Welcome to my writing cave, where myth, magic, and mystery collide. Please come on in, step closer to the fire, and let's share some stories...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why We Can't Let Harry Potter Go

Jane Austen
Margaret Mitchell
JRR Tolkien
George Lucas

How many old stories can you think of that are not only still read, but continue to reside passionately in the heart of its fans? Austen, Mitchell, Tolkien, Lucas are a handful of the rare few who created stories and characters so well loved that people are still passionate about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Scarlett and Rhett, Frodo and Sam, and Han and Leia decades and centuries later. While there are numerous works of classic literature deemed worthy enough to be taught in school, only a select few are remembered with passion by dedicated readers well after the last story was told.

With J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, well, it's not been centuries yet, but it has been almost 8 years since the release of Deathly Hallows. And while the fandom has calmed down somewhat since those last frenzied days of July 2007, they have by no means forgotten their Boy Who Lived while pursuing other interests.

Harry Potter Keeps Expanding

Nor have the businesses associated with the Potter empire. Warner Brothers is dropping hints that they are expanding the popular Leavesden Studio attraction of The Making of Harry Potter. Last summer Universal Studios did expand the Magical World of Harry Potter, adding on Diagon Alley. And in November 2016, fans will once again be treated to a movie in the Potter world when the much anticipated Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is released.

How can a character so captivate its fans' imagination that they do not want to let him go? Of course, the answer, if there is one, is subjective. But after having followed this fandom for a dozen years, having written numerous published articles, presented at several fan conferences and workshops, and published my own guidebook, I have a theory.

It's magic.

No. Really. It's the magical alchemy of blending intriguing characters pursuing a mysterious storyline into a compelling world that produces this elixir of immortal memory among its readers. Throughout this blog, I've covered these three aspects in various articles. But I haven't quite yet captured that immortal Philosopher's Stone, the Golden Snitch at the top of the caduceus staff...the ultimate birth of a new creation that extends beyond the pen of its creator.

Story Taking Flight into Myth

When all these aspects of storytelling come together in just the right way, something magical happens. A quintessential element is created. And I think that element is myth. A new myth. A mythology that speaks to the collective unconscious of those who hear it in such a way that the story takes flight into the universal mind.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, a myth is not a falsehood. A myth is a story that reveals eternal truth through characters and deeds that may not be totally based in physical fact. When a story captivates its readers imaginations and passions so strongly that they can't let go, when it strikes so hard on the chord of some universal truth, it is reborn on a higher level as myth.

And to be honest, I think that's where the SFF stories have just a wee bit of an edge over the more realistic ones. They inherently have the element of myth and magic already in their makeup to capture the reader in this manner.

Myths that Capture the Universal Mind

The power of Tolkien's ring and what men will go to to obtain it is just and real and true to people as the energy of Lucas' Force that binds us all. And the emotional devastation and triumph of hate and love played across a backdrop of prejudice and war reminds us of what human nature is essentially all about - loving and dying.

Among these constellations of storytellers who will be handed down generations from now, Austen and Mitchell and Tolkein and Lucas, Rowling has earned her place in the heavens. Surely she'll be placed in the constellation Leo, in the heart of Gryffindor. Because, in the end, her story takes flight inside people's hearts just as Isis and Osiris and Perseus and Medusa did millenia ago. The Boy Who Lived lives on because his story ascended the collective unconscious into a true modern-day myth.

And when a story attains mythic proportions, it can take thousands of years to let it go.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Go Where It's Scary -- Into the Abyss of the Hero's Journey

Years ago, whenever I was creatively procrastinating upon a tough job at work, or doing my best to avoid a task that involved conflict, a guy in my office would give me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten in life: Go where it’s scary.

The only way to work through the problem, to get to the other side, is to face it head-on. Whimping out and avoiding it, as I liked to do, truly didn’t do me any good. It just prolonged the pain.

I’ve always remembered my colleague’s advice, and that phrase, “Go where it’s scary,” comes to mind whenever I find myself dragging toward something I dread but know I must do. This is especially true with my writing. Being the polite Southern girl that I am, I often hesitate to inflict conflict upon my characters, or even worse, have them confront and deal with their innermost pains and fears. In my recent edits on Southern Fried Wiccan, it meant I had to rework a huge section and totally amp the conflict.

As in life, confronting and traveling through our fears is an essential part of being human, it’s even more so with our characters, our heroes. And no part of story construction addresses “go where it’s scary” more directly than the approach to the innermost cave of the Hero’s Journey.

