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#FineArtFriday: Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed by J. M. W. Turner 1818

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Artist: J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851)

Title: Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed

Genre: marine art

Date: 1818

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 157.5 cm (62 in); Width: 233.7 cm (92 in)

Collection: Yale Center for British Art

What I love about this painting:

The colors show us a windless evening in summer or fall, a time of day when the smoke from factories and chimneys lingers and turns the sky brown and gold, reflected on the waters.

This is a glimpse into the history of how we once moved goods and mail across long distances. Some packet boats were medium-sized ships, able to navigate shallow rivers and canals. Others were ocean-going vessels. Some were steam driven, but the one we see in this painting is an early ship, powered by the wind.

The wind has failed, and so the crew is being ferried off the ship via a smaller row-boat.

About this painting via Wikipedia:

The Dort, or Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed is an 1818 painting by J. M. W. Turner, based on drawings made by him in mid-September 1817.  It shows a view of the harbour of Dordrecht. It is the finest example of the influence of Dutch marine painting on Turner’s work.

It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818, where it was described by The Morning Chronicle as “one of the most magnificent pictures ever exhibited, and does honour to the age”. In 1832, John Constable wrote of the picture, “I remember most of Turner’s early works; amongst them one of singular intricacy and beauty; it was a canal with numerous boats making thousands of beautiful shapes, and I think the most complete work of a genius I ever saw”.

It was purchased by Walter Fawkes for 500 guineas at the request of his son, and hung in the drawing room at Farnley Hall until it was bought by Paul Mellon in 1966. It was then donated to the Yale Center for British Art upon the founding of the centre. [1]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Joseph Mallard William Turner was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, to a modest lower-middle-class family. He lived in London all his life, retaining his Cockney accent and assiduously avoiding the trappings of success and fame. A child prodigy, Turner studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1789, enrolling when he was 14, and exhibited his first work there at 15. During this period, he also served as an architectural draftsman. He earned a steady income from commissions and sales, which due to his troubled, contrary nature, were often begrudgingly accepted. He opened his own gallery in 1804 and became professor of perspective at the academy in 1807, where he lectured until 1828. He travelled to Europe from 1802, typically returning with voluminous sketchbooks.

Intensely private, eccentric and reclusive, Turner was a controversial figure throughout his career. He did not marry, but fathered two daughters, Eveline (1801–1874) and Georgiana (1811–1843), by his housekeeper Sarah Danby. He became more pessimistic and morose as he got older, especially after the death of his father, after which his outlook deteriorated, his gallery fell into disrepair and neglect, and his art intensified. In 1841, Turner rowed a boat into the Thames so he could not be counted as present at any property in that year’s census. He lived in squalor and poor health from 1845, and died in London in 1851 aged 76. Turner is buried in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:DortorDordrecht.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:DortorDordrecht.jpg&oldid=554289467 (accessed October 28, 2021).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dort_or_Dordrecht:_The_Dort_packet-boat_from_Rotterdam_becalmed&oldid=1000618596 (accessed October 28, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “J. M. W. Turner,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=J._M._W._Turner&oldid=1050867512 (accessed October 28, 2021).

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#NaNoPrep: What to Expect #amwriting

I am a supporter of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as a way to get people writing. Some people can’t resist a challenge, and NaNoWriMo is definitely that.

NaNoWriMoMemeNaNoWriMo is a personal challenge, a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing a novel. It is a speed-run with daily goals to meet.

Day 1 – write 1,667 words or more.

Days 2 through 30 – rinse and repeat.

If you write 50,000 words and have your word count validated through the national website, you ‘win.’ Reporting your word count has been an honor system for the last two years, so you never have to upload your manuscript.

If you do cross the 50,000-word line, there are no huge prizes or great amounts of acclaim waiting for you. You will, however, get a PDF winner’s certificate that you can fill out and print to hang on your wall or keep in your digital files as I do.

Starting on day one, you will collect badges, little visible rewards, for your daily achievements. One badge that is difficult to get is the “update your progress every day” badge. I usually have my “winners’ certificate” by the day they become available, but I continue writing every day through the 30th and update my word count daily.

We all know that a novel of only 50,000 words is a good length for YA or romance, but for epic fantasy or literary fiction it’s only half a novel. Still, a dedicated author can get the basic structure and story-line of a novel down in those thirty days simply by sitting down for an hour or two each day and writing a minimum of 1667 words per day.

With a simple outline and a few notes to keep you on track, that isn’t too hard. Most authors who grew up with computers (unlike me) can double or triple that.

NaNoWriMo-WriterBadge-555-2x-1As always, there is a downside to this intense month of stream-of-consciousness writing. Just because you can sit in front of a computer and spew words does not mean you can write a novel that others want to read.

And unfortunately, for the first time author, the desire to publish that book without making revisions, and without professional editing is almost impossible to quell. Every year in February and March, many cheap or free eBooks will emerge testifying to that fundamental truth.

