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Writing down your ideas – The importance of writing it down

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I’ve heard people say that if you’re an author, you should always carry a notepad and pen with you wherever you go, just in case you get an idea. They say that if you don’t write it down straight away, you’ll forget it. And it will be gone. Forever.

I totally agree. For most of us, our memories just aren’t that good.

I have been in a situation where I couldn’t write down an idea and sometimes I’d remember it later, but there are some ideas that are still floating out there in the ether that I may never recall again.

I have a notepad in my handbag and one in my bedside drawer. I often get ideas just as I’m drifting off to sleep and I used to pull out my notepad and pen and scribble it down before I forgot it. This was before I got a smartphone. And while I was still married. I didn’t want to disturb my husband, so I’d actually write in darkness. I’d fold down the corner of the page once I’d written on it, so I wouldn’t write over the top of a previous idea next time. It would be really messy, but I could always make out what I’d written and rewrite it on my computer later.

Once I finally upgraded to a smartphone, I used the Notes or Memo app to write with. This made life easier. I just rewrite my ideas into a Word document. I tried a word processor app on my old Android phone, which I could easily transfer to my computer, but the word wrap didn’t work properly and I found that I had to open a fresh Word document and retype in into there just to avoid the problem. Now I just skip all the hassle and just put my iPhone in front of my computer and retype what I’ve written.

My ideas can range from just a single thing that I thought of to a 20 page beginning of a first draft. I write down everything. You never know what you can use. Some of the singular ideas I’ve put together in a folder to be used in the one novel. Some of them have so much info or so much written that they have their own folder and with some I’ve even thought of a name for the story.

One thing I love doing is writing the date that I thought of the idea. I don’t know why. When I look back at them, I like to see when I thought of the idea. Sometimes I’ll think of something to add to the idea and I’ll put the date and write the new info.

There are other apps or programs you can use to record your ideas. There might be a different app you are using for notes. Some people write it in an email and send it to themselves. There are writing apps for your phone or tablet to help you organise your ideas. You may be happy with Word, or you may use Scrivener or an online program. Personally, I’m not comfortable with putting every single idea of mine into an online program. That means that someone has everything of mine. Every single idea. I know they’re not supposed to look at your stuff because they’re just holding your info, but it’s too much of a risk for me. Call me paranoid.

Another point on writing down your ideas; it is entirely up to you how you go about it, or if you do it at all. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. You can write a comment down below if you have a great method that I haven’t heard about.

I’ve heard Stephen King talk about authors’ notebooks and he says that that idea is stupid. He says that authors fill them with garbage ideas. He says that the good ideas stick around. If an idea keeps popping up in his head, he pays attention and starts to develop the story from there. But my mind doesn’t work that way. I can’t do that. I’ll lose too much. We can’t all be geniuses like Mr King.

He doesn’t even outline his novels. But most people need to. I need to. I tried working without one, just writing what I felt like, but it took a loooong time to get anywhere and I kept hitting a wall and getting writers’ block. It is not a fun way to write like I thought it would be. It took years longer to write my first book.

I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Let me know in the comments.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

Windows Basics – Icons vs Shortcuts

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To be able to use your computer more effectively, you should be familiar with as many of its features as you can.

This tutorial covers the basics of icons and shortcuts and is a continuation of the tutorial, Windows Basics – The Taskbar.

Icons are small pictures that are used to represent a program or a file and are used all throughout Windows, including the Desktop and Taskbar. They make it easier to find the program or file and open it. Also, an icon next to a file usually tells us what program is used to open that file, which also tells us what kind of file it is. For example, a Word document will have an icon for Microsoft Word next to the name – or above it.

Word Icon-Caption

This means that the file is associated with Word and when you double-click on it, Windows will open Word, then open the file in Word for you to view and edit.

Shortcuts are also icons, but the difference is that a shortcut isn’t an actual file; it is a pointer to a file – a shortcut to it. The way to tell them apart is that a shortcut will have a small arrow in the bottom left corner when it is displayed on the desktop and in Windows Explorer. But just to confuse things, it will not have an arrow when it’s on the Start Menu or Taskbar. You can safely assume that they are shortcuts as no files are stored in these places.

All Shortcuts-Caption

 

Shortcuts are handy because without them, we would have to know exactly where the main file was just to open a program. For example, you could have an icon for Microsoft Word 2010 on your desktop where it’s easy to find, or you could open Windows Explorer, go to your C: drive, double-click on Program Files, double-click on Microsoft Office, double-click on Office14, and finally double-click on Winword.exe. Which method would you prefer?

The other thing you need to know is that because the icon is only a shortcut, you can delete it without actually deleting the file itself. This is important if you want your computer and your programs to still run smoothly.

 

Now that you have a better understanding of this important feature of Windows and most other operating systems, you might want to look at some of the other tutorials here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

 

Windows Basics – The Taskbar

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To be able to use your computer more effectively, you should be familiar with as many of its features as you can.

