by author K.M. Weiland in 2011, this 192-page book packs quite the punch in a not too big package. Each page of the eleven chapter plus introduction craft book is densely packed with information that will not only help the reader understand Weiland’s method of outlining, but create their own.

If this isn’t enough to convince people to give it a try, the book also features nine interviews with other authors. In each one, Weiland and the author being interviewed talk about the how that particular author uses outlining. There’s, not surprisingly, a variety of answers to how they outline and how much. Some are detailed like Weiland and others are quite sparse in their outlines.

However, I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who doesn’t wish to learn more about outlining. The author does have a book on structuring your novel, though. And if I was to recommend one of the two to someone who prefers to write without an outline, I would have to recommend the aptly named, Structuring Your Novel (Amazon Link.)

Outline Your Novel: Map Your Way To Success can be found in paperback (Amazon Link.) and as an e-book (Amazon Link.).

Friday continues my Bullet Journal Basics series with a post about the Monthly Log. Please feel free to join me then. For those interested in things like queer theory, I hope to explore how one of my favorite Gothic novellas, Carmilla, in the context of queer theory on Monday. In the meantime, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Feel free to stop over and have a chat with me.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

My Gothic Minimalism Guidelines

Gothic Minimalism Guidelines Title

Last time we discussed Gothic Minimalism, I talked about my own story surrounding being a Gothic minimalist. Today I would like to talk about my personal minimalist guidelines.

Why Have Guidelines?

Some people thrive on an organized type of chaos, having a mental list of guidelines at most. Or they like to go with the flow.

I’m a planner. I like things to be orderly and to have a personal code to follow. So, when I came across minimalism as a lifestyle, it seemed quite natural that my the Bullet Journal® would house those guidelines. At the time, I was in squared Moleskine Classic Notebook in Large. Seems odd now as I’m slowly moving into a pocket-sized Traveler’s Notebook, but that was what I was in and I still recommend it for a Bullet Journal or a normal journal.

All that said, let’s move on to what those guidelines are.

My Guidelines

My personal minimalism guidelines are separated into various sections. General, Clothing Related, Personal Care, Books and Movies, Office Supplies, Sewing and Crafts and a catch all for anything else. While this may seem like a lot of sections, and it is, I’ve found having them divided up like this makes the list itself easier for me to navigate. If I can’t navigate the list, then I can’t use it and there would be no point to having written it down.

General

  • Goth can be minimalist.
  • All possessions should add value to my life.
  • Hobbies can be part of a full life.
  • There’s nothing wrong with my gothy space showing my pride as either an LGBT person or as a mixed person POC.

Clothing Related

  • I do not want to own more than I can comfortably care for.
  • One off items should be very limited.
  • Each item having a Gothy vibe is a must.

Personal Care

  • No more than four perfumes, two masculine/gender neutral and two feminine at a time.
  • One lotion or body butter with a neutral scent.
  • Hair care items must fit in a medium basket.
  • One neutral deodorant to go with everything.

Books and Movies

  • The movies I own should only be ones I truly love and will rewatch.
  • Two bookcases and no more.
  • All the novels I own should be ones I love.
  • All the non-fiction books should be relevant to my writing and interests.
  • Nook or hard copy only, not both.

Craft and Sewing

  • Paper crafts should fit into one basket.
  • Yarn should also fit into one basket.
  • Crochet should fit in a small basket.
  • All fabric should fit in a medium size storage tub.
  • Needles and hooks should fit inside a handsewn needle roll.
  • All sewing patterns should fit in a binder.
  • All sewing notions should fit in a medium-small box.
  • One project basket for ongoing projects, whether handcraft or machine.
  • Only one knitting, crochet, notebook making, or sewing project at a time.

Office Supplies

  • Paper must fit into one basket.
  • Printer ink, paper clips, and other small items must fit in one basket.
  • Only the current year’s writing should be living in my desk.
  • Items not in use should be put away.

Miscellaneous

  • I only need three sets of black sheets.
  • I only need three blankets for the various times of the year.
  • I only need two throw blankets.
  • More than four towels, two for my body and two for my hair, isn’t something I need.

Using The Guidelines

Now that I’ve bored you to death with my guidelines, I should say that these are a work in progress and individualized. Some people make need more towels for example. However, my hair is kinky-curly and I don’t wash it more than once or twice a week. My scalp tends to get oilier much quicker when I overwash and detangling my hair becomes, surprisingly, much more difficult for me to do.

Other people also don’t need to the mixed and LGBT part of my guidelines. I’ve found that the reminder is invaluable to me. Keeps me grounded when people say I can’t be Goth because I’m mixed, Goths aren’t gay, Goths don’t ever listen to certain types of music and other asshattery.

The biggest things I want people to take away from this blunt and honest list? Find what works for you. If that is not having a concrete set of guidelines, then that’s perfectly fine. If you need a set like I do, then that is perfectly OK as well.

On Wednesday I will, hopefully, be on time with a review of a fabulous writing craft book. Join me if you want to know what I think about K.M. Weiland’s Outline Your Novel. The book can be found in hardcopy and e-book formats on Amazon for those who want to start reading now and comparing our opinions. Minim

In the meantime, please feel free subscribe to the blog and mailing list, and to join me on Facebook and Twitter. I enjoy chatting with people and it’s nice to know people are enjoying the blog.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!