So why do I participate every year? I love working with the writers in our area, and hope to see the rare, committed novelist, the one who stays writing all year long. That person will join our region’s Discord channel and be a part of the posse.

More people write during November than you would think. In some years, about half the NaNo Writers in my regional area are journaling, writing family histories, or even writing their thesis.

Every year, my co-Municipal Liaison and I see a wave of new people who fill the vacancy left behind by the people who either lost interest in the first week or couldn’t find the time to get more than ten or twenty thousand words during previous years.

Those people sometimes feel like failures, but they aren’t.

Ten thousand words is two or three short stories. Twenty thousand is a novella. Writing a story of any length is an accomplishment, and those authors should be proud. They will write more as time goes on.

However, for a very few people, participating in NaNoWriMo will give them the confidence to admit that an author lives inside their heart, demanding to get out. In their case, NaNoWriMo is about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years, something that had been in the back of their minds for all their lives.

These authors will take the time and make an effort to learn writing conventions. Grammarly’s website says writing conventions consist of four elements:

  • spelling
  • grammar
  • punctuation
  • capitalization

emotion-thesaurus-et-alSome new authors seek out books about writing craft and attend seminars. They will join writing groups and develop the skills needed to take a story and make it a novel with a proper beginning, a great middle, and an incredible end.

They will properly polish their work and run it past critique groups before they publish it. They will have it professionally edited.

These are books I will want to read.

And one skill we must develop early on is a thick skin. Nothing hurts worse than to see your work through their unbiased eyes and discover it wasn’t perfect after all. Yes, some people will love and admire what we have created, but other times what we hear back from our readers and editors is not what we wanted to hear.

For most authors success can only be measured in the satisfaction we get out of writing and seeing it published.

If your first novel is picked up by a traditional publisher, they may not put a lot of effort into pushing it, because you are an unknown author. They will test the waters and see what sort of reaction your book gets before they really commit to backing you.

Also, whether you are traditionally published or indie, you must do all the social media footwork yourself. You must get an Instagram account, a twitter account, a website, and so on. You may even have to arrange your own book signing events, just as if you were an indie.

strange thoughts 2This is time-consuming, and you will feel as if you need a personal assistant to handle these things. I know several authors who rely on the services of hourly personal assistants to help navigate the rough waters of being their own publicist.

Every year, participating in NaNoWriMo will inspire many discussions about becoming an author. Going full-time or keeping the day job, going indie or aiming for a traditional contract—these are conundrums many new authors will be considering after they have finished the chaotic month of NaNoWriMo.

However, if you don’t sit down and write that novel, you won’t have to worry about it.

November is a good time to do just that.

#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

#NaNoPrep: Signing up and Getting Started

#NaNoPrep: Guernica, Inspiration, and Finding Writing Prompts

#NaNoPrep: Time Management

#NaNoPrep: Countdown to November, Subject and Theme

This post:  #NaNoPrep: What to Expect

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#NaNoPrep: Countdown to November, Subject and Theme

NaNoWriMo 2021 officially begins one week from today on November 1st. For those of us who love a challenge, that will be the day we set the pen to paper and begin the actual writing of our projects.

plot is the frame upon which the themes of a story are supportedSo, what do we need to have in place during the next seven days before the big event?

One: We need to have characters.

Two: Our characters need an environment to live in, a world to inhabit.

Three: Our characters need some sort of backstory, so we know who they are when we begin writing.

Four: We need a plot or at least an inciting incident. We should have some idea of that moment when our frogs leap from the frying pan into the fire.

Five: You should try to identify your subject and unifying theme. We’ll talk about those things further on in this post.

How does my storyboard look right now?

Characters: This will be Ivan’s second book, so I have his backstory and don’t need to worry too much about that. Ivan is a fire-mage, an armorsmith, and a shaman. He is a father, a husband to his life partner, Kai. Kai is an earth-mage and a mason. The two share four children with another lashei couple, Avis and Venna. The children live with Ivan and Kai, as Avis and Venna are traveling dye traders.

The Home in WeilandEnvironment: Ivan and Kai live in Weiland, Tribe Weila’s riverport and mining center. Ivan’s extended family has five rowhouses at the upper end of High Street. It’s a steep but easy walk to the market for his grandfather, who lives next door and watches the children while Ivan and Kai work. I drew a little map for my notes, so I know the layout of where everything is in regard to their home and businesses. It could change, but I have something to start with.

His brother, Aldric, and his wife, Marta, have three children. They live at the other end of the row of houses. Ivan’s father, Aengus, and mentor, Jan, have their homes there too. Behind the rowhouses are a walled shared garden and orchard and the family’s barn. Ivan and Jan’s armory is a short walk through the back garden, and beyond that is Kai’s quarry.

