A Writer's Edge


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Name: Georganna Hancock
Location: San Diego, California, United States

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Writing Memento Mori

Georganna's AngelThe title term Memento Mori in its Latin origin means "to be mindful of dying". While not all memoirs are written at the end of one's life or with mortality in mind, that is the theme of this post.

Jerry Waxler writes the Memory Writers Network blog. One of his 120 essays about writing memoirs is titled, "Ten reasons why anyone should write a memoir"; however, if you peruse the URL for his post, you'll see the file title is "ten reasons boomers should write their memoir" (emphasis mine). I'm a boomer. Or, at least, I was until someone finagled the "official" DOB to qualify. So now, born in 1943, I'm a pre-boomer. Better than being a late boomer, I guess.

With the seeds of death lurking in my body, I keep feeling like I should be writing a memoir. Lord knows my life has been filled with drama. I have all the elements for a classic: codependent dysfunctional alcoholic family, etc. Sounds like everyone else's story, and that's what holds me back. Here's a capsule of why Waxler thinks we should memorialize ourselves in print:

  • obtain a clearer vision of self
  • develop story telling abilities
  • form connections
  • share knowledge to help others
  • leave a creative legacy
  • resolve past emotional issues
  • develop writing habit/skill
  • as a mental challenge
  • project optimism to the future
  • discover the value of your life
Some of these reasons might sound a bit naive or unimportant to you, but two are powerful pulls for me. Maybe this is like the beginning of a writing career, a time when I advise creative writers to get that first novel out of their systems. Do you think that toward the end we need to get that summation of our lives out of the way? Will we rest easier?

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Find Writing Topics

Beginners often ask, "Where do you get ideas?" for both nonfiction and fiction writing. I usually reply, "Ideas are all around you" or just "from life". More experienced writers know what I mean, but here's an example: this morning I read a newspaper article about the 100th anniversary of the nearby Cleveland National Forest. Halfway through the long story, the reporter mentioned a local man who recently published a book about the woods. The name was unfamiliar to me. Bingo! Someone new to interview about his writing/publishing experiences.

If I had been trolling for fiction material, the article also provided interesting juxtapositions: loggers vs. park rangers, environmentalists vs. recreational activists, forest management vs. the national budget. The reporter even mentioned some noteworthy individuals that might make great characters if a story fell in the woods. My mind grinds out "what if Grover Cleveland's ghost haunts the forest named in his honor and doesn't like what's happening to it?" The fact that the property is punctuated with private holdings offers infinite possibilities for plots and twists. How about the old lady who is the last of her dynasty to live on her family's land in the middle of the woods and uses magical alchemy to prevent others from finding her? And the shadow government know about her secrets and wants to steal them for military use against invading aliens (from outer space, not nearby Mexico)....

Similarly, snatches of conversations I overhear when walking around my neighborhood or sitting at Starbucks, scenes I see on the streets, events in my own life and those I know about others -- all provide endless ideas for stories, poetry, nonfiction pieces. Everyone has opinions and these can become essays or op ed articles. Ideas surround us. We are swimming in data; an avalanche of information threatens to drown us daily. These are the ideas. What you do with them is the work of writing.


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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Peak Writing Experiences

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.


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Friday, June 27, 2008

Writing in a Positive Light

Nice is positiveI'm seeing many requests asking how to remain positive in a world that seems to be so depressing. It looks like everything is gloom and doom: the stock market, prices for necessities, wars, babies stuck in holes, natural catastrophes ... all the media reporting negative happenings. It is true that bad news is news. Some writers feel that being surrounded by so much sadness saps their creative energies. Others point to depression as their Writer's Block. The most difficult situation to deal with must be that of a negative individual in your daily life.

One writer, and editor of the Internet Wizards magazine online, Bonnie Boots, offers 7 Steps To Staying Positive In A Negative World. I happen to know that Bonnie has survived some tough stuff in her life, and I am in awe of how she is able to not only carry on, but bounce back running. Some of her tips include:

  1. Practice humor
  2. Use physical reminders of positives
  3. Get away from negativity
Her points for specifically handling a negative person you must deal with (an editor, perhaps?) are truly gems, but I wanted to focus on the third item above. One way to distance yourself from the negative influences in your life is to reduce your exposure to them. When I get my hands on a newspaper, I head straight for the comics section. Customers in my neighborhood Starbucks are familiar with the sound of laughter when I visit.