The Hero's Journey

The Hero’s Journey and its Abyss, or Inmost Cave, is a concept described within Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking The Hero With a Thousand Faces. A comparative mythologist, Campbell studied myths separated by continents, centuries, and cultures and discovered that most shared a basic framework, the hero’s quest, which he broke down into 17 steps. Christopher Vogler, a scriptwriter and film producer, simplified Campbell’s work into 12 steps in The Writer’s Journey, making it more accessible to writers and the film industry. Campbell’s and Vogler’s Journey have been used in storytelling in everything from Star Wars to About a Boy to Harry Potter to insertyourowntitlehere.

At the heart of the Hero’s Journey is the sending forth of the hero from his home clan and his victory over their adversaries, which culminates in his triumphant return with a reward that enriches the clan as a whole. You can see why this basic story structure would have primordial appeal to the human psyche — it is how any human unit, whether that unit be a clan, a family, or a nation — has survived and prospered throughout millennia.

The Abyss:

The Abyss is the point in this journey where the heroine approaches her most intense conflict, her Ordeal. It is in the innermost cave that she must face and conquer both her outward foe and her own personal demons. Cave analogy harkens back to our days when the darkest places we had to fear held deadly creatures that often lurked deep in the places we called our homes. The abyss, or underworld, was the place of loss, where all bodies must eventually travel…that final, unknowable journey.

Whether in the underground, snake-filled “Well of Souls” where Indiana Jones recovers the ark but loses it to the Nazis, or the lonely, cave-like home of Will Freeman in About a Boy where Will must confront the emptiness of his life, to the underground chamber beneath Hogwarts where Harry confronts Voldemort and the loss of his parents in Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone — modern storytellers are still going underground/cave to set their Ordeal.

In the abyss, the hero meets death and triumphs over his deepest fears, which symbolizes his death to his old life and resurrection to the new. Victory is won — whether that triumph is achieved through vanquishing the antagonist or through atonement with his Shadow. Or, as Joseph Campbell said, “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Real Life:

And if our hero can do it in a story, then we can do it in real life. We live vicariously through our hero’s success. If done well, when the book is closed or the movie concluded, we then feel equipped to go back into our life and confront our own demons and monsters. This is the heart of catharsis, and this is why the bestselling books and best remembered movies are those where the hero triumphs over a tremendous obstacle with deep, personal ramifications. It does not matter whether those obstacles are pitched on the intensely personal level or the high-stakes world-wide scale.

As writers, we must remember to send our heroine into the heart of fear. She must go where it’s scariest for her to venture, face those fears head-on, triumph and be forever changed. Only in this way can she return to her world to enrich her clan and ultimately we the writer and our reader.

What abyss have you or your character recently faced and conquered?

Picture credits: National Geographic, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Southern Fried Wiccan Cover Reveal!

The day is finally here! The day I get to reveal to you the awesome cover for Southern Fried Wiccan, which releases March 24. The lovely team at BookFish Books and Anita Carroll have done an incredible job creating a look that perfectly conjures my heroine, Cilla Swaney, during one very memorable, and eventful, scene from the book.

I'll be sharing a few teasers from the story in the weeks to come, but for now here's the blurb. And....(sound of cracking thunder and cackling witches as drums roll)...here's the cover!

Click cover for Goodreads

In honor of my new cover, I've redone the design of my blog and website a bit. How do you like it? And would LOVE to know what you think of my cover!

Thank you to the following bloggers for being a part of the cover reveal tour!

Thank you all!

Be sure to check Southern Fried Wiccan out on Goodreads!

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Snake and the Wand -- Are They Related?

Can you think of a more cliched article of fantasy writing than the wand?  What witch, warlock, mage, or sorcerer would not be properly attired without the final touch of this powerful weapon, whether it be a traditional stick of wood or a staff of power...or perhaps even a light saber. 

I've been fascinated recently with the wand and its origins. While some people believe the origins of the wand lie in a symbolic representation of masculine power, a phallic symbol, I've been pondering another source. This is the result of the major edits I just finished with Southern Fried Wiccan, which is releasing in March. One of the things I had to work on to get just right was my description of an ancient goddess who gets some screen time on the page (in her mini-sculpture form).

The Snake Goddess of Crete (from ~1600 BCE) is an awesome example of the power of the goddess in antiquity. Not only is she holding two snakes, but she holds them upright, in a display of power, with her breasts -- her female reproductive and nurturing power -- fully bare. She is not a goddess to mess with.