The backstory: is already established for this book, as book one is currently being edited.

The inciting incident: At this point, the inciting incident is the arrival of news that a neighboring town has been attacked by tribeless raiders. It’s suspected the raiders are led by a rogue mage. Ivan and Kai must go and deal with that, a simple-sounding thing that becomes complicated. Aldric and Marta join them, leaving the children in the care of the three grandfathers.

What I hope to achieve by the last paragraph of this book: Ivan will be forced to grow in his role as a shaman and mage. Kai will be challenged when an old acquaintance is discovered in the rogue mage’s entourage. Aldric’s and Marta’s skills with weapons will be critical, and the blade that Ivan made for Marta when they were young will be the key to resolving the final encounter. Each character will be tempered steel, able to do what must be done, and still remain compassionate.

Subject and Theme: So, what is a theme? It’s different from the subject of a work. An example that most people are familiar with is the Star Wars series and franchise. The subject is “the battle for control of the galaxy between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance.” The themes are “moral ambiguity” or “the conflict between technology and nature.”

The subject of this book is how the desire for dominance and power corrupts an abused young mage, and the destruction he creates in his attempt to control his life. This book will explore the theme of good vs. evil and the subthemes of comradeship and love of family. The books I am drawn to often feature these themes.

How do you identify your theme? Sometimes it’s difficult unless you start out with one in mind. Here is a short list of some themes for you to consider:

  • Abuse
  • Alienation/loneliness
  • Ambition
  • Coming of age
  • Conspiracy
  • Crime and Justice
  • Fall from Grace
  • General dehumanization of society
  • Good vs. Evil
  • Grief
  • Humanity in jeopardy
  • Love
  • Nostalgia for the good old days
  • Plagues
  • Rebellion and revolution
  • Redemption
  • Religious intolerance
  • Separation and reunion
  • The hero’s journey
  • War

theme_meme_lirf06302020A common theme in fantasy is the juxtaposition of chaos and stability (or order). This subtheme will feature strongly in my novel. Good vs. evil is a trope of the speculative fiction genre. Evil is usually portrayed by taking one or the other of these concepts to an extreme.

Epic fantasy is usually good vs. evil, based on the hero’s journey. The stories detail how events shape the characters.

That is what I am writing in November.

#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

#NaNoPrep: Signing up and Getting Started

#NaNoPrep: Guernica, Inspiration, and Finding Writing Prompts

#NaNoPrep: Time Management

This Post: #NaNoPrep: Countdown to November, Subject and Theme

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#FineArtFriday: In the Harbor by Adolf Kaufmann

Adolf_Kaufmann_-_In_the_HarbourArtist: Adolf Kaufmann (1848–1916)

Adolf Kaufmann: In the Harbor

Date: by 1916

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 75 cm (29.5 in); Width: 102 cm (40.1 in)

What I love about this painting:

This shows us the working harbor in a fishing village, with men and women unloading the catch and selling it on the docks. The day is gray, as days by the sea often are, but it’s warm enough for the workers to labor without coats. This was, and still is, dirty, smelly work, but a good catch meant food on the table and coins in their pockets.

The colors are muted, with rusts and browns predominant. It’s a messy scene, with sails and nets piled everywhere and teeming with people.

This is how harbors really were, and still are.

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Adolph Kaufmann (15 May 1848, in Troppau – 25 November 1916, in Vienna) was an Austrian landscape and marine artist. In 1890, he decided to settle in Vienna and opened a studio in the Wieden district. In 1900, together with Carl von Merode [de] and Heinrich Lefler, he opened an “Art School for Ladies.” He continued to visit Paris frequently and, when he painted there, signed his works with the pseudonym “A. Guyot”. Other names he signed with include “A. Papouschek”, “G. Salvi”, “A. Jarptmann”, “R. Neiber”, “J. Rollin” and “M. Bandouch”. Why he did this is unclear, although his choice of signature often reflects stylistic differences.

His landscapes were influenced by the Barbizon school and the style known as “paysage intime” (French for “familiar landscape”), both of which he was exposed to in France during the 1870s.

He was a frequent exhibitor and won numerous awards; notably at the Exposition Universelle (1900). From 1890 to 1913, he was a member of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts; representing them at exhibitions at the Glaspalast in Munich and the Große Berliner Kunstausstellung. He became a full member of the Vienna Künstlerhaus in 1909. His travels continued until they were cut short by the beginning of World War I.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Adolf Kaufmann – In the Harbour.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Adolf_Kaufmann_-_In_the_Harbour.jpg&oldid=586204225 (accessed October 22, 2021).

Wikipedia contributors, “Adolf Kaufmann,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Adolf_Kaufmann&oldid=1039803125 (accessed October 22, 2021).

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#NaNoPrep: Time Management #amwriting

If you plan to write a 50,000-word novel this coming November, you will need to develop some time management skills.

