A Writer's Edge


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

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Friday, October 31, 2008


Dear Readers,

After nearly 4.5 years of almost nonstop daily blogging, I'm taking a break to work on some special writing and editing projects. Please use the website search box to find articles on your topics of interest, or browse the archives for past posts -- there are 1670 of them.

All the best,


Ed. Note: 11/15/08 Loving it--my "I Love to Write Day" celebration!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mini Review: I Am Not a Cop!

Buy from Amazon"Get ready for more Munch, Detective Munch, that is, played by the real-life character of author Richard Belzer" begins my review of the funnyman's debut novel. Read the entire Book Review: I Am Not a Cop! by Richard Belzer with Michael Black at BlogCritics.

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I Love to Write Day

Founded in 2002 by Delaware author John Riddle, I Love to Write Day is celebrated every November 15th by asking everyone to spend some time writing -- a poem, a letter, an essay, a greeting card. Does keyboarding count or are we after penmanship?

If you slip over to I Love to Write Day and sign up to participate in the day you can get two free reports from John. Just send John an email at johnriddle@sprintmail.com, telling him how you'll help spread the word and he'll send you: How I Made $66,270 in 9 Months Writing for Websites and Getting a Book Contract in 30 Days or Less.

Not rilly silly, but fun to participate, maybe. Oh, and free books!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Find Alternative Search Engines

Alternative Search Engines covers the cutting-edge of specialized search engines, and is edited by Charles Knight, who bills himself as a "reformed SEO from Charlottesville, Virginia."

The intent of the service is to expand coverage of search engines to include over 1,000 alternative and niche search engines. The editorial attitude is supposedly not anti-Google, but pro-alternative search engines. The site's motto is:
The most wonderful search engines you’ve never seen.
This might be just the place to begin finding research tools for a writing project. Use Google and/or Yahoo! of course; however, if you are looking for information on a rather esoteric topic, better to use a device designed to find resources in just that area than to limit yourself to maybe just the first ten returns of a general search engine. Or to wallow through dozens of them.

At any rate, the site provides an interesting insight into search engine development and operations, and it's certain you will learn about tools you've probably never heard of. The reviews section should be especially useful for an overview. You can also search for information about a search service you may have read about, search using a tag cloud, and read debates on some pretty specialized issues. And more.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welcome from AOL to Blogger

AOL recently decided to eliminate its Journals service. To help AOL users continue to share their thoughts online, Blogger has built a simple migration tool to move an AOL Journal to Blogger. I hope all the AOL journalists linked to A Writer's Edge choose to move in with me. Well, not literally! Please let me know your new URL so I can get it right in the Reciprocity list.

Speaking of the listing of blogs that have fixed links to this one on home pages, I recently refurbished the digs. If I've inadvertently missed your blog or website or (heaven forbid!) made a mistake in the link, please let me know right away! Just leave a comment here with the correct URL or send it in an email to Writers.Edge@gmail.com with or without a complaint.

And if anyone wonders why I've added a link to the main page of the Midwest Book Review, it's because they are very nice people, and they listed my writing and website services on two pages in their website. Thank you, MBR!


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Writing Complaints

Taking potshots from behind rocks worked well in the Revolutionary War. In civil discourse, it's not such a good idea. Here are some of the problems:
  • the complaint loses credibility, if it ever had any veracity
  • the recipient might get vengeful
  • you may lose job opportunities
  • you kiss away any hope of receiving free help
  • nothing changes for the better
  • what goes around, comes around (karma)
You probably think I'm referring to political ads that plague us daily, but no! It's my email inbox that has produced two such experiences in the last month.

If you're going to point out flaws in this writing, page, website, why not do so in a comment here? Let the world know I'm human. But for your sake (and mine) identify yourself. How can I take you seriously, if I don't know who you are and the basis for the condemnations. Certainly I value all viewers' opinions and often ask for feedback. But to out of the blue tell me the writing here is filled with errors and refuse to point them out is, well, pointless. I love it when Lillian, a sister editor, finds a mistake and teaches us all a grammar or punctuation lesson. I know who she is and where and how to find her if I want to follow up with her.

