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Revision – Week Ending August 16

19 Aug

Revision

The weeks most interesting news; for writers.

1. The Pen Is Still Mightier Than The Sword
This may come as no surprise but writing has the power to connect with people at a deep level and convince them to do (or buy) things they normally wouldn’t… like convincing them to buy deodorant because they stink.
As novelists I hope you are all using your power for good.

2. Internet Killed The Newspaper Star
…And then bought it out.
You may have read this one already, but Amazon’s Bezos has purchased The Washington Post for $250 million dollars (just a drop in his 25 billion dollar fortune of course).

+ From the New Yorker

+ Bezos Addresses His New(s) Minions

+ At a quarter of a billion dollars, the Post scored better than The New York Times, who sold the Boston Globe for only $70 million a week earlier.

3. The Movie Script Hamster Wheel
Steven Spielberg predicts that ‘bigger than life’, super blockbusters will cause hollywood to implode. Considering the tanking of several very expensive movies this summer, he may be right. Script Doctor Damon Lindelof on modern screenwriting and both the danger and draw of escalating scripts in Hollywood.

+ It’s okay though, TV will be there to pick up the pieces when the movie industry does implode. I have to admit, some of my favourite writing lately has been on TV.

4. Can Someone Pass The Ketchup? Whoops…
I was 7 or 8 years old when I first watched The Attack of The Killer Tomatoes. I remember, as I watched the movie again later that night (back in the cable company days when the 9 o’clock movie was also the 11 and 1 o’clock movie) trying to figure out why adults would make such terrible movies.
I’m not sure I ever figured it out, but I was hooked and ended up consuming every ‘Attack of’ type movie available before I was a teenager: tomatoes, 50 foot women, ants, various japanese monsters, even yogurt… at least I think it was yogurt! I watched, and loved them all.
Recently I heard that the Tomatoes were looking at a modern reboot. So, to prepare you for this eventuality, you can read the oral history of the franchise here.
If they do release a new film don’t watch it at the theatre though, this is the sort of movie best viewed late at night in the dark of your basement, eating ketchup chips (just to show them you are not afraid!)

5. Support Your Local Bookstore… Now Online
I love crowdsourcing/crowdfunding. I think it brings back many aspects of ‘community’ that we have lost over the past 150+ years of industrialized life. I’ve supported numerous projects on Kickstarter (7 so far) and even have a couple of projects of my own that I’m considering putting out there.
I have noticed a growing trend in businesses looking towards crowdfunding to supplement their bricks and mortar locations in some way (from launching restaurants to upgrading old theatres with digital equipment) but this is the first time I’ve come across bookstores looking for help from the crowd. While it’s unfortunate that these owners need this kind of help, I’m glad to see them experimenting with new technology and I’m sure we’ll see more of this moving forward.

6. Options For Writers
Josh Bearman and Josh Davis are long form magazine writers. They have also optioned 18 of their articles to the movie industry. Now they are launching Epic Magazine, a site designed to help give non-fiction writers a platform for their work. Read more here.

7. Coffee: It Is The Best Of Drinks, It Is The Worst Of Drinks
A surprising news month would be one where there are no new studies on the effects of coffee on the human body. As a writer, I need Teh Coffee to stay focused when energy lags, but then, I said the same thing when I worked corporate! This week’s news is on the ill effects of our favourite brew.
My motto is: All things in moderation.

+ But how do we become addicted to caffeine in the first place (sweet ambrosia of the Gods)?

8. Finding Time To Write

http://christicraig.com/2013/07/17/finding-time-to-write-old-school-technology-saves-the-day/

9. Multi-Tasking. You Too Can Fail At More Things, Faster.
I’m not sure how the whole ‘cult of multi-tasking’ began, but it needs to die. Certainly, there are times when being able to juggle 10 things are immensely useful (trust me, I have 4 kids and we homeschool!) but these moments should be the exception, not the rule.
Too many people like to brag about their multi-tasking prowess now-a-days, but the truth is: There are costs associated with multi-tasking. First, and most obvious, if you are working on more than 1 thing simultaneously you aren’t really doing a very good job at either. Second, most people don’t think about the ‘switching costs’; like a train that has to switch from one track to another, your brain requires effort and resources to shift tracks too… and that takes time. I can go on… but I’ll save it for another post!
BTW: If you click through on this link, check out the whole series of posts – worth the read

+ Don’t just take it from me, there are many, many articles online attempting to correct the benefits of multi-tasking myth.