NaNoWriMoMemeWriting is easier once it becomes a daily behavioral habit. However, making the best use of your limited writing time requires a little planning, self-discipline, and encouragement from your family.

Once you tell them that you have a goal of writing 1,667 words a day, they might be your biggest supporters. My family certainly has been.

My children are grown now, but most new writers have jobs and a family. When you have school-age children, time for personal projects can be limited. You are constantly going somewhere to some athletic or school function.

But I did it, and you can too. By writing in short bursts whenever you have the opportunity, you might get your first draft finished and get that certificate that says you completed 50,000 words in 30 days.

First, you must give yourself permission to write. For much of my working life, I was a single parent, sometimes with three part-time jobs. My main job was as a bookkeeper or working in data entry for corporate America. Throughout the 1990s, I worked weekends and holidays as a hotel maid. I’m retired now, but although I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, I was a secret novelist, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was writing.

Digital Clock FaceWe have this perception that taking time for creativity is selfish, and that will be your biggest hurdle. Trust me, it is not asking too much of your family for you to have some time every day that is sacred and dedicated to writing.

I wrote in the evenings while my children did their homework, which sometimes meant a lot of stopping and starting, but I did get some writing done. Some words are better than none! You can also set aside a block of time on the weekend to make up some words, although that can be difficult. Setting aside time on a weekend can become a hardship, especially if you have a young family.

Having me there, typing away next to the gerbil cage seemed to keep them on track with their homework, and I did get a page or two written every night.

What I churned out was pretty awful, but although I didn’t know it at the time, I was developing discipline and a work ethic in myself as well as in my children.

Having an artistic life means you allow yourself time to create something meaningful to you.

The following is a list of ideas to help you carve the time to write and still be a full participant in your family’s life.

  • You must decide what is more important, your dream of writing or watching a television show that is someone else’s dream. Do you want to create, or do you want to be entertained?

Personally, I would say that if you didn’t like how Game of Thrones turned out, too bad. Write it the way you think it should have been done. Writing fan-fiction is a time-honored way to start your writing career.

  • You have the right to take an hour in the morning and the evening to use for your own creative outlet. Wake up an hour early and write until the time you would generally get up. That will be the quietest time you will have all day. Give up that 9:00 p.m. TV show and write for one more hour. There are your 2 precious hours.

Use those two separate hours for your stream-of-consciousness writing. You could easily get your 1,667 words written every day, possibly more. I am a slow keyboard jockey, and I can do about 1,100 wonky, misspelled words an hour during NaNoWriMo.

ALL words you write count toward the goal, misspelled or not.

Time_Management_Quayle_QuoteWrite for five minutes here and ten minutes there all day long if that is all you can do. Every word counts toward your finished manuscript. I took my lunch to work and wrote during my lunch half-hour whenever possible. I also wrote on the bus when I didn’t own a car.

You don’t have to announce to your co-workers or family that you are writing a book if you don’t wish to. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable saying anything about my secret life.

  • If you want to spend your lunchtime writing, politely let people know you’re handling personal business and won’t have time to chat.

Writing in the stream-of-consciousness style is an excellent way to cultivate your emotional and poetic mind. It will improve your writing skills in general.

During NaNoWriMo, you engage in unedited writing. Nothing is deleted and every word counts. Even with an outline, sections of your narrative will often be unstructured because it reflects your (or your character’s) observations at the moment you were thinking them.

Writing in this fashion mirrors the way internal thoughts in the human mind work. You are quickly processing thoughts and perhaps switching from one topic to another with abandon. Just go for it.

powerwordsWordCloudLIRF06192021Remember, what you are writing is a rough draft, so your story arc will be bumpy and uneven. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t worry about making it so. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get that first draft written in thirty days. So, every time you have fifteen minutes to spare, sit down and write as much as you can in that short length of time. Spew your story as fast as you can in those moments before you are pulled away. With six or seven short bursts of writing, you can really rack up the word count.

In January or March, or whenever you go to revise your first draft, you might be amazed to find that much of what you originally wrote has life and passion.

The point is to keep on writing even when you have fallen behind. Use whatever motivational tricks you need to encourage yourself, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Far more important than simply getting word count, the goal is to finish your novel.

Writers and other artists do have to make some sacrifices for their craft. It’s just how things are. But you don’t have to sacrifice family for it. Sacrifice one hour of sleeping in and give up something ephemeral and unimportant like one hour of TV.

You can achieve your goal of 50,000 words in 30 days if you give yourself permission to create and make the time to do so.


#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

#NaNoPrep: Signing up and Getting Started

#NaNoPrep: Guernica, Inspiration, and Finding Writing Prompts

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#NaNoPrep: Guernica, Inspiration, and Finding Writing Prompts #amwriting

We are two weeks away from the opening hours of November and the official start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. So, let’s talk about inspiration. Poets know that one of the best ways to kickstart your imagination is writing to a pictorial prompt.

