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A Writer's Edge

English words, writing, and books--with a tech touch

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

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Writing with Holly Lisle

Holly LisleHolly Lisle's eponymous website is a great resource for creative writers. I've blogged about her several times. And she offers a great deal of free material. In addition to the useful Plot Outline, you can also get 40 free sample pages of the second version of Create A Plot Clinic book. And she says, "Version 2 is a free download for anyone who purchased the beta version or Version 1.(x) How to create a plot from scratch, or fix a broken plot, from first idea to final revision." What a deal! I've always appreciated Holly's famous Mugging the Muse and the classic One Pass Manuscript Revision. You can read what I wrote about the muse ebook and the article on revision.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Writing Review Requests

Often the email box for A Writer's Edge contains pleas to accept copies of books which have nothing to do with writing in hopes I'll mention them on my blog. Consider them mentioned. Also the silly requests. Unless I can use the book (or the message) to illustrate a helpful point for writers, these efforts are wasted. Consider this which greeted me this morning:

Dear Georganna,
I noticed you are an excellent reviewer on Amazon.
May I introduce to you an excellent entertaining culture ebook as a gift? The book fosters culture that enriches communities. I am an author in Taiwan.
From this link [...], you could read an entertaining small free PDF eBook*, which is a sample book. Please feel free to send the ebook to friends. This eBook will be beneficial to them for understanding "an ancient art."
What's wrong with this picture?

The poor author makes several mistakes: although he gets cred for digging out my name (most of these messages begin with "Hi!") a business letter, especially one that is a formal request for a favor, addresses an unknown person by their last name. We are not on the chummy first name basis, and probably never will be.

Secondly, if he had bothered to check my Amazon Profile, he would have discovered that I do NOT post reviews to that website. You can find a list of the top reviewers at Amazon easily enough. And see the latest additions to my Amazon Storefront where I'm selling one of my lightly used color printers!

Thirdly, and this is enough, the "sample" eBook is simply an irritating extended ad, perhaps beneficial to himself for selling his paper book.

Fellow writers, this illustrates the dangers of failing to properly research your market targets. Another way in which this fellow's mistakes could have come about is to have purchased a mailing list. One unscrupulous PR flack has hawked my blog's address for a couple of years. He scraped it from a mailing list that I occasionally contribute to. 'Nuff said.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Search Engine Midsummer Madness

cuil search logoSigh! Another made-up name with a non-obvious pronunciation hits the Internet. This one is to rival the top search engines. "cuil" is pronounced "cool". Right. The name is supposedly derived from an old Irish word meaning "knowledge". Well, the spelling looks Celtic, I'll give it that. Purpose: index the whole Internet and provide the most relevant results without invading your privacy. Noble. According to a Vnunet article:

The site has indexed 120 billion web pages, which it claims is three times more than any other search engine, and results are organised by ideas rather than just rankings.
This organization by idea is going to take some getting used to. Apparently "cuil" doesn't think as I do. The first results in the few trials I attempted didn't seem to make sense. The website has taken Google's minimalism to an extreme with no instructions or advanced search features to help tweak requests. Displaying the same sites on successive pages of results did not impress me favorably, either.

We were neither amazed nor amused. Your mileage may vary, and I hope it does. Please let us know about your experiences.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Writer's Block Surrounds

Struggling Writer BlockedEvery writer is different in temperament, circumstances, opportunities, and, yes, even in talents. One size fits all advice isn't going to work for everyone. So many different factors affect our abilities to churn up the creativity machine and let it flow out our fingers. Often we see urges to "find a quiet, private space", "play soothing (or energetic) music", drink coffee, eat chocolate, be sure to have a clean and neat desk ... some people don't even have a desk! How many writers do we see tapping away at a laptop on a tiny table in a crowded, noisy coffee shop? They may claim it's the only way they can write. One of the most productive periods of my life happened when I sat in the midst of an old-style newsroom--people yelling, teletype machines clattering and dinging, phones ringing--and banged out three stories on a manual typewriter before the 10 a.m. deadline.

Now I cannot keep a clear space even between my keyboard and the screen. It seems to be a law of my life that any flat space becomes part of my 'piling system'. Even peripherals stack up on my big office credenza. The windows open onto noisy trucks making deliveries in the alley about 30 feet away, traffic roars along the street, birds sing or chirp or lob guttural caws my way, close by neighbors go about their busy lives. I forget to play music, don't eat because crumbs are anathema to keyboards and attract ants. I do have a mug of cooling tea at hand, part of my morning routine. And I usually forget to drink it.

