Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

4/28/2017

A Vulgar Tongue

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Language is the key to culture, real or imagined.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool geek. I mean, totally hardcore. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in the Seventh Grade and did, on and off, through college. I still, to this day, have a significant bookshelf of roleplaying games, including some D&D books. These days, I don’t have time to play, and the books are mostly there for theoretical inspiration, if I can ever get writing again. But, way back in the dark ages, before the internet, I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine, which was the official D&D magazine. It was there that I was first exposed to invented languages. Later, as I read more and after the internet became a thing, I discovered a community of like-minded wierdos who created languages, too. “Conlangs”, we called them, short for “constructed languages”. Some of the most famous are Klingon, Dothraki, and Tolkien’s famous Sindarin, more popularly known as “Elvish”, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them now.
Most of the results of my peculiar hobby, or “secret vice”, as Tolkein called it, are safely tucked away where no one will ever see them. Though, I did setup a page of resources and links over at my fantastic fiction site, Fantasist.net. I had some tools there that got so popular, they were crashing my webhost’s servers, so I had to take them down. I’d always meant to get back to porting them to a new, more stable and less resource-intensive programming language, but I never did. Now, though, there are so many people sharing things like this, and better than the stuff I made, that I don’t really feel bad about it. And, new tools for creating languages from the ether are springing up all the time.

Recently, someone shared a tool on the newsgroup I’m part of for conlanging, CONLANG-L, that raised quite a ruckus. It was originally shared by Boing Boing, and I saw it there, too. It’s a web-based language generation tool called Vulgar. The page I’ve linked to there is the “free demo”, but that will gin up a pretty decent start for a language, especially if, like me, you’re not a linguist. There are a surprising number of options, if you want to take advantage of them, and even more if you’re willing to cough up $19.95 for the downloadable version. That downloadable version still runs in your web browser, by the way, so there’s not any compatibility issues between Windows, Macintosh or Linux. Now, of course, this isn’t going to get you a fantastic artificial language, but, if you’re a starving fantasy author who wants to whip up something that sounds reasonably okay with a very little effort, this isn’t a terrible start. For me, it’s fun, but probably not more than an amusing toy to play with on a quiet Friday morning.
And, based on the frenzied reactions on that conlang email list, my sharing it and saying that it’s not bad, will irritate some folks. Which is a different kind of fun.

Either way, go, try it and have fun. And enjoy your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words

11/18/2016

The Inevitable Writer’s Block

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,Stimulus and Production,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, you should be about two thirds done with your novel.

If you’re not, don’t worry about it! And, either way, it seems like a good week to talk about writer’s block.
Now, assuming that you’ve been writing this whole time, the most common forms of writer’s block, namely not having an idea and not using the habit of writing to actually put words on the page, are not your problem. Maybe, you’ve gotten somewhere in the middle and your genius story seems to have stalled. Or, maybe you got to a blind alley and realized that your story took a wrong turn 1,500 words ago. It happens.
Either way, try to remember this is all about getting the words out and on paper. And, if that’s not enough to get you going again, head over to Gizmodo and check out their advice on The 10 Types of Writer’s Block and How To Overcome Them. Not all of it will apply, obviously, but I’d lay odds that at least one of those ten types of writer’s block will at least come close to applying to you. Naturally, I think the advice will help, too. And, in fact, I encourage you to read all the advice, because something that doesn’t seem like it applies to your frustration may end up being what knocks you loose and starts you writing again.

Another helpful resource that can help you get through a block is your fellow NaNoWriMo writers. You can connect with hundreds of people who are also participating in NaNoWriMo in the NaNoWriMo Forums. The people there can be incredibly supportive and helpful and they may need a break from their writing at this point, too.

Again, the most important thing is to get your rough draft out this month. After you get the thing written, you can take a break and come back to edit it into shape. Don’t worry about that now. Just worry about getting your first draft written.
So, go, read as much as you need to to get past your block, then get back to writing!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

10/7/2016

Story Ideas

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Need a NaNoWriMo story idea?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve been thinking about this for a long time and you’re ready to start writing. If so, you’re golden and this is post is all academic for you. If not, this post is all about helping get you started.
First of all, you have time before everything kicks off, so if you haven’t read it, get No Plot, No Problem, which was written by the creator of NaNoWriMo and serves as a guide for a month-long novel writing experiment. Getting through this book will help you get focused on what kind of fiction you want to write and what you feel makes that genre great.
Secondly, I completely sympathize with you if you’re having a problem nailing down a story idea. When I was in school, my favorite exercises were the creative writing exercises. Why? Because when the teacher gave me a title or a theme for the story, those constraints automatically gave me a direction, a framework on which to build my story. Now, when the story ideas are totally open-ended, I find myself floundering lost in the vast ocean of possibilities. One way to help reduce those endless possibilities is to go back to some external constraints. And, that’s where the internet’s vast collection of random generators comes in handy. Some of those are what I’m actually sharing with you this week, to help you get started.