Picasso_quote_Art_is_a_LieOften the work that is inspired by a visual prompt has nothing to do with the image. But it has everything to do with the nature of storytelling. The ability to explain the world through stories and allegory emerges strongly in some people. Many are naturally able to form and express a story, and others find the subliminal prompting of an image will be the spark that lights their creativity.

My friends here at Life in the Realm of Fantasy know that I love looking at and talking about art. I’m not educated as an art historian, but I love the paintings of great artists because they tell a story. I like to share the images I come across and hopefully give others like me access to see the art that humanity is capable of, good and bad.

Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Perception also inspires extrapolation, leading the viewer to come away with new ideas.

When I see the story that was captured in a single scene by an artist, my mind always surmises more than the scene shows. I see the painting as depicting the middle of the story. Unintentionally, I put a personal spin on my interpretation, and ideas are born. I don’t mean to, but everyone does.

We are all inspired by the intellectual things we surround and entertain ourselves with, the art, the music, the television and movies, and the books we read.

Contemplating art, either paintings or photographs, or listening to music helps us relax. When we are at peace and contemplative, our minds wander. Pondering an image offers us a view of a static moment in time, but our minds are free to invent a past, a present, and a future for the scene.

But paintings also inspire ideas that have nothing to do with what the artist portrayed. The possibilities we imagine are endless, which is why visual images make great prompts for writers.

Let’s consider Guernica, a 1937 painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. This painting is considered to be one of the most powerful antiwar statements of all time. This single painting, done in shades of black and white, tells the story of the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in northern Spain that was destroyed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the request of the Spanish Nationalists.

PicassoGuernicaPicasso’s choice to use black and white to tell that story is brilliant. Newsreels of the day were black and white, which influenced his decision. This piece is powerful because of the emotion the artist painted into the image.

In turn, the composition and symbolism in this painting had a genesis in the great art of the past. In planning the layout of Guernica, Picasso himself was inspired by Consequences of War by Peter Paul Rubens.

Watch this excellent YouTube video to see a short explanation of what inspired the artist, his view of both the horrific attack and the fundamentals of classic art. It explains Guernica well: Picasso’s Guernica by Great Art Explained.

So, we see that history, both the past and the present, inspires art, which inspires stories.

Iparkbenchnspiration can be found in the image of an unoccupied park bench in winter. The gray weather, the barren scenery, the loneliness of the empty bench could be the seeds from which a novel grows. Who is that bench waiting for? Who has just left it? Is the story light or dark?

The same can be said for an empty bench in summer. Either way, the viewer’s mind will answer the question of a light or dark story.

Meditating on a tone, a pattern, or an image is a time-honored means of expanding one’s mind. Meditating or daydreaming turns off parts of your brain. Our brain has an analytic part that makes reasoned decisions and an empathetic part that allows us to relate to others.

Researchers have found when a person daydreams, their mind naturally cycles through the different modes of thinking, analytic and empathetic. During this time, the rational and sympathetic parts of your brain tend to turn each other off, which is why this habit is so crucial to creativity.

Creative people are often guilty of mind-wandering, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative.

You could be sitting on your porch watching the birds, as I often do. Or maybe you’re perusing the display in a local art gallery, or listening to Orff’s cantata, Carmina Burana—whatever you choose to meditate on doesn’t matter. The act of mind-wandering generates ideas. Soon, you may have the idea for a novel, a painting, or a piece of music.

Here are two good places where you can find both visual and non-visual writing prompts:

1100+ Creative Writing Prompts To Inspire You Right Now (reedsy.com)

Creative Writing Prompts – Writer’s Digest (writersdigest.com)

Alternatively, go out to www.wikimediacommons.org and see what the picture of the day inspires in you. Will those thoughts become your novel?

Perhaps so. But take the time to write those thoughts down. Writing them down in a journal offers you a mental image to contemplate, leading to the story, which grows into the novel.

Every step you take leads to another, and your notes become a storyboard, which becomes your novel. How you execute those ideas will be uniquely yours, your voice, your art.

#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

#NaNoPrep: Signing up and Getting Started


Credits and Attributions:

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. © Picasso’s Estate and the People of Spain, Fair Use. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(Picasso) accessed 10, October 2021.

Neglected Park Bench, Park taeho, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, accessed 10, October 2021.

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Facades of Handelskade, Willemstad, Curaçao – February 2020.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Facades_of_Handelskade,_Willemstad,_Cura%C3%A7ao_-_February_2020.jpg&oldid=598836309 (accessed October 16, 2021).

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#NaNoPrep: Signing up and getting started #amwriting

Even if you don’t have an idea of what you want to write, it’s time to go out to www.nanowrimo.org and sign in or sign up. That will inspire you!