The point is that you develop what works for you. If nothing seems to be working for you during this temporary interruption in the flow of creativity, the good news is that you can change any or all parts of your surroundings (to a point). This seems to be the principle of running away to a vacation or writers' conference to cure Writer's Block, a drastic and expensive approach. But don't adopt my methods just because they work for me, or take advice from anyone else and get depressed if it doesn't fix your problem.

Maybe you haven't yet found the most optimal surroundings for your writing. Maybe your choices are limited and you haven't adapted to reality. Maybe surroundings don't make a damn bit of difference at all! When I'm in the flow, I notice little that goes on around me, even the passage of time. Caught up in the ecstasy of creativity, I'm surrounded only by my actions and thoughts.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Writers' Videos & Trailers

You know how hot video is right now on the Web and on mobile devices. I don't think visual communications are soon going away. Anything that engages multiple senses makes more of an impact and a more lasting one. Author clips, intriguing plot snippets, or other teasers about your writing leave readers wanting more.

A wealth of strong statistics from major Internet research firms backs up the growth of online video viewing and the switch from TV to the Web. Publishers have been jumping on this bandwagon for some time, just as they are issuing books in digital formats. And The Christian Science Monitor suggests several viable reasons for writers to substitute well-made videos for traditional tours, including author personality problems, shrinking budgets, and increasing travel difficulties.

Don't use your vids only as brochures. They need to become word-of-mouth generators, called viral videos. Just embedding them in your web page is not enough: make them easily portable to others' sites, to add to emails and available in all types of connective devices. One method to accomplish this is to upload your video to You Tube, then place it on your own website with the service-generated code for visitors to copy.

At One True Media you can try out creating your video trailer for free. I can't wait to ... uh, perhaps I'd better write a book first? No! My avatar! Maybe I can get something into her empty hands this way, something like a book. That would be a book video, no? O.K. Just a manuscript to edit, or the keyboard to use in ghostwriting.

Read the whole article for lists of ideas for how to use a video in promotional and marketing campaigns and to boost awareness and increase your social network standings.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Silly Writing Fonts


Don't you think fonts have personalities? The font name Gothic envisions medieval cathedrals with spires and rose windows. Bookman just has to be the proprietor of a dusty, musty used books store, right? And Arial must be fey! What if they got together to romp and play? Wouldn't Comic Sans be a perfect clown? Nothing bad would go down ... or would it?

All writers must see and hear the Comedy Channel's Font Conference!

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Editing Tips from the BBC

The venerable BEEB, all things in an English voice, offers great services to writers through the "BBC Get Writing" section of its website.

From the section on Re-work and Edit come these useful annotated links:

Guide to Grammar and Style
One concerned individual's comprehensive guide to good grammar and style. Much easier to read than Strunk and White.

Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
The online edition of the 1914 tome which is a terrifying, if amusing, read. Not one to follow religiously, but worth a look for the sheer contempt they show those less than grammatically correct.
Aw, c'mon. I wouldn't be so hard on S&W, after all, they are the foundation for good writing, the very bedrock of style!

You might want to read the rest of the BEEB's advice about revising and editing your own work, because it contains extensive lists of pitfalls to watch for and tools to tighten up your writing. The advice on eliminating adjectives caught my eye and I must meditate upon:

Write an original 300-word piece without using adjectives (for example take 'the sea' as a broad topic ). The main practical outcome of this exercise is ( possibly unconscious) development of the use of metaphor. It also raises awareness of style in general and addresses one important aspect of voice.
Just metaphors, I wonder. What about similes? And on adverbs (another "no-no" in this century), the BEEB advocates using the exact right verb to depict action, one that requires no modifier for description.

Does the British writing style sound dull and colorless? Have Americans become flabby in writing and reading habits, relying on crutches to carry a story along?

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

To Knol or Not

Writing a KnolLast January in Writing on a Bloggy Knol, I told you about Google's hush-hush secret web authoring project, Code Name, Knol. I didn't get invited to beta test this one, sigh. Yesterday, while I was looking elsewhere, Google announced the public release of Knol in the Official Goolgle Blog. It says, "Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects. Today, we're making Knol available to everyone."

