Tag Archives: writing

Projects: Cooking, drinks, and writing

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I’ve been asked a lot lately what I’ve been doing since I graduated while I wait to leave for Belize. My usual answer: “Just sitting around.” In all honesty though, that’s not true (it’s just way easier than an actual explanation). I’m always doing something, whether it’s learning a new recipe, researching Belize, writing my story, or any number of the projects I cook up in my brain. There’s hardly a day when I’m not trying to get something done. And really, isn’t that the way it should be?

So lately I’ve been working on my April Camp NaNoWri Mo writing project. It’s going REALLY REALLY slowly. But I haven’t forced myself to sit down and write as often as I should, so it’s really my fault. I’ve gotten close to 9k words so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up 11000 words in the next ten days, but I doubt it.

On the other hand, another project I’ve been working on IS successful. Since I’ll be gone and my boyfriend will have to teach himself to cook, he asked me to write up a recipe book for him that can help give him ideas and pointers. So, after only about 4 total days of working on it, it’s over 9k words (longer than the NaNo project I’ve been working on for 20 days…) and around 70 pages of recipes. I’m excited to give it to him!

Finally, since I’ve been making a cookbook, I have been finding a bunch of new recipes that I want to try. So today I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. They’re in the freezer solidifying right now, but the warm melty bite I got was delicious! Take a look:

PB&J Bars. After freezing them I’m still not super happy with the jelly texture– too liquidy. Need something a bit more substantial to hold bars together. Also needed to grease foil a lot more, took a lot of work to get them out.

And after dinner, I decided to make a big-kid drink (because… I can). This is my ‘Cup o’ Candy’; 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice, 1/8 cup lemon juice, and 2 jiggers of white rum blended with ice in a shaker, poured over 1/2 jigger of rum in a glass rimmed with chia seeds and brown sugar, drizzled with grenadine syrup and topped with 1/2 jigger of rum. You know those delicious dark red gummy lifesavers? It tastes exactly like that. This drink is dangerous!

Tasted amazing, especially chia seeds ūüôā

By the way, be looking out for more baby shower crafts– a friend is having her baby shower next month! I’ll also be thinking up graduation crafts (presents and party ideas) for my boyfriend’s graduation in a few weeks!

Projects: Chromebook, Writebox, and Writing on the go!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and it’s because I’ve been gone the past week on a ‘spring break’ trip with my boyfriend (his spring break… I guess just a normal week for me!). He was invited to interview with a company in Florida, and we were able to make an almost week-long trip out of it.

Now, for anyone who writes often, taking vacations can be difficult. You have to decide if you’re willing to take a break from writing or not, how you want to write while you’re gone, and how to save your writing. I prefer to write using my laptop, but it’s old and has only about a 20 minute battery life at this point, so not ideal for long car rides or days without guaranteed electricity access.

For graduation, I was given a Chromebook. I love the lightness and the long battery life, and have been working on how to adapt my writing to more easily use the Chromebook (I really only love using my laptop because it has all my documents saved to it and I don’t have to alter my formatting). So here are the pros and cons I’ve found to using a Chromebook:

Chromebook Pros:

1) Long battery life. You really don’t need to worry about a charging cable unless you’re going to use it for more than four or five hours, and that’s with doing a lot of internet surfing and keeping the screen brightness up. If you were to turn off the wi-fi completely and turn down the brightness (plus other battery-saving habits), you can get even more time out of it.

2) It’s light, so easy to carry around with you. I walked two miles from my hotel to the beach with it in my shoulder bag. I shudder to think of the back pain I’d get from doing that with my 17 in. laptop!

3) Easy access and upload to Google Drive. As long as you have wi-fi, the Chromebook syncs automatically with your Google account, which allows easy access to documents on your Drive. You can also set up specific documents to be able to be viewed offline.

4) Offline functions. I haven’t fully explored these because I almost always have internet, but the Chromebook has an assortment of offline options. You can compose emails, documents, and do an assortment of other activities once you’ve fully set up your offline features. Here’s a full list of the offline functions: Use your Chromebook offline.