Yesterday some poor guy spammed me seeking work. He only hinted at his identity. No website. No resume. A writing sample maundered over his life. I suggested an improved approach. He punched back lambasting my error-filled writing and the appearance of this place. Funny, I had felt sorry for him and was going to hire him to proofread if the free edit he had originally offered revealed at least three mistakes that I agreed were errors on my part.

Needless to say, "John" will not be making any money from A Writer's Edge this year. Nor will I change a post on the basis of an anonymous message from a certain service in Spain. *wink*

The situation is quite similar to reviewing one's work in a critique group minus positive ego boosters. Just identify yourself enough to be reached, list the error, and explain why you think it is wrong. Educate me. Don't whine and bitch slap me!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Freelance Writing Fees

One of the most difficult aspects of operating a freelance writing business is fielding the cold phone caller who immediately asks, "What do you charge for [fill in the blank]?" Just the other day, the phone rang. I go (to use the vernacular), "Hello!" with a smile to make my voice bright, alert, cheery, welcoming and friendly.

The caller responds, "Hi, I'm Seth. What would you charge to proofread brochures and copywriting?" First off, those are two quite different tasks.

Inside my mind, I go, "Huh?" Some writers have a fixed rate for all writing (the latest fad is about $70, but the web page that began that trend has disappeared, and I suspect the guy who put it up might be sorry. Or laughing up his sleeve. Who knows?) I'm probably shooting myself in the foot for not having fixed rates. I find each job is unique and requires different amounts of time, energy and knowledge. Proofreading is practically automatic and mindless for me. Writing copy, even for my own purposes, is like pulling teeth. Sometimes hen's teeth.

However, my frequent response of "it all depends on the specific job. What do you have in mind?" tends to discourage progress. The longer I talk with clients, the more distant they seem to become unless I offer to do something for free, like edit a few pages. When the job is writing, though, offering a freebie is more difficult. Maybe the best approach would be to quote a figure in the middle of my hourly rates and say that the cost is "around XX dollars an hour, depending."

I'm listening carefully to Peter Bowerman, author of the popular The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency As a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less discussing this topic with Deborah Ng on Freelance writing jobs and Copywriting Success Summit talk radio show | FWJRadio Welcomes Peter Bowrman at Blog Talk Radio.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Humor

What did the zombie say to his ghoul?

"I really dig you, Baby!"

What? You say I have no future in funny? I'll have you know I used to write jokes for Robert Orben!


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Writing, Rewriting, & Research

When I babbled on yesterday about organizing research, I neglected to reveal my problem with using the Internet -- distractibility. Ooh, look: a shiny new Forum at Maria's blog, a new resource to explore, etc. Before you know it, I've spent 30 minutes exploring a website on, say, psychiatric journals.

The upsides to harvesting more material than you can use in a book, story or article are several:
  1. When you know more than you need about your subject, you write more confidently and that carries through into your writing style.

  2. You can briefly reference the added information at your disposal, and even it it isn't mentioned, the bulk of research at hand adds weight to your production.

  3. The extra material comes in handy when the questions flow because people will always ask about something that is not in your work, of course. Often they want to know, but some will ask just test your expertise.

  4. And finally, all the "stuff" you don't use is available to spark or perhaps fully fill a new piece. At the least, it is a resource for slanting an article or story for another publication; providing different information for a rewrite; being the basis for a related but alternative work.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writer's Block Book: Organizing

Researching a proposed book is currently both easier and more complex, thanks to the Internet.

The last time I organized large-scale research was for my master's thesis published in 1993. Using the Internet for finding information was still pretty rudimentary. I could search indexes of journals for articles on subjects, then check the UCSD and SDSU library catalogs for book and periodical holdings, and finally visit the stacks and photocopy pertinent material. Holdings I wanted to read that were not local were ordered through an inter-library loan system. I ended up with a standard-size small moving box (book box) crammed with 11 X 17 sheets of photocopies in file folders.

Some people can manage to contain all their research electronically, but I still like to spread out pieces of paper to refresh memory and find connections. I do have documents in computer files, and a directory devoted to the book, and I have already begun using online resources like Google Scholar.

Still, stacks of paper are piling up. They're photocopies of the indexes and end notes and bibliographies of the basic academic books I've reviewed so far. This material will perhaps be scanned into my computer to compile lists of books, articles, and journal to gather further academic research--a job I may farm out to a university student.