Navigating the website at www.nanowrimo.org can be confusing. However, if you take the time to explore it and get to know all the many tricks to using it, you’ll be more comfortable with it.

If you haven’t been a participant for several years and are considering joining again, you’ll find the new website is radically different from the old site. Many features we used and loved in the past are no longer available, but it includes numerous features that really are nice. The following screenshots will help you find your way around the website:

First, go to www.nanowrimo.org. This is the landing page:

nanoLandingPageOnce there, create a profile. You don’t have to get fancy unless you are bored and uber-creative.

Next, declare your project: Give your project a name if you have one. I don’t have a working title yet, so I’m just going with Accidental Novel 2 since it features the same characters as last year’s accidental novel. Pick the genre you intend to write in. Write a few paragraphs about your intended project if you know what you plan to write.

AnounceYourProject2021You can play around with your personal page a little to get used to it. I use my NaNoWriMo avatar and name as my Discord name and avatar. This is because I only use Discord for NaNoWriMo and one other large organization of writers. (Next week, we’ll talk about Discord and why NaNoWriMo HQ wants us to use it for word sprints and virtual write-ins.)

While you are creating your profile, write a short bio, and with that done, you’re good to go. If you’re feeling really creative, add a header and make a placeholder book cover—have fun and go wild.

right dropdown menu buttonNext, check out the community tabs. If you are in full screen, the tabs will be across the top. If you have the screen minimized, the button for the dropdown menu will be in the upper right corner and will look like the blue/green and black square to the right of this paragraph.

When the button is clicked, the menu will be on the righthand side instead of across the top.

Your regional page will look different from ours because every region has a different idea of how they present themselves, but it will be there in the Community tab. And don’t forget to check out the national forums, also on the Community tab.

Olympia_Region_homepageYou may find the information you need in one of the many forums listed here.

Now, let’s talk about eliminating heartache and attempted suicides among authors.

Losing your files is a traumatic experience. Some authors within my writing group have lost several years of work in a surprise computer crash – an unimaginable tragedy.

I use a cloud-based storage system because entire manuscripts can go missing when a thumb drive or hard drive is corrupted.

fileFolderMake a master file folder that is just for your writing. I write professionally, so my files are in a master file labeled Writing.

Inside that master file are many subfiles, one for each new project or series. My subfile for this project is labeled Ivans_Story.

FileDocumentGive your document a label that is simple and descriptive. My NaNoWriMo manuscript will be labeled: Accidental_Novel_2.

First of all, you need to save regularly. I use a file hosting service called Dropbox. I have a lot of images on file, so I pay for an expanded version, but they do have a free version that offers you as much storage as a thumb drive. I like using a file hosting service because it can’t be lost or misplaced and is always accessible from my desktop, laptop, or Android. I work out of those files, so they are automatically saved and are where I want them when I closeout.

You can use any storage system that is free to you: Google Drive, OneDrive, or a standard portable USB flash drive.

Save regularly. Save consistently. DON’T put off saving to a backup of some sort – do it every day before you close your files.

One final thing for those who have participated in the past: NaNoWriMo HQ has announced that there will be no sanctioned in-person write-ins again this year. While this is disappointing, we care about the health of all our writers.

WordItOut-word-cloud-4074543Still, we can come together and support each other’s writing via the miracle of the internet. My region is finalizing a schedule for “Writer Support” meet-ups via Zoom – little gab sessions that will connect us and keep us fired up.

Our region will use the Discord Channel for nightly write-ins in the general chat and word sprints in our wordwars room. The pandemic has had one positive benefit – our region has remained active for the last year, with several intrepid writers doing nightly sprints.

Check out what you region offers you for year-round support. You might be amazed what they are doing.

The #NaNoPrep series to date:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

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#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, Plotting the End #amwriting

Some writers are “pantsers,” not “plotters.” Maybe you fall into that group and love NaNoWriMo because you can let the ideas flow freely. I have “pantsed it” on occasion, and it can be liberating.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_Novel_in_a_monthBut sometimes, when writing the first draft, we realize our manuscript has gone way off track and is no longer fun to write. That is where the storyboard and my loose outline become important.

My previous posts in this series talked about the story arc and how having a list of prompts can move the story forward and keep it flowing. We have made a list of prompts that will help us get started. We have a character, we have a world, and we have a situation. My sample outline looks like this:

Outline10092021LIRF

Now we must plot the finale, the event that will give Dave his greatest desire.

Hindrances matter. 