In the Blogger Buzz blog, however, it is suggested that Knol can be used to complement a blog. Ufortunately, it didn't explain how. A method of connecting a blog with a Knol is not mentioned, which is my interest. This product add more collaborative, interactive tools, including ways for readers to make suggestions, review or comment on a Knol, like an edited Wiki.

Sounds like a blog with benefits, to me. I'm thinking of authoritative people who already blog with extended posts that accumulate long chains of comments, including conversations among readers and with the author. Of course, it is not usual for the author to change the post in response to the comments, if that is the point of the Knol collaborative features.

You can try out Knol for yourself. Before you start one, you might want to brush up on the Basics of Writing a Knol, one of the only two availaable Knols on writing.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Writing Media Releases

One of the several projects I'm currently working on is a media release about an event. I thought this would be a good time to review the basics on how to prepare such a piece of work. Keep it to one page with release information (Embargo or For Immediate Release) and date in the upper right, contact information at the lower left (bottom of the page). Single space. Align text left (ragged right). Do NOT justify the text. Use a clear, easy-to-read font and size.

Start with an attention-grabbing lead sentence. In the middle include required or important information such as the date, time, cost, and location. Save interesting, but unnecessary, details for the end. Editors "cut from the bottom" when they fit copy to available space.

The most important aspect belongs in the lead sentence. This could be a person, organization, purpose, event or product. The date and time are straight-forward items, but details about the location (if you're writing about an event) depend on the size of the surrounding area and the span of your audience. In San Diego, for example, it's useful and common to find map coordinates included (everyone uses the same map books). In my Ohio hometown, stating "River Walk" would be sufficient direction. It's good to indicate the cost, if there is one, and a phone number for further information.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing a Synopsis

About a year ago I mentioned writing several versions of your synopsis. How to go about writing a synopsis befuddles most of us the first time we try. It can be more difficult than writing the novel itself! Some people advocate writing it first (which I would call more of an outline), but usually it comes later, after you know how the plot turns out.

Here are some resources, in no particular order, to help you in writing a synopsis:

http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2007/08/
how-to-write-synopsis.html

http://www.fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue%2015/workshop.htm

http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-synopsis.html

http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2005/08/synopsis-five.html

http://charlottedillon.com/synopsis.html

Sorry, still hacking and miserable from the cold. No energy to make links clickable. You'll have to copy and paste.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Hunting Freelance Jobs

The FreelanceSwitch website offers a Monster List of Freelancing Job Sites which anyone can access for free. Other services on the site require subscriptions. Happy Hunting!

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hancock Websites

HancockWebsites.comI'm having a down day--caught a "summer cold", URI, a.k.a. in some circles as the "[Insert Ethnicity Desired] Creeping Crud". I'm not sure I can make sense. So I thought I'd just give a boost to the newly-remodeled Hancock Websites It's already listed on MyBLogLog with a page of it's own, but not much is there because the site doesn't really have a blog ... yet. The site's all there, though, rather slimmed down.

I hope to add a form for prospective clients to fill out concerning their aspirations and wants for their websites. So many don't know what is available. None know the amount of work that goes into a custom-designed site. I think many don't even know what having a site can do for their careers. I just heard of a novelist whose agent advised her to put up a website with a blog for more visibility to publishers. Yes, times are changing. We are already in the Digital Age.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Silly Ideas Whose Time Has Come

As an offshoot of the July/August Atlantic Monthly article The 11 1/2 Biggest Ideas of the Year, may I present the much more amusing Ideas Whose Time Has Come? The article is subtitled: ONCE-REPUDIATED IDEAS STAGING COMEBACKS. I especially enjoy the section on:

INNOVATIONS WE MIGHT SERIOUSLY REGRET

■ Mortgage-backed securities

■ High-definition pornography

■ The Hadron supercollider

■ Dubai

■ Non-Communist Russia

■ The Wendy’s Baconator sandwich

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Writing "Since" for "Because"

Many writers are confused about the use of "since" and "because" and think the former always means the latter. According to one of several GrammarCheck newsletters: When used as a conjunction, especially at the beginning of a sentence, since" can be used in place of "because." According to one of our academic sources, "since" has been used in this manner since the 14th century.

Although that website refers to "academic sources", I can find no credentials for the site's administrators or content providers. So, I'd go with the library's usage views. If you look up "since" in "The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2007, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2007. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved...." at Answers, for example, you'll find the word listed mostly (seven of eight meanings) as an indicator of time passed.