Chromebook Cons:

1) Formatting issues. I’m used to using Microsoft Word to write in. I love all the options I have for formatting and editing, and just got used to it. As far as I have found I can’t really get an offline version of Word for my Chromebook, so I’ve had to look at other word processing application options. Google Drive tends to mess up any Word formatting if it’s converted to a Drive document and while I can view a Word document in its original formatting, I can’t edit it. In addition, since all my previous work has been saved as a Word document, I have to transfer all my Drive documents to Word on my laptop later.

2) Original Apps. The Chromebook comes with an app called Scratchpad, but it’s not so much a word processor as a note-pad. I knew I couldn’t use it for writing anything of length.

After using my Chromebook for a few months, I love it! I still prefer the ease of saving and organizing my documents on my laptop, but as for just writing, I love to use it. And now that I’ve been exploring word processing apps, I can say that my love for writing on my Chromebook has only increased now that I use Writebox. For some reason I really dislike writing with Google Drive; it just seems slow and the formatting always seems to mess up somehow. I have started using Writebox to do my word processing, and it seems to work a lot better. Here’s why:

Writebox Pros:

1) Offline access. No matter where I am, I know that I have access to a blank Writebox page. Saving is a bit tricky without internet, but you can write however much you want.

2) Syncing to Google Drive and Dropbox. The way Writebox works is you compose in the application, then use the syncing feature to save the document to your Google Drive or Dropbox account. You can manipulate the file name and saving location within each account, and it shows up immediately. I like to use this to copy-paste into a Google Drive document for future editing, while saving the formatting structure that can easily transfer to Word.

3) Simple and Distraction-free. Maybe the reason I don’t like to write with Google Drive is because it’s too busy for me. I’m used to the business of Word. Somehow, I don’t see all the little buttons and features while I’m trying to write. But put me on a Google Doc and I keep having to check to see when it last saved, click through several buttons to find the cord count. Also, my go-to font, Times New Roman, looks different both in spacing and design on Google Docs, and¬†that throws me. But Writebox is absolutely no-frills. There is a small toolbar at the top that gives options for opening a document, creating a new document, seeing recently created documents, a preview button, a short menu (save, download, settings, etc), and the sync button. At the bottom of the screen is a breakdown of word count, characters, and lines. Nothing else. I LOVE being able to see the word count as it grows (which you can’t do with Google Docs), and I’m not distracted by anything else. The text looks the same as in Word, and it’s easy to use.

Writebox Cons:

1) A bit too simple. There’s not real option to alter the formatting. I like it, but anyone who doesn’t like the Writebox formatting is SOL. You can’t double-space, you can’t center any text, and you can’t change the font at all. Again, not a big deal for me, but it might be for someone else.

2) Saving. From what I understand of it, you have to either have a Google account or a Dropbox account to be able to save anything. Not really a problem; who doesn’t have a Google account anyway? Both are free and easy to set up, and if you don’t have one or the other for document saving you probably should. (If you don’t know about Dropbox, check it out here. It’s a great file storage and sharing site.)

So for my readers here’s a question: What are your opinions of the Chromebook? And if you’re a writer, have you used a Chromebook and/or Writebox? What are your favorite online file sharing/saving/editing websites and apps?

Happy Friday night, and GO SHOCKERS, JAYHAWKS, and WILDCATS!

Edit: Thanks to twitter, I found this blog post about the Four of The Best Text Editors for Your Chromebook. Check it out and tell me what you think of the two alternate options that Mr. Price discusses.

Writing Update: Word count rising!

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I was so sure not two days ago that I had finished book 2 of my series (the first draft). I spent hours yesterday writing out my chapter-by-chapter plan for book 3 and brainstorming a working title. But then last night I realized… book two isn’t done yet. It was close, so very close, but not yet complete. I brainstormed for ¬†a while sitting in bed, and resolved to figure everything out in the morning. Luckily, I was so engrossed with planning that somehow I continued thinking about it in my sleep. And by the time I woke up, I knew what I needed to do.

