Posts Tagged ‘education’

A Roadblock for the Education Goal

Oh, wait, I was going to draw you a landsquid for today. Uhhh…hold on.

Okay! Here we go!

Hooray! It’s fall, it’s October, my FAVORITE, as I no doubt mention every year (August was the 10th anniversary of the blog, can you believe that?). Time for sweaters and warm drinks (like I don’t drink warm drinks all year) and boots and pretty trees and everything wonderful.

But it almost means Nano is coming, and while September is really too early for Nano anything, October is prime prepping time, especially if one is trying out a new genre, one that requires a bit more planning than normal.

We’re most of the way through 2020, so if you’ve somehow missed me mentioning my word for the year, education, well, I don’t know what to tell you. As a recap, the education goal comes along with:

  • Two prompt responses a month to just write (as opposed to writing for publication)
  • An art class or book or stretch project
  • A writing book or class

I’ve completed these goals every month so far. But now that we’ve hit October, I’m starting to see some issues moving forward.

On the prompt responses, well, the prompt responses have been getting done, but other, larger projects (*coughChangelingnovelcough*) have not been getting done. I would very much like to have the first draft of the Changeling story done before November. Which may mean that I need to refocus my writing time, which means the prompts may not get done.

And, well, I’m not 100% on Nano (which will greatly depend on whether or not schools are open), but if I do it, then the prompts will, again, need to take a back seat.

Art! Hooray! (My next ArtSnacks is on its way and I’m super excited!) I was taking SkillShare classes, but my membership expired and I probably won’t renew it til the new year at the earliest. Last month I went through one of the drawing books I got from my mom (my mom is a book hoarder, which, well, is genetic I guess. But at least when she cleans out her writing/art books I get free, useful books) which was very interesting, but it’s hard to get through a whole book in a month. Every page or so I wanted to stop and try something out.

So for this month, and potentially the rest of the year, I could pick a book and go through it slower so I can practice more techniques. Or I could just free-draw, using the techniques I’ve learned earlier. Not sure yet.

Which brings us to the writing books/classes. This month is good. I’m reading a book about how to write mysteries. Not sure what to do about next month, though. I think Writer’s Digest has some short tutorials about mysteries. Since I’ll be working on a mystery, I think I want to focus there as opposed to reading a book on another writing subject. But it also seems like you have to do a lot of the work pre-writing for a mystery, so it may not make sense to learn more about mysteries at that point.

Maybe I’ll just take the month off.

Thoughts, squiders? Excited for fall? I’m hoping we get some moisture and everything stops being on fire.

Ignorance IS Bliss

Last night I finished reading my July writing book, called How to Write a Page Turner: Craft a Story Your Readers Can’t Put Down by Jordan Rosenfeld. It was one of those books that delivers a ton of information, way more than you could conceivably absorb in a single go (which is why, halfway through August, I was still working on July’s book).

Additionally, yesterday, in one of my writing groups, someone posted a video about why creative types tend to be their own worst critics, and one of the points the artist doing the video brought up is that the more you know about something, the more you can see what’s wrong in your own work.

Which is kind of what reading How to Write a Page Turner felt to me.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but as I’ve understood the craft of writing better, the harder it is to just write.

Fifteen years ago when I was completing my first novel drafts, I had troubles, sure, like not plotting where the story was going or not being sure how to logically get to the ending I wanted, or changing tone halfway through a draft, etc. But the actual writing was okay.

Now, sometimes, I get hung up on sentence length and whether I’m using a variety of sentence structures so the writing doesn’t feel stilted. Am I using enough imagery? Am I using too many filter words? Am I telling when I should be showing, or vice versa? Or, perhaps, I’m taking too long to get to the next plot marker, or not enough time, or…

It’s a miracle anything gets written, honestly.

I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from How to Write a Page Turner (though I did think it was a well-organized book with good information in it), but it did remind me of issues I know I have, or am at least going through with the first draft of the changeling story. Stuff like not completing the action in a single chapter (which kills forward momentum) and description (never a strong point of mine–August’s book is actually Description and Setting). Or keeping a tight enough point of view.

I felt kind of called out.

But, to go back to the video, the artist’s point was that being able to see what’s wrong in your own work is a good thing. It means you have attained enough mastery where you understand and can see how to fix things. Before you reach that point, you’re just kind of flailing in the dark.

And all the issues the book brought up that I see in the current draft–it’s all fixable. It’s all stuff I know how to fix. Heck, if I can turn poor ol’ Shards into a publishable draft, I suspect I can fix just about anything.

(Remind me, sometime, and we can talk about the process of getting Shards from what it was to what it is. It was quite an undertaking. To go back to the point about shifting tone wildly halfway through a book.)

I do wish I could…turn it all off while I’m actually writing, though. It would certainly make things easier.

Hey, squider, got any pointers for focusing on doing something without all the “are you doing this and this and this and this right?” thoughts intruding all the time?

(As an aside, Shards could probably benefit from a cover upgrade. Hm. Something to consider.)

Still Scatterbrained

So, I see that I forgot to blog the second time last week. Good job, me. Very adult, much responsibility, or something.