"Since" can be used as an adjective, a preposition, or a conjunction, and two of the three conjunction uses are time-related. In the example the dictionary provides for the use of "since" to mean "inasmuch as" or "because", the example places the conjunction at the beginning of a sentence: Since you're not interested, I won't tell you about it. No, seriously, that is the example sentence given!

In light of the facts that so much of the meaning of "since" has to do with time, try to avoid using it to indicate causality. When you're tempted to use it, take a pause and type "because".

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Writing About the U.S.

Setting a novel in the United States often requires some research into history. Similarly, a nonfiction piece may need comparative data from a previous era. Everyone knows the U.S. Library of Congress (LOC) is probably the largest repository of such information. But not everyone can travel to Washington, D.C., to perform the necessary research. Fortunately the digital age rescues us -- and we don't even need a special membership or password to access the LOC collections.

Visiting the electronic version of the library can be as daunting as paying it a visit in person. Where to go? What to ask for? Fortunately intermediaries, like the Digital Library Federation maintain a registry of the digitized collections in the LOC. This isn't just a list of names, however. Clicking on the Full Description link takes you to a page of information about the collection that will help you determine if it's likely to contain the data you are seeking. Additionally, the description page contains sections on associated projects and related collections. In some cases, alternative access URLs are provided, handy if the main link is down for any reason.

You can also search A Writer's Edge for other posts on research.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Writing Website Advice

Web site buildingOrdinarily I don't dis others' contributions to make the world a better place for freelancers and other writers. Usually, when I run across an article that makes dubious claims in the guise of expertise, I just try to counter with a positive piece of my own. I'm going to make an exception for an article that Jeff Wuorio wrote for ConnectIT, a newsletter for small and medium businesses.

Wurio has written several books and articles on personal finance and business. He has a free email account with Roadrunner, a free blog design with content loaded by Blogger, hosted on the free server site Blogspot, and as far as I could find, no website. While I might voraciously read his works for help battling reluctant early retirement, life in an era of inflation with a fixed income, and other personal financial crises, why should I trust his views on Nine Things Not to have on your website? I ask because I see the link being passed around among writers and publishers.

Most people might heavily salt such advice or perhaps seriously consider it--if it were backed up by heavyweight site design experts, but those quoted in the article are all in public relations. Some of the tips are, indeed, common sense issues, like not giving away trade secrets or confusing viewers. But c'mon, don't have your photo on the first page? Don't get personal or provide communication information? The opposite are basic tenets of site design according to guru Jakob Nielsen and many other professionals in businesses like A List Apart, SitePoint, Mezzoblue/css Zen Garden. Even good ol' Web Monkey offers free credible web design tutoring (by Wired.com).

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Questioning Jose Agualusa

Sonya Chrisman's alter ego, KirbyYou know that saying about giving an urgent job to a busy woman? Well, I've also learned that a winner will come up with a winning question -- even if I don't know who she is at first. The best question submitted in the contest to win a copy of Jose Agualusa's The Book of Chameleons: A Novel is from Emmy Award winner Sonya Chrisman (not pictured at the left). She is a host, producer and writer for the public television station WNMU-TV in northern Michigan. She's already won Emmies for documentaries.

The best question, in my estimation, was this:

If you could be any character in your book, which would it be, and likewise, which would you not want to be?

When I finally tracked down Sonya (my first email went missing), she had this to say about her winning entry:

The question intrigues me with the genre of his novel. A memory is very precious to people. They are not only something very personal, they're free. Then, when we begin to lose our memories due to illness or old age, it's a tragedy. In Mr. Agualusa's book, memories are more than just precious. They are a precious commodity. If his world were a reality, which end of the spectrum would he rather be on character wise, the one that sells the memories or the one who receives them?

Sonya's query, and a few I managed to think up on my own, are currently in translation for the Portuguese-speaking Agualusa. Stay tuned for the interview.

Incidentally, the photo at the top is the only one I could find of the elusive Sonya. To be more precise, I think this is her alter ego, a.k.a. "Kirby".

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Do Writing Dreams Matter?

Of course they matter to you. "But," you may well argue, "they don't seem to matter to anyone else." We have a universal need for validation, acceptance, approval, a feeling that we "fit in" to our families, society, and life in general. No one would choose to go through life as a misfit, right?