I had to edit through the plans for book 3 to fit in the changes that my addition in book two would make on the plot, but all in all, I love the new bits! I’ve just finished adding on the two chapters that I needed in book 2, and will continue on to book 3 later. Super excited!

With the writing I’ve done today, I managed to catch up my word count to past where it was supposed to be to complete 50k this month. Honestly, 1.6ish thousand words a day is not difficult once you’ve actually sat down to write. Getting yourself focused long enough to actually write is the hard part.

Here’s the updated word count as of now:

Questionnaire and a Question to YOU!

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I found this questionnaire via Jodie Llewellyn, who got it from The YA League. I loved it so much, I wanted to type up my answers for my own blog. I promise I’ll get out a ‘real’ planned post soon!

Writing Habits 

1. Typed or Handwritten?

I prefer to type. It’s easier to save and review than paper; I like to write and save by chapter, so then I can go back easily to change bits or search for accuracy in future (I can’t imagine searching through pages and pages in a notebook to find the chapter I ‘think’ something is in, and having to repeat that over and over.) I also noticed when I did have to write by hand that my writing couldn’t keep up with what was going on in my head, and I’d get lost! Typing is much better for me.

I do use a hand-written journal for notes and planning. Since it’s just for me and I am not planning to send bits off to my brainstormer/critic (aka, my boyfriend), I can keep it on paper and in a pretty leather-bound journal.

I love my journal– handmade paper and leather bound. Sure, my cat knocked nail polish remover on the cover, but my notes and planning stayed safe inside!

Even in my journal I can’t resist having some things typed!

Notes and plans in my journal. I’ve got everything from character bios to location ideas to timelines to chapter-by-chapter (roughly) guides.

2. Cursive or Printed?

Kind of a rough mixture of the two. Another reason I don’t write by hand– my handwriting is terrible, especially if I write fast (which I do when writing my story, see my explanation about keeping up with my brain!) and it all jumbles into a bunch of loopy, messy chicken scratches. For a perfectionist like me, this won’t do at all.

3. Show us your favourite pen.

Don’t have one, I just use whatever is near me. If I’m writing in my planning journal a fountain or gel pen works best. Ballpoint doesn’t write too well on handmade paper.

4. Where do you like to write?

When I was at school my writing space was my desk. I had to have everything cleared off except for my writing journal and my laptop, but it worked well. Now that I’m home I can’t use my old desk because the chair has no back and is uncomfortable (firstworldissues much?) so my writing spot is either on the living room couch or at the kitchen table.

5. Who are your five favorite authors in terms of authorial style?

I am in the middle of the Divergent series and I love Veronica Roth. I have issues with the first-person style, but Roth and Suzanne Collins both are great and have made me enjoy reading books in that style. I prefer writing in third person limited, my favorite author in this style is of course JK Rowling.

6. What are you your three favourite books on writing?

I haven’t read much on writing. I should probably do more so I can perfect my writing style. I did win a copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It’s a good resource, but I haven’t used it much since I developed the characters for my current book years ago. I’ll be referring to it when I start my next book!

They also have The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Emotion Thesaurus. Check them out!

7. Have you ever competed in NaNoWriMo?

Yes. My first time competing was way back in 2007, and I failed miserably. I thought I couldn’t possibly ever write a novel after that. Fortunately, I tried again in 2011, and have been participating ever since.

8. Have you ever won NaNoWriMo?

Yes! After my disaster in 2007 I took a few years to mature as a writer (I was in high school back then and had neither the time or the discipline to write 50k words). I tried again in 2011 and won, and have won each year since then!

9. Have you ever had anything published?

No. I’d like to eventually get the series I’m currently working on published. I’ve got 2 of (hopefully) 3 books written for the series, one edited through once. I’m getting some other people to read and critique them (my boyfriend, bless his heart, isn’t a good critic. He gets some grammar edits and tells me when something doesn’t make sense, but that’s it). Hopefully before I leave for Belize I’ll be able to start the query process.