Tune your radios to stations that play music to either invigorate you or soothe the passions. No talk radio to inflame or lay on downers! When someone begins a rant or a conversation of complaints, don't hesitate to interrupt and jerk (if necessary) the talk back on track or to a pleasant topic. Look into yoga, meditation and other eastern practices to even your outlook. It is true that you become what you fill your mind with, so repeat positive affirmations throughout the day.

Strange as it may sound, using the Twelve Step "attitude of gratitude" can also help banish the blues. Learn to focus on the smallest blessings that surround you. Take compliments with grace and hug them to your heart. Let your mind bathe in the positivity than surrounds you, point it out to others, and as the old song says, "Accentuate the Positive".

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Writing for Yahoo! Answers

Yahoo!Answers inviteA recent social/educational service called Yahoo! Answers drew my attention when I was visiting Yahoo! Groups. It looked like another opportunity to connect with new writers needing advice, so I signed up. You can see in my Profile that I've answered only a few questions, and I've scarcely explored other features, but already gathered a fan. TM wrote to say:

I clicked the link to your blog that you left on the first answer you gave and I instantly recognized you as one of the "recommended" editors from Preditors & Editors. I thought that was pretty interesting. It's nice to know that there are knowledgeable industry professionals on Y!A.
While that was gratifying to read, I'm even more pleased with the Internet-working that is happening. Thanks to Google Alerts I've discovered that Yahoo! appears in different versions for other countries, carrying along the Yahoo! Answers feature. Thus far I've seen my profile in the versions for Malaysia and New Zealand. How's that for easy self-promotion and social engineering? Remember what I said about social networking last month? This is a perfect example of being an active participant, but selective about which services are used.

If you have some knowledge about a subject (not necessarily writing and editing), consider joining Yahoo! Answers. You can start from the feature's first page or send me your email address, and I'll send you an invitation. Happy connections!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quotidiana on Writing Essays

Last week or so, I wrote about the personal essay. Take a look at Quotidiana, Patrick Madden's website on classical essays and writing essays. He teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University and is no slouch in the department of published essays. The site opens on a page of classical essays with a search engine and listings by last name, period in which an essay was written by name, and strangest of all, women.

You can also listen to interviews performed by Madden's students with published writers and read contemporary essays. From those essays the viewer could assemble a list of publications that accept essays. Many of them have links to the publications. The site contains lots of useful links for someone interested in this kind of writing and pursuing self education.

Quotidiana is a quirky website, definitely in need of an introduction and explanation of what's there, maybe why, and how it works. For example, cryptic navigation links labeled "EAE" and "BEC" provide no clue about their destinations. Behind one of them is an apparently private forum at a different website. Granted, if you dig deep enough, you'll find that the website was developed as a teaching aid for BYU students, but because Madden has made it publicly available on the Internet, other viewers could benefit from a little more direction.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ranting in Writing Blogs

Those who read A Writer's Edge at the website will see some of the changes I've made in the home page -- and resulting construction problems. Yes, as much as I advocate using Blogger for your ordinary blogging needs, sometimes it sucks like Electrolux. Until I drag the page into DreamWeaver, I won't be able to fix the bottom that, I suspect, visitors seldom view anyway.

I've included a "recent visitors" box from Blog Catalog now, mainly because it's the only way I can see more than ten visitors from there to thank and entice to leave a shout on my Profile page or a Comment or Review or to join The Neighborhood on the blog's page. I may expand the features from MyBlogLog, too, currently in the left column.

This must be the Week of the Blog for email, because I've received several nutty messages, including a request to remove a link to a news article because someone is unhappy with what the article says. I don't even mention the person in my post! He writes to me, "Yes, I am the subject of the slander in the article." His logic goes like this: my link causes the newspaper article "to show up highly on the search engines...what is happening as a result of the hyperlink in your post that is objectionable to me." I"d much rather that my links cause my blog to show up highly in the search engines, but maybe there's a lesson here, somewhere.