Let's think about that for a moment. In a world without misfits, no one would feel uncomfortable around others. No one would prick our consciences. No one would act outlandish, stretching the boundaries of what is with what might be. There would be no "what if?" Reality would be a fixed agreement, possibilities nonexistent, and crazy dreams crushed before they are even spoken, maybe before they're even dreamed.

Now the landscape begins to sound bleak and life as sterile as a gulag. As much as we may individually want acceptance, as a whole we need the dreamers to thrive as a part of Life. Without the dreamers, barriers would never fall, innovation not take place, and humanity might as well be stillborn. Your dreams matter more than individuals can ever tell you to your face in critique groups or boilerplate rejection notices.

This is what is meant when you're told, "Don't take it personally." Literally, don't take the setbacks personally. The agent, editor, peers, your family and friends may not support you in the way you'd like, but they also may not realize the importance of your dreams to their own lives. To all our lives. When the rejections threaten to build into a Writer's Block for you, keep in mind that your dreams matter to the universal book of Life.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Writing Books to be Published

Here's a unique offer -- a 750-page FREE eBook by published author, J.A. Konrath, titled The Newbie's Guide To Publishing Book. He is, as he says in the subtitle to his blog, The Newbie's Guide to Publishing,
author of the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller novels Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, and Rusty Nail
and a couple more, I think. The book is, of course, a downloadable .PDF file. As such, it requires .PDF reading software that you can obtain also for free, such as the Reader from Adobe. Truly an insider's path to getting published!

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Editing the Editor


Take a peek at a recent
conversation with The Editor,
as my avatar from BitStrips
is named, and a friend who
dropped by to visit with me:

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Choosing Writing Jobs

Freelancing is a balancing actMark Dugas, producer and editor of documentary films, has an interesting take on how to decide whether or not to accept a freelance job. This might seem like the least important aspect among finding a job, making a pitch, setting your rates and securing an offer, but he says to consider these factors:

  1. Will it advance your career/have networking benefit?
  2. Will you earn decent money?
  3. Will it be fun?
Fun? Fun! Who said anything about work being fun? Isn't that why they call it work?

Dugas says that if a job has two of these three, it's a go, and he dishes up a compelling example: a crummy job with low pay for an outstanding person might fly if the contact will further your career. Yep, I would make coffee for, say, Ray Bradbury, but only if he talked to me and I could learn something useful, quote him, or put his name down as a contact. (I've never been a "fan" or gone gaga over any celebrity or even one BIG NAME WRITER.)

When I think back and apply this rule of thumb to projects I worked on, or more aptly to the ones I turned down, it does seem to fit: writing high-priced political rhetoric for a candidate who called advertising placement fees "kickbacks" and told me I just needed "a good lay" -- negatory. The same type of job for low pay for the first woman to run for the state senate -- priceless!

Read Dugas' whole article, Learning When to Say No.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Writing "Try"

LAST DAY TO ENTER THE CONTEST

It's quite difficult for me to turn off the editor in my head (known informally as the condition "ed head"). When I read or hear the phrase "try and" instead of the correct "try to", a shudder shakes my spine. Bad grammar grates my nerves like nails scraped on a chalk board. Why should we not "try and"? Well, we can, but only if we really mean two different actions and punctuate the sentence correctly.

Consider what the writer or speaker really means when asking someone to "Try and get there on time". I think the phrase requests someone to be on time. If the conjunction "and" is connecting two verbs, "try" and "get", what else is to be "tried"?

In the case of "try to walk without crutches" connected to "be careful of the curb", the correct shortened construction would be "Try, and be careful". In this case, the conjunction connects two independent clauses and usually needs a comma. Incidentally, in all these examples, the subject of each clause is understood to be "you", even though it is not written or spoken.

When you're tempted to use "try to" or "try and", expand the sentence to its whole meaning to determine which word to use after the verb "try". Try it; you'll like it!

Reference from The American Heritage Dictionary:
USAGE NOTE The phrase try and is commonly used as a substitute for try to, as in Could you try and make less noise? A number of grammarians have labeled the construction incorrect. To be sure, the usage is associated with informal style and strikes an inappropriately conversational note in formal writing. Sixty-five percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use in writing of the sentence Why don't you try and see if you can work the problem out between yourselves?
via Answers.com

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Writing Watchdog Journalism

CONTEST ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY JULY 10th!

