Thursday, May 31, 2012

Custom Error Message and Kreativ Blogger Award

I'm on Google+.  Just so's you know. And I'm following Blogger. (Or is it "circling" Blogger? I'm not sure which is the proper lingo.)

Anyway, Blogger recently posted about how to change your "error message" - you know, that message you get when you click on a broken link. "404 page not found" and all that, wot wot?

Apparently in Blogger you can customize it. Go to "Settings," select "search preferences" and click "edit" under "custom page not found."

It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I went and changed mine right away. You can see it by clicking this incorrect link:

Also, I've been awarded the Kreativ Blogger Award.

Becky Doughty from Braveheart gave me this lovely award. Thanks so much, Becky!

You know, at most award ceremonies it's the custom to give an acceptance speech, but on the blogosphere there are rules that you must follow. (Unless, of course, you're my sister Ava, in which case you write an acceptance speech and follow the rules)

And hey, I love rules, so let's see what we've got here:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We Shall Gain the Universe: Avengers, Plot & Structure

As I mentioned in my last post, I've seen The Avengers three times now; once in 3D, twice in 2D (in case you're wondering, it was neat in 3D but not really worth it.)

Why did I see it three times? I rarely ever watch a movie twice in one month (the only exceptions were Iron Man 1 & 2, actually. I've seen Iron Man 2 four times). Usually I don't watch a movie more than twice in one year. There are even some movies I would be content never seeing again. (Sorry, Alice in Wonderland. Just didn't click with me.)

But The Avengers is a movie that you can't just see once. It's a movie that you want to watch again and again to immerse yourself fully in the world and catch all the hilarious phrases and quips and subtle little expressions and actions.

Just to be clear, this is not, strictly speaking, a "review." It is riddled with spoilers, so don't read if you're trying to decide whether or not to watch it. My recommendation is: go ahead, watch it! You will most likely not be disappointed. And then you can come back and read this review.

All right, you have been warned. On we go...

Monday, May 28, 2012

June is Coming, I Can Almost See It...

This is the time of year that makes me want to visit the ocean. Of course, the Pacific Northwest ocean isn't quite as blue (or warm) as the ocean in the picture above, but it's still the ocean. And I miss it. Our annual vacation is coming up, though. Pacific ocean, here I come!

Today over at Emily Moir's blog Rantings of a Writer I wrote a guest post for her Blogger Spotlight series. Go check out my post (and Emily's blog!)

Having seen The Avengers three times now, I think it's time I wrote a review. So coming up will be my five part review/analysis of the movie. Yes, five part (I kind of have a lot to say).

Also, I recently started following Miss Jack Lewis Baillot's clever blog, However Improbable. She's a steampunk author (which is pretty cool) and we seemed to have watched and read a lot of the same movies and books. She only has 13 followers, so why not hop on over and check out her blog?

Doing anything exciting this June? Visited the ocean lately? How many times did you see The Avengers? Have you visited Miss Jack Lewis Baillot's blog?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: The Help

This post is for Teaser Tuesdays, a weekly event from the blog Should Be Reading.

The Help has been languishing on my nightstand for over a month. Now that my classes are finished and I have a little more time I've decided to pick it up.

Most of you have probably already read it, so this won't be much of a "teaser" but for those of you who haven't, here it is:
"Baby Girl, she looking at the door her daddy slammed, she looking at her mama frowning down at her. My baby, she swallowing it back, like she trying real hard not to cry. I rush past Miss Leefolt, pick Baby Girl up."
 This is the section that's in Aibileene's point of view. I love the relationship between Aibileene and the baby, Mae Mobley. So far I'm about six chapters in and really enjoying the book.

And hey! I'm studying for the US History II CLEP right now, which covers 1865 to the present. So since The Help is set in the 1960's, reading it counts as studying, right?

Have you read The Help? Do you have a book that's been languishing on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Born to Party

Lately my family's been listening to this version of's I Like to Move It. It's a fun, upbeat song, with crazy lyrics that, of course, aren't meant to provide any deep philosophical interpretation.

But one line in particular has really stood out to me. It goes:

And we don't party hardly
We just party hard
And not because we bored
We party cause we born to party.