But it is the way she holds the snakes that got me thinking about other early examples of snakes used as rods of power and their origin.

Look at this example of a couple of royal serpents on a staff carried by Thoth, the ancient Egyptian god of knowledge and writing (yes!).

Or this one of a pine cone staff associated with the Egyptian god, Osiris, god of the dead.

There were many examples of snakes wrapped around sticks from ancient Babylonia and Egypt which eventually made their way into the representation of the caduceus of Hermes.

Other examples:
  • the snake on the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (admittedly, a rather large staff)
  • the staff of Moses and the pharaoh's magicians, which turn to serpents as an example of their power
  • the Babylonian god Ningizzida represented by two snakes entwined around a staff

Many of these symbols were not only associated with power, but with medicine and healing as well Handling snakes has long been a dangerous, but in many areas of the world, a necessary occupation. The snake handlers of India are still called upon in rural villages to remove venomous vipers from people's home. Even today in Appalachia, the tradition of snake handling is still practiced in some churches. Those who fear the snake (me!) look with awe on anyone who is fearless enough to engage them with their bare hands.

We know that snake worship was practiced in many ancient societies, and most believe it was due to the snake's symbolic nature of death and renewal through the shedding of its skin, plus it's representation with the underworld as it lives underground. But from a real practical viewpoint, I wonder -- did the wand originate from snake handling? Is that why so many of the earliest depictions of wands and royal staffs frequently incorporate a serpent image as well?  Perhaps people, even in ancient times, who wanted to adopt the power of the snake charmer without...you know...actually touching a snake, picked up a stick and magically assumed its power.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Oppositional Role of Dumbledore to Hagrid in Harry's Development

Potter fans rejoice! The release date for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie was announced this week. We only have 1 yr, 10 months, 4 days, and (as of this posting) 14 hours to wait. And with waiting, to examine and over analyze every detail Jo releases.

So it's time for me to stop slouching around this blog and get back into the game. Hopefully Pottermore will give us some clues to go on. After all, FBWFT will be set in the same universe, if not the same time period as Potterdom, and Newt was Luna's great grandfather-in-law. ;-) Plus, Jo has finally gotten on board with Twitter and has been releasing clues there.

But, in trolling through Pottermore for the few juicy nuggets Jo gives us regarding the mythical subtext of her series, I was thrilled to come across this bit:
Colours also played their part in the naming of Hagrid and Dumbledore, whose first names are Rubeus (red) and Albus (white) respectively. The choice was a nod to alchemy, which is so important in the first Harry Potter book, where ‘the red’ and ‘the white’ are essential mystical components of the process. The symbolism of the colours in this context has mystic meaning, representing different stages of the alchemic process (which many people associate with a spiritual transformation). Where my two characters were concerned, I named them for the alchemical colours to convey their opposing but complementary natures: red meaning passion (or emotion); white for asceticism; Hagrid being the earthy, warm, physical man, lord of the forest; Dumbledore the spiritual theoretician, brilliant, idealized and somewhat detached. Each is a necessary counterpoint to the other as Harry seeks father figures in his new world.

I was thrilled! Thrilled I tell you to read this...and have been meaning to write about it for quite a while. While many Harry Potter analysts have long understood the link between the colors of Sirius Black, Albus (white), and Rubeus (red) to their respective alchemical stages, I'd also pointed out the oppositional nature between Hagrid and Dumbledore back in an essay I wrote for The Plot Thickens in 2004 then later expanded for a paper given at Accio 2005, University of Reading, UK.

Using Geomancy to Divine Jo's World:
In "Geomancy and Alchemy in Harry Potter," I used Jo's Gryffindor passwords of Caput Draconis and Fortuna Major to analyze how Jo was weaving secrets from geomancy into her story...particularly the opposing nature of Rubeus Hagrid to Albus Dumbledore.

Geomancy was a form of divination particularly popular during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. It was composed of 16 opposing characters divided into eight pairs of opposites which were used to determine the fate of the question asked. Albus and Rubeus were one set of these opposing characters, defined like this:

Albus and Rubeus form one set of opposing figures. Albus (White) represents peace, wisdom, and purity, while Rubeus (Red) indicates passion, power, and violence.