Computers do watchdog journalism dutyDo you know the differences among a Quit Claim, Trust and Grant deeds? How about cross-checking with a DEF 14A proxy statement? Where would you go to find information about these documents? Public records. Everything that happens in U.S. life that has to do with "the public" or involves public funding is supposed to be recorded; we all have rights to view or obtain this information. That's what Danielle Cervantes, an analyst for the San Diego Union-Tribune, told our writer's group last month. Cervantes is part of the paper's Watchdog & Projects Team. She functions as a "computer-assisted reporting specialist" who crunches the numbers and cross-checks data to back up muck-raking reporters. One of those news-breaking stories won the paper a Pulitzer recently.

Cervantes explained that computers and public records are the tools of watchdog journalism these days. When reporters want to ferret out the truth about major issues, institutions or individuals, they turn to the computer analysts to verify tips and backup stories.

The only exception to the availability of public records are law enforcement cases. If you want to investigate a story in your area, it helps to have a handle on the names for the kinds of records you might want to review. Cervantes provided a list of terms commonly used for public records. While some of these might be specific to California, your state or country will have something similar. If you know the definition, you'll be able to discover the name applicable in your area.

I'm making the Public Record Terms document one of the free articles available on the Writing Help page here at A Writer's Edge. In the future I'll post more about this kind of writing and more resources to help those interested.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Writing Dialogue

In the beginning (and forever, for some writers) dialogue can be the most difficult aspect of writing. Nonfiction dialogue is easier, especially in journalism, because you are recreating a real conversation. If you've recorded, say, an interview, extracting sections perhaps for a Q & A is fairly straightforward. I say fairly because you wouldn't want to write the true conversation, reproducing every "um", "uh" and other pause-filling sounds.

Beware of being too faithful to your notes or a recording and allowing the speaker to use incorrect grammar. I tried this once with a school superintendent who, in truth, sounded like the idiot redneck that he was. The dialogue didn't get by my city editor, however. He threw the copy back at me with a charge to "clean it up!"

Dialogue for fiction is even more critical because it is part of characterization and moves the plot along (we hope). No one wants characters sounding stiff, weird or anything other than what they are supposed to be. Ordinary people use contractions in daily speech, so don't forget to include them in your dialogue, unless your characters are robots or aliens (from another planet or outer space).

One practice opportunity is to simply listen to ongoing conversations. I find sitting at Starbucks with a coffee the perfect situation for hearing all sorts of people talk. I note distinguishing words and expressions that reveal personalities and perhaps unseen characteristics. I like to listen to the half of mobile phone conversations in which we seem to drown. Also, I imagine what the other half is saying as another dialogue exercise.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Websites for Writing

ONLY 3 DAYS LEFT IN THE QUESTION CONTEST

BLACKOCTOBER.INFO designed by Georganna HancockIn answer to a question about marketing, Jim Cox, owner/editor of the Midwest Book Review, wrote in his July newsletter that a crucial key is "a dynamite website that is more than just the cyberspace equivalent of a broadsheet so as to induce visitors to return again and again and again."

What, exactly, is a "dynamite website"? Some think it is all in the appearance or the design, the content, or the site's functionality. The truth is that the most effective website is custom-tailored to the specific needs of the writer or author or book. Some items for consideration:

database of products
search engine for the site or database
video trailer (more on this later in the week)
specialized web pages
podcast
marketing logo/slogan
photo album/gallery/slide show
live chat feature
downloadable documents
a little Flash
shopping cart and ecommerce
blog
form (signups, voting, contact)

Don't be dismayed, though. You can start with a simple site, like Black October, which I recently releases to the universe. Note that the author also promotes an upcoming book, still in the writing stage. When it is published, it will already have a web presence. The author's fans can also find this site by searching on his name (two variations) and the name of his publisher, Abyss Publications. The magic of the Internet!

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Christian Writing

PLEASE ENTER THE CONTEST! DEADLINE JULY 10

Christian WritingA growing and popular genre of writing is the Christian sector, especially in countries where the majority of religions are various flavors of Christianity (a.k.a. the U.S. and U.K.) A comprehensive resource for Christian writers seems to be Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide. The site is only a few years old, but the owners claim their guide book to markets is in its 23 year. Stuart also offers books by other authors on Christian writing, as well as consulting on manuscripts and contracts.

You can also find lists of magazine and book publishers that accept such articles and query guidance about each and a general list of organizations and web addresses for writers. Stuart also offers an impressive list of conferences -- I counted over 40 for the rest of this year including one in San Diego in September.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Writing Desks

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

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

Be sure to enter the CONTEST by July 10.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence!

