Evelyn Chartres Author

Inspiration in Panoramas

It always surprises me how much detail the human eye can capture.  I look at a scene, seeing an object in the distance with something in the foreground and pull out my camera.  Looking through the viewfinder, I play between the various zoom settings only to find that I cannot replicate what I see.

Typically the frame is too tight, or I cannot seem to get just the right perspective.  Fortunately, a couple of years back I discovered a handy program called AutoStich.  I take a series of burst shots of a location and have AutoStich make it into a whole image. It can take a while, especially when you are dealing with hundreds of shots but it can really generate beautiful images.

This time around, I had an opportunity to try it out near Saint Jonh’s, Newfoundland. Here are the shots and I hope they serve well for inspiration!

None of these images were modified, hence why there are missing sectors. Still I think they are lovely.

Spiral Development for the Literary World

I have a background in Computer Sciences and over the years worked on Open Source and corporate projects. Unsurprisingly, when I began writing the Portrait, I fell back on the tricks of the trade to refine my work.

Primarily I use the Spiral development model. As an author, I found this process allowed me to produce working drafts and revise content as necessary.  Over several iterations, the manuscript was refined. Additionally, I threw in measurements, metrics used to track trends and measure success.

Unfortunately, I never kept metrics for the the Portrait, so no meaningful data was collected. However, my work on the Grand permitted me to determine which suited my needs.

For now, Changes per Chapter and in turn Changes per Revision seemed like ideal metrics to use. I plan an in-depth discussion on the various metrics employed in a later post.

Changes per Revision for the Grand Project

Delta between revisions for the Grand Project

Armed with a development method and metrics, I was able to repeat the same steps over and over until the manuscripts were ready for release.

The process is composed of roughly four steps as follows:

Working Version

Take your draft or latest manuscript and prepare it for use as a working copy. The finished product may be used in the Beta or Revise and Implement phases later on. This format should permit you to view your work as though it were a tangible product.

You will want to avoid viewing your manuscript in content creation mode. So reviewing your manuscript on Microsoft Word or Scrivener may not be ideal.

I use Calibre to convert my manuscript into an eBook. Since, I primarily read eBooks today, changing into a reader mode with that format is simple.

The Great Pause

After my working copy is complete, I set the project aside and tackle something new.  It could be anything from reading a novel to painting the house.

The goal of this phase is to take your mind off the project. Doing something else helps you re-energize and leaves your mind open to new ideas. I prefer to take longer pauses during the initial revisions, since they take much longer to complete.

A good pause should also enable you to approach your work with fresh eyes. Hence your brain will not fill in the blanks and prevent you from being objective when reviewing the manuscript.

A good example of this was taken from an article on how the brain interprets words. Note how this paragraph can be read despite the atrocious selling.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

I also found that my mind remembers what I meant to say and fills in the blanks or corrects as necessary. Adding a pause between reviewing cycles seems to prevent this.

Beta Reading

This step can be done concurrently with the pause. Since you have a working copy it can be distributed to solicit input and opinions.

This process can employ services like Wattpad which allows you display works in progress. Be aware that people will not likely check every revision you make, so it pays to engage beta readers when nearly ready to publishing.

Revise and Implement

During this step you revise chapters, tweak them or make corrections. This process is often referred to as redlining and was traditionally done using pen and paper. The term also evokes the images of earlier editions left dripping in red ink.

I use a Kindle Keyboard which permits me to insert comments. I use these comments to note a red line and transcribe them later. Early revisions tend to generate a lot of corrections, so you may wish to transcribe the changes every so often.

View of a review process on a Kindle Keyboard

Early revisions for the Grand contained a lot of edits. As revisions progressed I ended up with fewer and smaller corrections. Eventually I was looking for things missed in previous cycles, such as elusive typos.

This stage also permits you to adjust chapters, including their order. You may opt to add, rewrite or remove chapters. Just like you would add, fix or remove features in software project.

Repeat

Start the process all over again. Create a new version of the manuscript, take a break, revise and implement. With every revision look at your metrics to measure success.

Towards the end you will know when it’s ready. For me, that stage occured once I could complete a revision within a day with no more than ten  (10) corrections for the manuscript.

Revisions may also have different goals. The first few may aim to make it readable. While later revisions concentrate on trimming the fat or finding those elusive typos. Make sure to stay focused and track your progress, otherwise you will end up with an infinite loop.

Notes on Collaboration or Editors

This process can be easily adapted to collaborative writing or include editors. In such situations, the pause would likely be occupied by others completing their review process.

The process is malleable and can suit the needs of the author. Adapt as necessary so the process works for you, not against you. Just remember to establish ways of tracking your advancements.

On the Subject of Names

Finding a good name has been the bane of authors and expectant parents alike.  For centuries we have struggled to come up with names that fits our characters and sets them apart from our other creations.

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Would Jane Doe work as a name for this young lady?

It is my belief that stories set in the future names have no limits. How cold anyone fathom naming trends fifty years from now? How about a thousand? A good example of this phenomenon can be drawn from history. During the 1920s these were the most popular names for girls in the United States.

  • Mary
  • Dorothy
  • Helen
  • Betty
  • Margaret
  • Ruth
  • Virginia
  • Doris
  • Mildred
  • Frances

Fifty years later these were the most popular names in the United States.

  • Jennifer
  • Amy 
  • Melissa
  • Michelle 
  • Kimberly
  • Lisa
  • Angela
  • Heather
  • Stephanie
  • Nicole 

Who could have foreseen such a shift in names over a half-a-century? Mind you there is a reason why names from the 1970s are more mainstream now. Those names belong to people in their 30s to 40s which are now mothers, teachers and even celebrities.

Still we look for inspiration when it comes to finding names. We desire some sort of guide which will shine the way. Fortunately, when it comes to historical names we have the benefit of foresight.

Most countries have records spanning centuries, these also provide an invaluable source of names. The trick is to avoid using names from the decade in which the story is based. Instead, we have to rely on names from an earlier period.

For example, a forty-year old character set during the Roaring Twenties would have been born in the 1880s. Knowing this, the name Dorothy may not be accurate for someone born in that era.

For North America, a good source of names is the Social Security Administration‘s website and records.  To find names, select the decade you wish (starting from 1880) and look at the top 100 names for the period.  Next, simply scroll through the names and find one that strikes your fancy.

As for family names there are a myriad of sites which carry that information as well.  I found a site which contains the 1000 most common family names in the United States.  Again, use such sites to narrow down your selection and make it historically accurate.

That is how I came up with names like:

  • Ida Bell
  • Elmer Bell
  • Eleanor Green
  • Molly Webster
  • Thelma Walker
  • Mavis Johnson
  • Eugene White
  • Cecil Clark
  • Lewis Hall

Some of these names are clearly dated but are oddly familiar. Hence these are the names that may be associated with a  grandparent or even a great-grandparent. They feel old and dated, hence they feel authentic for someone who lived during the Roaring Twenties.

To find names which are modern, the same resources can be applied.  Just dial in the appropriate decade to work from and you are done.

Google Docs Does EPUBS

Since 7 Mar 2016, Google Docs permits users to export directly to the EPUB format. This feature is purportedly reliable in exporting hyperlinked chapter index.

featured_google_docs

Google Docs now exports to EPUB on thestack.com

Some articles state that Google Docs will import from Microsoft Word and generate a viable working product. So given Google Docs‘ collaborative capabilities and this export feature, this may prove to be an invaluable tool for drafts and early beta releases.

I am curious as to how this compares with Calibre generated documents. Normally, I export to HTML from Google Docs to create mine and that has worked well in the past.

Still this is another tool for the shed!