Then a Google Alert alarmed me when I found one of my recent posts appearing in toto in someone else's blog, but WITHOUT links or attribution. Jeez! If you're going to steal my work, at least leave the link or use my name. I wasted an hour or more trying to track down an email address for the hacker jerk (he has several sites on Blogspot), found none, so settled for wading through Blogger's complaint system, only to receive a lengthy email from them, saying that I had to put a full DMCA complaint in writing. Sheesh! Shall I post his name, this Indian student? Let you visit his sites and leave nasty remarks? Would you? Or would he welcome the attention?

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Beach Reads for Writing

Semantics Antics book on words
One hot read this summer for English language lovers is
Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning, by Sol Steinmetz. In it you'll learn how many of our terms evolved from completely different original meanings. The section on how the word "nude" came to mean "naked" is especially provocative. ("Nude" was formerly a legal term indicating something was unenforceable or void.)

Angry at the rising prices at the pump? I joked that I emptied my bank account into my gas tank. Some blame the Chinese, some blame the government, and some point at OPEC, the oil cartel, a syndicate controlling oil prices. The word "cartel", however, started out meaning a card or paper on which an agreement was written. That's not difficult to hear in the pronunciation. Steinmetz credits the Germans for transforming it into symbolizing a nefarious organization with the signing of a "Kartell" in 1887 supporting the political leader, von Bismarck.

My fave is "silly", the tag I use on the Saturday posts herein. Amazon notes that:
Before the year 1200, the word silly meant "blessed," and was derived from Old English saelig, meaning "happy." This word went through several incarnations before adopting today's meaning: "stupid or foolish."

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blogging Changes

As I meticulously stepped through a link check of the home page for A Writer's Edge, I discovered a few boo-boos. Now both Blue Ribbon Blogger images are connected to the current Blue Ribbon Bloggers blog. Another link was scrambled (I swear gremlins live in the grid!), and that got me to thinking about all the reciprocal links that I displayed before the PageRank brouhaha.

According to the people who pay close attention to such matters, PageRank is no longer the behemoth image-maker for websites that it once was. Google typifies the Peter Principle in action. They've tweaked their algorithm out of pertinence. Thus, I'm considering an experiment: bring back the reciprocals and see if traffic picks up.

Or was it something I said that put people off the last few months? A writer must accept the fact that someone will always be offended by a piece of writing. I have difficulty believing that something I wrote was bad enough to drive away a significant number of visitors, and other blog/website owners have noticed a drop, too. If you were offended and left, well, you're not reading this, but if you can remember something I wrote that you found questionable, please let me know in a private email to writer [AT] writers-edge.info.

In the meantime, let the links begin!

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Waiting on Writing

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

Free Writing Mentors

Writer WritingThis is for future or recent (last two years) undergrad or graduate students who want to freelance or work on publication staffs. How would you like to spend an hour talking with a mentor in the field you want to enter? How would you like it if the expenses were underwritten? Well, Ed2010, the website of seemingly infinite resources for budding journalists, offers such a service. If you're located in New York City, you might meet one-on-one. If you're outside the city, the communication would be via email or phone. To apply, copy the questions on the referenced page, answer them, and email them to ed@ed1020.com. Good luck!

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Statistics for Writing on Blogs

Blog World Expo LogoMany readers of A Writer's Edge are bloggers. Some do it for pleasure, some for practice or as a writing prompt, some share useful information, and probably a few are in it for the money (good luck!) If you're a blogger, you might be interested in these Important Blogging Statistics from the producers of the Blog World Expo, coming up in September in Las Vegas:

  • Over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog.
  • More than 147 million Americans use the Internet.
  • Over 57 million Americans read blogs.
  • 1.7 million American adults list making money as one of the reasons they blog.
  • 89% of companies surveyed say they think blogs will be more important in the next five years.
  • 9% of internet users say they have created blogs.
  • 6% of the entire US adult population has created a blog.
  • Technorati is currently tracking over 70 million blogs.
  • Over 120 thousand blogs are created every day.
  • There are over 1.4 million new blog posts every day.
  • 22 of the 100 most popular websites in the world are blogs.
  • 120,000 new blogs are created every day.
  • 37% of blog readers began reading blogs in 2005 or 2006.
  • 51% of blog readers shop online.
  • Blog readers average 23 hours online each week.
The people who run this operation also have an interesting and useful blog about blogging and bloggers. Blogs and blogging seem to be where it's at these days, whatever "it" is. Now, don't you feel smart?

