The photo atop the blog (and below, in case I change the blog’s photo) was taken by me. Its purpose is to promote the novel (Shifting Mars’ Sands) that I’m currently reviewing with a writers’ group. With any luck, in the spring, I’ll start a quest to find an agent.
It shows the first page of the manuscript. On it, is a Moleskin™ notebook that I recorded notes from my research. Also, I created a map of Mars where most of the action takes place.
The final flourish is a Levenger™ fountain pen that is apropos to the blog’s name.
I didn’t create any of these items because I knew I’d want a picture of them. They were all useful.
Take, for instance, the map. I didn’t have it while I wrote the first draft of the novel. When I was proofreading, I realized in one scene at a cave at the base of a mountain range bordering a valley that I had the sun setting in the characters eyes when they walked out of the cave. A couple chapters later, the characters walked out of the same cave in the morning with the sun rising and nearly blinding them.
That’s a neat trick, standing in the same position at dawn and sunset with the sun in your eyes both times. Oops! At that point, I hand drew a map (later I made a computer version that you see in the blog header–no one wants to see my chicken scratch map), so I’d know which direction my characters were facing or driving.
I caught the mistake before either of the chapters hit my writers’ group. I would’ve been embarrassed if someone there caught such a fundamental problem. I don’t even want to think about it slipping by them and an agent or editor noticing the problem.
A lot goes into writing a novel, and many tools are needed to keep everything straight. When I started this project, I never imagined I’d need a map, but now that I have it, it’s easier to write the outside scenes.
I found dictionary.com/thesaurus.com to be incredibly use for obvious purposes. At some point, I wandered across the definitions of “thesaurus.” Everyone knows it’s a book of synonyms. What I learned, however, was that one of its meanings is storehouse or repository. That sense of the word worked perfectly in the story.
I can’t discount wikipedia, either. Everyone knows to steer away from it when it comes to hot button issues or controversial persons. But for pure data on Mars and scientific theories, I found it an excellent starting point.
I paid $10 dollars for a musical scale wheel that shows the key and the notes that comprise the key. It helped me tweak a scene to the point where no one questioned the factual musical information presented.
For my new project, I have a calendar for 2069. I used Skymap Pro to discover the time of moonrise in Pittsburgh for a night in 2069. If it helps you get words on the page and have them be accurate, I say use it and keep using it.
While the desire to write my new novel burns within, I continue to research and plan, so when I write it, I’ll put a better effort on paper than my previous first draft.