I finished my systems test class, which was very interesting, and somewhat encouraging, since a lot of the test I was doing before is essentially the same, though less software focused (though there was still a lot of software). I think I’ll look more into the idea, perhaps after Christmas.

Also, my SkillShare membership ran out, so I’m out of illustration classes there. I did manage to squeeze in a short drawing one the first week of the month, so hooray. I have some art books that my mother gave me, so I think I’ll work through those before I worry about more online courses.

I also started a new class, called Story and Narrative Development for Video Games. It’s part of a video game development specialty offered through CalArts on Coursera. The first class, Intro to Game Development, I took a few years ago. Eventually I’d like to get through the whole specialty. I don’t really foresee myself making video games, but I’ve always thought it could be fun to write one. Plus there are some definite parallels between video games and novels and, as we are all sick of me saying, my goal for the year is education.

Other than that, I’ve been working on my next SkillShare class, which will be about genre–what it is, how it’s determined, stuff along those lines. I originally thought it’d be a quick class, but it’s turned out to be fairly massive. I’m almost done making the slides, though, so hopefully next week I will be able to start recording the lessons.

And then the changeling story carries on. I’m at about 45K, and hope to be about 55K by the end of the month. I’m still a little behind where I wanted to be, but I don’t really have the means or opportunity to do anything about that at the moment.

And I’m caught up on my prompt exercises, and I’m mostly done with a short story for Turtleduck Press that will go up next month. So writing’s happening, hooray!

I’m sorry again for being inconsistent here at the blog. I’m going to try to get back to twice a week, Tues/Thurs (obviously will be Wed/Fri this week, whoops), in the near future. If you guys have any feedback about what you’d like to see–craft posts, project updates, art projects, etc.–please let me know!

See you–and I mean it this time–on Friday!

Why I’m Learning Watercolor

So, as you know, Bob (sorry, writer joke), my word for 2020 is education, and part of that is taking a different art-related class on Skillshare each month.

(Except my membership runs out in August and then I shall have to fend for myself. Or, most likely, work my way through the drawing books I own.)

As far as art goes, I’ve been drawing forever. Mostly I sketch things out in pencil and then ink over them. You guys have been seeing examples of that technique since the blog began.

(Sometimes I just draw in ink and risk doom. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.)

But I’ve always run into an issue, and that’s with coloring. Despite my best efforts over the years, I just don’t really understand shading. I mean, I understand the theory of it. Somewhere, there is a light source, and depending on where you are in the drawing, some areas get light and others don’t, and the ones that don’t are darker than the ones that do.

It just never comes out looking quite right.

When I was younger, I tended to just use markers, which work out okay as long as you’re careful, but I still wasn’t shading. Just doing color block. And the same thing digitally, which was really frustrating, because invariably I had line art I liked which was then ruined by being colored.

(Which is why I did it digitally actually, rather than risking ruining the actual paper drawing.)

I have taken some classes on shading, and it has helped, but I still don’t feel particularly comfortable with it.

ANYWAY, long story short (too late), I decided to try out watercolors. Watercolors are kind of weirdly ethereal, and shading doesn’t seem to matter that much, since the colors are naturally variable based on the amount of pigment and water, etc.

And I actually really like them. I started a sketch journal at the beginning of the year and have been using an ink/watercolor combination, and the pictures have come out really well. Plus it’s WAY faster to color something with watercolors over colored pencils or markers.

This month I took two, shorter watercolor only classes. Previous classes I’ve taken have been watercolor/ink combos, but I thought it might be good to have a better understanding of the medium on its own.

The first project was to make a pattern, so I, of course, chose alpacas:

Alpaca pattern, because why not

(There is ink on that one, because otherwise they were just blobs. Also the dark brown was a mistake.)

Next we were supposed to paint something around us.

Tea kettle and vase (not pictured: coffee mug)

The teacher ended up with a really pretty flower bouquet but we work with what we have.

And the third project for that class was to paint the room, which went okay. I went out and bought real paint brushes, including a 1-inch flat one which makes it way easier to make a uniform color in an area. I don’t have a picture of that one, though.

The second class actually made me practice shading, the horror.

The ubiquitous sphere shading exercise

I mean, it’s not horrible. But I’m not going to pretend it’s good either.

And then we were supposed to use all the different techniques from the class to make a picture (including masking fluid, which I don’t own, white highlights, salt, etc.) but I am lazy and painted a pool.

The smaller, mobile one was disappointed that I did not include the cartoon fish on the bottom

Am I getting better? Hm, dunno! Probably a bit. All the art teachers on Skillshare talk about finding your own style and whatnot, and thus far my watercolor-only style seems to be a bit messy, but I don’t mind it. As I said above, I kind of expect watercolors to be that way. If I want something to have more structure, well, that’s what the ink is for.

The drawing/painting is also a nice stress reliever, and I’ve found it’s easier to work on this year than the writing has been, probably partially because I’m mostly doing it for fun, and probably partially because I don’t typically have to think too hard about it.

