Welcome to my life. Told about me, by me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Outlines: Are They Really Necessary?

Whenever I think of outlines, one of my English teachers always comes to mind. He would require us to write an outline for everything, whether it was an essay or a creative story. He would even check to make sure that we did them, and would grade us on whether we had the outline or not. I suppose he wanted to make sure that we were thinking about what we would write instead of diving into the assignment headfirst.

That being said, I really, truly, hate outlines.

Why? I suppose it would have to be because of the solidity of them. My writing is fluid, first and foremost. I don't believe in forcing out ideas just for the sake of writing. The ideas have to flow easily, without me forcing myself to write what I think people would like. To me, when I write something in an outline, it feels final. Once it's down on paper, I feel like I have to include this idea in the story, even though I don't want to. Teachers have tried telling me that I can change the outline, but it still feels like I have to write what I put on my outline.

Personally, I rather like diving into things headfirst. When I'm writing a story or essay, I'll have a few ideas in my head as to where I want to go with it, but they're just that: ideas. I'm not committed to any one of them until I put them on paper. When I actually begin writing, I'll keep these ideas in mind, but sometimes, my writing will take me in an entirely different direction than what I had originally planned. This is usually a selling point for teachers as to why students should use outlines, but I disagree. Just because the story becomes something different doesn't necessarily mean that's a bad thing. It just means that it's not what I had originally planned.

A method story-planning that seems to work for me is that I'll have several scenes mapped out in my mind in detail, but the way I get from point A to point B is completely blank. This includes bits and pieces that I really like for the story, but still leaves room for me to be surprised. It also helps me when I have writer's block: I'll start writing one of these particular scenes (often out of sequence with the rest of the story), and that breaks the floodgates and allows my creativity back.

If I feel like I really, truly, need to write down an idea for fear of forgetting it, I STILL won't do an outline, per se. I'll go on a site called Polyvore instead. Polyvore, in a nutshell, is a site that allows you to make "sets" with images you get off the internet. For instance, this is a set I made as an example:


Click the link. You'll see what I'm talking about. Pretty awesome, huh?

I'll use these sets as an outline, and I'll create a collection of them on Polyvore, putting them in order, so that I can go through the major scenes in sequence if I so chose. This is the only form of outlining I will ever choose to use. Period.

So are outlines really necessary? What unconventional method of outlining do you use (if you use any)?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Help Save (The Original) Shoeperwoman.com!

In my free time, I follow quite a few blogs. Right now, one of my person favorites, Shoeperwoman.com, is in jeopardy. Amber, the writer, has encountered a serious problem.

Someone else has started a blog called Shoeperwoman.com. On its own, this wouldn't be a problem. However, the new blog's writer is trying to trademark Shoeperwoman.com, which would essentially put the original Shoeperwoman out of business.  This is incredibly unfair to Amber, who has been writing on her blog for over two years.

I'm not here to pass judgement on the new Shoeperwoman.com, however, I highly disagree with the strategy the writer of the new Shoeperwoman is taking in regards to this entire situation. Amber posted a message on her blog yesterday informing her readers about this situation. Today, Amber apparently received a message from the writer of the new Shoeperwoman.com which threatened to report Amber to the police for slander, harassment, and cyber-bullying.

I'm sure that you have seen my earlier post about how to get content taken down on a blog, and if not, go check it out. It'll tell you my opinion about how how the new writer decided to respond to Amber's post.

In my opinion, Amber did nothing wrong. Her readers have the right to know what's happening, especially since this blog may be shut down forever, and having read the original message, I found nothing that suggested cyber-bullying or slander, and certainly no harassment. In essence, Amber simply said "Look. This person has started a site called Shoeperwoman.com. This has nothing to do with my blog. They're also trying to trademark it, which means that my blog may be out of commission forever. Please help me save it." How is that considered harassment?

However, the trademark issue is still pending. There's only one way to help out Amber: post the link to her site on your blog. It'll help verify that Amber was, in fact, here first, and make sure that she's not shut down.


Please help save the original Shoeperwoman.com!

Friday, March 25, 2011

If You've Got A Problem With A Blogger, Bullying Is Not The Way To Go

Blogs are about people and their lives. It's a well-known fact in the blogging world that it simply cannot be helped that the author of the blog will put in bits and pieces about their lives. Some blogs are even a diary of sorts, a way for the author to write down what happened during the day.

Us bloggers understand that this is going to happen, so we try to either a. get the person's permission first before posting anything with them in it or b. we post an initial, codename referring to them, and if we need a description of them, it'll be vague enough to be anyone.

Unfortunately, some people don't seem to understand that. Take the situation with one of my friends, who I'll call Elisa. Elisa, who has a blog, was recently contacted anonymously on Formspring, with someone threatening to report them if she didn't remove every post that even MENTIONED someone other than Elisa. Under duress, Elisa did so.

Let me make some things clear: If Elisa had given an actual name or accurate description of people, things would be different. But she didn't. Elisa used initials to refer to people. It's a way to protect their identities, like I'm doing while referring to her. She didn't even post descriptions of the people mentioned, and mentioned them at bare minimum and only when necessary.

No. Elisa was just trying to tell the world about her life. And since we're such a social culture, that means she'd have to tell about other people, at least about how they interacted with her. How many people can tell others a story about what happened to them one day without mentioning at least one other person? If you try, you'll realize that it's not as easy as it sounds.

This isn't what bothers me the most, though. No, that would be the manner in which this person did this.