At the risk of sounding like a stodgy, killjoy snob, I have to say: how sad is that?

"Born to party" - really? That's the singer's whole purpose in life? To party? Of course, it's a party song, to begin with, so it's not meant to be taken too seriously, but imagine if it was.

Imagine if you were "born to party." What would that mean? You were born to enjoy yourself, born to have a great time, born to dance and party and - 

And then what? What do you achieve by partying?

A life of partying has no purpose.

But we were all born for a purpose. We were all born for a reason. And Christians are "reborn" - they are born again for a special purpose.

We're born to die.

"Take up your cross and follow me," Jesus said. In other words, be prepared to die daily. 
"For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." - Romans 8:13
But part of me - that "old man" - doesn't want this. That part of me that thinks it's "born to party" doesn't want to acknowledge that it's born to die. And that's what I have to put to death everyday. That mindset.

That part of me that thinks it's "born to party" would rather put something off until tomorrow than do it today. It would rather say nothing than go out of its way to say something nice. It would rather do enough to get by than do the very best.

It thinks life is all about what I can get out of it. 

And that's the part of me that I have to fight, every single day. Because I'm not born to party. I'm born to die, daily, and that's what I must do.

Not that there isn't a proper time and place for partying in our everyday lives. There definitely is. I'm not advocating shunning parties altogether.

And being a Christian, I believe that there will be victory at the end as well. There will be celebrating and rejoicing in Heaven, for sure.

But right now, here on earth, we're in the middle of a war. Every day is a battle. Every day we're striving to roll back the curse.

There will be plenty of time for partying in the eternity that awaits us. Right now, we're here to do the Lord's work, and to do it well.

What do you think? Am I drawing too much out of a fun pop song? Or do you think it's a valid point?  Do you struggle with a "born to party" mindset? 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Deadly Deadlines (Part 2)

Today I finally realized that summer is almost here.

Well, I mean, it's only May, but that means only a month until summer, which is only about three months long. So, since this is my last summer before I graduate, I wrote out my goals for the summer.

They include:

  • Finishing the first draft of my novel
  • Passing six CLEP tests (two per month)

I especially want to finish my novel by the end of summer so I can do NaNoWriMo in November.

There's something so refreshing about writing out goals. Deadlines can be "deadly" but in some ways they give you more freedom.

Freedom isn't doing something just because you can. Ooh look! I can spend three hours surfing the internet instead of studying.

Freedom is doing something because you want to. I want to write this blog post by Friday, so I will.

So I said that I would talk about different ways to "disconnect your mind from the task at hand in order to give it a break."

There are three main ways I do that (it's Lauren-creates-another-list-time!)

1. Do something else

Obviously if you're an hour from the deadline then this may not be such a good option. But sometimes taking a walk, doing dishes, or doing something similarly mindless can help your mind focus on something else, letting your subconscious do the work for you.

2. Do something creative

Some writers have more than one project at a time to work on so that they can switch back and forth. I like taking a break and playing the piano, which works a different creative part of my brain. I read an article (on the CollegePlus website, actually) on "How to Be as Mentally Acute as Sherlock Holmes." The main idea of the article is that Sherlock Holmes played the violin, which is a great way to relieve stress, improve your mind, and learn discipline and patience.

I've also found that the different creative processes involved in writing fiction and writing blog posts is a nice switch.

3. Take a nap

Okay, this is actually a suggestion from the CollegePlus speed reading and memory course that I had to take. Apparently your brain solves problems while you're sleeping, so if you're stuck while studying (or writing, or whatever deadline you're on) then take a break and sleep. Even if the problem wasn't solved while you were asleep, you'll be a lot more refreshed (unless, of course, you overslept your deadline!)

Also last week I asked how people coped with deadlines. Three lovely readers shared their insights:

From MOV:

Deadlines. Just the word itself has a "deadly" connotation.

In college, I always produced my best work under the pressure of a deadline. I often waited until the last minute, but usually came out with the "A."

Now, with writing my blog, I only write when I have an idea. Sometimes that is every day, sometimes twice/ day, sometimes it is only once/ week. The A to Z Challenge was tricky for me because I did not like that added pressure of having to be "on" and "produce" every day. It is one thing to want to write every day (for yourself), quite another to be forced to (even if it is a voluntary contest).

