Jan 31

Slowly But Surely

Mainstream publishers are gradually discovering that the Internet is not just a fly-by-night geek hangout. There are actual people out there USING the doggone thing!

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB112084457881180868-0AaD5icf4L_Vldpbx0tbXCGceTw_20060715.html

Among the highlights:

  • Fictitious Web sites and blogs based on characters from forth-coming books
  • Web-based games based on novels
  • Free content online (hmmm, I think I’ve seen that before…)

The publishing industry seems to run about 25 – 50 years behind the times as a matter of course. It’s really a shame, when that industry could use new technologies in so many different ways to streamline production, enhance promotion, reduce costs, and *GASP* make more money! God! They might have to actually start paying the writers, too! It could be the End of The World As We Know It. Good riddance, some of us say.

Jan 29

Way of the Cheetah

Way of the Cheetah: How to Boost Your Productivity by Lynn Viehl. 2006.

So you call yourself a writer, or would like to, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time. Maybe the distractions of your busy life get in your way. Maybe you start strong but have trouble finishing anything. Don’t lose heart; the cavalry is here.

Lynn Viehl, well known arounf the blogoverse as Paperback Writer, offers her views on what it takes to be a successful writer in Way of the Cheetah: How to Boost Your Productivity. Her practical, no-nonsense approach to the writing life is refreshing and inspirational. These are the “secrets” that have enabled her to sell 32 novels in six years, 9 in 2005 alone. As a member of the elite Million-Words-a-Year Club, Viehl knows how to produce, and now she is sharing her methods with the rest of us.

Cheetahs have to produce in order to survive. They don’t spend time worrying about what the other cheetahs think, or if they’re “doing it right”. They hunt, or they starve. Just like the cheetah, writers have to produce to be successful. They have to write. Butt in chair, words on paper. That work ethic is the biggest price of success, and the hardest habit to develop. Way of the Cheetah shows you how.

Viehl offers her proven tactics for overcoming distractions, organizing your work space, breaking out of the dreaded cyle of the Eternal Edit, and getting past all the other traps that await the unwary. Above all, she emphasizes the necessity to take your writing seriously. If you want a hobby, consider stamp collecting. Writing is hard work. You can’t avoid that work, so you have to be serious about it.

At 71 pages, Way of the Cheetah is by no means a hefty tome, but each of those pages contains golden nuggets and sparkling jewels just waiting for you. Each of the 8 steps along the Way gives hard, practical advice for increasing your productivity, followed by exercises designed to guide you through putting that advice to work in your own writing life. Some of it will work for you, some will not, but every writer will find something here to benefit their career. I know I sure have.

I highly recommend Way of the Cheetah to all writers looking for the path to success. My feet are beginning to tread the Way, come join me.

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Jan 28

Here’s Your Sign

Nitwit of the day/week/month/year. Since the year is only 4 weeks old, this does not bode well for the next 11 months.

Telephone: *RING*

Me: Library. May I help you?

Caller: What time do you close today?

Me: On Friday’s we close at 3.

Caller: 3 in the evening?

Me: *Dumbstruck silence*

Jan 25

Create a Character Clinic


Create a Character Clinic by Holly Lisle. First OneMoreWord Edition, (c)2006.

Bringing characters to life for the reader seems like an impossible dream for many writers. We give them distinguishing characteristics, maybe even distinct ways of speaking, but still they lie there on the page, bored and boring. Many writing books are full of What and Why; Holly Lisle’s Create a Character Clinic is all about How.

CCC walks us through the process of creating vivid characters, then goes a step further — it shows us how to go about bringing that character alive on the page. Part 1 of CCC is full of essential flow charts to help the writer find out about a character’s conflicts, dreams, needs, relationships, history, and other important information. These charts provide a road map through a process that, until now, has appeared esoteric and difficult. CCC Shows us how to ask the right questions, and gives pointers about when to stop asking to leave room for the characters to grow and surprise us as we write. The exercise at the end of each chapter provide practice in putting the principles to use in our own characters. CCC shows us how to use Abraham Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs to find out what drives a character at the deepest levels.

Part 2 delves into the actual how-to of putting words on paper to create believable characters using exposition, dialogue, and action. Again using well-designed flow charts, we can explore the furthest reaches of the character’s sub-conscious. Then, we can use the Exercises to actually begin putting that character into a story and letting him develop into a three-dimensional person.

Part 3 is called “The Sins of Characterization, and How to Commit Them Right”. I found this section to be worth the price of the book (US $9.95) by itself. Lisle takes many of the most common mistakes writers make with characterization, and shows us how to use those mistakes to our advantage. The secret is in knowing when and how to use these methods to advance the story. Learning when and how to break the rules is essential to development as a writer.

Lisle’s writing and instructional style is clear and easy to follow. She is able to draw the reader in and make them feel a part of the process — a collaborator rather than a student. Create a Character Clinic takes pride of place on my desk as an essential, practical guide through one of the most difficult parts of writing, for me, at least. I strongly recommend Create a Character Clinic as a necessary part of a writer’s library.

P.S. While you are at HollyShop buying CCC, take a look at Lynn Viehl’s Way of the Cheetah, as well. Review here. If you would like to participate in promoting these terrific books and make a little money on the side, consider joining the affiliate program.

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Jan 20

Who Do I Want To Be Today?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

A venerated sage with vast power and knowledge, you gently guide forces around you while serving as a champion of the light.

Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not – for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life greets it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminescent beings are we, not this crude matter! You must feel the Force around you, everywhere.

My personal favorite quote: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Link from tambo.

Jan 17

Work of the Devil

If anyone out there needs convincing about the reality of Satan, ther is now proof beyond any shadow of a doubt. It’s called Sudoku, and it it evil, evil, evil.

Sudoku is a Japanese import (they get their revenge yet again). It’s a game that, in it’s most common form is composed of a grid 9 x 9 squares. The grid is further subdivided into 9 3 x 3 boxes. The object of the game is put the numbers 1 through 9 into the grid so that each number is used once and only once in each column, row, and 3 x 3 box. You are given a few numbers already inserted to get you started.

Let me warn you right now: I will not be responsible for the destruction of lives, families, and careers by recommending that the unwary venture out into this particular wilderness. This game is more addictive than crack. For people like me (i.e., bull-headed, self-destructive, and deeply obsessed with logic games), this game is like mainlined heroin. Once is not enough. I have to keep on, and keep on, and keep on.

For those who wish to commit suicide by game, there are a lot of Sudoku sites that offer free games online. You can also buy books at any bookstore. Beware, though, once you start down this slippery slope, there is no hope of recovery. 12 Steps won’t help you. Neither will interventions. The only thing that will ever make you happy again is solving one of the triply-be-damned puzzles.