This tutorial covers the basics of the Taskbar and is a continuation of the tutorial, Windows Basics – The Start Button and Start Menu.

The Taskbar is the bar that sits on the bottom of the screen that contains a lot of useful features to help you use your computer.

The Start Button

The Taskbar contains the Start Button, which when pressed brings up the Start Menu, which was covered in the previous tutorial.

The Quick Launch Bar

The small icons to the right of the Start Button are in an area of the Taskbar called the Quick Launch Bar. The Quick Launch Bar contains shortcuts to programs (apps) on your computer that are frequently used. You can add and remove them yourself and when you install programs, an icon may appear here once the installation is complete.

You can change the Quick Launch Bar to suit your needs. For example, I don’t access Windows Media Player through its icon. I usually browse the music or video files in Windows Explorer and double-click on the ones I want to play. For this reason, I usually delete the icon for it in the Quick Launch Bar to make room for other programs. Microsoft has stopped supporting Internet Explorer as they have a new Internet browser in Windows 10 called Microsoft Edge, so I usually install Firefox and delete the icon for Internet Explorer.

To delete an icon from the Quick Launch Bar, right-click on it and then left-click on “Unpin this program from the taskbar”.

You can add an icon from either the desktop or the Start Menu. Find the icon you want, for example, Microsoft Word. It could be an icon on your desktop or on the Start Menu. On the Start Menu, you’ll probably find it under Programs>Microsoft Office. To copy the icon to the Quick Launch Bar, hold down the Control (Ctrl) Key on your keyboard as you click and drag the icon down to the Quick Launch Bar. You need to place the icon between the other icons that are already there until you see a vertical black line appear with your mouse cursor, then let go of the mouse and the Ctrl Key.

If you don’t hold down the Ctrl Key, it will remove the icon from its original place. You should never remove it from the Start Menu. You should keep it in both places. If you ever decide that you don’t use a program often enough to have it on your Quick Launch Bar, you can remove it knowing you still have the icon in the Start Menu when you do need it.

Note that in Windows 10, you need to find the icon for a program on your Start Menu, right-click on it and move your mouse cursor up to More. When the side menu appears, click on Pin to Taskbar.

The Main Section

The main area of your Taskbar is for keeping track of your open programs. It will display a button for each program that is open (this excludes programs running in the background like your antivirus program). Windows provides this feature to make it easier to switch between your open programs. Just click on the button for the program you want.

Note: The picture above does not have the Quick Launch Bar showing.

The Taskbar in Windows 7 or above has a different method of keeping track of the open programs.

When you open a program in Windows 7, it displays a smaller button than Windows XP for each open program. Also, if a program has an icon on the Quick Launch Bar, it won’t show a separate icon for the program once it’s open, it will simply place a box around the existing icon to show that it is open. If you have more than one window open at a time for that program, like with Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer in the picture above, it will change so that the box around it looks like there are other boxes behind it.

Windows 10 puts a line under the icons to indicate that the program is open, and puts a box around the active window – meaning the program that you are working in at the time.

You can right-click on any of these buttons and choose to close the window.

The System Tray

The next section of the Taskbar is the System Tray. It contains the icons for some of the programs that are running, the Date and Time area, and the Show Desktop Button.

Icons in this area are usually for things that run in the background, like antivirus software. You will also find the icon you use to safely remove hardware and eject media, which is mostly for flash drives and external hard drives plugged into your USB ports. You will also see notifications pop up from here in the form of a talk bubble.

Windows XP and earlier versions only displayed the time in the Date and Time section, whereas later versions display the date too. You can Click on the Date and Time section to see a small calendar.

To change the date and/or time, click on “Change the date and time settings”. In Windows 10, you will have to right-click on the Date and Time section and click on “Adjust date/time”.

The Show Desktop Button is a small rectangle on the far right of the Taskbar. When clicked, it clears away any open windows and shows the desktop. If you press it again, it will restore all the open windows again, with the one you were working on up front. This button in Windows 10 is a lot slimmer, but it is still there.

 

Now that you have a better understanding of this important feature of Windows and most other operating systems, you might want to look at some of the other tutorials here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

Windows Basics – The Start Button and Start Menu

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To be able to use your computer more effectively, you should be familiar with as many of its features as you can.

This tutorial covers the basics of the Start Menu.

The Windows operating system (OS) provides a visual interface for you to use to interact with your computer. It consists of a “desktop”, which has “wallpaper” with icons and a Taskbar along the bottom on the screen. On the Taskbar, you will usually find a Start Button – unless you have Windows 8. The Start Button brings up the Start Menu, which is where you can access different programs (apps) on your computer.

Pressing the Start Button when the menu is already open, closes it again.

The Search Box allows you to find programs and file easily on your computer. For example, if you click in the box and type “no”, you will get a list of programs that start with those two letters. Notepad should be on the list. You can simply click on Notepad and the Windows Notepad program will be opened.

