thinkinglazy

Talking about stuff!

United Airlines, there’s no second chance to make a first impression

Hello all,

At the moment, I have no intention of using United Airlines again because of this horrid first experience I am about to share with you. I have recently arrived to the US to prepare for yet another masters degree in management and, being here for the first time ever, I am having many novel experiences. Some of them, unfortunately, worst than others. My first experience with United Airlines is among the unfortunate ones.

On 15 October 2014 I booked a two-way flight from New York, NY, to Ontario, CA, departure on the 21st of December 2014 and returning on the 29th of December 2014. On 28 November, however, something came up and I needed to cancel my return flight, which I had forgotten if it was refundable or not. So I consulted the website and started with the reservation cancellation process which told me that I was to be refunded about $400 for cancelling my return flight, changing the entire dynamics of my trip expense. Naturally, I proceeded with the cancellation and then calamity struck. Just after clicking the confirmation button an error had occurred. I then requested a travel itinerary and was given one without my return flight, which I assumed meant that the cancellation went smoothly and the error was simply a matter of a malfunctioning in the website displaying the confirmation message.

To put my doubts at ease, I called the United Airlines customer service center to ask about this issue and my assigned representative eventually brought to my attention that while my ticket was obtained via the United Airlines website, it was not on a United Airlines flight but on a US Airways one. He recommended that I sort the issue out with them, but I never went through with it and decided to give it some time, guessing, rather hoping, that the real problem was simply a matter of delayed response that did not reflect in my bank account immediately.

A few days later I checked my bank account via this fascinating online banking system Wells Fargo has (I have become quite loyal to them over the past few months due to exceptional service) and found that the refund had not yet been deposited. I assumed that this was a matter of processing time and did not panic yet. But after two more weeks of waiting with no result, I decided to call US Airways, whom I was recommended to consult by the earlier United Airlines representative, to inquire about this issue.

The customer service representative was quick to respond to my inquiries and revealed to me that my ticket has been indeed booked but it was modified on a later date, November 28, but the details of the modification was not recorded on their system. She told me that I needed to contact the ticket issuer, United Airlines, and that was that.

Once again, I find myself talking to a representative of United Airlines, a representative with such a heavy accent that I had a tremendously difficult time understanding her, and, after a long and tedious process of going on repeatedly on hold, I was informed that my ticket was canceled and that the only option I had was to receive a coupon worth $290.70 but I needed to have my card charged $200 first (netting to a real value of $90.70). When I asked if I could undo the cancellation I was told that it was not possible, after going on hold yet again for a few minutes.

I then thanked her for her assistance and told her that I did not want the coupon; in the back of my mind the only thought that kept echoing was that I will never book or fly with United Airlines again.

This post is not intended to serve as a venue by which I could rant about United Airlines. The real purpose is to share my story with everyone interested so that it would shed some light on the misaligned information between different sources seeming to be on the same page. I wish that no one would ever experience this again and truly hope that United Airlines would look deeper into this issue, which I have sent them an elaborate email about, so that no one would ever be subjected to such a costly and frustrating endeavor.

Have a wonderful, wonderful day/evening/night.

On Writing: The Choice Diagram

About a month ago I started working on my new book, a poor choice considering that I have not yet completed my fourth installment of Book of Kayal, because I found myself in a unique position to learn about writing from some incredibly talented writers and professors.

This one, however, is different from all my former stories, mainly because it is an exaggerated and science-fiction version of an interesting former experience of mine, which I chose not to disclose at the moment. Also I expect to improve my skills writing this book at an accelerated rate compared to the other books because of the vast wealth of resources available to me, including mentoring.

Yet I still continue to develop my own writing process and refrain from using that of someone else, unless for exercising purposes, and only pick up elements which I find potentially useful and testing them. One of the new additions I have come to explore is the ‘choice diagram’, essentially a diagram for all the main characters in the story which states the choices they have for all decisions contributing to plot development.

For example, the first chapter/part in my new story, which I decided to name ‘Palladium Falls’, is about a man trying to put together a case stating that robots – specifically a highly, self-evolving type of robots – should have their own freedom. The first set of choices he face is to go through the process through the courts or through the scientific community, he chooses the first. Then he faces a choice of bringing a robot to be questioned, bearing in mind that it would provide both him and his opponent the opportunity to take advantage of this situation, or bring one of the scientists working on the self-evolving program supplied to the robots.