Albus (White)
Rubeus (Red)
Mercury/ Earth
Mars/ Fire
Gemini/ Air
Scorpio/ Water
Peace-loving, honest, pure, and charitable.
"Hot, passionate, and fond of strong language.  Tends to stir up trouble." (Greer 44)
"Illumination, wisdom…Spiritual growth and harmony. Patience, thoughtfulness and the ability to balance all areas of life." (SerenaPowers.com)

Related to intellect and mysticism.
"Rubeus is a figure of passion and involvement in life, balancing the abstract detachment of Albus” (Greer 44).

Rugged and emotional.
Good with agriculture and animals.

Note: This chart bases the planet, element, and sign attributions according to Henry Cornelius Agrippa--who as coincidence would have it, Ron mentioned three times (SS 102) on the Hogwarts Express in his desire to collect Agrippa's Chocolate Frog card. Agrippa, an alchemist of the sixteenth century, was both feared and revered in his day as a sorcerer. He was most famous for his book Occult Philosophy, in which "Of Geomancy" was a part.

Albus is considered a positive figure, while Rubeus is negative--meaning if Albus appears in your geomantic chart in regard to a question, the outcome you seek is usually favorable, whereas if Rubeus appears, except in certain situations (love, war, and agriculture), your answer is unfavorable.
Now, keep in mind that I was writing this back in 2004, when Order of the Phoenix had just been released, when you read my own divination for how this opposing nature could play out:

My Analysis (from 2004) and What This Means for Harry

In my opinion, while I do suspect Hagrid has a darker and more powerfully magical side than he is given credit for, and while I think it entirely possible Dumbledore is not quite the god-like all-knowing wizard when it comes to deciphering others' characters (I think he tends to see their potential rather than the reality), in the end it is my belief that these two characters are as upfront as they appear to be.

What I believe Ms. Rowling has done with the geomantic opposites of Albus and Rubeus is to show two sides of the same coin. Even though Dumbledore and Hagrid are diametrically opposed, they’re on the same team. They will fight side by side. Yet, their personalities are complementary.

This dichotomy suits their relationship with Harry just perfectly. Each offers a fatherly example to Harry in his own way. Harry can garner their different strengths and go to each for his own brand of support and understanding. As always, diversity contributes to growth. In this case, to Harry's growth.

What do I think will happen in the last book of the septology based on this geomantic interpretation? I believe that before the end of the series, Dumbledore and Hagrid will possibly come into direct conflict. More than likely, the subject will be Harry and his best interests (much like was covered in OotP by the bickering between Mrs. Weasley and Sirius). I think it entirely possible Hagrid will figure into a death threat against Dumbledore--hopefully by saving Dumbledore's life.

Finally, just a side note of interest--the zodiac sign associated with geomantic Albus is Gemini. Gemini is, of course, the twin. Could Albus and Aberforth be twins? And if so, how would that relate to the septology? Will Aberforth play a more prominent role in the last book with the removal of his brother? And if so, what type of role?

As we know now, Aberforth, while not a twin, definitely played a strong role in Deathly Hallows. And while Hagrid was not on top of the Astronomy tower when Dumbledore was killed, he did battle the Death Eaters as they fled and set fire to his hut.

In JK Rowling's deft hands, character names are more than just a reflection of the personality of its owner. But JKR's talent was not just in giving her characters a whimsical, though accessible, name which made them seem fully a part of their magical world.  It was most importantly her ability to craft a name which carried hints of the mystery surrounding that character that intrigued her rabid audience.

As we start getting names for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and hints of the plot, we should also be able to dig below the surface and discover some of the mysteries Jo will be developing for this new series.

Let the games begin!

Note: The full "Geomancy and Alchemy Gems in Harry Potter" is way too long to reproduce on a blog. But if you're interested, it's been on the web here for quite some time.

Photo credit

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Walking While Writing Through NaNoWriMo part 3

Daily nanoWALmo Stats:
1:45 hours of walking with over 7000 steps and 1969 words written!

I'm continuing to really enjoy this process of walking while writing that I've talked about earlier on the blog.  Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I'm hoping walking with voice recognition will be a method I'll continue to employ past November to increase my writing, not just with novels but with blog posts, email, etc.