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writing a Book

Alison Baverstock is the author of 13 books and teaches creative writing. She is a former publisher and works as a consultant to the publishing industry. Talk about playing both sides of the street!

Her 256-page paperback, IS THERE A BOOK IN YOU? was published by A&C Black and came out at the first of this year. It includes a questionnaire that may help you discover if writing a book is really for you. Every chapter in this book is pertinent to one of the questions and contain advice from experienced writers, including P.D. James, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, Margaret Drabble, Katie Fforde, and more.

It will help you answer your own questions, ones like:
  • whether your writing is any good
  • how to know if you have what it takes
  • what you should write about

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Writer's Block Emergency

Emergency on Writer's BlockThe terms emergent and emergence are hot in several disciplines (physics, evolution theory, social sciences). From the Encyclopedia Britannica: "In the philosophy of mind, the primary candidates for the status of emergent properties are mental states and events."

The two words are, in my mind, too close to the alarming word emergency, a sudden or unexpected event which connotes danger. Writer's Block can have the aspect of an emergency or it can creep up on the victim. Better to focus on preparing the mind for the condition of emergence, which, according to the Geographical Dictionary is "The creation of new phenomena, requiring new laws and principles, at each level of organization of a complex, and often non-linear, system." Sounds like lateral thinking, huh?

To do this, we can take some cues from The Center for Creative Emergence:

• Everyone is creative and simply need the right conditions to access that infinite well.
• Focused creativity is not separate from the bottom line, but a major factor in contributing to it.
• Next-level innovative solutions require new levels of being as well as thinking.
• Comfort with change increases with consistent practice entering unfamiliar territory in non-habitual ways.
• People can transform their experience of uncertainty from one of fear to one of discovery.
• Creative thinking skyrockets motivation and breeds more relevant - and successful! - contribution.
• With safe cocreating, a group collective intelligence takes over and the “whole exceeds the sum of its parts.”

Try following one or all of these principles as first aid for a Writer's Block and as preventative medicine.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Awesome Editing

The Editor, IIA Writer's Edge, is one of "100 Awesome Webmaster Blogs by and for Women" listed by Web Hosting Database in the section for "Social Media, Organizations, and Writing Skills". According to the article, I'm a "strong, talented, innovative and resourceful" web woman.

"She’s a widely published writer who provides classes and coaching to beginners who want to write for magazines and journals, news mediums and more. Ms. Hancock’s blog reflects her coaching skills as she imparts information about every type of writing imaginable."

Here's the latest incarnation of my new avatar from BitStrips.com. Can't get the hair right. Mine's graying from what my mother called "dishwater blond". It's not salt and pepper, more like gold and silver, I like to think.

The eyelids are droopy from overuse. I debated a squint and bloodshot, but opted for this tired appearance. I'd love to stick a red pencil in my hair and a book or keyboard in those large hands.

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Writing Personal Essays

EAT CORN WEAR COTTON BURN OILWriters often ask where they can try to sell short nonfiction opinion pieces. These fit into the category of "personal essays"-- easiest to write, hardest to sell. The usual advice is to query or submit them to general interest and literary publications, but those take precious few such works. Even fewer pay for them.

Think analytically about the subject of your essays. Match them with more specific markets. So-called "niche" magazines and websites provide ready-made homes for such tailored pieces of writing. Sometimes these are called 'front of the magazine' or 'back of the magazine' articles, as well as 'opinion pieces' and 'personal essays'. Sometimes they are simply called 'shorts'.

Incidentally, if you tend to write this kind of work, especially if you want to express your opinions on a specific topic, you're a good candidate for blogging. Blogging isn't just for rants and digital diaries any more. People are blogging for pay, and some say they are making a living at it.

If I were to essay an essay on this post's beginning image, it would be an article to persuade people that it is better for all of us to wear clothing constructed of renewable natural fibers rather than creating synthetics from our finite oil supply and to eat food, rather than convert it to fuel. This addresses several issues: world hunger, the rising cost of food, rising gas prices (and all items associated with petroleum, which is just about everything), global warming, ecology, the "green" movement, even economics and business. It is within those topics that I would look for publications that accept such shorts.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Amazon Me!

