Monthly Archives: April 2013

Advice from an Old Pro

I went to a conference recently where an experienced writer shared his process for writing. He writes nonfiction and fiction, mostly in the western genre. It’s not the genre that interested me, but his writing process. He has several Open Top Bin Boxes, QV. He puts together files for his story ideas, scenes, character research, and anything else he thinks of into standard file folders and files all the ideas in one Bin Box.

Once he has his physical files set up to receive data, he types no more than three pages about the subject he intends to write about (he typed with two fingers in the air as he described this step). Then he cuts his pages into subject strips of paper and pastes them on the top of manila files. (I’m not making this up, folks.) As he generates ideas under the subject headings, he puts them into the manila files until he has sufficient information to write his book or article.

Using this tried and true method, he has over forty books and over 300 articles!

As I listened to his description of how he worked, I saw the lady beside me taking down his every word. When he finished the group took a ten minute break. I told her there was software now that performed the same functions. (Check here for a link to find a link to Scrivener and some Alternatives to Scrivener). I told her how to find Scrivener and some Alternatives.

I like Scrivener, especially with complicated projects. More about Scrivener later.

Finally, It Works

After two days of fiddling with settings, I finally found a Search Engine Optimizer that works for me. That’s not to say that the others I tried don’t work. It’s just that I couldn’t make them work. I believe I gave them an honest effort.

The one I got to work is Simple SEO. I downloaded the file to my computer, then clicked on Plugins and Add New. Then I went to my downloads on my computer, and clicked on it, then installed it. It found my blog the first time – no fuss, no muss, no bother. I may be missing some high tech tools from the more complicated SEOs, but with them I couldn’t get on the Internet, with this one, I was on the first try.

Using WordPress with Plugins: Gaining Experience

I have spent most of my weekend attempting to get WordPress online and operational. The WordPress per se is working, but I can’t get any Search Engine Optimizer, SEO, to work. The problem has many facets. First, I’m new to both WordPress and using plugins. Then WordPress SEO instructions are severely lacking in step by step detail. Like a lot of technical writing I’ve seen over the years, the writer assumes you know what he knows and starts from there.

That’s a bad assumption. When you are doing technical writing, Mr. Yoast, you should assume your readers know next to nothing about what you are saying, then build from there. I have been introduced to unexplained terms and concepts until I’m blue in the face, and still, I can’t find my page.

So, if you are totally unfamiliar with computers, the learning curve is pushed upwards by the lack of clear instructions.

Another problem is this. Yoast takes you to different pages with his instructions, as in ‘open a new page.’ When I try to back track to what I was reading just before I went to WordPress SEO, I can’t find it. So, I have to go through the steps to get to the previous page again. It’s frustrating.

Oddly, Yoast provided a survey which asked one question: “Why have you taken this survey?” or something like that. The obvious and only answer is, “Because you asked me to.”

I’ll keep trying until I find someone or something that helps me to connect to Google Search. Then, it’s off to Bing.


I Began Storytelling

I began storytelling at an early age. My brother and I had a game we played together where we developed a character, an avatar of one of us, used the character through stories we created. The stories were always stories of the adventures the boy had.

I don’t recall we ever named the character, maybe we did, I’m not sure. But, we knew him well. Whenever we were telling a story about him, if we deviated from his profile, a word we didn’t know then, one of us would point out he wouldn’t do whatever the other was proposing. So the game went on for years.

I think we played until I was about fourteen years old. My brother was sixteen when I was fourteen. One day he announced that he was no longer going to play our game. He felt like he was too old to play anymore.

I went on playing for years by myself. I think I stopped somewhere in my early twenties. But, for the next forty years I thought about my stories. Like many others, I didn’t have time to write, or so I thought.

Finally, when I retired, I began working on my stories again, this time, writing them down. Unfortunately, the first thing I did was write a novel. That novel is very rough, perhaps hopelessly flawed. I have it in a box on a shelf behind me. I have looked at it, then think about how much editing will have go go into it and put it back. Maybe some day …

I wrote short stories while writing the novel, and submitted them to magazines for publication. So far, I have had only a few publications.

Then I heard an inspiring presenter at the West Texas Trail Writer’s Conference in Ft. Davis, Texas, in 2012. His name was Mike Blakely. He was such a high level professional in how he went about writing, I moved to change what I was doing and began to emulate his  practice. With a year of listening to him, I had written four books. I am not caught up with editing everything I wrote, but I love how much I have accomplished.

His major points were:

  • Visualize what you are writing about
  • If you can, go to the scene – since I write fiction, I find pictures off the Internet that depict what I am visualizing, then describe them in my text.
  • Get as much background as you can on your characters – again, since my characters are fictitious, I develop a broad character sketch.
  • He also learned to outline by studying what others were doing – I use a story board, then an outline, then transfer that data to (more about that later).

I hope I have recalled correctly his process. If not, it is no fault of his.


About This Blog

Why Have a Blog? Reason One

Like many other authors, I wanted to create a site where I could get word out to potential readers about my writing. That’s one reason for this blog. I’ve read Nina Amir’s Kindle book on blogging a book and wanted to have my own blog after reading hers, though hers is for nonfiction and my writings are fiction. Nonetheless, her recommendation is to have a blog even if you are writing fiction.

I’ve told my friends on Facebook about my writings, but at times I feel like I’m imposing on them when I talk about what I write. So, one solution was to create a FB page about my writings, which I’ve done, the second was to create a blog. Viola.

Why Have a Blog? Reason Two

My second reason for having a blog is to write about my experience in learning to be a writer and share what I find about beginning writing. I’ve noticed that many new writers, like myself, feel like an ‘owl among crows’ when they attend workshops or writing groups. Often, they don’t ask questions for fear of looking and feeling dumb. And, they shy away from interaction for the same reasons. This blog is for them (and me).

What to expect from my blog

So, with these reasons in mind, I will talk about what I’ve experienced while learning to write, which is an ongoing experience. I will also include gems that I think will help others either by pointing to them with links, or quoting the sources.

What is your role?

If you choose, you can simply read my blog and go on about your business, or you can subscribe to it. If you like, you can ask questions, or give me comments about what was helpful to you or not. Either way, thanks for viewing my site or contributing to it


Puerta Vallarta 016                             Welcome to “But a Single Step: Roger W. Manning.” This site is dedicated to issues related to writing novels and short stories as well as my writings. I will keep readers updated on my writings as well as comment about issues that writers, new and old , encounter and how to address them.