The choices go on as such until the conclusion is reached. At the moment I am experimenting with simple ‘choice diagrams’ considering that I don’t really understand its potential impact yet, or whether it is better to have a complicated/detailed one or a simple one, yet I intend to develop a set of integrated diagrams by which all choices made by the main characters are influenced by one another. Essentially I plan to have this diagram visually depict the perspectives of the characters as they continue to interact and develop.

Maybe this is a completely useless idea, or maybe it is the best idea I have come up with since I decided to pick up writing.

Why I haven’t been posting much

Dear followers and all those who read this post,

I have not had the opportunity to write much lately, thus there was nothing to post about, due to an interesting and unexpected development in my life, I have gotten into Yale to prepare for my second Master’s degree. It has been busy and extremely interesting. Next semester, however, I intend to take up a new sci-fi project that should put all the skills I learnt into good use. I will keep you posted about it when I start working on this piece.

Best.

On Writing: Revision Preperations

It has come to my attention that I have not been preparing for revision enough. Hell, I have not even been trying to learn how to do it write and in a structured way.

A few days ago while surfing Youtube, I came across an interesting video about editing your book. After watching it, I decided to start over and take notes, preparing some sort of checklist about how to edit.

The list, a group of simple errors to look for, so far goes as follows:

Error 1: shifting point of view in the middle of scene. EX: A character cannot know if their cheeks are red without seeing them.

Error 2: painting a scene without knowing whose point of view it is. Make sure it is made clear in the first two paragraphs, if not sentences.

Error 3: describing an experience that no one had. EX: Shouting that no one heard.

Error 4: a character thinking about themselves as a different person. No one thinks of themselves as ‘the boy’, rather ‘name’, ‘he’ or ‘I’.

Error 5: information dumps; when actions stop delivering the information mid action narration. Use different situations and organize them like a puzzle so reader could pick up and later feel proud about ‘getting it’. Did I stop my story to tell?

Error 6: the ‘as’ factor/cause and effect fallacy/order of events problem. In cause and effect, the effect does not follow the cause, as should be. EX: ‘He arched his back as electricity shot through his spine’, this should be, ‘electricity shot through his spine, making/causing his back to arch’.

Error 7: the ‘ing’ factor. Things that happen at the same time but should not. EX: ‘Battling as he drew his sword’. It is not possible to battle while drawing your sword, the latter is the prerequisite for the first.

Error 8: telling instead of showing. Vague adjectives without a visual. EX: Fierce is not a visual, drawing teeth is. Cold is not visual but shivering is. Use colors, textures, body language and visual explanation. Happy to be replaced by smiling, trotting, energetically moving. EX: ‘he was intrigued’ to ‘raised his eyebrows in intrigue’.

Exception: when trying to get to once scene from another it gets exhausting to show instead of telling.

Error 9: changing speakers with no new paragraph.

Error 10: speaker tags problem. You cannot smile, or signal a word, it has to come from a sound. Creative speaker tags make you sound like an idiot. Chirped, hissed, howled…etc. Those are only acceptable in fast action settings with no time for a dialogue because it does not slow down the pace.

Exception: pace is more important than speaker tag rules

Error 11: lack of use of invisible tags, (said and asked).

Error 12: Speaker tags at the end of the speeches used often. Put them at the beginning to try and notify the reader of who is talking.

Error 13: separating dialogue with a bead (description of actions) without a natural pause in the dialogue.

Error 14: foreshadowing something that is not used. Do not mention a weapon without having it being used.

PS: Person first said second is more common in adult books than in children books. It is an archaic method of writing, use it more in fantasy and less in other genres.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKw80FwZJU0

On Writing: Refining The Formula

I finally got some time to go on a writing bonanza and started working on the third part of my current five-part-book. I noticed that as I proceeded,my interests shifted and I forgot what message I originally wanted to send, even though I prepared the semi-detailed outline I previously mentioned, and where I wanted the story to go.

I came across another problem, the chapters started slowly loosing flow – not in terms of the story, but in terms of writing style – and it occurred to me that another formula was needed inside the one I originally followed.