Two more updates on the process I want to mention.
  1. As Carla Richards reminded me, when you use Dragon for voice recognition, it comes with an audio recording of your dictation sessions which allows ease of editing as you can replay and hear what you actually said.  I'd forgotten this feature as it's been a while since I used it, but it is indeed very useful.  Neither Carla nor I are aware of a mobile voice recognition software that offers an audio recording, but if you know of one, please let me know.
  2. Another benefit I'm discovering with voice recognition over my typing is that it spells a lot better than I do! :-)

Along with these (mostly) daily updates I'm giving regarding my progress, I thought it might also be nice to share a bit of writerly inspiration, as long as I keep it short so we can all get back to writing.  I'll start by recycling a few prior NaNo posts from a couple of years ago while they last.

First up, and this may seem a bit odd, but I want to focus on failure.  Not all of us will complete NaNo, and that's ok.  Many of us may also be frustrated by where we are in our writing journeys, worried that we haven't yet gotten that agent, editor, multi-book contract, NYT listing....

But I want to share some of my favorite words from JK Rowling.  These words of wisdom actually do not come from a Harry Potter novel but from her commencement address at Harvard in 2008 (bolded highlights are my addition):

I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.
Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one...So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies...
I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters. (JK Rowling)
Rowling's story, both in Harry and in life, is truly inspirational.  Especially to writers.  If you have not yet, you should read her whole address as she also speaks powerfully of imagination.

As we work our way through NaNoWriMo, let us not be afraid to fail, but afraid of never having tried.  And remember that the length is not as important as the content.

How is your NaNoWriMo going?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Using Voice Recognition to Walk and Talk Your Way Through #NaNoWriMo part 2

Image from TypeWhileWalking.com
Yesterday I posted the basic premise of my plans for this years NaNoWriMo, to turn the butt-in-chair hands-on-keyboard upside down as I use voice recognition to walk and talk my way through my novel.

I just finished my morning session and logged in 2 hours of walking, 12,000 steps, and 2187 words!  And what's so great about it is that I really enjoyed both the walking and dictating.  I feel my story is taking off while I keep my health on track.

But after reading back over my post yesterday, I thought I ought to clarify a couple of points to my process.  Because I'm hoping some of you will join me as we nanoWALmo through NaNoWriMo!

Dictation Adjustment:
Many people who are trying to dictate their story for the first time will find a period of adjustment as they do so.  Fo many writers, this method feels awkward and unnatural.

I faced that with the first story I dictated through Dragon a year ago.  But I kept up with it, allowing the pauses I needed to formulate my thoughts before I released the pause button and spoke, and with time I became much more comfortable with the method.  This time around, I'm having no such difficulties.

Pacing Vs. Walking:
Since I started writing, I've always used walking as a tool to clear my mind to better focus on my story and brainstorm.  There's something to the repetitive motion and brain sloshing that flushes me with serotonin.  Or that's my scientific explanation for you.  But until last year, I was unable to use walking as a method to actively create.

Now the version of walking I have developed for dictation is truly more pacing than a leisurely stroll through the woods.  While I love walking outside, I too easily get caught up noticing everything around me and forget to focus on my story.

I'm much more productive for dictation if I keep myself inside, in scenery that does not distract me.  I have a long path that winds through my house that I walk in a circuit.  The repetitive motion of the pacing, with time, lulls me into that place of focus that I value so highly.

Voice Quality:
My husband is a Turk, born and raised in Turkey, and has partial hearing loss in both ears. So not only does he have difficulty hearing, but English is his second language.  I'm mentioning this here because I learned a long time ago to speak clearly and enunciate distinctly.  I think this is why voice recognition works well for me and not for some others.  You have to think about your voice quality if you want to make it work.

Flash Editing:
While I do not use the cell and voice recognition to really edit, I do flash edits as I go along.  After a paragraph or two, I will slow down and read over what I just dictated for any errors that I will not understand when I settle down to truly edit.  I will slow my walking enough to make these quick corrections then continue on.  But my focus is only on errors that could be confusing later.

Some people may be more comfortable having their hands free and speaking into an ear piece.  I'm talking directly into my cell mainly because of the reason above -- I'm giving quick edits as I go.  I learned that lesson the hard way with my Paleolithic story when I waited to long to edit and then didn't understand some of the gibberish on the page.

Is anyone else out there dictating their NaNo story?  Have you ever used voice recognition for a novel?  Would love to hear any tips you have to share.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Not Add NaNoWalMo to Your NaNoWriMo?

I decided at the very last minute, yesterday morning around 8 am to be exact, to do NaNoWriMo this year. I'd not planned to participate this go around as I've got two edits underway of my own work plus one for the publisher I work for. There is simply no more time in my day. Or so I thought.

