Have Books, Will Read, Need Time

November 25, 2013

Recently, I’ve had the good luck to acquire a nice stack of new (or new-to-me) writing books.

Writing Books

They are …

Publishing E-books for Dummies by Ali Luke – This is fairly technical reading, but after checking it out from the library, I really wanted my own copy as a reference. I’m about halfway through and plan to use it as my Bible for formatting and publishing Rumpled.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide by Angela Ackerman – I bought this one because I wanted to bring an Amazon order up to $25 so I could get the free shipping. I read about this book in Writers Digest and put it on my wishlist long ago. It has an alphabetical listing of emotions, along with some common facial expressions, gestures, or other mannerisms that are outward signs of that emotion. It’s not the type of book one reads cover-to-cover, but I thought it might be useful when I feel there’s too much lip-biting or hand-wringing going on. I haven’t used it yet, though … now that I have it, I almost feel as though using it would be cheating. It’s probably a better tool for revision than rough-drafting, anyway.

The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration by Julia Cameron – Another one I read about in Writers Digest. I still haven’t even cracked The Artist’s Way, but I’ve got the follow-up ready to go for when I do!

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card – There are not a ton of writing books out there that are genre-specific, and this is only the second one I’ve come across for sci-fi and fantasy. The other one I’ve read is How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction by J.N. Williamson, and that was over 16 years ago when I was writing my first fantasy novel. I’ve written about my ambivalence toward Orson Scott Card, so I feel it behooves me to say that I got this book through Paperbackswap so OSC isn’t making any money from my acquiring it. And when I’m done, I’ll pass it on via PBS again.

Magazine Article Writing by Betsy Graham – My dad bought this for me at a secondhand shop and recently rediscovered it in his basement. It’s over 20 years old, but good writing advice never goes out of style. And as much as publishing has changed and expanded over the past 10 years or so, magazines themselves haven’t changed much — aside from developing robust online counterparts and/or folding altogether.

If and when I get around to reading these, I’ll be sure to post my reviews here. And now that I’ve shared them, it’s time to finally make room for them on my shelf!


Writing Book Review: APE by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch

November 10, 2013

This book makes its point well: that it is possible to self publish a book that is high enough quality to compete with traditionally published books. The writing here is clean, direct, and clear, and the formatting is impeccable — no small feat in an ebook that is being delivered across multiple devices.

The content is useful as well, although I didn’t find a lot here that I didn’t already know. It mostly offers an overview of various terms associated with self publishing, as well as different services and opportunities available for self publishers. The approach the authors take to self publishing is realistic, too, not a “get quick rich” sort of approach, acknowledging the success stories while also cautioning that they are not the norm. I think this book, while being a treasure trove of information for someone totally new to the concept of self publishing, might also be overwhelming to those same people. Still, I expect to eventually incorporate some of what I learned here into my own self publishing plans.

What annoyed me most about this book, and the main reason, aside from the lack of truly “new” content, that I gave it only three stars was its tone. There’s a sort of smugness in the writing, as well as a bit of latent judgment about various writing processes (I ranted a bit about the inherent judgment toward authors who write without an outline here, which is just one example). The shameless promotion of Google, Apple, and Amazon also got to be a little much, especially since it came without any mention of the “darker side” of any of these companies to balance it out (privacy rights, proprietorship, monopolies).

The authors have put together a good resource of which they can be rightfully proud; it’s just too bad that so much of the book, while conveying useful information, also feels like a protracted opportunity for them to pat themselves on the back.


NaNo’Ers, I’m With You in Spirit

October 28, 2013

Although I usually take one year to “recover” between attempts at NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at November the same way again.

This year, I’m on “recovery,” still working on the novel I pounded out last November (I’ve discovered that novels written in a month take two years to revise). But as November draws nearer, NaNoWriMo is still very much on my mind. On Wednesday night (October 30), I’ll be leading an online chat about NaNoWriMo at New Moon Girls, which is free for members. I’m also leading, “So, You Want to Write a Novel?”, a webinar for girls ages 8-14, in which I’ll share some of my tips for writing and finishing novels.  Girls need not be members of New Moon to attend. The webinar is offered twice — once on November 5 and once on November 7. If there’s a girl in your life who is tackling NaNoWriMo or novel-writing in general, send her my way!

As for me, I’ll be finishing up my Dark Crystal submission in November, while a friend is working on producing one short story a week. May this November find you keeping the winter writing spirit in your own way!


Booklikes: My New Website Crush

October 7, 2013

Book blogs have been around for as long as the Internet has been, and WordPress alone probably has hundreds of them. But now there’s a website created for the sole purpose of hosting book blogs, making it super easy to connect books to your entries, with templates for book reviews and quotes from books ready to go. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that much more special than just inserting images and links to any old blog, but there’s something magical about a blogging site that’s all books, all the time. I think I’m a little bit in love.

The website is BookLikes, and it’s got an interesting story. Initially, its main attraction was its book recommendation engine. Then it crashed, losing all its data … but rather than throw in the towel, its creators listened to what the initial users were saying, which was that they wanted a site devoted to book blogs. So BookLikes was born anew, and I found and fell in love with it in its current state.

My kitty loves books, too!

