Tag Archives: DuoLingo

Too Much Story

This week I had the problem of having too much story for my goal. I am only writing short stories right now, and it didn’t take me very long to figure out that the story I had started was not something that could be told that quickly.

I started by showing my main character standing at the sink and thinking about everything that had just happened to him. I spent a few paragraphs talking about how there are secret things lurking just beneath the surface, and how at any minute they can pop up and ruin your life.

And that’s when I made the big mistake. I wrote the following sentence:

My house was a wreck, my car was in the police impound lot, my wife had taken the kids to stay with her sister, and my dog was missing.

So now I had to write a story which covered all of those things. A SHORT story.

Did I pull it off? Not so much.

While I did end up with a story that had at least mentioned all of those things, I actually never got around to wrapping things up into a full circle. The story kind of works, but it really needs to be a LOT longer.

I’m going to count it as done, even though it sucks. Like I said, I did get at least something in there for everything I had mentioned in that sentence. And the last sentence of the story provides a nice ending point. I could certainly do a lot more with it, and the situation brought up in the opening paragraph is totally left hanging, but that part could simply be removed in edits. Or, I could take what I have as a starting point and blow it up into a complete novel. I’m really tempted to do that, possibly for NaNoWriMo.

In other news, I’m still going strong on both the Magic Spreadsheet (82 days in my chain), and on DuoLingo (33 days in a row). I still only know 165 words of Spanish, but at least I am continuing to practice, and hopefully some of it is sinking in.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back next week to fill you in on yet another story in the growing Dirty Little Freaks anthology. See you then!

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A Man and His Dog

Once again I started a story with no real idea where it was going. I began by describing an ugly dog. A mutt whose better days were all behind him. And then I decided that my hero was the human equivalent. A bum who lived out of trash cans, but still had a code of honor.

The story was nothing special at first. I just told how he rolled into town and found a meal in exchange for doing some odd jobs for a widow. But I couldn’t leave it there. Our hero got jumped by an overprotective neighbor and the dog protected him. Together they made their escape, and that was the start of their friendship.

Again, this is a story that will probably need a lot of editing before it becomes what it should be. I think I need to amp up the dog’s part in the story building up to the fight. I might want to bring in the attacker a little earlier in order to foreshadow the conflict and increase the tension.

But at least the bones of the story are there. And I practiced using description, which is something I have struggled with. My writing tends to be a little on the bland side, and I am trying to work on that.

In other news, my Magic Spreadsheet chain is still going strong, and I am still using DuoLingo on a daily basis. I’m not adding new words very quickly, but I’m getting a lot of practice with the ones I already know.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back next week to tell you about Story #32. I wonder what it will be?

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So Much For That Idea

Last week I posted about being a prisoner to the daily word count of the Magic Spreadsheet.

Okay, not really, but it sort of fits. The story was about a prisoner, and after I talked about that, I mentioned how I was going to stop writing to fit the word count and just write to fit the story. I said that it would be okay if I wrote a shorter story and then I could spend the rest of the week getting my word count by either editing or adding to one of my previous novels.

It didn’t work.

My story this week took me the whole week to write, primarily because I really didn’t know where I was going with it until the end. It opened with a man standing guard over a survivor’s camp after the zombie apocalypse. Before you start drooling over brains, and imagining someone’s guts being torn out and passed around like extra-large kielbasa, let me set you straight. There was absolutely no violence in this story.

Instead, it was an in-between scene. It was entirely about the character and his priorities. There was some dialogue in it as he interacted with some of the other people in his life, but absolutely no head shots. For most of the week, though, I was trying to figure out how to bring in the zombies, and why. It wasn’t until the end that I realized what was going on, and was able to wrap up the tale with a satisfying ending.

Don’t get me wrong. It still sucks. But at least I have something that might be either salvageable with a lot of editing, or that can be either the basis for a longer story or at the very least a scene or two for a novel.

If nothing else, it was good practice, which is primarily what this whole year-long project is about.

Speaking of projects, I recently started a project to re-learn Spanish. I had a couple of years of classes in high school (25 years ago!), but most of that is long gone by now. A couple of my friends clued me in to an app called DuoLingo (duolingo.com) that is completely free, and lets me learn at my own pace. It is built like a game, and you earn points for every time you practice. The learning modules are built into a multiple tier structure, where you unlock the next tier as you complete the prior one. Each lesson consists of about twenty questions, and you get three wrong answers, or hearts (like lives on a video game), before you have to start over. You get ten points for completing the lesson, with one bonus point for each heart you have left at the end.

You can also link to Facebook and compete with your friends. I’ve got three friends on it now, but I would love it if any of my loyal fans want to join me in this. I’m currently in the lead on points with my friends, but only after a long struggle to catch up. Also, even though I am ahead on points, she has learned more than double the amount of words that I have.

I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I? One of the best things I like about this app is that I don’t have to do a lesson every time. Instead of pushing onward, I can earn the same number of points simply by practicing what I have already learned. And believe me, that is a lifesaver! If anything is going to let me be successful at this, it is that. I realized after only a few days that I wasn’t going to be able to keep all of those new words in my head without a whole lot of practice drills. So now, most of my time is spent practicing, and I only attempt a new lesson once every day or two.

The languages available on the app are Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Portuguese. The app is available online at duolingo.com, or for iOS and Android. If you are doing it online you should have a microphone available, as part of the lesson is repeating the words out loud, so you can practice pronunciation. I am learning Spanish, primarily on my iPod Touch. You need a network connection to practice, and to compete, but not for the lessons.

That’s about enough for today. I hope at least some of you give DuoLingo a try. I love it, and it’s free, so you can’t beat the price. But for now, I’ve got to start writing my next story.

See you next week!

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