  1. It’s an ordinary suitcase, one you might find in any budget-friendly chain store. Dave is familiar with clients who try to hide money and realizes he has to think like a crook.
  2. He purchases a matching suitcase to use as a decoy.
  3. Dave’s new furniture arrives from the Large Swedish Furniture company.
  4. He can’t read Swedish directions, but his neighbor, Sophia, does, and she helps him.
  5. While assembling his furniture, he realizes he has the perfect place to hide the actual suitcase. After Sophia leaves, he puts it in the open space behind the drawers beneath his platform bed.
  6. With the original suitcase hidden, Dave visits a secondhand bookstore run by his neighbor, Sophia.
  7. He buys a large number of secondhand books for his apartment, some of which are in bad condition, claiming he loves to read but loves a good bargain more.
  8. At home, he fills the decoy suitcase with the worn books and hides it in a closet.
  9. He is barely settled in his new apartment when he is robbed.
  10. The decoy suitcase is stolen, but all it contains are beat-up copies of the entire Wheel of Time series in English and two out-of-date copies of Accounting for Dummies.
  11. Dave is kidnapped and threatened with bodily harm.
  12. He doesn’t crack. Why?
  13. His neighbor, Sophia, poses as a pizza delivery person and springs him. Surprise! She works for his employer and is his bodyguard.
  14. The agent Dave is holding the suitcase for turns up dead.
  15. Dave is handcuffed to the suitcase again, and he and Sophia must hurry to take it to Paris.
  16. There is a battle at the airport, but they make it onto the airplane.
  17. Enemy agents are waiting in Paris, but Sophia has mad martial arts skills.
  18. The suitcase is handed off to the proper authorities.
  19. Dave is free to go back to Seattle and his old life as an accountant.
  20. But he is offered a permanent job with his current employer.
  21. What does Dave choose, security and boredom, or adventure and a bodyguard like Sophia?

The entire outline takes about two pages. You haven’t written the story, but you have given yourself a skeleton upon which you can hang a novel.

storyArcLIRF10032021

Each prompt can (and will) be riffed on or changed from page one, but ultimately, the final battle in Paris and the chase to the embassy will be the goal we are writing to.

If six authors used this outline, you would end up with six completely different novels. Once you begin writing, the creative brain takes over, and what emerges will be unlike anything another author wrote.

By the time you arrive at the end, it might have evolved into an entirely different book than you envisioned at the beginning.

This is because you will be “pantsing it” between the prompts, and anything can happen when you sit down and write whatever enters your mind.

Just make notes of your changes and keep the overall story arc in mind.

Some people (and I am one of them) occasionally find it easier to begin writing a novel by writing the last chapter first. That is how I wrote my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel.

I wrote that final chapter, then asked myself who the characters were, how they had gotten there, and why they were in those circumstances. For that book, I wrote the outline in reverse.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to write a novel.

Neil_Gaiman_QuoteEvery novel is different, has a different genesis, and emerges from the author’s mind with its own personality.

The trick for NaNoWriMo is to get 1,667 new words written every day for 30 consecutive days. At the end of November, you should have 50,000 or more words written, and possibly your entire first draft.

To sign up for National Novel Writing Month, go to www.nanowrimo.org and get your profile started.


#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

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#FineArtFriday: The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table by Salvador Dalí, 1934 (revisited)

About the painting, from Wikipedia:

The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table is a small Surrealist oil painting by Salvador Dalí. Its full title is The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table (Phenomenologic Theory of Furniture-Nutrition). It makes reference to The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer, a famous seventeenth-century work in which a painter, thought to be a self-portrait of Vermeer, is depicted with his back to us, in distinctive costume. It is one of a number of paintings expressive of Dalí’s enormous admiration for Vermeer.

Vermeer is represented as a dark spindly figure in a kneeling position. The figure’s outstretched leg serves as a table top surface, on which sits a bottle and a small glass. This leg tapers to a baluster-like stub; there is a shoe nearby. The walls and the distant views of the mountains are based on real views near Dalí’s home in Port Lligat. In Vermeer’s painting the artist leans on a maulstick, and his hand is painted with an unusual blurriness, perhaps to indicate movement. In Dalí’s painting Vermeer rests the same arm on a crutch.

What I love about this painting:

I love the composition, the detail Dali puts into Vermeer’s hair and doublet–the attention Vermeer applied to his own work. This speaks to me of the desert, the way the sky looks in the afternoon just as the hottest part of the day slides into a cooler evening. Vermeer, the Master of Light, is enjoying the view. He is shown in a small courtyard, enclosed. Vermeer rarely left his rooms in Delft.

It is unsigned and undated but known to have been completed c.1934. It is currently on display at the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, on loan from the E. and A. Reynolds Morse collection.



Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Ghost_of_Vermeer_of_Delft_Which_Can_Be_Used_As_a_Table&oldid=861917029 (accessed March 1, 2019).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Johannes Vermeer – The Art of Painting (detail) – WGA24677.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Johannes_Vermeer_-_The_Art_of_Painting_(detail)_-_WGA24677.jpg&oldid=268076769 (accessed March 1, 2019).

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#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2 #amwriting

I have developed mad skills at carving out time for writing because I participate in NaNoWriMo every November. As a municipal liaison for the Olympia area, I must get a minimum of 1,667 new words written each day.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_Novel_in_a_monthI usually do this with a little advance preparation. Then on November 1st, I sit in front of my computer, and using the ideas I have outlined as my prompts, I wing it for at least two hours.