I’m already an avid user of a couple other book websites. I post reviews of everything I read on Goodreads, and I inventory the books I own at LibraryThing. You can use BookLikes to inventory and review books, too, and in fact, I do cross post my Goodreads reviews there (as well as some of the posts from this blog, when they relate explicitly to books.) But it’s also provided a place for me to reflect more intimately on the books I’m reading, to share thoughts in progress or to connect books to my own life and memories in a way that I don’t in more straightforward reviews. I don’t think anyone much reads them, but that’s okay. I find the process of creating alone to be cathartic and rewarding.

So, if you haven’t checked it out, do stop by. And if you’re already a Booklikes convert, let’s “follow” each other. Hope to see you there!


Scrivener: My New Writing Toy

January 14, 2013

Recently, I’ve begun playing with a new writing toy: the software program Scrivener. It’s a tool developed for the brainstorming and drafting stage of longer writing projects, whether novels, screenplays, or dissertations. It allows you to keep your research, various media files, and notes all in one program. And my favorite part? It allows you to tag each scene with a “notecard” and description, and THEN it allows you to rearrange said notecards, with the changes reflected in your master document. Goodbye, Copy & Paste!

I’ve recently fed my Rapunzel novel into Scrivener, after I followed the advice for revising in No Plot, No Problem!, which was to read through the novel and make a notecard for every single scene. (Incidentally, reading this section in Barnes & Noble YEARS ago was what made me want to get the book in the first place.) You make notecards for scenes you need to add, too. And of course, you can theoretically throw out notecards for the scenes you plan to cut, although I haven’t been that brave yet. 😉 Oh, and I ran out of notecards during the process, but little pieces of paper worked fine as a supplement.

Then I fed all those notecards into Scrivener, as tags on each scene. Transferring the notecards into electronic format took about two to three hours total. That may seem like a gross waste of time, especially when I’m trying to get at least a few scenes of the story ready for my writers group by the end of this week. But I didn’t find the time wasted at all, because it allowed me to continue spending time with the original draft in three different forms (my first read-through, making the initial cards, and then inputting them into Scrivener.) Each time I went through it, I came up with new ideas for the revision, and became more sure about which sections were working, and which ones weren’t. I hope this will pay dividends in a smoother revision process, but perhaps Scrivener will just distract me with all its features! Still, it’s given me a new burst of enthusiasm for drafting and brainstorming, so if it doesn’t do anything else, that alone makes it worth the hour it took to learn the software.

Since I use a Linux operating system on my “writing” computer, I was able to download the Linux beta for free here. If you’re on a MAC or Windows operating system, you can get a free trial download (30 days). That’s enough time, if you dive right in, to decide whether it’s worth the $40. And if you sometimes make a little money off your writing, you can even tax deduct that.

As I continue to explore the program further, and get into the nitty gritty of actually writing with it, I’ll have a better handle on whether it’s a good investment for writers or just another potential distraction (there is something to be said for nothing but a blank page screaming to be filled, after all). If you’re a writer who has used Scrivener, I’d love to hear your opinion. And if you haven’t, stay tuned for more of mine. 😉


Say Hello to the Copyright Genie!

July 16, 2012

As writers and editors, all of us will probably run up against the need to understand basic copyright law at some point. Is it OK to repost a poem in your blog? Can you use a snippet of song lyrics in your novel without getting approval from the artist? Which photos can you reprint when you run that magazine story on a newly identified Lady GaGa allergy?

I worked on a magazine staff for six years and learned a lot more about copyright than most people know, since we needed to consult it constantly to know whether we could print certain photos or articles. Still, copyright continues to boggle me with the complications of its restrictions, the inconsistent way in which it is enforced, and the, in my opinion, much too heavy-handed response when it IS enforced.

You know we live in a copyright-complicated world when most people don’t even KNOW that it’s illegal to remix movie clips and post it on YouTube (“What do you mean it’s illegal? People do it all the time!”), and where you can be fined a quarter of a million dollars for pirating a movie or showing it publicly without permission (Seriously? Did you violate copyright, or cut off someone’s arm?) My opinion about copyright is fodder for a whole ‘nother rant that I won’t go into any further, but despite disagreeing with the restrictiveness of American copyright, I tend to err on the side of legality. If you do, too, you might want to check out Copyright Genie, an interactive site that can help you determine whether the specific work you want to use is restricted.

Unfortunately, Copyright Genie can’t answer your question about any specific work, but it can help you get a better grasp on whether and how you can use something. Bookmark it, and have fun staying legal!


Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

May 13, 2009

My friend Jenny recently posted this video in her blog, and I think it’s worth sharing here.

This video brought about an “Ah yes, of course!” moment for me. The tips are really commonsense, yet I’d never used them before. I’d been spinning my wheels with phrases like, “writing jobs,” and “freelance writing jobs,” which typically brings up a lot of questionable websites promising big bucks for little effort. Rob’s site, DailyWritingJobs, is similar in tone, but if this video is any indication, he probably does have some good information.

The video is a lot longer than it needs to be, so you won’t miss much if you cut out early. And I couldn’t help but cringe at the reference to “parentheses” when he’s using quotation marks. Where’s a good editor when you need one?