Reviewing, plotting and just writing

Plotter or pantser

When I started writing, I found the question about being a “plotter or a pantser”. Plotter would be the person that plans the story before they write and a pantser would be the person that only lets the inspiration guide and build the story as they write. Initially, I was sure I would fit the plotter role, I wanted to set up everything correctly before starting to write. It didn’t work that well. As soon as I started to write, characters acquired life and different scenarios/events invaded my mind. I remember thinking then that I was definitely a pantser and welcomed the idea of getting inspired as I wrote. I ended my first manuscript of my first project, ditching the plotting and welcoming the pantsing.

The end result was not the best. After some rounds of feedback and self-revision, I found out that the story had many holes in it. The story was weak and it wasn’t working as I wanted. I started to re-shape the story, changing chapters, deleting scenes, adding new plot twists, etc. But after several rounds, I still was unhappy with it. Now that I look back, there wasn’t a time when I totally felt confident with how the plot evolved.

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Editing while writing

Then comes editing. When I started to write, without any previous experience, I reviewed/edited my reading after a couple of paragraphs or even after a single paragraph – trying to get the perfect grammar and writing. That didn’t last. This method certainly cut my inspiration and it would take me ages to finish a single chapter. Then my first NaNoWriMo came and I thought that this was the opportunity I needed to be able to end my first manuscript. And I sort of did it. I didn’t finish it, but I learn how to sit and write without giving a look to previous paragraphs. Editing would come later.

The result wasn’t the best either. There was terrible writing everywhere – not acceptable for requesting feedback. I had to go through a couple of rounds of editing before it was presentable. Those two/three rounds took me a lot of time, probably more than a month. And I really hated them.

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What I found out this time

It was trial an error. I still did a couple of mistakes when I started to write my second project. I initially tried to start as a pantser – my objective to write until the manuscript ended and already dreading the rounds of revision in advance. But I already got a feeling that the result would be a plot filled with holes and a writing so embarrassing that would only lead me to endless rounds of revisions. I stopped after a couple of chapters. Why would I need to be either a plotter or a pantser? Why I had to decide between editing while writing or editing everything at the end?

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I took a break after a couple of chapters. Then I started reviewing everything I had written. I wrote a little bit more – with a better mindset of the story in mind and continued writing. Then I reviewed my last written words, changed them into a more decent writing and continued. The result:

I write a couple of chapters. I go back to read them and do a general revision of the writing itself. I analyze the plot a little bit before continuing. I do a little bit of planning for the next chapters and continue. It’s a mix of all methods above. And I found that it works for me. There are no longer surprises, fears, or even apathy to future rounds of editing. There is no structured planned plot that cuts my inspiration but I also don’t write with no horizon in mind.

I edit my writing as I go. I don’t do it immediately, I let it sit for a couple of chapters so that it doesn’t cut the flow or the feeling of writing freely.  I go back to review the writing of previous chapters to make sure that I have a decent writing over there, knowing that at the end it won’t be a terrible manuscript, that it will be readable and that might only need few editing before requesting feedback. I like my own method. And I’m not suggesting it to other people. I’m only saying that each writer has to find its own way to do things…

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Celebrating Christmas in the middle of the Heat

When people think of Christmas, they usually imagine a Snowy postcard image, with Reindeers, snowmen, and people wearing winter clothes. Even if you look for Christmas clothes, you’ll find they are always sweaters – like the infamous ugly Christmas sweater -, scarfs, beanies, etc. It is not as you can find tank tops or flip flops with Christmassy designs.

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As you already know, there is a South hemisphere that will have a very sunny and in-the-middle of summer Christmas. This geolocalization does not ruin Christmas for us. We still pretend to put fake snow around our trees and Christmas decorations. There are still polyethylene foam snowmen decorating the main squares and parks of the city.

However, this Holiday Season has been different in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The city where I live. We’ve experienced one of the worst droughts ever. And water shortage has been the biggest concern of our lives. I haven’t met a person who doesn’t literally pray and wish for rain. It has indeed rained a couple of times this month, but it has not been enough. Valleys and rivers are drying. Wild animals and crops are dying as a consequence. The local government is trying to pull off a couple of solutions, but nobody knows if these projects (dams and tunnels built to bring water from other places) will be sustainable solutions in the long term. We need the rain. Global warming is a fact, and we’re experimenting the consequences.

For Cochabambinos – people from my city – appreciating this resource has become part of our lives. We’ve learned the lesson. We try to save as much as we can and spend as less as possible. I take showers as fast as possible. I don’t let water be wasted. I only wash the necessary clothes and only when needed.  Most Cochabambinos cannot bear seeing people wasting water: like car washers that don’t recycle water or other unneeded uses of water.

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I had relatives visiting a couple of weeks:  my aunt and my uncle, both from Santa Cruz, a city in Bolivia that has no problems with water. Although, they are aware of the shortage of water in this city, their behavior towards water is different from ours. You don’t wash a dish in several minutes, you do it fast. If you buy fruit, you don’t clean them one by one, you save water from the tap by washing them all at once. Of course, it is not their fault, but my aunt and uncle will be far from understanding the meaning of saving water, unless they move over here.