10. Hodgepodge

+ On Life, From Chris Kutcher. Er… Ashton Kutcher
I love to hear, or read, thoughtfully distilled wisdom. You should always take the time to hear messages like this. (warning: video quality is terrible on this upload… but the audio is great and that’s what really matters.)

+ On connecting with others through honest writing

 
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Revision – Week Ending August 2

02 Aug

Revision

The weeks most interesting news; for writers.

 

1. Judge These Books by Their Covers

How difficult is it to distill down the most iconic book face north of 40? Not very, just let the crowd decide for you.

Personally I think ‘The Sister’s Brothers” is one of the most iconic covers I’ve ever seen, but it was knocked out in the 3rd bracket.

I will be completely shocked if Anne of Green Gables wins… (and because the medium of writing often fails to impart any sense of tone, please forgive me tacking on: that was sarcasm!)

 

2. Catfishing – Internet Trolling or Intense Character Research?

I have always read whatever I could find on cross-media efforts (transmedia), especially by/for writers. I believe the future of writing will include the internet in a major way, and I’m not just talking epub versions of your book. The internet can offer a number of ways to expand your universe, or flesh out your main characters.

In an ironic twist on that newer idea, the young social introvert in this narrative came to writing via an early life of trolling. If he ever writes a novel I’ll bet the characters will be fantastic.

 

3. Who Do You Love?

Luke or Vader; Solo or Fett; Sherlock or Moriarty; Potter or that noseless guy who shall not be named? Without memorable villains hero’s run the risk of falling flat. The CBC has a great interview with Chuck Klosterman on his new book ‘I wear the Black Hat’.

I’ve always preferred great villains over great hero’s and can’t wait to read this book.

#VillainsFTW

 

4. Love at first sight…

When I buy a new book, I always open it up (as I’m sure almost ever real reader does) and read a few passages to get a feel for the authors cadence and tone. But never the first page. I save that pleasure for later, when there is time to settle into a comfortable chair where I can savour the opening passage a few times without distraction.

Writers love to discuss first lines, and the Atlantic has collected a number of favourites.

 

+ The rest of the conversation with Stephen King on the power and importance of first lines.

 

5. Breaking In Can Be as Tough as Breaking Out

I’ve always wanted to go to ComiCon… <sigh>

Unfortunately that will have to wait for another year. Yes, I’m a geek at heart, but this article which is essentially a roving exposition on one writers ComiCon experience has some really great content. Read especially, the section: Breaking In. While they are talking more specifically about screenwriting, the information, I believe, is valid for all writers.

Hollywood is not barred to talent, but there is no single path to get there. Or, from screenwriter Jonathan Callan:

“Breaking into Hollywood I like breaking out of prison. As soon as someone figures out a new way to do it, they seal up that hole.” (An old Hollywood saying)

 

+ From another writer interview – I love this quote:

“Getting a book deal is a little like getting hit by lightening. You can’t predict where it will strike, but you can build a better lightening rod.”

 

+  Fishing for Agents

Another look at breaking in; sort of… in a sort of perfect world variety.

 

6. Can I Borrow Your Voice?

There is plenty of information available that dictates how writers should find their voice and then write within it. I’ve always though that was terrible advice.

I really don’t think anyone has the ability to write anything in someone else’s voice: even when trying to emulate the voice of your hero, the finished product will come out sounding like you.

Voice isn’t A Thing you can learn, it’s simply the sum of your previous reading and writing experience coming to a head. I believe that voice and talent are intrinsically linked. Some peoples brains can pull it all together, others are not so lucky.

In this Globe & Mail interview,  Rhidian Brook backs up my theory. “You either have a voice, or you don’t”

 

+ What’s in your voice? Everything. Since everyone is talking about the new Rowling novel now, here’s a related article on how a forensic linguist figured out who the real author was using the books voice.

 

+ And finally… what’s in your voice specifically? This is the free software that was used to point at Rowling. I’m thinking it would be a handy tool for writers to play around with. You could analyze your favourite authors works or your own. Look for patterns, see your own weak points; grow your own voice.

 

7. Galbraith is Rowling… Can We Come Back to Earth Now?

Rowling has a problem that 99.9% of writers will never have, but wished they would: a lack of anonymity. Everything she writes will always carry a set of expectations that will inevitably colour any reviews of her future work. Of course, whether the reviews are good or bad, she will be widely read, so it’s only her feelings that are at risk.

Perhaps I’m just too cynical to care, but I’m glad the mystery has been solved so we can get on with other interesting book news, like, um, the Booker Prize longlist perhaps?

 

8. Man Booker Prize

Frustrated with Mounting Rejection for your manuscript?