Just to keep things updated, I will say a little about the format I loosely follow:

  1. I start with a ‘golden idea’, a unique message I want to send
  2. Then I move to the outlining of my 5-chapter part system, where each book is composed of parts consisting of five chapters each
  3. After the outline I move to the detailed outline of each part as I work on it, so its simply a module-based way of expanding the first outline that clearly states the goal, characters and obstacles for achieving this goal
  4. Then I start writing the part
  5. When I am done with the part,I start repeating steps (3) and (4) until the book is finished
  6. Finally, I revise the content and update it, trying to add small details I feel are relevant or delete ones not related to the story or of little value

But then I noticed over the past few days that the stories, while focusing on the goal and the general progression of the idea, lacks enough descriptive feel. In short, the story and dialogue proceeds just fine, albeit in a liner fashion of which I do not entirely approve, but the setting is becoming ignored.

I ended up having the last chapter composed of great, meaningful conversations that take place nowhere.

This made me realize that I need to further add to the general formula I have been using on an even smaller, more detailed level, that of each conversation and situation. Perhaps this is simply not my style, and I personally know that many people do not really care about the setting and just want to get the message, but still it bothers me that it is not yet coming to me as second nature.

Good luck and happy living.

On Writing: Songs and Poems

Now I know nothing about writing songs and poems, and whatever I know about writing in general is fairly limited, save for one thing: they are amazingly effective and keeping a story in mind.

For the past nine months I have been struggling to get any writing done due to time constraint. The one thing I noticed, however, was that I often had free time in no longer than 15-30 minute chunks. While this was not enough for me to write anything, for it takes me some time to get in the mood of writing and get my thoughts straight, it enough for me to write a verse or short song/poem about one of my stories. This did a good job of keeping it in mind and getting new ideas.

My current work in progress is a continuation of my series “Book of Kayal’ and reached a total of just under 30k words at the moment, about a third of its expected completed length, and I tried applying a new outlining method which, unfortunately, is not working very well for me. I found myself deviating from it lately, even more so when I started writing these little songs, and will have to go through several revisions of the outline by the time I am completed with the story. I cannot say if this is a better thing for the story in general or not, but it is certainly distracting me from progressing with it.

I will continue to keep you updated as something new comes about. Perhaps I will share one of my amateurish attempts at making a relevant song for one of my stories.

New Entrepreneur Blog

As promised, I have started a blog to test how much interest a book I intend to write will attract. It is about my experiences starting-up a small business, running it and shutting it down. It will develop in time to include more information and experiences. From now on there will be little/no new content about business.

There is the link: http://startupshareblog.wordpress.com/

 

On Business: Writing The Book

My apologies to all the followers who expected to hear more about my business but could not. To be perfectly honest, I was looking forward to sharing my knowledge, but was worried about compromising my business edge, which was clearly not a valid concern.

The good news, however, is that I have decided to prepare a book to share my experiences about starting up a business. Unlike other books, it will not be about success, but about failure and the lessons learnt from such a valuable experience. It is not a part of my life that I regret, rather one that fills me with pride.

I will start preparing an outline and start a new blog with weekly, I hope, updates about my progress to test how useful an interesting this experience is for others. You will be posted about the details later.

On Writing: Keeping Thoughts

As I have told you in the previous post, one of the largest problems facing me is keeping my stories in mind when I have no time to sit and write. Songs and poems were the first of my solutions and, so far, they have been not only keeping my story in mind, but also contributing to the generation of new ideas and motivating me to write.

I have been keeping a little purple book with me at almost all times and use it to jot down notes on any subjects that come to mind. One of the ideas that came to me today stemmed from a reflection on my past and future. I finally realized that what I really want to do in life is: contribute to the betterment of mankind in any way I can, even if the contribution is minimal.

Thus I believe that by using writing to reflect on my few experiences so far I could make a difference and, at the very least, entertain a few people. I am considering writing a book about my failed business, analyzing the possible mistakes at the same time.

PS: notice that there are very few books about failures and many about successes. Is it not possible that we stand to gain more from learning about failures?

On Writing: Getting in the Mood

So I haven’t been posting anything here in a month or two due to my abnormally busy schedule. I am starting to understand just how difficult it is for non-full-time writers to finish any of their work.

I’ve had a week off and used it to work on my fifth book, which had been left untouched for over a month. To my surprise, I found myself completely lost, both in terms of story and mood. It took me two days of rereading the chapters I write and fiddling with the outline to adjust it to my current mood, or perhaps to get into the mood which I intended to write with, and finally continue.

Writing a book while keeping the same general thoughts and emotions during the process is critical, I noticed, for the harmonious flow. Thus I suggest any writer to work on your book every day, or at least every other day, to keep doing progress in it and, most importantly, to keep it in mind and heart.

If I had not prepared an outline, the whole 15k words I wrote would have surely gone to waste.

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