10. What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on a YA/NA series. I just finished my first edits of book 1, As the Blood Moon Rises, and the first draft of book 2, Ice on the Horizon. Now to start book 3 (no name yet)!

11. What is your soundtrack to writing?

I have a concentration problem when I write. Not that I don’t love to write, but I also love to sing along with music. And the two do not mix well.

12. Do you have a writing pump-up song?

However, if I need help with inspiration to START writing, Muse’s¬†Supermassive Black Hole¬†is a good one.

I also love¬†Arctic Snow¬† and¬†Heart Full of Black¬†by Burning Brides. Thanks to my friend Alyssa for giving these to me in high school on a CD with other ‘pump up’ music. We had created a story about ourselves as assassins, and these were part of the soundtrack.

(ONE OF MY OWN Q’S) Do you plan your work ahead of time or are you a ‘pantser’?

I am a planner. Strictly. I’ve decided my downfall during my first NaNoWriMo was due to the fact that I had nothing planned out. Beginnings and endings are easy to write. Middles are hard. That’s why I must have everything decided. That’s not saying that while I write new things don’t come up; my original plan for book one of the series I am working on was 20 chapters long. The first draft was 67.

As I said before, I use journals to plan. I have one for the series I’m working on, and I have one for this blog. It’s a place to write down notes, ideas for future posts/chapters, and help my brain stay organized.

I want to hear from you!

If you’re a writer like me, I’d love to hear your answers to these questions! I don’t care if you’re a blogger, a novelist, or a professional tech writer, all are welcome to comment. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Also I just got into twitter (sigh) and I use it to send out tidbits about my writing and my blogging. If you’re there, follow me @k_smith007!

Writing Update: Word Count started

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So I know I said I’d wait until March to start working towards my 50000 word goal, but I just couldn’t wait! And since it’s a mock NaNo, I can fudge the rules a bit right?

I spent a while planning with my writing journal today, and then knew I needed to start writing. I realized how close I am to the end of book 2; I probably have about 2 more chapters to write and then it’s done. I got one done, and am so excited to do more!

Here’s my updated word count:

2337 out of my goal of 50000

80316 in book 2

217693 total words

Projects: Writing

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As you can probably guess by how long-winded my blog posts tend to be, one of my passions is writing. I have mentioned NaNoWriMo here before, and want to emphasize how amazing the program is. First, it’s free. Which is wonderful in itself. Second, it not only helps you practice writing for the sake of loving to write, it also helps you learn and develop as a writer. Forums on the website give you pointers to better character development, establish reasonable plot twists, and encourage you when it seems like you’ll never get past the 5k, 20k, and 40k walls. I can’t gloat about them enough, and I encourage anyone who has ever even toyed with the idea of writing a story to check it out.

So, shameless promotion aside, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo the past 3 years and amazingly won all three (despite all attempts by my schoolwork to keep me from doing so last November). I love the story I’ve been working on, which now consists of two books in (almost) completed first draft form, with a third on the way… when I get around to it.

It’s that last bit that is the catch though. I’ve always been success

ful spitting out 50000 words in November. But somehow ones the race is over and the competition ends, I can’t keep myself driven to write. I love my story, I¬†want to finish it. I¬†want¬†to be able to send out queries and maybe get it published one day. But I just can’t get myself to write. So, it an attempt to get myself to do this, I’m doing an unofficial “miniNano” in the Month of March. I’ve found a widget that I can post to update my word count and you, my readers have to hold me accountable to achieving my goal.

Here’s the goal: Write 50,000 words in the month of March. This is only about 1612 words per day, just under what I did in November. And this time, since

I’m not taking classes or working, I have no reason not to write as much as I can all day. Mini-goals that I have are less strict: I’d like to finish the first draft of book 2 and start book 3. I’d also like to dedicate at least an hour each day to editing through book one, and maybe I’ll be able to have it query-ready before I have to leave for Belize.