Generally speaking, I find that most people won't do anything without a deadline. That's why almost everyone is rushing to get things done at the last minute. Like taxes.

I work with a lot of self-imposed deadlines. It keeps me moving.

From Amberr Meadows:

When confronted with deadlines, I become amazingly calm and then divide and conquer. It's almost like I become another person. Weird, I know.

I have to agree with MOV about school deadlines. And Amberr - wow, that's pretty amazing!

And I think Andrew brought up a great point. People won't do anything without a deadline. I think this is true on a far bigger level than just day to day deadlines, either.

If you think about it, life is one big assignment with the deadline being the day you die. An unknown deadline, which makes it even more urgent. A deadline which you can't pass.

Maybe it's kind of a morbid thought, but I think that it really puts life in perspective. We only have a set amount of time on this earth. Are we going to spend our time dawdling and dragging our feet, or are we going to accomplish what we were put here to do?
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

- Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
Couldn't resist throwing in that LOTR quote. ;)

Got any plans or goals for the summer? Any other advice on meeting or coping with deadlines?

Monday, May 14, 2012


Today I had a burst of inspiration for this novel idea (let me clarify - an idea for a novel) that I've had simmering in the back of my mind. It was an idea for a new scene. It opened up a lot of ideas for the rest of the novel.

So, since I've been reading Story Engineering (which is all about planning out your novel) I thought, why not plan out this one? I'm already writing two stories at present, but what if I had this one all ready to go when I finished them?

So I tried something I haven't tried before: storyboarding.

Okay, well, to be clear, it's not technically storyboarding the way I'm doing it. It's storyboarding for writers, which has no pictures. (I found a tutorial on one way to make a storyboard!)

You see that red wallet-looking-thing at the top of this post? That, when opened up, is a photo holder. It can hold 24 photos. But instead of photos, I put scene cards in them, like so:

Just to be clear, this is not the working title. It's just a placeholder until I find a working title.

I started with a title card, and then wrote a query/synopis card to remind myself of the basic premise (and to be thorough). After that I wrote out a scene card for the prologue and the scene after that.

I used a grunge filter to make the iPhone-quality picture look less lame.

And here's another grunge-filtered picture of the whole thing. After I fill out ten scene cards I'm planning on putting them all into one photo pocket since there are only 22 (discounting the title and synopsis card). That leaves room for about 220 scenes.

I'm pretty excited about it - I've never planned out a story this way before. We'll see how it goes...

In other news:

I saw The Avengers over the weekend! It was a fantastic movie. Austin, over at Gift of the Present, did a thorough review of The Avengers that I thought was very insightful. Daniel also wrote a very thorough spoiler-free review, as did Raquel and PolkaDot.

I recently found (and followed) a blog called Scribblings of My Pen and Tappings of My Keyboard, by Anne-girl. She did an excellent post on "being real" that I highly recommend you read. I think she hit it spot-on.

Becky Doughty from Braveheart featured my post "Top Ten Tips for Creating Top Ten Tips Lists" as her Friday Guest post! If you haven't read it or want to read it again, go check it out (and look around Becky's blog a little bit.)

If you haven't already, go leave a comment telling me how you cope with deadlines so I can feature it in Friday's post.

Have you ever done story cards? Ever extensively planned out a story? Do you have any tips for keeping your story cards or scenes straight? 
Do any of the links sound intriguing?
Let me know by commenting!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Deadly Deadlines (Part 1)

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.

Sometimes deadlines can be good for writing - that last minute adrenaline rush can get your creative juices flowing better than any amount of free time.

But sometimes deadlines can freeze your mind, stifle your creative process, tighten the rope around the neck of your inspiration, put your muse on the chopping block... you get the picture.

I tend to work better with some semblance of a deadline. I need endgoals, I need to see the finished product, so it's easier for me to have something tangible to work towards.

But let's face it, deadlines can be stressful.

I mean, deadlines are something we use in writing to up the stakes for our characters. Think the characters don't have enough problems, or there just isn't enough conflict? Eh, throw in a ticking time bomb. It worked for 24.