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Unfortunately, you learn to appreciate a natural resource only when there is a lack or shortage of it. When probably it is too late. And similar to my aunt and uncle who only live a city away from mine, other people in the world won’t be able to understand this problem until they experiment it. Whoever that does not pay attention to Climate change is really lost.

This is Christmas. It is nice. But if it were raining, it would be the best Christmas ever for me.

 

 

Delivering Happiness

Well, it took me some time to write this post. I was kind of busy preparing my exit at my current job and readying for my new job. I will start in November working as Happiness Engineer for Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com and many other web solutions that seek to make the web a better place). So of course, I’m thrilled. The title of the position is very accurate actually. Happiness engineers deliver customer support but also go beyond that; they make sure WordPress.com users (mostly) go through a smooth and happy experience as they build and manage their blogs or sites.

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Having the opportunity to help people with their sites’ issues and provide them advice, tips, and tools to make things better are exactly the tasks I enjoy the most. Anticipating their needs and contributing with their blogs’ journeys is fantastic. Of course, we can’t solve everything. And I really wish we could, but being there to support and empathize with them is what makes this a great job. We deliver a little bit of happiness in each of our tasks.

So, how did I find this position? It was not that easy, and it was a long path. Basically, you need to prove you’re a good match for this company. And how do you do that? Well, Automattic looks for people who’re interested in learning every single day and growing each time more (I love that!). And what better way to know if you’re a good match for them than to “trying yourself”? Yes, you do that. You go through a paid trial so they can assess if you’re a good fit for the company’s culture or not. But this trial doesn’t only work for their assessment, you also get to taste the company’s culture and see if the role is made for you.

What other characteristics are awesome about Automattic? The company is totally distributed. Meaning that Automatticians (people who work at Automattic) get to work from wherever they are in the world. Living and being from Bolivia, this is certainly a huge plus. (Although, I totally believe the future will be like this). They hire based on what you can bring into the company and not based on where you’re located or if it’s possible to relocate. And let’s be honest, as a passionate traveler, I’m excited about working remotely.

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However, you can’t only assess a company based on the benefits and your position. You need to hunt for the “totally awesome” career factors. You need to hunt for a company that will push you to grow, learn endlessly, and contribute as much as possible. In the little time as a HE trial, I’ve learned more than what I did in all my career life. Period. I can only imagine how much I will be able to learn once I start working with them. My skills will grow exponentially 🙂 And although many companies push you towards continuous learning, some of them actually limit you without noticing (after all, they want you to make the job for which you were hired and not intervene too much with others’ work). At Automattic, I’m sure I won’t be limited. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a technical background (like me), your opinion and your work is taken into account. You can even rotate and explore as many areas as you like. 🙂

So why do I believe this is my dream job? For me working as HE will let me:

  • Help people every single day and at every single second
  • Grow and learn every single second
  • Have infinite possibilities to contribute
  • Have more flexibility to travel and get to know the world
  • Have really awesome perks (Did I mention you get to travel a couple of times a year to meet the team and the company, you get your home office set up – with the best laptop in the market, the chair of my dreams, a huge monitor, a great desk, endless WordPress swag – and so many other perks?)

I’m super excited. I know the job is going to be challenging (which I look forward to), but at the same time I feel like I’ve received one of the greatest opportunities to have finally the life that I want. I’m also excited to continue writing my books. But the writing journey conditions will be a million times better with a great job supporting me and my family.

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TED Talk: Why you will fail to have a career?

Loved this talk! For all of you who still hadn’t found out your passion or know what is your passion but are too afraid to pursuit, then this is the talk for you!

Actually, this is the talk for all the people who want to have a goal in life and achieve it!

Professor Larry Smiths presents, in quite a peculiar way, a talk that changes lives and inspires. He is a professor of economics at University of Waterloo. A well-known storyteller and advocate for youth leadership, he has also mentored many of his students on start-up business management and career development. The most notable start-up he advised in its infancy is Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry.

Invest 15 minutes in this talk and it will be an investment for life!

 

The TED talk all women should see

I try to start my workday with a TED talk. I wish I could say I do this daily, but sometimes I can’t. I usually do it when my work energy level is low or when I feel I need motivation to go with the work routine. Today I came across with “Why do ambitious women have flat heads?” by Dame Stephanie Shirley.  The title was enough to call my attention since sometimes when the talk’s title is too predictable, I might just pass it. But this one wasn’t and I’m glad I clicked it.

Dame Stephanie Shirley had it rough. She was one of the Jewish kids saved by being sent to families in northern England during the Second World War . She grew up in an era where women’s only objective was to get married and have kids. There were scarce work opportunities for them. I work in the software industry. Women in the 60’s didn’t just pursuit that area at all. But one woman did it. And this terrific woman showed nothing is impossible. Yes, there was a programming market in that era, believe it or not. If you want to know exactly how it worked, then you have to check the video.

Stephanie Shirley went through all the fights my generation didn’t have too. My generation won’t suffer that gender discrimination again. We have it easy. And what are we doing with our lives? We don’t aim high enough. We don’t dream big enough. We don’t do the fights for the next generations.

I invite you to watch the following TED talk (only 13 minutes of your time but worth your life change).