Use This for That: DIY Black Dry Erase Board

Black Dry Erase Board

As a writer, I use a whiteboard as a catch all. From important dates to writing targets, to witty lines that I’ll undoubtedly find less witty when I get around to adding them to my manuscript, a whiteboard is like flypaper for my scattered mind. I’ve written about my whiteboard before here. There’s just one problem. I’d grown sick of using it.

Before I dove into the land of writing, I was a teacher and as such, used a whiteboard daily. I love the dry erase format but my office whiteboard seemed to function as a constant work reminder rather than an inspiration board like I had intended. It was almost as if it was standing over my shoulder with a coffee cup asking for my TPS reports. I just couldn’t take it any more. I needed something different but something that could still serve the same function.

I’d seen black dry erase boards online and had been pining over them for months. There was something about the bright neon writing on the stark, black background that just seemed right. Each note, an idea shining through the aether rather than jotted down on dirty white page. Here in Switzerland black dry erase boards are very hard to come by and world wide, they’re stupidly expensive. I spent a couple of months trying to justify the expense until one day I decided to put on my MacGyver mullet (figuratively, of course) and get inventive. Continue reading

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Use This for That: Scapple – Digital Stickies and So Much More

So a few months ago I got all excited and filled an entire wall of my apartment with multicolored sticky notes. It was beautiful and oh so satisfying to step back and see all of the planning I had just done. The problem was that there was no way I could make that process sustainable. It required too much paper, too much wall space, and too much time.

Sticky note wall

As I usually do, I wrote to my good friend, author of The Stars Were Right and Old Broken Road, K.M. Alexander to show off my masterwork. As he usually does, he gave me a great suggestion for a better tool. We both use Scrivener  as our primary word processor and the company who makes it also makes a helpful little gem called Scapple. It’s essentially a digital sticky note wall but with so many more great features.

Scapple Example

Sorry about obscuring the notes but I can’t go and give away my secrets now can I?

Anyway, this is just a small example of what you can do with Scapple. I’ve got the main characters on the left and I use lines to track their appearances throughout the scenes. The dark rectangles represent chapters and the stickies inside detail the general actions of each character that shows up in that chapter. I’ve also got some things going on with arrows but they are hard to see in the picture so we’ll just ignore that part.

I’m still somewhat new to the program so there is a lot I have yet to learn. Also, if you aren’t a fan of my green background, don’t worry, the default is white and you can either choose solid colors or use photos as a backdrop.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the program as its website does a great job describing its many functions.

Scapple is available from good people at Literature and Latte. It’s affordable and you can download a free 30-day trial. In this case, each day you open the program counts as one of your thirty days so conceivably you can stretch the free trial out for much more than just a month.

 

I’m not working for Literature and Latte nor am I endorsed by them. This isn’t meant to be a commercial. Their products just kick ass and have made my writing life much easier so I thought I’d spread the word. Give it a try. Or don’t.

Use This for That : The Myers-Briggs Test for Character Development

During one of my weekly writing group sessions, our host, outstanding author Hazel Manuel  brought up an idea that she and another of our colleagues discussed at a recent lunch (I’d name the other person but I haven’t been able to ask permission yet). This idea was to use the Myers-Briggs Test as a way to define the personalities of the characters in our stories.

So what’s the Myers-Briggs Test?

The Myers-Briggs is a personality test that was developed by mother/daughter dynamic duo of psychology Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers which expanded on theories first put forth by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It uses a series of questions to place aspects of one’s personality into definable categories.

Each of the categories are assigned two letters of which the test taker will receive one depending on how the questions are answered. After all scoring is complete the subject will have a four letter code that can be used to further examine parts of their personality.

The letter pairs and their root words are:

Extraversion – Introversion

Sensing-INtuition

Thinking-Feeling

Judging-Perceiving

When I took this free online version myself, I discovered my code was ENTP. This wasn’t surprising. I’ve taken the test as part of various staff meeting activities in the past with similar if not the results. Repeatable results are the cornerstone of good science!

Now what does this have to do with our characters? Continue reading