(Perspective! That’s another issue I have with watercolors. Everything kind of ends up caddywhompus but perhaps that adds to the charm. Or so I will tell myself.)

Anyway, that’s how this month has been going, art-wise. Know anything about watercolors? Thoughts about painting or drawing in general?

I’ll see you next week, squiders, hopefully with a library book sale find review, but reading’s gone soooooo slow this month, so we’ll see.

How Goes the Education?

If you guys remember, my word for the year is education.

We’re three months in, now, so how’s it going?

Ha. Haha.

No, actually, it’s going decently. It may be the only thing making any real progress, thanks to the medical issues with my husband and other issues going on around these parts.

Except the programming. I have more or less given up on the programming. I don’t have time, it frustrates me, and the more I poke at it, the more I think that it’s not a good fit. (Which isn’t a huge surprise–it’s never really been my forte. In college, I’d write a program, it wouldn’t work, I’d borrow a classmate’s program, compare, and they would be identical, except theirs would work and mine wouldn’t.) I am good at adjusting programs–I can make changes in a test environment, or modify Fortran to do what’s necessary–but writing code from scratch sucks.

And to be honest, I don’t want to program so much as it feels like I should know how to program, if that makes sense. I need to take a closer look at the jobs I’m considering and see if that’s actually a necessary skill or not.

(Also, part of it is that programming classes are very open-ended. This skill here, this skill there, with no clear indication how some of it would be used in a practical manner. I’m quite good at picking up specifics for a particular task, but the open-endedness here is throwing me off.)

I may look more at other types of classes–software test, or UX/UI–later in the year, when/if things stabilize a bit.

The writing books…go. I was a little afraid this would happen when I set the goal of one of month. They’re hard to get through quickly, since I’m trying to focus and absorb. I’m still working on February’s. To off-set that, I’ve watched one of the tutorial videos I purchased from Writer’s Digest whenever they had that big sale. It was a good course, about the foundations of a good plot. It was short, so I’ve watched it twice to try and absorb the information as much as possible.

Not sure that worked, but eeeehhh.

The art classes are going great. I’ve really enjoyed the three classes I’ve done so far (art journaling, figure drawing, and I’m working on faces this month) though I don’t know if I’m actually getting any better. But practice makes perfect, right?

(I’m certainly accumulating art supplies, whoops.)

The prompts are going well too. It’s freeing, to write without trying to do anything with it (which is probably good, because I suspect none of them thus far are any good). I don’t think I actually explained the concept to you guys.

I’ve been accumulating pins on Pinterest for years: characters, scenery, prompts, etc. But I hardly ever do anything with them (especially these boards, since I tend to draw off my Inspiration board or my separate Writing Prompts board when looking for story ideas). So each month I’m taking the oldest pin from each board (character, scenery, prompt) and writing a short story on them. There have been some…odd combinations.

This month’s are:
Character: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331718328795863331/
Setting: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331718328796303296/
Prompt: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331718328795821985/

The cozy mystery idea isn’t going anywhere, since I’d like to finish up some drafts before I start new ones.

Those were my main areas of focus, so yay, I guess? Things are going, I’m enjoying myself mostly (except for programming), and there’s still plenty of year to go.

How are you doing on your goals?

Picking a Theme Going Forward

It’s that time of year when everyone gives up on the current year and starts looking at the next one. (Which I totally get. I’ve got four days til Winter Break and then all Hell breaks loose.) So, of course, there’s been emails and blog posts and whatnot, all about how best to select your goals and make 2020 your best year, and all sorts of niceties.

But I did read one that I found interesting. It was over at Writer Unboxed, and the idea was that, instead of making resolutions and whatnot, you choose a one-word theme for the year, and have your goals stem off of that.

It’s an interesting idea, certainly. And while I hesitate to start doing my year-end wrap-up and move onto 2020 (though I will admit that I have made my active project list for 2020 already), I found that a theme popped into my head almost immediately.

Education.

Admittedly, I am often taking classes and trying to expand my skills, but there’s a lot I want to focus on in that direction in the near future.

  • I plan to read the writing books I’ve been accumulating and take a few online courses in areas I feel less confident in.
  • There’s the programming and, if it feels like that’s not going to work in the long run, UX/UI classes. (Or both, I suppose, to see which is a better fit.)
  • I’d like to focus on improving my art skills, especially if the picture book thing gets rolling for real. I’ve been accumulating new supplies that I need to learn how to and practice using.
  • I would really love to write some cozy mysteries. Outside of scifi/fantasy, they’re my favorite thing to read. Mysteries have always felt so…out of reach, but I would like to give them a try.

There’s probably other things that I’m not remembering right now. But those are the main ones, anyway.

I guess, now that I’ve identified my theme, the idea is that goals will kind of automatically flow from it, once I get there. (I am not there yet. I feel like, if I make my goals for January or 2020 as a whole now, I’m going to mentally write off the rest of December, which I’m not prepared to do yet. We’ll see how we feel come Friday and Winter Break.)

What do you think about identifying a yearly theme, squiders? Do you have one you’ve selected for 2020?