I've yet to even touch the sea of popular resources on Writer's Block, usually in the self-help arena. A glance at Amazon listings is overwhelming. And thank goodness for used book availability! The work plan is roughly to research enough to firm up an outline, write a proposal, find and query agents. If I were younger and had more energy, I might query/submit directly to publishers (not top tier ones, because they don't accept unsolicited material).

One of the documents in the BLOCK book directory is a rudimentary outline that I am using to guide the organization of this research material. I'm still vacillating between incorporating the "what to do" with "causes" or putting all the advice in a separate section of the book. Another notion is to develop a self-diagnosis instrument. It could take the form of a series of questions or a flow chart that would lead to potential solutions.

What do you think? If you were searching for understanding and help with Writer's Block, would you want to read about reasons with suggested solutions or look for the help in a different part of a book? Would you like some sort of chart to help decide the cause of your block, or prefer just to read about all the sources of the problem for a general understanding?

Previous articles in this series:

Writer's Block Book: The Commitment (June)
Writer's Block Book: The Saga Begins (September)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Writing Services

Tripping through the fields on the Web, these tricks treats services caught my writer's eyes:

Kelley Sonora over at MatchaCollege.com just alerted me to a great resource on this page of free courses for writers. What a useful listing of free classes you can take to improve your hobby or craft. I can't vouch for the quality of the instruction offered, of course. You'll have to check out each of them for yourself.

Although I don't approve of wikis as an information source for researching subjects for articles, Wikipedia's new Wiktionary can be useful for a quick look up, especially when you just want the gist of a word. The incredible part that makes it so much fun are the 105 languages (at last check) that you can use in the main search engine. To try it out, I slammed in "schlemiel", one of my fave Yiddish words, and this service brought right up an understandable explanation.

Last, but not least, a fee service, eSpindle builds custom-designed English vocabulary and spelling sessions from a database of 100,000 words. This would be great for English language learners (ESL) of any age, although it seems to be designed for children using advanced technology. Let's hear it for Ed Tech! The home page contains a long list of questions you can get answered just by clicking on them. A variety of subscription plans as well as a free trial are available.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Message for the Day

Hi, Georganna,

May this be your best birthday ever!


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Writing 'all right 'vs. 'alright'

Just as I watched the incorrect spelling 'definately' make the rounds of the Web in previous years, the mistake du jour that I see is 'alright', and it is not all right with me. I find it in posts and articles from people who purport to be writers.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

The one-word spelling alright appeared some 75 years after all right itself had reappeared from a 400-year-long absence. Since the early 20th century some critics have insisted alright is wrong, but it has its defenders and its users. It is less frequent than all right but remains in common use especially in journalistic and business publications. It is quite common in fictional dialogue, and is used occasionally in other writing ...
From Answers.com, the Word Tutor considers the adjective form as Nonstandard usage, as does Word Net. If you like the Wikipedia as a source of information about words, it states, "Even though it often appears in print, the use of "alright" in any context other than slang is generally frowned upon and may be perceived as purposefully breaking convention." Nonstandard is also the verdict of the American Heritage® Dictionary as provided online by Bartleby.

Now see, this is the hazard of becoming an editor. You think and talk like this post all the time. No wonder I'm hearing, "You need to loosen up!"

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Editing Off the Hook

You may have read it first here, but Maria Schneider, former editor of Writer's Digest magazine, has her blog up and racing off with a series of posts logging her experience building her WordPress blog/website. Take a look at the Editor Unleashed for Maria's overview. I found interesting this tidbit about choosing the site's name:

I wanted to build a community site for writers with all kinds of resources. editorunleashed.com wasn’t the first or second or even tenth name I came up with for this site. In fact, it took me weeks to secure a URL that communicated what I wanted to do with my site ...
What image does Editor Unleashed conjure for you? I see a rabid, frothing pit bull dog racing around nipping at split infinitives and taking a bite out of passive sentences. Not for nothing did they call Maria the "pit boss" of the WD Forum, which she managed. She even had a whip, some said.