Meet the book that was rejected more than 30 times … and just made the longlist for the Man Booker Prize

 

+Views from Canada

 

9. I’ve rewritten this subheading 13 times

Editing your work can be tough. Asking other peoples opinions can be tough to take. Buck up and use some of these tips.

 

10. Final Thoughts 

+ Writer Interviews

Maggie Nelson, over at BookSlut

 

+ Did I mention that I was a geek?

Samurai, film, book, art… all the makings of a good obsession.

 

+ The original novel the new 47 Ronin movie was based on.

 

+ While I think everyone has to find their own process that works only for them, I love peeking in at other writers processes. Sometimes I shake my head, sometimes I laugh, sometimes my mouth drops open as a fundamental truth settles into my own brain.

 

+ When I was young I thought I could write an original novel. I grew frustrated and walked away from fiction writing for a long time. It was only after I realized that stealing other peoples ideas was par for course that I got excited about writing again.

 
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Revision – Week ending July 26, 2013

27 Jul

 Revision – week ending July 27, 2013

Revision.

The weeks most interesting news; for writers.

 

1. The Healing Powers of Writing

We have long heard about the psychological benefits of writing about old trauma, but a new study has shown that it can also help open wounds heal faster.

If only writing could do something about this pain between my shoulders that I get from sitting in front of my computer for so long every day…

 

+ And then there are the superpower inducing abilities of active reading.

There are many paths on the road to old age and not all of them pleasant, but the path that scares me the most holds a form of dementia (any form). I’m no philosopher (okay, maybe all writers are philosophers at some level, but let’s leave that off for now) and don’t know what makes us, us, but I do believe that the sum of our experiences and memories make up a large portion of our individuality. Without them, we are nothing more than people-shaped husks. And so I will proselytize more active reading (and eating more turmeric).

 

2.The Inner Game Still has Much to Teach Us All

40 years later and this book is still one of the top self-help sellers… It’s spawned a number of related books, and a speaking tour and still sells to top athletes and coaches like crazy.

I wonder if he could write a follow-up: The Inner Game of Writing

 

3. Happiness is a…

Happiness is not connected (in any lasting way) to stuff, but we all already knew that deep down, didn’t we?

Recent studies have shown that real happiness is found through regular effort and accomplishment (active busy people being more happy than relaxed ‘inner peace’ seekers) and having people to share it with. Sometimes, for writers, with feedback and any real sense of accomplishment somewhere over a distant horizon, happiness can be like a flickering shadow; visible at the corners of the eye, but hard to grasp. It helps to have a system for happiness.

Of course, I worked a corporate gig for 10 years where feedback was ladled over us like mana from heaven – and that didn’t make me any happier

 

4. Book Deals

Easy come, easy go. Is there any reason for a juror to not write about the case they served on? Personally I don’t thinks so, I’ve read a couple of trial non-fictions in the past. Of course all of the emotion surrounding the Zimmerman trial isn’t so much about the violence as it is about race relations.

BTW, most of you don’t know me yet so on a more personal note/observation: I have a degree in Anthropology and hate terms like ‘race relations’ – We’re all the same on the inside and I hope that someday we, as a ‘race’, will learn to celebrate the small differences, instead of using them to judge others.

 

+ 5 other jurors who cashed in with a book deal

 

5. Books We Pretend to Read

I try to be honest. I’m well read and I don’t generally need to lie about having read books.

Of course, I do tend to say ‘I’m currently reading…’ for some books (like Moby Dick – damn that whale), even when I haven’t actually picked up the book in a while. As long as there is a bookmark still between the covers somewhere: I’m still reading it. But apparently most people lie about reading the classics.

Okay, so maybe that would be more honest with others, less honest with myself, but we all have our little foibles.

 

 6. Oh, Did I Tell You the One About the Dead Guy?

Need to write a funny scene? Start with your Obit…

I think about death all the time, maybe that’s why I’m so funny (that’s your cue to chuckle).

 

7. More Quotes From Writers

Quotes from famous authors who write for children. I read the Dr. Seuss quote a few times. I’m still not sure if it were tongue-in-cheek or not, but I interpret it to mean that all ideas come from life; if you are just paying attention. Hmm… maybe I should buy a cuckoo clock…

 

8. To Steal a Mockingbird

Harper Lee signed over the rights for her famous, and only, novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (on of those books on my ‘to read someday’ shelf). Now she is suing her agent for duping her into it.

 

9. Has Anybody Saved the Cat Yet? Or Are We Still Trying?

It’s everywhere; every movie you watch, every news site you read. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but ‘Save The Cat’ is making the rounds lately.