The Cover Letter

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I’m no expert on writing a perfect cover letter. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing it right at all, when other times I’m amazed at the brilliance that is my cover letter (probably not that brilliant). I’ve done my research, I’ve gotten advice from my university’s career center, and I’ve had my dad read over my cover letter. As far as I can tell, it’s been effective. While I won’t claim to be an expert or have a brilliant cover letter, I can at least pass on what I’ve learned about writing a cover letter.

(Rule #1) KEEP A ‘STANDARD COVER LETTER’ DOCUMENT. In your computer’s document files (hopefully organized into work files, then a separate cover letter folder), save a standardized cover letter document. This should be a skeleton document with the basic points/paragraphs you want to have in all your cover letters, as well as all formatting done. This way, when you’re writing a cover letter for a new job, you can save a ton of time and mental anguish by having an pre-made document that you can modify for the specifics of the job, the company, and the type of employment. Of course you need to change things up; at the very least you have to change the date, the company name, and the job title. At the most, you’ll want to add in things you want to emphasize and take out things that might be unimportant.

(Rule #2) DO YOUR RESEARCH.¬†Not just for the job to fill in the job title, but also for the industry you’re looking at. You don’t want to emphasize something that isn’t important. That space is important, use it well! Look through the job description for what the specific job entails and what the company values. Your cover letter should be like a cheat-sheet for your resume, pulling out what the employer wants to know and giving some additional details. Do a Google search for the industry and see what is valued, that way you can emphasize those qualities. Just like with the resume, make yourself stand out!

For some good help with formatting and ideas of what should go into your cover letter, check out About.com’s cover letter help pages.

(Rule #3) SAVING IS AS IMPORTANT AS CREATING.¬†It’s happened to us all; we type up something mind-blowingly awesome, only to accidentally close out of Word and be left with nothing. Luckily, once you have your standard cover letter saved, you shouldn’t need to change a significant amount with each job, maybe a paragraph or set of skills here and there. Once you’ve typed up your modified cover letter, remember to SAVE AS, not save or you’ll lose your awesome standard document. The advice I always got on saving is to always save it with your name, the type of document, and the company/job. So if I applied to Georgia Tech, I’d save it as “FIRST AND LAST NAME Cover Letter Georgia Tech”. This helps employers to identify who the document pertains to and what it is (the company name is mostly for you to be able to find it in your ever-expanding cover letter document folder). This rule is the same for resumes as well. Unless the company you’re applying to has a specific way they want you to name your files, putting them in this format will make you look organized and professional, and help you know what’s what in your files.

Another aspect of saving the document is file format. Microsoft Word (for us PC users) automatically saves as a word document (.doc, .docx, etc). I’m not sure how Macs operate but I know it’s a standard document file. If you do have a Mac, consider that a lot of business use PC, so you might want to save your documents as a Word document if possible. Another alternative, which I prefer, is saving as a PDF in addition to your .doc. Not only does this help with formatting and viewing on the employer’s side, when the computer creates the PDF it pulls it up for a final viewing, which can help you correct mistakes.

As I’ve been told by many sources, many places don’t ask for a cover letter specifically. This doesn’t mean that you submitting just a resume can get you a job. Cover letters are a cheat-sheet for your resume, so you want to include it whenever possible. The best way to do this is to merge your cover letter and resume into one document and submit them together. It makes you look organized and professional to have both in the same document, and then you can ‘force’ the employer to read your cover letter. ¬†The easiest way I’ve found to do this merge is to open up both the resume and the cover letter documents in Word, then copy/paste your cover letter to the top of your resume (you want the cover letter to be the first thing the employer views!). It may take some work to get the formatting to match right, but once you do make sure you save your standard cover letter and resume documents accordingly. Make sure your cover letter stays on one page, your resume starts on page to and is only a page long as well. Then save this as a PDF (or Word document if that’s all the employer accepts, make sure to check on file formats when applying). This keeps your resume and cover letter together, looking clean and organized to the employer. Make sure to name the new document accordingly (“Name Cover Letter and Resume Job/Company”)

Good luck creating your cover letter. Make yourself undeniable!