If you have an issue with someone's blog, contact them privately, explain what the problem is, and ask them to remove the offending content. Most of the time, we'll do it without any hassle. When we write, it sometimes won't occur to us how our words will appear to other people, and therefore, as soon as we realize our mistake, we'll fix it. Problem solved.

If the blogger does not respond, or replies no, message them one more time, saying that this is their last warning, and that even though you don't want to, you will report them if necessary. Reiterate why it's important that they take it off. That should do the trick.

If they don't do it then, that's when you report them. You tried multiple times to make them see reason, and they didn't. You did warn them. However, under NO circumstances should you write a message like the one Elisa received.

This person decided to be mean about it. In summary, they said "Take it off NOW or I'm reporting you." This person also went on to say that Elisa's crush, who she had mentioned briefly (using  initials in place of their name) would continue to ignore her as long as she kept doing this.

That's why I'm angry. With that statement, this person's message was no longer a request to take off offending content, or even a warning. This person was trying to cyber-bully Elisa into doing what they wanted. And to me, that's just wrong. Cyber-bullying is NOT okay, no matter what the situation, and telling Elisa that her crush would avoid her (who, by the way, had no idea this message was even sent) as long as she kept up those posts was crossing the line.

Under NO circumstances should you write a message like the one Elisa received. That message was, to be honest, completely uncalled for. Cyber-bullying is NOT okay, no matter what the situation, and telling Elisa that her crush would avoid her as long as she kept those posts up was going too far.

It would be one thing if her crush had messaged her, telling her that they had a problem with the content. But this message was anonymous. The clincher is that this person, whoever they are, wrote in a tone suggesting that it wasn't said crush writing it, but someone else who knew her. So why would they write the message anonymously?

Simple. Because they knew that what they were doing was wrong.

Why else would they need to message Elisa anonymously, when they obviously knew who Elisa was, especially since they were reading her blog? Elisa, as a person, wouldn't have had a problem with taking down the content if someone asked her to. She's not unreasonable about things like this, and knows when she needs to fix something she did, which is a personality trait that becomes apparent soon after meeting her.

And this person has met her. They mentioned a specific detail about her crush, one that I'm not mentioning here, showing that they know who the crush is, and therefore, who Elisa is. This person didn't do this to make sure they were listened to. They did this to be mean.

To me, that's the worst kind of bully. It's one thing to say something mean to a person. It's another thing entirely to hide behind your computer screen and throw hate at them. If you're going to say something about someone, say it to their face. Because otherwise, you're just a coward. And that's all there is to it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Beginning

I get asked often how I got started writing. I'm going to put it rather frankly: I used to hate to write.

Yeah, you read that right. I used to hate to write. Why? I think it had something to do with the fact that I wasn't able to write inside the requirements for my school assignments very easily. My teachers would always give me assignments with little imagination involved, and therefore, very little to work with. And if I made the mistake of writing something on my own and showing it to an adult, they'd ask me "Why can't you write like this in school?" Not to mention that the constant critiquing of my handwriting made me rather self-concious about my writing.

Then along came the oh-so-wonderful-A.D.D. Suddenly, I couldn't do a lot of things I hadn't had a problem with previously. I was dropped down to on-level classes, and none of my friends were in my classes. I didn't have anyone to lean on as everything turned upside down. I was, characteristically of me, stressing out, and I didn't know how to release it.

That's when I started writing. I never realized before that I could write without absolutely hating it. It was even more foreign to me that I was able to ENJOY it. I began to use writing as a way of letting out my emotions, and eventually, I began to write for the heck of it, even when I didn't need to release an unhealthy amount of anger and frustration without seriously injuring someone. Whatever its faults (and it has many), my A.D.D. lead me to writing.

I used to be an avid fan of the Maximum Ride series, enough so that I decided to check out the website. When I opened up the page, I accidentally came across the "Blogs" section. Scrolling through it, I realized it was filled with what I now call "fanfiction".

I'll try to explain fanfiction as simply as possible for non-fanfiction writers: it's a story written by a fan about a story already published. For example, if I were to write a story about Harry Potter's kids, it would be fanfiction. I don't own Harry Potter, but I own the plot. Fanfiction isn't limited to books either. I've seen fanfiction written about movies, anime/manga, TV shows... even video games.

While I was reading these stories, I was hit with an idea. I opened up Microsoft Word, and began to type. Soon after, I had finished the first chapter of my "Luna Ride" series.

I don't know exactly why I did, but I decided to post it. I opened an account on the site, and posted the chapter. The next morning, I logged on again, to see that two people had commented, both positive. This doesn't sound like a lot, but I was ecstatic. I had fans!

Luna Ride turned out to be my first completed "series", with 5 installments consisting of thirty posts each. I have started another story on the site, but I may take it down, seeing as the Maximum Ride series has changed enough that my story's facts are no longer consistent with the series. Then again... since when have I cared?

I continued posting, and my fan base grew and grew with every post I wrote. It now encompasses several hundred people and almost every continent, the one exception being Antarctica. Through another author on the site, I learned about my current favorite site: Fanfiction.net

Simply put, it's the world's biggest fanfiction posting site. For people like me, who simply cannot resist meddling in the lives of fictional characters, it's more than that. It's heaven on earth.

I do write original stories, however, fanfiction currently continues to take up most of my writing. I write poetry also, even though some people don't consider it poetry at all (I have issues with rhyming things). I have a few original ideas stored up for my future award-winning bestselling novel, but I'm keeping them a secret for now.

I really don't know what would've happened if I hadn't decided to look at the Maximum Ride website. All I know is that I wouldn't be the same person I am today.