If you haven’t read it yet, you should. You don’t want to be the only writer in a conversation who hasn’t! What is it? A step by step guide to screenplay writing – a play by play beat sheet formula.

 

10. On the lighter side of the news (from Mental Floss)

Have a terrible idea for a book? So did these authors and THEY got published!

 

+ A look at word pronunciation in English:

 

Words that are older than they seem.

 

+ There is a debate raging that will affect the future of the internet, and I’ll bet that most of you have never even heard the word skeuomorphism before?

More and more new writers are moving towards embracing the Internet. And for many it’s a necessary evil. While you won’t hear me saying that traditional publishing is dead, I do believe that the next generation of super successful writers will be people who have truly embraced the medium, understand it, and know how to make it work for them.

 
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Revision for week ending on July 20, 2013

20 Jul

Revision.

The days most interesting news for writers.

 

1. Focus, GTD and the creative process

I have a problem with focus, so I love reading about people who really know how to, um, ah, hey look, a squirrel!

Rick Rubin on crashing the new Kanye album in 15 days:

“I never decide if an idea is good or bad until I try it. So much of what gets in the way of things being good is thinking that we know. And the more that we can remove any baggage we’re carrying with us, and just be in the moment, use our ears, and pay attention to what’s happening, and just listen to the inner voice that directs us, the better.”

 

2. The line between reality and fiction

“I wish I’d written that…”

Snowden through the eyes of a spy novelist

Of course, other writers WILL write it. Watch for this storyline to become a future spy novel trope!

 

3. On Life & the time we have to be creative

How much time to we have left? What will you do with your time? And… um… what are they going to do with all those jellybeans now?

4.Train your brain

“All that mystical Woo-Woo stuff is so retrograde. This is about training your brain.

For years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that meditation can help with all facets of life – and writing… Of course, the last time I got myself into a half-lotus position, I had to call 911 to rescue me.

 

5. The Death of language = Return to the caveman era.

Or: ‘Let’s all just talk via photos.

On the upside, it’s sort of like a layman’s telekinesis for all you sci-fi buffs out there. Language barriers fall in the face of photo communication, only, instead of being in your head, it’ll be in your hands (smartphone).

On another note, I wonder what sort of image a neanderthal would have texted…

 

6. On Life

Not one I that typically fits into the news I share, but this carries such a fundamental message on life that I think everyone should reread it periodically just to keep perspective on life.

1/2 way down is an image of a piece of paper with notes the captured man wrote while held by the Taliban. It is unfortunate that it takes a near death experience for most of us to focus on the things that are really important. I cropped the image for regular rotation on my desktop wallpaper.

 

7. MMMM…. Coffee.

Sweet nectar of the gods. And, the single biggest factor that allows me to make this list every morning.

But, do you know how it works it’s magic on you?

 
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Writing Street Smarts

14 Dec

Dark Trail
I’m going to start with a common, but, I think, often overlooked piece of advice for new writers, and finish this post off with my own personal number 1 piece of advice for new writers.

So, to start, the common advice for writers: ‘Read, Read, Read.’

We’ve all heard it before, but I don’t think I really understood. I always thought it was trite and of little practical use. Not because I don’t believe in the power of reading, but rather because I already read, all the time. I wanted to write because I loved reading first, so what was the point of being told to do what I already did plenty of?

Lately though, I’ve had conversations that make me rethink ‘Read, Read, Read.’

I’ve been talking to a number of early stage writers, people just getting started and trying to get their first books written or published. More often than not, the conversations end up revolving around peoples insecurity with the rules, forms, and techniques of writing. “The correct use of tense”, “The proper use of flashbacks”,”How to create tension”, etc.

These conversations have reminded me of similar talks I heard while attending University, with people who spent hour after hour memorizing information and techniques from textbooks. These people loved testing each others knowledge but never really learned how to actually apply the information.  They could soliloquize about their chosen fields through to the wee hours of morning, but often couldn’t figure their way out of a paper bag if their lives depended on it.

Through my years in corporate we would silently roll our eyes each time a fresh MBA was hired. They would walk through the door expecting the world because of their higher learning, only to flounder through their first projects – school book learning is simply no substitute for real-world learning. I’ll come back to this below, but suffice it to say, this observation taught me more about life than any actual course I took while earning my own degree. I learned to identify and ‘hang out’ with people who were not only learning something, but understood why they wanted to learn it, and spent time trying to figure out what it all meant in the big picture.

So let’s talk about writing again.

