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Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.  Geoffrey Chaucer said that about 600 years ago as part of the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, the first writing we would recognize as English.  I believe it.  What would life be worth if it weren’t a pilgrimage?  Every day.  I hope you will join my pilgrimage.  I’m writing a book … well, several.  Writing is pilgrimage, and I’ll need sustenance along the way.  I hope you will follow along, comment, help lead me.  C’mon, it will be an adventure …

Critiquing: Electronic or Paper?

My writing has been enriched by my friends in writing groups.  I’m in three groups, and I think I see a trend toward electronic critiquing.  Two of the groups use MeetUp, which allows us to post files in advance of a face-to-face meeting.  The standard way of critiquing is to download and print the file, mark it up and review the markup at the meeting, then pass the marked-up copy to the author.  The other option is to download the file, use Word’s review function to make notes and then send the file to the author after the face-to-face meeting.

I would be interested in how other writers view the process.  For me, once the printing is done, hand notation is easiest.  On the other hand, for one monthly meeting recently, I had to print 105 pages.

What do you do

If you edit electronically and have tips on best practices, I’d love to hear them in the ‘Comments’ box.  For instance, do you make changes directly in the text or limit your comments to notes in the margin?

The Internet Pareto: 98/2

Pareto PrincipleThose of us of a certain age are used to being bludgeoned with the Pareto Principle: 20% of {some cause} accounts for 80% of {some effect}. The 80/20 rule. It’s often treated as received truth.  It’s sometimes true.

I’ve been knocking around the Internet a bit, looking at all sorts of resources for the poor, unpublished novelist. (Me.) At some point, I realized that Moore’s Law (computing power doubles every 18 months) has inseminated the Pareto Principle, and ungodly spawn is the Internet reality that 98% of what’s out there is dreck. 2% is inspired, wonderful stuff. The new Pareto is 98/2.

There are absolutely marvelous apps, excellent websites for writing and so on. They exist as tantalizing possibilities, often buried under great piles of manure. (When was the last time a website was honest about the cost of what it offers?  Ever?)

Which brings me to my final realization on this subject: The amount of valuable intellectual property has probably been expanding at about the same rate since, oh, that Cro Magnon guy looked at a burning ember and thought up barbeque. I’m guessing that probably holds for writing, too. (OK, not entirely a constant rate. Blips at Aristophanes, Chaucer, Shakespeare.) The marvelous technology we have is entirely non-judgmental and allows geometric, nay, exponential expansion of the manure layer. I don’t think I’m part of it, but it looks like a 2% kind of guy (ego, be still) is going to have to have a big shovel to get noticed. Better start on that marketing plan, right?.

 

 

The Blasted Backstory

I took a great short course on backstory at the Cape Cod Writer’s Conference last week. Michelle Hoover, the teacher, is a fine writer (literary fiction – The Quickening) and knowledgeable instructor. I really needed the course.

She remarked to us that we control some part … maybe 60% … of what the reader gets out of a story, and that we ought to embrace the creativity and life experience the reader brings to the reading. That’s something I forget, particularly when wrestling with plot. Her notes for the class remind us, “The biggest mistake most beginning writers make is the belief a reader must know this or that about what occurred before the character’s present moment. The fault is generally due to the following: 1) the author’s distrust of the reader’s intelligence; 2) the author’s distrust of his/her own writing ability; 3) the author’s inability to give up control; 4) the author’s nervousness about beginning his/her own story …”

Ouch! I suffer from all of the above. Does the reader really to know exactly what stoploss insurance is and how it’s calculated to fully understand the plot line of Hack the Yak? Or am I just a lazy, controlling author?

There. 1,000 words gone. Easy. Just like a good healthy …

stoploss insurance

One Rule of Writing from South Park

Great writing advice.  Not Aristotle’s Poetics.  Not E.M. Forster.  Not even Stephen King.  They’re great resources, but …

TA-DA … South Park. South Park

Great short interview with Matt Stone and Trey Parker in which they divulge their ONE RULE of good writing!

You’ll like it.  Script writer, fiction writer, makes no difference … it’s good advice.  Simple and to the point.  (Contributed by my son, Edward.)

 

 

Congratulations to Me!

Top 40The note from Reverbnation, the website I use to manage my tiny music presence, said I broke into the Top 40.

#39 in blues, in fact.

That means one of several things:  1) Reverbnation has very few blues artists, 2) There was some unexplainable glitch in an algorithm constructed by an antisocial 16-year-old under contract to Reverbnation, or 3) somebody wants to sell me something.

Which brings us to the point of the post:  Is it me, or does the electronic miasma create everyone as a winner.  Conversely, is it possible to be on social media and NOT be a winner?  This may be the result of having told children that ‘everyone is a winner’ often enough that the ones who have grown up and are social media entrepreneurs actually believe that it’s a requisite part of being ‘serious’ to create winners.

I really enjoy playing the blues.  I’ve sold, oh about 100 of my CDs (and given away many more). I played a couple of times at the Terminal Bar in Minneapolis after having relocated from Florida (where I did have an active musical life).  But I broke into the Top 40.  My step is a little jauntier today.

Author Interview – John Baird Rogers

John Rogers:

Nice interview. Thanks, Rachael.

Originally posted on Rachel Carrera, Novelist:

We are definitely not at a loss for talent today, folks!  A while back when I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them, I was elated with the responses I received.  (And if you would like to participate, please feel free to contact me.)  I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted.  My friend and fellow-blogger, John Rogers, had some very fascinating responses which I’m sure you will find as captivating as I did.  When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his blog and make sure you follow him for more entertaining tales.  And now, heeeeere’s John…

*.*.*

ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

My name is John Baird Rogers.  I have thought of myself as a…

View original 2,091 more words

No Jealousy

Surely, if there are two professions in which there should be no professional jealousy, they are prostitution and literature.