And people are intimidated to show me their writing!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Writing a Book Block

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, October 17, 2008

Writing Sci-Fi vs. Horror

In an extended TV promotion of the new video game, Dead Space, writers and actors pontificate about the definitions of "horror" and "science fiction". One shocked me with the thesis that sci-fi is more akin to fantasy, being "way out there" and horror is the here and now. The game, of course, incorporates aspects of both genres. I found this amusing as I was rereading Alien, a classic tale of a very personal monster out there in space. Very fantastic, too.

I always thought sci-fi to be grounded in the here and now of science, just pushing the boundaries of what is currently possible, imagining what might become of it. And horror, well we all know what horror is--for each of us individually--even if we can't define it (much like porn). Last night I complained to my friend, Betsy, that I was watching the most boring movie about giant spiders. I could hear her shivers as she moaned, "Now that is horrible. I hate spiders!" The venom-dripping fanged arachnid advanced on the heroine.

"Really?" I came back with immense intelligence. "You know I like vampires, and creepy space monsters like the one in Alien." Apparently we will receive no more goodies from the great vampire queen, Anne Rice. Last Sunday The New York Times Book Review carried a full page advertisement for Rice's latest, Called Out of Darkness: a spiritual confession. It's about her romp with atheism and return to Catholicism. *sniff* I miss the vampires, badly.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Writing Commitments Fulfilled

Huzzahs all around to the members of the BLOG ACTION DAY*CHAIN

A Writer's Edge

Gran Speaks

Love Ely

Inks Goes Freelance

Jack Mandora

Sag Hampton

all of whom carried through with their commitments to post in their blogs about poverty. It was a good job, well done and with many great ideas for what just one person (or a groups of us) can do to attempt to wipe Poverty from the face of the earth by 2020.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Writing to End Poverty

I'm just one, lone person. So many people worldwide need help out of impoverished conditions. What can I, just one person, do? I -- and you -- can join together with all the other lone, single people with abilities to take actions. We can be more effective working together. That's one of the few beliefs that I have. Economists say over 20% of people in the world live in poverty. That leaves 80% of us, and we can wipe out poverty by 2020, we are told. Not just by writing, either.

You can always donate money to charitable organizations. Try for ones that are working for systemic changes and enable people to fish, rather than just giving them a fish. Another donation you may be able to give is your time--volunteer with the charities that work directly with poor people where you live, take vacations that are eco-touristy, providing work for third worlders. Other trips afford opportunities to work with impoverished peoples.

Use your business to provide what Bill Gates calls "Creative Capitalism" to help people help themselves, or direct industry research into solving problems and developing benefits for the poor.

Become an advocate for the poor: stand up and speak out; buy Fairtrade items and those not built in sweatshops, invest ethically; and let your local, state and national political representatives know how you feel by writing and visiting them and by signing appropriate petitions for change. Participate thoughtfully in elections.

What can one person do against the pandemic of poverty? Quite a bit, when you put your fine mind to it.

If you can read this
you can help END POVERTY NOW!

For inspiration watch this important YouTube video.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Writing Websites: Current Practices

Last month when I wrote about how to have better websites for a book, yourself and your writing, I listed some of the components that enable attracting visitors, capturing their attention to keep them browsing, and causing them to return to your site. I promised to explore each of these components more in depth. This is the second follow up article. Today we'll consider current practices for your designing your site. One of the first sets of elements writers usually consider makes up the pages' appearances. In my opinion, this can be a mistake, but it is irresistible to do so. Let's consider some basic guidelines:

Don't use a background that interferes with the message, text or other information on the page. Horror writers are notorious for desiring black backgrounds. The only text that is readable is white, bright yellow or screaming red. All these combinations are hard on the eyes. Stick with a white or light background and dark text in a sans serif font like Arial or Verdana.

Avoid the temptation to upload an "Under Construction" graphic as soon as you acquire a parked domain page. Ideally, no one but you and your designer need to know the URL of your potential site. If the news has escaped, or you're worried that others will find it by accident, a tasteful welcome and request to return is sufficient. Really savvy developers will add a sign up form to begin capturing visitor information, especially the ever-desirable email address. Offer to send visitors a notice when the site is up and running.