Flag of the United States of AmericaIf I were to write a personal essay on "Why it's Great to be an American" it would begin and end with the freedom of expression. The key to understanding America's magnificence is not in the often said motto, "My country -- right or wrong". It's "My country -- right and my responsibility and freedom to speak up if I think my country is wrong."

Although democracy may be cumbersome and justice a long time coming, they are better than living under the yoke of a totalitarian regime. People who have spent their lives in fear ... of dictators, of religious leaders, of black and white standards, of unbending laws ... cannot fathom the kind of life we enjoy in the United States. They can't imagine independence, never having experienced it.

An Iranian friend has said to me, "Divorce is wrong. It should be against the law. How can you have laws without religion?" This kind of thinking typifies the lack of understanding I just alluded to. Some Americans may think divorce is wrong, but others think it is right. And all have the right to think and say what they will and act as they please in regard to ending a marriage. Divorces can be undone. Something like murder cannot, and thus we have laws making murder a crime. We don't need religion to tell us to do so. As human beings we can decide what is right and wrong.

Even better, if we disagree with a law, we are free to express our opinion verbally and in all media, to rouse others to join in opposition, and to change the law. This is because the law is an expression of the will of the people of the land, not a fixed set of rules handed down through generations from a society that no longer exists. Nor is it controlled by an oligarchy that is not accountable.

Happy Birthday, America -- "the land of the free"

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Contest to win a Book

THE BOOK OF CHAMELEONSWould you like to win a copy of THE BOOK OF CHAMELEONS by Jose Eduardo Agualusa? It is an enchanting novel exquisitely translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. Agualusa, an Angolan, is a master of telling stories within stories. He creates in the magical realism tradition of Latin American writers. I posted briefly about the book last month, and I continue to be haunted by the tale of identity.

Now I have an opportunity to interview the author, and I need some intelligent, pertinent, thoughtful questions to ask. Send me your best (one) to enter the contest by July 10. Email your question to CONTEST@WRITERS-EDGE.INFO. You can read about the book on Amazon by clicking on the book image at the beginning of this post and read an excerpt there, too.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ready for Writing Success?

Climbing to SuccessWhen I was teaching a course on writing, one student revealed a major stumbling block. He was writing a book, a decent one at that. I thought he stood a good chance of getting an agent and selling the story to a publisher. But when I came to the marketing part of the series of classes, he balked. "No, I won't be doing that," he said after I talked about being available for interviews in all media, book signings and tours, and appearing at events to promote yourself as a writer or to market your writing.

"I'm shy," he whispered with a slight blush. I was taken aback. How could someone not be aware that public speaking and appearances are part of being a successful author? Selling a manuscript to a publisher is not the same as selling books to buyers. In this era of dwindling marketing and advertising budgets and personnel at publishers, more and more of the burden lies heavily on authors' shoulders.

That's not the only pressure successful writers encounter. Publishers are increasingly demanding that their stables produce books at a faster pace. The old paradigm of taking years to write a sequel or the next in a series is out the window, what with ebooks and electronic gizmos to read them. The public suffers from an ever-shortening attention span, too. This is especially true for readers of the suspense genres.

At least a novel a year has become the norm, the demand, according to an article in the Boston Globe, where local writer, Robert B. Parker, cranks out four books a year. He and Elmore Leonard must be blessed with great staminas. Parker quotes Leonard as saying, "If it takes you more than six months to write a book, you're not working."

In addition to producing reliably on time, authors still must cope with the public appearances that attract book buyers. No pressure, really, for success.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Reciprocity Returns to "A Writer's Edge"

With much huffing and puffing, I've wrestled the list of reciprocal linking blogs back onto the front page. It's over in the right column and up to date as far as I know. Probably needs a shaking out, but the oldest live links are at the top and the most recent are added at the bottom. Yes, yes, the page needs rebalancing, but Blogger is giving me so much grief as I tinker with the template, that I thought I should leave well enough alone for now.

If your link is missing and you have a permanent, non-scrolling one to A Writer's Edge on your home or index page, just shoot me an email. Conversely, if you want yours removed, let me know.

While we're on the subject of communication, I won't bite if you ask to use part of a post or maybe even all of it on one of your web pages. You only need to ask permission and follow the parameters of attribution and linkage. Common sense and courtesy.

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