Usually I'm telling people to "just Google me" as a means for verifying my existence or credibility or simply satisfying curiosity. However, when it comes to book matters, more and more I'm tempted to tell them to "just Amazon me". If only Amazon.com would make that simpler.

I have at least four different types of accounts with the Book Master: as a purchaser (that one is private), a seller with a storefront, an Amazon Associate (you can see my id number in the link to books I feature a post -- writersedge0a-20), and with a Profile that I'm not certain is linked to anything else, but currently I can't seem to get at to update.

My profile contains a "So You'd Like to ..." Guide to be a freelance writer, a rather simple article, a Wishlist of books I'd like to own for writing, and a Listmania of some recommended resources for writers.

I think I've confounded the website's amazing mind by trying to synch up all my logins. Should be simple, no? Why can't one identification allow a user access to all features (like a Google ID) and allow visitors access to all the information about someone?

I've barely scratched the paint on Amazon. I have no books I've written for sale and seldom write reviews or blog or use the latest innovations for authors. For those of you who do use Amazon, whether it's to market books, shorts or e-docs, it might pay you to mine the site for all the gems of self-promotion it offers.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to be a Famous Writer

HOW TO BECOME A FAMOUS WRITER ORcartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Blogging at Length Matters

The archives for A Writer's Edge threaten to overflow. What I mean is that the directory in the left column is taking up too much space. I'm thinking of shrinking the listing. Shall I simply delete, say, the first year or two? Weed out the less useful postings? Figure out how to wrestle Blogger into displaying an annual listing?

Eliminating some of the entries would be a lot of work because they are referenced in search indexes, directories, blogs and other websites. I don't want visitors to arrive to a standard "404" (page can't be found). Aside: I read that "404" is entering the American lexicon as slang for stupid or clueless as in, "Don't ask John, he's 404." Back to the topic: I would create a custom-designed error message explaining why the hoped-for article has gone missing and where and how to find similar material in the website.

I wish it were possible to ask everyone to vote on whether a particular post goes or stays. Well, I guess it is possible if I wanted to create a lot more work for myself. But the idea is that dealing with the blog is interfering with other activities I want to spend more time with: reading, editing, and building websites. What are your thoughts on eliminating old posts? Would that do readers a disservice? Would it be detrimental to the blog itself or my reputation (whatever that is)?


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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Editing Capitals in Time

Capitalization is one of those tricky editing/style issues that constantly dog writers. Worse yet, you can be writing along, going with the flow, and suddenly a little doubt creeps in: should that be capitalized? If you stop to look it up, you risk getting side-tracked and experiencing a temporary interruption of creativity. Well, maybe it's not as bad as jarring yourself into a Writer's Block, but you know what I mean -- the creativity runs out of one side of your brain, the analytic editing mode comes from the other side.

Suggestion: When it's flowing, keep on going. Edit later to make it greater.

Another time aspect to editing is dealing with which elements to capitalize. The following guidelines are adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style that I've already blogged on earlier this week. Here's the skinny on capping time: always use the caps on archaeological periods (the Iron Age) and traditional ones like the Renaissance, but never capitalize the names of decades, centuries, or other eras unless they include capitalized adjectives like the Victorian times (an era named for the English queen Victoria).

Some writers zip through their manuscripts, editing for everything at once. I think this apparent time saver leads to overlooked mistakes. At the least, make one pass for the punctuation and capitalization alone. When I'm working with copy that includes many opportunities for capitalization errors, one of the times I scan it is only for those problems.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Writing With Courtesy

A conflict over how to word query letters rages mildly on a forum in which I participate. On one side are two supposedly experienced and published authors. On the other, I seem to stand alone, upholding the standard of common courtesy and good manners for business writing. And make no mistake, a query letter is a business letter. Writing is a business, and all your correspondence concerning it are formal communications, not jaunty, cutesy, flippant shorthand notes.

The kinds of letters I am referring to, of course, are those you send to someone you don't know already, letters asking a favor -- read my manuscript (novel, story, article, poem), consider publishing it, represent me, tell me what's wrong with it. Once you have established a relationship with an editor, an agent, a publisher it is fine to write to them in a more casual, friendly manner.