Above the Search Box, Windows displays a list of recently used programs, with Programs written at the bottom of the list. (Earlier versions of Windows say All Programs). Clicking on this will bring up a list of all the programs (apps) installed on your computer. Some are listed on their own, while others will be in a folder, like Microsoft Office, because there is more than one progam in the Office suite of programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc). In this case, click on the folder and it will open up so that you can click on the program you want.

On the right side of the menu, you will see a list of items and programs that will take you directly to that item or program. At the top of this list, you will see who you are logged in as, with a picture above it. You can change the picture in Control Panel under User Accounts, if you wish.

Near the bottom of the list is the link to Help and Support, if you need it.

Lastly, you have the button that will shut down the computer. If you click the arrow next to it, Windows gives you other choices such as Restart and Hibernate (sleep).

Now that you have a better understanding of this important feature of Windows and most other operating systems, you might want to look at some of the other tutorials here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

What a Computer Does When You Turn it On

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Have you ever wondered what happens when you press the power button on your computer?

Well, it’s pretty straight-forward, really. Your average PC or Mac is designed in such a way that the parts are interchangeable, so when it turns on, it has to check to see if any of its parts have been removed or replaced, or if new parts have been added. It does this by running a POST, a Power On Self Test.

It checks that all the necessary parts for operation are present, such as the CPU and the RAM memory, both of which are crucial to running the computer. It also needs the components for video, either on the main circuit board or a separate video card. If any of these items are missing or faulty, the computer halts its startup and there will be nothing displayed on the screen.

If they are present, it will continue to check and test everything, then, if everything is okay, pass control over to whatever operating system you have installed on your computer’s hard drive. This could be Windows or Linux, or if the computer is a Mac, it will be Mac OS.

The operating system (OS) is a program that acts as a middle-man between you and the computer, so that you can tell the computer what you want it to do. It talks to the computer’s hardware and other programs to make things happen.

If you want to know more about your computer and the basics of the operating system, check out the other tutorials on my site.

Do I write Mum and Dad, or mum and dad?

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This can be a difficult thing for a lot of people. Most of the people I know (non-writers mostly) don’t know when you should capitalise words like mum, dad, grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunty, and any other variations of these words (eg: ma, granny, pa, papa, unck, grandfather, etc).

There is an easy answer to this, and an easy way to remember which one to use. The rule is this: if you are saying “my mum”, “my dad”, “my uncle”, and so on, you don’t need to capitalise. You are telling us the relationship you have with these people. On the other hand, if you are calling them mum, dad and uncle in place of their name, then you would use a capital letter. For example, “Hey, Dad! Dinner is ready!”You are calling him Dad instead of his given name. It is a title, just like his actual name, so, just like his actual name, you give it a capital. Or “Let’s go to Grandma’s house for lunch!” She is your grandma, but you call her Grandma.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Let me know in the comments.

What Do They Mean by “Show, Don’t Tell”?

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As writers, we constantly get told to “Show, don’t tell”. Now that’s easy for them to say, but what does that even mean? How do we “show” something? How do we know that we are “telling” instead? It’s all too confusing. I’ll try to explain, because I didn’t have a clue what they were on about.

When you “tell”, it means that you are giving too much info in terms of things like emotions. If you say that your character felt sad, you’re giving it a name and feeding that exact emotion to the reader, but being told doesn’t have the same effect as “showing” them. The way to “show” the reader what your character is feeling is to NOT give it a name. Describe the feeling instead. For example:

Telling:

I felt sad.

Showing:

Tears stung my eyes and I tried to swallow past the lump in my throat.

I hope you can see how much more interesting it is when you don’t just spoon-feed your readers. If you show them, they feel things more deeply and it is easier for them to imagine themselves in that situation. Give them room to make up their own mind about what your character is feeling.

Below is a more in-depth example to illustrate my point. I hope it’s helpful to you.

Telling:

I walked into the room and saw my boyfriend kissing another girl. I felt very angry. He tried to explain, but I screamed at him and ran out of the room.

Showing:

I pushed the door open and saw my boyfriend standing with his lips stuck to another girl’s mouth and one hand up the front of her top.

I froze. Adrenalin shot through my body and I couldn’t breathe. They broke apart and turned to look at me. There was no air in the room. My face felt cold, like all the blood had rushed to my feet.

“Cassy! I – I can explain!”

I somehow found my voice. “You bastard! How could you?”

My voice trembled and I felt the heat rise inside me, spreading to every limb and up to my face. I couldn’t be here. I had to leave. Had to get out. I turned and ran out of the room, ignoring his calls for me to stop.

As I ran, I noticed that my palms were hurting and realised that I’d clenched my fists so hard that I’d dug my fingernails into the skin. I didn’t stop to see if I’d drawn blood.

Which one did you like best? The Showing or the Telling?

Are there places in your writing that could be improved by showing and not telling? Are there any examples in your writing or in your favourite book that you’d like to share? Put them in the comments below.