Need I add, don't have a link to a page that just says "Under Construction"? That's quite unprofessional and frustrating for viewers. Similarly, using dead links in a menu to indicate future sections or pages is equally counterproductive. Don't let your site "go live" until is is fully ready -- as a beginning. You can always expand the navigation menu as new sections go online.

Cutesy horizontal bars and animations, scrolling banners, flashing or sparkling images, site visit meters, and update listings are out of vogue. They may be amusing, but they can also be annoying and are inappropriate for a professional Web page. You don't want any element that takes the eye away from the page's content.

Similarly, pass up graphics that are nor relevant to your writing or to a link's function. Ensure a connection before you use an image. Acquire permission or a license to use someone else's graphics. If you "deep link" (simply point to it instead of hosting a copy on your site) be careful that it won't disappear, and again seek permission. Deep linking is a drain on another's resources.

Be sure to provide ALT tags on images and text equivalents for audio files, text only versions of pages, and information about videos for the visually impaired visitors. Try to comply with the standards of the Web Accessibility Initiative.

This article is an extension of Better Websites for Writing.
Previous articles in the series:
Writing Websites: Critical Listings

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dangerous Writing Instruments

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Top 10 Writing Blogs for 2008

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Stelzner announced this year's winner in his annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers - The 2008/2009 Winners popularity contest. Already some bloggers are listing their favorites or which blogs they think should have been listed.

This year's winners are:
I tried to visit each in rapid succession to see if I could find a common thread -- unfortunately each one so captured my attention that I was soon caught up in the warp and woof of the material. You'll have to take your own trip through top blog land.

Sorry this post is so late today. The Time Warner Cable modem service was out all morning. The TWC phone lines were jammed, too. When I returned from the YMCA at 2 p.m., I spotted a cable guy across the street and enhanced my reputation as the neighborhood crazy lady by yelling at him. Of course when we reached the computer, the service had been restored. That's a ploy that never fails to work! Just find a techie and the problem magically disappears.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Do Blogs Need To Be Social ?

Continuing yesterday's consideration of blogs and social networking, perhaps Wallace's views reflect the position taken by Om Malik, when he wrote last August at Giga-Om, Why Blogs Need To Be Social. His post extends my mini-history on the evolution of blogs and sees a logical development of them into the social networks/nightmares that some advocate.

This is what makes life interesting and the never-ending source of writing material! How boring our existence would be if everyone agreed and all birds sang the same song.

In the world of Wallace and Malik, blogs are only one stage of communications development. I can see that, and I can agree with it. I even rejoice at each new invention in the ways of the Web. For example, I think being able for writers and others interested in books to display their current or favorite reads via Shelfari, Googlereads, etc., and perhaps update them via Twitter and Ping are just super.

But require us to use blogs as a "digital life aggregator"? That's fine for the social engineers, maybe, but it is perfectly acceptable for those who wish to stop here or pause at this level and to use writing blogs just for that purpose, blogging (and writing, of course). After all, how many connections or "friends" can one person handle? I like my connections one-to-one, not one-to-many or worse yet, lost in the crowd of many-to-many. That's not connection, that's swishing around in the shallow end of the pond.

My Vanity Validator score was 61 out of 100 as I wrote this piece. What if the post went viral, and my score shot up to 91 ... so what?

How Famous Are You Online?

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Writing Blogs Wrong or Right

Joe Wallace, over at The Freelance Zone, recently wrote about Writing Blogs: Why We’re Missing the Boat. It's an interesting article that highlights several active websites with Web 2.0 features such as forums, chat rooms and instant messaging services. These are all great communication modules that do indeed foster community and almost instant connectivity. Joe said:

What is the number one rule about building a successful blog? The most important thing a blog needs is a growing community. Blogging is not just one person’s voice, it’s a collection of voices.
And here I digress to disagree. This is Joe's definition of a blog, illustrated by the websites he chose to write about. When Internet logging began, it was in the form of text messages (there was no Web). A visitor dialed into a site and read messages. Then bulletin board service (BBS) evolved, and visitors could "talk back" by leaving a text message that others could read -- not unlike current forums. When email became a possibility, special interest groups formed that enabled someone to send a message to all members at once. Conversations carry on in that method to this day.