So, where am I in this process? I’m now listing prompts for the middle of my novel, book 2 of a fantasy series.

However, for this series of posts I’m using an exercise from a past seminar on plotting to illustrate how my method works. This is a plot that can be set in any contemporary, paranormal fantasy, or sci-fi world. Change the vehicles from cars to horses and carriages, and it can be placed in a historical world.

Depending on your personal inclination, this could be written as a political thriller or a romance, or a combination of both.

In my last post, we met our protagonist, Dave, an unmarried accountant. We saw him in his usual surroundings, a café he regularly has lunch at. An event occurred, which is the inciting incident. What could possibly have enticed Dave out of his comfort zone? What did he do that was out of character for him? He “paid it forward” and bought a stranger lunch.

  • This act changes his life. It’s the first point of no return, leading to the first crisis.

Dave didn’t know it, but that was the moment he was thrown out of his comfort zone and into the situation, which is the core of the plot.

  • Dave walked toward his office, only a few blocks away, but as he waited for the light to change so he could cross the street, a limousine pulled up alongside him. Four large men in black suits hustled him into the backseat.
  • He was forced at gunpoint onto a plane bound for a foreign nation, handcuffed to a suitcase with no explanation.

Those are the circumstances in which Dave found himself in my last post. 

scienceHow will the next phase of Dave’s story start? That will begin the middle section of the story, and this is what we are going to give a brief outline of.

As I’ve mentioned before, everything that occurs from here until the final page happens because Dave has an objective: he wants to go home.

I suggest we give ourselves a few prompts, all of which center around Dave achieving his objective: to get rid of the suitcase and go back to his job. He wants that desperately. Desire drives the story. Objectives + Risk = Story

  1. A silent guard accompanies Dave.
  2. Dave has been left in possession of his cell phone, but mysteriously, it has no signal.
  3. They arrive at the embassy.
  4. Dave is taken to an interrogation room and questioned about his relationship with the woman he bought lunch for.
  5. Dave discovers that the only key that can remove the handcuffs is in the custody of the mysterious woman who is interrogating him.
  6. The woman leaves the room. While she is out, Dave’s phone lights up with a text message from his boss in Seattle. Because he hasn’t been to work for two days and didn’t call in, he has been fired.
  7. He can’t seem to call out or reply to the message, another mysterious thing.
  8. The interrogator returns, having verified that Dave is who he claims he is. She also seems to know he’s now unemployed.
  9. She offers him a job. All he has to do is babysit the suitcase for two months until a certain agent who is otherwise occupied can claim it.
  10. Dave wants to go home, but he can’t. He’s unemployed and homeless in a foreign country with no luggage, and no money other than his credit cards, which have limits. If he accepts the job, he will be given a work visa, a flat to live in, and a salary.
  11. He needs these things to achieve his deepest desire: to go back to Seattle and get another accounting job, which he can do after fulfilling his part of the bargain.
  12. The wage he is offered is good, significantly so, which makes him nervous. Still, he can see no choice but to accept the job. (The second point of no return, leading to the next crisis.) After all, he’s always wanted to visit (Stockholm? Insert foreign capital here).
  13.  Anyway, how hard can it be to babysit a locked suitcase?

That question must come back to haunt him for the next 40,000 words, and if you list a few prompts, you will take Dave to his ultimate meeting with fate.

Hindrances matter. Add to the list of obstacles as you think of them, as those difficulties are what will force change on the protagonist, keeping him and his story moving forward.

The_Pyramid_Conflict_Tension_PacingIn any story, the crucial underpinnings of conflict, tension, and pacing are bound together. Go too heavily on one aspect of the triangle, and the story fails to engage the reader. By outlining a few important events now, we can add trouble and hitches during the writing process and increase the tension. Pacing will be something to worry about in the second draft—at this point, we just want to get the bones of his adventure down on paper.

Scenes involving conflict are controlled chaos—controlled on the part of the author. Stories that lack conflict are character studies. And perhaps, a character study is what you wish to write, and that is okay too. It’s just a different kind of story, more literary in its approach. Regardless, it will need an arc of some sort to bring change and growth to the protagonist.

The middle is often easiest to write because that is where the action happens. But it can easily be messed up, again with too much detail inserted in dumps. Several more events will follow, all of them leading toward one or more confrontations with the enemy. Without a loose outline, some of these events will be “desperation events.”

  • Killing off random characters
  • Random explosions
  • Yet another gratuitous sex scene

Next week we will plot the conclusion of Dave’s adventure. We’ll also examine the way writing the ending first can inspire beginnings. My 2010 NaNoWriMo novel grew out of what was really the final chapter.


#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

This Post: #NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

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