If you write to someone to ask them to look at your work, it is logical to put the request in writing at some point in the letter. It is also a good business practice to mention any attachments or enclosures (like a self-addressed, stamped envelope; a synopsis; an outline). The other parts of your package may have become separated, lost or even (heaven forfend!) you may have forgotten to include or attach them. It happens to us all.

In my book, well, in my letters, it is not acceptable to simply blast the recipient with your hook, your creds, perhaps a tie-in to their publication or other authors represented, and then leaves those elements hanging over your signature. A good query, like a good book or story, has a beginning, a middle and most importantly, an ending--all in a business style.

Gina Ardito, writing in the AutoCrit Writing Center on queries, offers a sample query with this ending:

With this letter I've enclosed a copy of the synopsis and the first three chapters of "The Bonds of Matri-money." If I've managed to capture your interest and you wish additional information, please feel free to contact me.

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your consideration.


Ardito's article contains other good query tips, including ones about winning attitudes and what's courteous and what's not.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Writing in Style

A manuscript needs to have consistency in its mechanics. For example, this means punctuation in the same manner for each incidence of a specific construction, such as using a serial comma or not. Another would be which words and spelling forms of English (British, American, Canadian, South African, Australian, etc.) These matters of grammar taken together constitute the style of writing (not to be confused with a writer's voice, sometimes also referred to as style).

One of the Styles I mention on the Editing Services page is the Chicago, short for The Chicago Manual of Style, developed by the University of Chicago Press in the 1890's. The current edition is the 15th and geared for the newest copyright laws and electronic writing, editing and publishing.

Those Chicago guys are so hip, they even have an online version so that you don't have to buy a book and clumsily flip through it as you're trying to prepare your manuscript. With a couple of clicks you can try it out for a month at The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Free Trial.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Writing Mini-Reviews

Time to catch up on my reading; that is, mentioning the books received and read. From author Eric Knapp came CLUCK: MURDER MOST FOWL (BOOKSURGE), a stab at zombie chicken humor. If that sounds slightly scrambled, it was. A thin plot whisked up to carry the funny chunks that by themselves are hilarious. This imaginatively illustrated, well-designed model for a self-published novel could have used an editor's eye for glaring English errors like "decent" for "descent".

I won a copy of Sheila Lowe's POISON PEN: A CLAUDIA ROSE MYSTERY (Capital Crime Press). It is surprisingly polished for a first novel, although the author has penned nonfiction books in the past. Great book for women, mystery lovers, aficionados of the southwest. Some crude language handled well. The protagonist is a graphologist, as is the author, and if she included true tidbits about handwriting analysis -- I'm up shit creek! This is not a book for timid readers.

I'd been wondering about Paulo Coelho novels since reading his praise in Orkut groups, mostly by younger people in countries other than the U.S. They especially like THE ALCHEMIST (HarperCollins), so when a copy fell off a truck and into my hands, I read. *shrugs* I guess it is to this generation what Gibran's THE PROPHET was to mine in the 60s: a simple-minded, gentle, easy read on basic spiritual matters. Somewhat reminded me of a less complicated version of THE CELESTINE PROPHECY by James Redfield.

And then come the truckload of new releases from Simon & Schuster. I find a book almost daily thrown over the fence into my backyard. I add them to an impressive stack on my bedside table. But I go through them like a bag of M&Ms. They are so small and mostly sweet and tasteless. In that category, I'd place:

LATER, AT THE BAR by Rebecca Barry
THE BEST PLACE TO BE by Lesley Dormen
THE GOD OF WAR by Marisa Silver
and LOVE TODAY by Maxim Biller was more like a serving of sauerkraut. Bleh!

Exceptions: THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON by Kate Morton is a substantial meal with a juicy, tender roast at the center. This Australian writer is one to watch.

THE BOOK OF CHAMELEONSTHE BOOK OF CHAMELEONS by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, was exquisitely translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. We don't get enough foreign literature in this country, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to read a story set in Africa by an author who credits his style to Latin American writers. Who knew they speak Portuguese in Angola? And this is 'magical realism'? I'm intrigued. I've set up an internal BOLO for similar writings.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Writer's Block Book: The Commitment

A swift or slow perusal of past posts reveals the most popular and passionate ones, as measured by comments, are about Writer's Block. I'm thinking it's about time to gather these and tie them together into a coherent bundle. This will most likely take the form of another e-Book, easy to download.