Another viewIf you stayed in school for an MFA, you should know all about things like the proper use of tense or how to ‘express coordinate ideas in similar form’, and you will have the ability to wax poetically on the subject or help others see where they went wrong. You will be able to TEACH the subject of writing.

For everyone else it’s more important to focus on developing a SENSE for good writing, than to know the proper terminology, and the best way to accomplish this is to ‘Read Read Read’. Not textbooks, or books on how to write, but reading books, novels. If you enjoy reading, and read regularly, you will know almost everything you will ever need to know about writing.

Let’s call this idea: ‘Writing Street Smarts’ vs. ‘Writing Book Smarts’.

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Writers Advice

06 Dec

Advice Dog on Writing #1
Welcome to a new column here at Prefect Writing: Writing Advice, for Writers Who Write, by Other Writers… who, ah, Also, er, Write… um… Maybe I should simplify that a bit eh? Let’s call it Writers Advice.

I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned it or not, but I’m a Gemini. Growing up, my mother was really into the whole New Age scene and my house was full of associated books, and crystals, and tarot cards and other esoteric paraphernalia. I grew up on the outside of this culture, never quite buying in to the same level as my mother, but enough to be influenced by it in a significant way and when I discovered the fantasy genre everything kind of fell into place in a way that made sense in my head.

I grew up living and breathing that ‘stuff’, and wear the term ‘Gemini’ like a comfortable old coat. Now-a-days, of course, I laugh at star-signs while in polite company, and don’t think about it very often, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake it completely – I’m a Gemini and that MEANS something to me.

What? Well, a lot of things really, but probably the most significant, and the only impact that I typically reference being a Gemini for, is this:

 

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Join A Writers Group

06 Dec

On Monday night I attended my first ever writers group. It was a pretty relaxed affair at the Barrie Writers Club meeting and only a small portion of the regular members were in attendance, which was a nice way to try out something new.

I’ve attended a local Spoken Arts night (Writers reading poetry and prose that is held monthly in Barrie) a couple of times, but just trolled from the back. Poetry really isn’t my thing anyway. I like hearing good poetry (a completely subjective definition of course, especially in the world of poetry) and I like to write bad poetry, but I don’t particularly understand most modern poetry. It gets too abstract for me, I think I get more analytical the more abstract writing becomes and that’s just not a good way to approach poetry.

Either that or it’s just getting harder for people to write poetry. By which I mean, if the ultimate goal, the ‘high destiny’ of poetry is to distill human truths into their most basic constructs, then there isn’t anything left to write about. After all, there are only so many human truths, and truths are timeless, therefore, once they’ve been distilled… well, everyone today is just playing with some other person’s metaphor.

Any who… Let’s save the poetry discussion for another post.

Writers groups are important for writers just starting out, and for many writers, will always remain an important aspect of their writing life. Today I wanted to look at Writers Groups and how you can benefit from them.

CamaraderiePiPho Group Hug in Ilocos

Let’s face it, writing can be a lonely endeavour, with long hours spent tanning in the artificial lights of our best friends… er, monitors.  And most of us just aren’t designed for the level of solitude required.

A writers group can provide multiple levels of support and understanding of the process you go through. It’s the simple reminder that other people are interested and that other people are going through the same soul-searching, lonely work we submit ourselves to.

Also, at a writers group everybody comes with all that knowledge built in, they know how hard the process can be. You don’t even need to HAVE the conversation, you can see it in their pale faces and the slightly shadowed looks in their eyes – they know, and they know you know.

A Writers group is a community of shared suffering, and oddly enough, that’s a comforting thought.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Ode To Technorati

05 Dec

***

Update (12/6/2012) – Technorati turned me down. Apparently they do not believe my blog is a blog. Strange. I checked out their ‘Claim’ FAQ and according to the rules they have outlined I should be well within the green… but no such luck.

I poked around and this seems to be a common issue. Interestingly, I have added a dozen blogs to technorati over the years, and this is the first time this has happened to me, so I didn’t realize they were so choosy. I was going to write a post on the ridiculous of Technorati, but This Hack did such a good job, I’ll just ask you to go read his post!

***

Technorati Confirmation: QKVNGXQS34ED

Please disregard this post everyone!

In order to claim my feed in Technorati, a blog search engine, I am required to post a code in a new blog post.

Sorry if you took the time to open this!

If you did get this far, I’ll try to prevent it from being a complete waste of time by mentioning that I will use this post to launch a new category here at Prefect Writing, where I will discuss the blog as an online platform for authors and writers of fiction.

more coming soon!

cheers, Michael P.W.

 
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