For some additional advice on your cover letter, I’ve found some great articles from TechCareers.com. I got one of these via an email I get from the website (a great reason to sign up with several career finders– they send emails with not only job posting updates, but also advice on job hunting!). Like I said before, take all advice with a grain of salt, but make sure you actually let yourself hear (read, observe, etc) the advice and think it through. Here’s a list of the articles I found:

Four Strategies for Writing a Powerful Cover Letter

Your First Cover Letter: What to Say.

How to Write a Super Cover Letter

How to Overcome Obstacles in a Cover Letter

7 Cover Letter No-Nos

Technology: Know it, Use it, Love it

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Technology is a growing industry. Almost every person in the US owns a cell phone and a computer, we’ve all watched TV if not own one (or several) ourselves. I’ve seen toddlers know how to use a tablet better than me, my parents use Facebook more often than I do, and my boyfriends grandparents use Skype regularly. Knowing how to use technology in your daily life is an ongoing education. Knowing how to use it for job search, and for job activities, is imperative.

Thanks to AnntheGran.com for the image

(Rule #1) Use your resources.¬†Technology has significantly improved the job search process. As my dad tells it, when he was fresh out of college and searching for a job, he had to search through newspaper want ads, etc. and then physically type (as in with a typewriter) and mail his resume and cover letter to the company. Lots of work, lots of wasted resources. Now, the wonderful Google machine makes things so much easier! With the help of job search websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and many more, you can create a profile, search, and apply for jobs all in one place. You can get email updates about specific companies, job descriptions that match your profile, and see who has taken an interest in you based on profile visits. You can save jobs for later applications, you can search by job type, salary, location, or employer. If you haven’t tried these websites, do it. It’s definitely worth your time.

(Rule #2)¬†Keep up to date on new technology. If you’re looking into a technology field, this is probably second nature to you. But for people like me who can’t even remember which if a GB or a MG is bigger… then you may need to spend some time learning and playing with things. For example: I had a phone interview a few weeks back with a software company. The job would have been with customer service, full training, so it didn’t matter that my software knowledge is extremely lacking. However, during the interview, I was asked on question that surprised me: “tell me about the newest technology you’ve used”. Luckily for me, I had just gotten a Chromebook for graduation (thanks Mom and Dad!), so I talked about how I’d been learning to use that and the differences between it and a PC, and all the benefits, etc. I may not be able to answer my boyfriend when he asks what the storage capacity is… but I know how to use it and the pros and cons of a Chromebook vs. a PC laptop.

(Rule #3)¬†Use social media, but be careful!¬†Facebook is great for talking to your friends, but there is always a chance that your Facebook activity, especially in college, can reflect negatively against you if an employer or perspective employer looks you up. According to gradspot.com’s “Guide to Life After College” do a self-Google to check and see what is out there on you. If there is anything questionable, while you may not be able to delete it, you can be prepared to explain it. That being said, check out your Facebook security settings as well. If you don’t mind being found, like me, great. If you want to keep certain things private, it’s easy enough to do so.

In addition to your social profiles, look into career-focused profiles. Like I said before, having a well-made profile on LinkedIn or Glassdoor can really help with finding jobs.

(Rule #4) Develop your social media skills. Especially if you’re interested in sales, marketing, business, communications, and advertising, social media knowledge is in demand. If you can create a half-decent blog or website, you’ll be a commodity. My suggestion is to look at free blog sites (shout out to WordPress!, but also Blogspot, etc. There are thousands) and maybe play around with a blog. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or anything meaningful, just get yourself used to how you use it. It does look really good to have an established blog on your resume (I use my travel blog, mytinytravels, but will soon add this blog as well). Also, website builders can make websites as easy as blogs– I have used Weebly for school projects (see my website for a Psychology project¬†and for a seminar paper), and it’s both easy and fun to create your own full website!

Visit my LinkedIn profile and create your own!

**Citation: Schonberger, Chris, Stuart Schultz, Tory Hoen, and David J. Klein. Gradspot.com’s Guide to Life after College. New York: MG Prep, 2010. Print.**