Although logic and logistics can cause Writer's Block, the most common sources are psychological. And there I'm more than qualified to comment, to offer explanations and advice. I don't mean to lean on my two degrees in psychology, either, but also on my intimate understanding of fighting fears. Yes, I have generalized anxiety, a fear of everything, even of being afraid. I suspect many writers suffer this in one form or another or from agoraphobia or social anxiety. I know the paralysis of analysis and the funk of fear.

The confusing aspect of fear and Writer's Block comes about because fears are multiple and can be expressed in so many different forms. If you don't believe that, just consider how many types of phobias exist. The referenced list includes "graphophobia" (writing) and "scriptophobia" (writing in public) Seriously, I don't think that those contribute to Writer's Block.

When fears aren't attached to a particular object or situation as with phobias, they are called "anxiety". For writers, it is easy for anxiety to focus on the instruments, location, or the action of trying to create writing. The specific fear can involve criticism, disapproval, rejection, or the opposite, success, which would thrust the writer into a spotlight, attract attention, require a performance before others.

For some, the causes are deeper and more complex. I don't want to go all psychoanalytic on you here but if the ending of the unconscious script of your life reads "failure", then your unconscious will force you to make decisions and to act in ways that sabotage success. O.K., Dr. Freud will leave the room now.

Having written this post and released it to the universe, I have taken the scary step of committing myself to this project. It could fail. Correction, I could fail. What's the worst that could happen if I fail? I will have spent time in a labor of love that is reward enough in itself.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Writing on Writers


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Friday, June 06, 2008

Writing on Copyright & Plagiarism

copyright symbolNew writers often assume that a copyright protects them from plagiarism. Nothing is farther (not further) from the truth. Copyright law only gives original creators the right to yank into court those who plagiarize their work. In reality, as opposed to the perfect world we all dream, no method exists to prevent others from stealing your writing before or after it is published.

Jonathan Bailey's Plagiarism Today website takes a good stab at explaining it all in great detail with a special focus on the Internet and the recent Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), which increasingly affects writers.

To my thinking, the key to the conundrum is knowing how to discover illegal uses of your works. I've written previously about services like Copyscape. Now meet Article Checker and the interesting related blog. On the main page of the website, you can initiate a search for copies of your online content by URL, by uploading up to five text files, or by pasting the suspect text into a window. The special search engine scans the Yahoo! Search, Google, and Microsoft Live services for apparent matches.

Frequently I find my blog posts scraped from the RSS feed via Yahoo and Google alerts set up to search daily on my name, the blog name, and the URL or website address (and variations). Simpler yet is to use Google or Yahoo! to search for a section of text from your work, part that contains a fairly unique word or phrase. Be sure to enclose the text in quotation marks.

Another tack to take is offering limited copying rights up front like the Creative Commons program I've also blogged on before. A new one is iCopyright for Creators. It is also free to use and purports to become a clearinghouse for you to manage licensing of your digital material. The registration produces an interactive tag for you to include with all your digital material (audio and visual, too).


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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Top Ten U.S. Book Publishers

In his blog, From Where I Sit, Thomas Nelson Publishers CEO Michael Hyatt, listed the Top Ten Book Publishers in America (Through March 2008). But before I display the list, let me quote Hyatt in a little explanation:

... Top Ten Trade Publishers. (Publishers whose books are primarily sold through retail booksellers as opposed to, say, textbook publishers.) The various imprints are consolidated into their parent companies. So, for example, HarperCollins includes William Morrow and Zondervan. Simon & Schuster includes Free Press, Pocket Books, Howard Books, Scribner, etc.
This is the breakdown from a proprietary multiple-POS database:

Random House (15.9% market share)
Pearson (11%)
HarperCollins (10.6%)
Simon & Schuster (9.3%)
Hachette (6.2%)
Scholastic (5.2%)
Thomas Nelson (4.7%)
Holtzbrinck (4.4%)
Tyndale House (1.9%)
Wiley (1.9%)

They also assembled similar data for the top ten Christian publishers, from which I learned that two of the top ten trades (Nelson and Tyndale) are Christian and account for almost 7% of all trade book sales. Nelson, of course, dominates the Christian sales with almost 30%. I knew the Christian market was large and growing, but to see these publishers as the 7th and 9th largest in general sales comes as a surprise.