WIlliam Faulkner said this.  Not sure why.  Are both providing similar stimulation, although typically in different locations?

Every time I read a phrase I would really have liked to write, there is that little twinge.  But on the balance, we are running a race against ourselves and our inner voice, aren’t we?  So jealousy is pointless.  Then we get to the publishing part, and need to act a little more like that other profession.

Amazon!

When I started this blog, my purpose was to keep a diary of my writing. So far, I have resisted the temptation to attach pictures of kittens doing very cute things, commentary on politicians doing very stupid things or screeds on the degradation of the moral fiber of the world.

I bet you’re relieved.  OK, just one kitten picture.Kittens

Now, I beg your indulgence.

Writing has two parts: the creative journey that I set out to document, and the part about getting someone to read the end result, aka Publishing.

The part of me that spent a number of years in business analyzing companies like Amazon is nervous.

Right now, Amazon is eviscerating its competition the old-fashioned way, by offering great service at low cost in order to gain market share. As former executives say proudly in a documentary (CNBC’s Amazon Rising), Amazon targets the already weak, because they’re easiest to knock off. A very 19th Century business strategy. (Think Teddy Roosevelt, J.P Morgan and the Trust Busters.)

If you don’t think Amazon’s products aAmazon logore cheap at the price, look at their financials: strong growth at the sales line and tiny, tiny profit. 2/3 of a percent, way below subsistence. The market should punish Amazon, denying them capital and thus snuffing their growth.

Guess what? The market is willing to pay 500 times current earnings for Amazon shares when most retailers’ stock prices are 15-20 times earnings. Is the market crazy? (Stock analysts disagree with each other, as usual.) Maybe. More likely, the market looks at Amazon’s very successful operations and stated business plan and believes that Amazon will be able to raise profits substantially in the future. Which brings us to books, where Amazon started.

I can see why a business wanting to chart new ground in retail distribution would start with books: The technology that has changed music and newspapers is threatening publishing, and it looks as if publishing is not handling the challenge very well … so, it’s a good place to start, particularly if your strategy is to knock off the weaker players. To date, Amazon has extinguished a big piece of the publishers’ retail distribution system, starting with the local stores we loved, then Borders. Is Barnes and Noble next?

When Amazon owns the whole distribution system, there will be pressure to raise profits. The market won’t give anyone a pass forever. There are two ways to do that: Raise prices or reduce costs. Those of us in the writing business are part of the cost side of the ledger. Based on the predatory nature of Amazon’s business plan, it’s not too hard to see that costs will be squeezed.  And prices? Well, you already know that Amazon pricing for books is partly your call and partly Amazon’s.

Maybe we’d better pray for another trust buster.

(The Economist for June 21-27 discusses Amazon in some depth. CNBC’s documentary Amazon Rising was broadcast recently and may be available on Internet/TV reruns.)

First Draft Finished

Finished the first draft of Skins and Bone. Now on to the dread rewrite. This time, I’m going to be a little better organized than I was for Hack the Yak. This time, I have 120+ critiques. Better yet, this time I have the mistakes I made before. I hope the new ones (mistakes, that is) will be fewer this time!

Publishing, a Disturbing Article, and The Maginot Line

This morning, I’ve been thinking about platform (oops … Platform), the Maginot Line and an article I just read by Michael Wolff, “How book biz dug its own Amazon grave.”

If you’re a writer like I am, you probably fall into one of two camps: (1) Published, or at least agented; or (2) still hopeful. I am in the still hopeful group, and I am watching the evolution of the publishing industry closely. Of course, I’m on the outside, guessing at what’s going on, trying to decide whether to continue to bust my hump trying for representation or just self-publish. The scary part is that it’s clear that publishing is changing, but it’s not clear how a writer is going survive and prosper in the brave new world of heightened technology.

Business strategists intone the phrase ‘creative destruction’ to describe radical change to an industry, often driven by technology. They say it with such relish and optimism. Fine, if you’re a business strategist … but as a person at the nexus of the destruction wondering what to do, not so much fun.

Wolff’s article reminded me, a former coattail member of the community of business strategists, of Michael Porter, who began writing brilliantly about competitive strategy thirty years ago. In a competitive environment (this is loosely paraphrasing Porter from memory, always dangerous), businesses attempt to erect barriers to entry … tools of the trade and well-kept trucks for tradesmen, patents and software for tech companies, the enormous capital investment in a power plant for utilities … to compete effectively and protect their bottom line. A corollary is that the bigger the barriers to entry a business erects, the more invested it gets in maintaining those barriers.

Even a few years ago, publishing businesses controlled the production and distribution of books, pretty much from inception through production to the retail seller. That control has been taken away at both ends of the chain of production and distribution … many retail sellers have been driven out of business, and the publishing mechanics that formerly meant only publishers could print the end product have changed dramatically. It would take brilliant perspicacity and firm resolve to drive out of the ditch the industry is in. With that thought in The Maginot linemind, consider the Maginot Line, that WWII barrier erected by France to make absolutely sure Germans would never march onto French soil again. That was the line the Luftwaffe flew over. The scary takeaway for the publishing industry is that the noise in the sky is Amazon and Print on Demand technology flying over (soon, apparently, with drones). My question is: What happens to the lowly writer drudge? Yes, I hear the warm air being blown on The New Internet Marketing, but it’s not clear to me what a writer is to do the reach his potential readers.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this.