The first place to check out is the mother-lode of all random generators, Seventh Sanctum. They have a whole section especially devoted to writing. It’s pretty awesome. They have everything from simple story ideas to whole writing exercise challenges to plot twists and a whole lot more besides. They’ve really got your bases covered and I’ll most likely mention them again in this month-long series of posts.
If you’re writing science fiction, you definitely want to check out SciFi Ideas – Ideas and inspiration for science fiction writers. They seriously have the most amazing collection of random generators with a science fiction theme to them.
And, if you want to generate both a book title and section titles to help inspire your science fiction novel and keep you writing, hop over to the Space Adventure Title Generator and you can almost outline your entire book, albiet pretty randomly. Still, having those constraints and guides to keep you moving forward might be just what you need to keep going when the writing gets tough.
Finally, if those aren’t enough, you can check out Fantastist.net’s very own Story Starter random generator, which is based, in part on an exercise from the great book The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Judy Delton. If it makes any difference to you, that generator was at one time heavily featured in several grade-school creative writing curriculms. It’s pretty simple, but effective.

I know those links were a little heavy on the science fiction, but that’s just where I am with writing right now. And, the other stuff I’m going to share this month will, I hope, make up for that geeky focus.
Stay tuned!

This post originally appeared at The Fantasist’s Scroll.

10/31/2014

Tools for NaNoWriMo

Filed under: Art,Fiction,Fun,GUI Center,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but if you are, here are some tools that might help those of you who are.

First of all, for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which is, according to their website, “… a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”  If you’ve never heard of it, and would like…
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11/1/2013

Let the writing begin!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life Goals,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

NaNoWriMo starts today, but I won’t be participating this year.

Maybe next year, after my life is just a little more settled and I’ve spent a year getting my writing chops back.
Writing here, or any non-fiction, is relatively easy for me these days, but writing fiction is another kettle of fish.  I used to write all the time and, especially right after college, it flowed easily and well.  I would say, in my own estimation, that I was writing fiction at…
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11/23/2012

Rules for Writing

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fiction,Fun,NaNoWriMo,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:51 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The first rule is to WRITE!

No, seriously, in honor of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d link to things about writing and inspiration this month and, even though, I’m no great fan of rules, especially about writing, some people are.  So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share the Guardian’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.
They asked several authors, some of whom I am more familiar than others, and got each of them to list their “10 Rules for Writing”.  Some are funny, and some are a little too truthful, but one of them may help you break out of writer’s block, or just whatever writing rut you may have worked yourself into this month.
My favorite of the bunch, outside of all ten of Leonard Elmore’s rules, is “The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.”  That comes from Anne Enright, who I confess I have not heard of before, but who is entire correct.
So, get back to writing, okay?

Well, get back to writing after you click the link and read the other rules they have there.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It's nothing against you to fall down flat, but to lie there--that's disgrace."
   --Edmund Vance Cooke

11/16/2012

Generate Story Ideas

Filed under: Art,Fun,NaNoWriMo,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Are you stuck for ideas?

It may be a little late for those people attempting NaNoWriMo this month, but it’s never too late for the rest of us to come up with some great story ideas.
IO9 gave these as “10 Tips for Generating Killer Science Fiction Story Ideas“, but some of them are just interesting ways to bump up some conflict and aren’t limited to science-fiction at all.  Here’s the short list of them, before I go into details on a couple:

  1. Look at the big unanswered questions
  2. Imagine a new scientific or technological discovery — and then imagine it ruining your life
  3. Take your biggest fear about the future and take it to an extreme
  4. Instead of speculating about science, try sociology or philosophy or theology
  5. Think of an act you would never approve of, then imagine a sympathetic character doing that act
  6. Why can’t you just go and get what you want, in real life?
  7. Get into a fight with a famous science fiction author
  8. State the obvious
  9. Come up with five non-obvious consequences of a technological or scientific breakthrough, and focus on one of them
  10. Think about something you used to believe, and then imagine what if it was true

Now, first, a quick note about Number 7 there.  Don’t go hit a famous author!  What they mean, is decide how wrong one is and write your story to disprove the conclusions they made (*cough* Ayn Rand *cough*).
But, look at that list.  The article on IO9.com is focused on killer science-fiction ideas because they’re a science-fiction website, but, outside of Numbers 2 and 9, really, you could take out the sci-fi element and still have a good story.

Yes, even Number 3, “Take your biggest fear about the future and take it to an extreme” can make compelling fiction in pretty much any genre, including literary fiction, if you handle it right.  And, if you’re stuck, maybe it’s time to try writing outside your normal genre anyway.  I mean, what if that’s the whole problem in the first place, right?

So, whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not, these are great ways to generate ideas for stories.
And, either way, it’s Friday and you’re clearly slacking if you’re reading this, so you might as well click that link up there and have some fun.
Happy weekend and happy writing!

11/2/2012

Opensource Writing Tool

Filed under: Art,Fun,GUI Center,Linux,MicroSoft,NaNoWriMo,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:46 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

In honor of the first Friday of NaNoWriMo, I’m bringing you a free writing tool and not from my usual main site.

This week, I’m originating my regular Friday Fun Post from JKHoffman.com, where I hope to move most of my more creative work, instead of my regular Diary of a Network Geek.
If you’ve given serious thought to writing, you have probably heard of both National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNoWriMo, and a writer’s program called Scrivener.  Personally, I’ve done most…
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