Will write for sex?Sadly for me, I am once again knocked out of a market because of my ethics. I won't write on religion, war, or politics. That leaves only sex. Wonder if anyone assembles similar data on porn publishers? I can see myself, a starving writer, standing on a traffic island, holding a cardboard sign: WILL WRITE FOR PEACE OR PIECE.


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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Editing an Avatar

I'm taking a "mental health day" and running off to the mountains with a friend.

In the meantime: I'm becoming addicted to BitStrips.To the left is my first avatar, The Editor. I must find her some decent clothes! What else do you think she needs to look more like me?


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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Submit your Site for Success

As the image from Compete Blog shows, searches on the major engines are slowing down. It also explains why you need to submit your site to only the three that have nearly all of the U.S. search market. In April, Google had almost 70%, followed by Yahoo at 15% and MSN at about 8%. Many other search engines derive results from these three. Submitting your site is free and not too complicated.

If your target audience uses a particular specialty search engine and expects your site to be listed there, be sure to submit your website to that specialty engine.

Also submit your site to The Open Directory Project. This is a human-edited directory. Search engines index that content too and display results. DMOZ is a volunteer project, and it does not accept all sites that are submitted. When you sign up, it is up to you to first find the category that best fits your site. As with the top search engines, the Open Directory feeds many others.

However, Yahoo! has the best known directory, and it was the basis for their early success. It is not free, though. Don't confuse Yahoo’s directory with their search engine. You may submit your website to both.

Another step you can take to get your new website showing up in search results sooner is to prepare a sitemap and submit it to Google (especially) and to Yahoo. This special file is a bit tricky and complicated to create, but gives the search engines a heads up that your site exists and which pages to spider and how often. A good, free service for automatically generating a sitemap is SitemapsPal.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Writing may can you With Might

For some people, confusion reigns supreme over the use of 'may' and 'might' and about the uses of 'can' and 'could'. Perhaps I should include 'will' and 'would', 'shall' and 'should', but you'll get the picture from the first two pairs.

The problem with 'may' and 'might' comes about because both can (oops!) be used in the present tense, but the word 'might' is also the past tense of 'may'. Using 'might' in the present, as in "I might go to town today" indicates a conditional situation less formal or probable than "I may go to town."

But you can also say, "I hoped I might go to town", all in the past tense, where 'may' is not the right word. This is similar to 'can' and its past tense 'could'. You would not write, "I hoped I can go, but I knew I can't." Just doesn't sound right, yes? You would (oops! again) use 'could' and 'couldn't' in that sentence.

Try out variations of a very basic sentence, substituting the other pairs of verbs, when you find yourself confused over whether you should (oops! thrice) use 'may' or 'might'. I might end this now before I confuse us further. And then again, I might not. But I shall. And I should.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Freelance Writing Jobs

I've been monitoring a weekly, free freelance writing jobs newsletter, Morning Coffee Newsletter, from Janice Jacobs. You can get it by joining the Yahoo! Group Freelance Writing Jobs. This past week, at the end of dozens of jobs aggregated from various versions of Craigslist.com and other job posting sites, I noticed this information:

Find thousands of freelance writing and editing jobs...fresh jobs daily. Kickstart your writing career for just $2.95.... http://www.dailyfreelancejobs.com/

Find more daily freelance jobs at ONLINE WRITING JOBS
http://www.online-writing-jobs.com/, JOB FEEDS

Post your portfolio for free at FreelancePortfolios.com

Find more freelance writing jobs
http://www.freelancewriting.com/freelance-writing-jobs.php at FreelanceWriting.com.
Usually such sources will bring you in contact with opportunities far from home. However, I discovered my own metropolitan daily newspaper searching for a writer to fill a major reporting position that was not advertised locally. That suggested to me that the person currently in the advertised position was about to vacate. Sometimes such staff shake-ups at publications result in other unadvertised openings worth pursuing if you''re interested in this type of work.


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