I have different ways of coping with deadlines. 

Checklists, planning ahead, setting a timer. These sometimes seem to work for me. But sometimes it takes the very last minute to come up with inspiration for a deadline.

For example, in my current online Rhetoric class I had to write a speech over the weekend and deliver it Monday morning. It was a very short speech - about 2-3 minutes long. I had specific restraints I had to follow, but the topic could be whatever I wanted.

My mind was frozen.

Finally, I wrote a mediocre, second-class speech on Saturday that I thought would have to do unless I came up with something better. I wasn't pleased with it at all, but I couldn't think of anything else to write.

My class is at 8:00 in the morning since I'm in Pacific time. I usually get up early so I can be awake for the class, but that morning I woke up at 7:00. I had been dreaming about the speech, but when I opened my eyes a flash of inspiration came to me.

I had an idea for a much better speech - but I only had an hour before class started.

So I got out of bed, hurriedly turned on the computer, and typed as fast as I could. I ended up finishing the speech 15 minutes before class started. I submitted the outline, rehearsed it a couple of times, and then entered the online class and gave the speech.

I got an A+.

As nice as that was, I really would rather not have had to come that close. But sometimes you need to disconnect your mind from the task at hand in order to give it a break.

Next Friday I'll talk about different ways to do that.

And I want to hear your thoughts, as well.

What do you think about deadlines? Are deadlines generally helpful or hurtful? Do you have ways to trick yourself into completing a deadline? Do you have any stories about close calls with deadlines that you'd like to share?

Leave me a comment with your answer, and I'll feature it next Friday in Part 2 of this series.

So, tell me:

How do you cope with deadlines?

Monday, May 7, 2012

A-to-Z Looking Back Through the Mirror (A Poem)

Listen, my followers, and you shall hear
'bout the A-to-Z challenge looking back through the mirror
(I admit, 'twould be easier if I had named it
"the reflections post" but the rhyme did demand it.)

They said share pleasures,
And please share your pains
Share with us any setbacks
Reveal any gains

So in order I think
I'll recount what I thought
Of the challenge this year
And from it what I got.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Guest-post is a Verb

Just thought you ought to know that I'm guest-posting today for Misha over at her blog My First Book.

The post is on What the Avengers Can Teach Us About Character. Go leave lots of comments, on that post and on Misha's other posts!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Top Ten Tips for Creating Top Ten Tips Lists

How could I not write the list that tells you how to write your lists? 

Read on to find my top ten tips on writing top ten tips lists....

1. Title your post "Top Ten Tips on _____"
This one's obvious. So readers know what they're getting into. Also, people search for "top ten tips" so there's a greater likelihood that your article will come up when they do.

2. Bold the main points
Makes 'em stand out. Busy readers can skim and still get the gist of the article. 

3. Lecture a little
If people click on this post they know (or should know) that they'll be getting an earful of advice. Don't start every tip with "In my humble (or not so humble) opinion." But also don't write a post's worth of advice under every main point. It's hard on the eyes and the attention span.

4. Try not to be so dead serious
Always, always avoid the use of words like "always" and never." These are just tips, people, not life-saving instructions. Oh, and a spoonful of humor makes the lecturing go down....

5. Don't accidentally repeat yourself
That's just redundant and annoys readers.

5. Don't accidentally repeat yourself
That's just redundant and annoys readers.

7. Make sure you haven't skipped a number on your list
Otherwise your readers will wonder why they should be listening to your advice when you obviously can't even count.

8. No money-back guarantees
Even if these tips completely changed your life, don't promise that they'll do the same for everyone else. You can insinuate that, yes, but don't outright say it. There may be legal ramifications or something, ya know?

9. You shouldn't not never contradict yourself
If people are looking for advice, they want to know that you're reliable. Nothing says "unreliable" faster than a contradiction.

10. Be fresh, funny, and unique
There are thousands of top ten tips posts out there. If you bring a new perspective, people will be more willing to listen. A little humor never hurts either.

Follow these tips and, well, I can't guarantee it will change your life, but, you know....

Any tips to add to the list? Let me know by commenting!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...