One of the key reasons why I changed my mind to give NaNo a go was due to a recent major discovery by me that is probably old news for everyone else out there. But I only entered the 21st century a couple of months ago. My discovery – voice recognition on cell phones these days is so good that it allows me to walk and to talk like an actual lady (meaning at the same time!). Putting Eliza Doolittle aside – I can actually do a lot with my new playtoy. Like even maybe write a novel.

NaNo Does Not Have to Mean Butt-In-Chair:

Traditionally, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is the annual time when many writers plant their butts in a chair for a whole month writing frantically to create a 50,000-word novel before the bell tolls at the end of November. We ignore jobs (as much as possible), house cleaning, cooking, childcare and whatever else you can manage to ignore for the month. Most of us will also spend a lot of that time eating mindlessly as we glance anxiously at our slowly increasing word count, trying to see if we have any prayer of earning that coveted NaNo Winners sticker.

I don't know about you, but butt-in-chair and mindless/quick food eating for a month is a recipe for disaster for me. But it doesn't have to be that way. What my new favorite tool allows me to do is to write and talk at the same time. For myself, I will be adding NaNoWalMo, National Novel Walking Month, into my WriMo with the aid of three important tools.

Toolkit Item #1 – Good Voice Recognition App on Mobile Device:

Voice recognition is so much stronger now than it used to be. As I started playing with my new phone, I discovered it could take dictation for texts and directions perfectly without missing a word, even with my Southern accent. And I thought -- if the voice recognition is this good and I can do it while mobile, why not use it for my writing?

Last time I used voice recognition, it was with the Dragon, and it did not fair so well. I may be unfair to compare the voice recognition in my cell compared to Dragon as the book I was dictating then was a Paleolithic story with lots of unusual words and names. I also made the mistake of dictating long passages before going back to edit. This time around, I'm keeping the names simple, at least while I create, and will stop to edit sooner – before I forget what any weird transcriptions actually meant.  (By the way, my phone runs Google Now, though I'm not a tech person and am sure there may be even better programs.)

Toolkit Item #2 – Fitbit (or any pedometer):

A wonderful friend gave me a Fitbit a few months ago and having that tool really helps motivate me to get more walking into my day. Most people set a goal of 10,000 steps a day, but I shoot for at least 15,000.

As I've already been walking an hour, now that I'm doing NaNoWalMo, I will simply repurpose that hour and use it along with tool #1 to write. I don't have to add any additional time to my day. Since NaNo is all about drafting and not perfection or editing, there's no reason not to use the more mobile if less perfect technology to create my new story.

Not only can I type into my manuscript I can also dictate blog post -- that's way I wrote this. I wrote 1000 words while walking 3000 steps. Editing, however, is another matter. For me, at least, real editing requires butt-in-chair in front of a big screen and keyboard.

Toolkit Item #3 – Crock Pot:

For me, health problems with NaNo are not just about the sitting but also about the food. So, I'm bringing in another beloved tool to help me with that one – my crock pot. I'm sure I'm not the only writer out there who writes better when I feel better. If I let fast and processed foods into my diet for any length of time, brain fuzz will commence and my writing will suffer for it.

Nutrition is an individual matter and everyone needs to know what works for them to keep their brain functioning at its highest level. For me that means no sugar, no wheat flour, few processed food, but lots of veggies and especially the green leafy ones. If I eat this way and do my walking, I will have the clear mind I need to write the best story I can. I like this 3-server crock pot because I can keep 3 healthy foods going, starting them a time that is convenient to me so that I don't start scrounging for the nearest edible thing when I emerge from my writing trance.

Results so Far:

I just started yesterday, but I've got 4,000 words written during an hour walk yesterday and an 1 1/2 hour walk today (which included this blog) with step totals of over 13,000 both days (so far today).  The quality of what my voice recognition dictation was great with me only having to slow down periodically to clean up a few problems that I might not recall later when I really sit down to edit.

How About You?:

How many of you have tried alternative methods to butt-in-chair to compose your stories? I know a lot of writers have treadmill desks, which I've long coveted. But with this voice recognition so clear, I'm not sure I need that anymore.

If you're interested, I'll keep this blog rolling throughout the month and post how well I'm doing with the writing and voice recognition walking. Please feel free to share your tips and experience. And maybe we can encourage other writers to NaNoWalMo along with their NaNoWriMo.

UPDATED: Read part 2 of this post at Using Voice Recognition to Walk and Talk Your Way Through NaNoWriMo


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