But the offshoot blogs began on the Web as a platform for one voice (or a small collective in the case of the first group blogs). When commenting ability arose, we all rejoiced. We could know if our words moved anyone else. Well, maybe they do, but only a small fraction of a blog's readers motivate themselves to expend the energy and brain power to comment. Often the comments come from people who are trying to lure readers to their blogs.

I've considered adding more interactive features like a chat or forum, and rejected pleas for instant messaging (I can't keep up with my email!) But other than a little chat box in a side column for occasional interchanges, adding those features would require an immense amount of time, both building and especially monitoring. They would be additions to a website, not a blog. Where is it written that a blog must be a full-fledged Web 2.0 site?

I'm content to limit A Writer's Edge participation in social networking to the BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog plugins. I've tried out and discarded many other similar "community" features. Holding or hosting regular chats or managing a forum would be too much like real work! It would be managing a different kind of site. Tarring us all with the same brush of apple juice when we are oranges, just doesn't cut it with me.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Blog House Cleaning

Renting a bull dozer and steam shovel helps to pick up the mess in my house every so often. Books pile up. Clippings accumulate. Filing takes a back seat. And the ironing pile threatens to topple. The blog equivalent of such housekeeping chores includes purging nonfunctional links. (This applies to any website, of course.) And the corner for first attention is the Reciprocity list in the right column.

For a link to remain on the home page of A Writer's Edge, it must connect to another home page where this blog is listed. The permanent link can appear in a list or in every post (preferable but unlikely) on a web page. At my discretion, I also delist blogs with no posts in the last six months. Purely arbitrary.

This cleanup doesn't apply to the noble souls in the Blog Action Day Chain. Their links will remain until the party's over -- October 15 -- only a week away. There's still time to climb on board and post against Poverty next Wednesday.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Writer's Block and Alcohol

It is a question of quality.

Writer's Block and AlcoholThe notion that alcohol accompanies great writing is only a myth. Many great writers were alcoholics and worse, but they were great writers despite their addictions, not because of them. It is tempting, when faced with a temporary interruption in the flow of creativity (writer's block), to suppose that a little alcohol, a joint or another substance of choice will "loosen up" the ideas or words and get them moving again.

Most assuredly, writers can write while drunk. The problem comes during subsequent sober editing, when the light of reason shines on the crappy writing. It is terribly difficult to edit slop into good poetry or prose. I suspect what happened and still happens is that the drunk writer sobers up, sees the shit, throws it out and writes all over again, more coherently and beautifully.

While it is known by scientists and psychologists that alcohol and other addictive chemicals can loosen inhibitions (and language), research has also proven that the quality of the writing produced during intoxication drops dramatically as does the quality of any other performance.

At one time I decided I wanted to do some serious drinking for a while. I wondered what kind of writing I might create under drunk circumstances, so I tried a little experiment. The first part was easy: drink a bottle of wine. The second part was also a snap: sit at the keyboard and produce a masterpiece. When I sobered up a day or so later, I studied what I had written and found it made no sense! I vowed to never again try to write a serious piece while under the influence. One time I slipped up and sent a long email message to someone and, as a consequence, lost a long-time friend.

If your font of creativity is dammed up (or just damned) don't try altered consciousness as a method to explode the blockage. Many other less self-damaging devices are available. I'm not saying don't drink at all, just don't make the mistake of thinking it helps you write or fool yourself into thinking you've produced your best work while inebriated. You can do better than that!


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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Writing on the Radio

Stumbled into IDEAS4ALL website and thought, "What a delightful place to pick up novel notions, actions for articles, and short story sparks." Then I found the section on Arts & Culture where the top idea is:

A specialised radio station broadcasting narrative 24 hrs a day. All kinds of stories, poetry, classic literature etc. narrated over the radio. Would be great for long trips in the car, for a lie down on the sofa at home, and for the blind or non-literate.
In America, radio stations used to broadcast stories. The earliest ones I remember were soap operas and humor for adults (which I listened to anyway) and ones for children, like Howdy Doody (I think) and The Lone Ranger and The Buster Brown Show. Who can forget The Shadow and Amos 'n' Andy and so many more. This was in the time before TV had caught on, and before my family had one (1940s).

Most of those story programs migrated to television and radio lost some punch. From time to time, someone resurrects the oldie goldies here and there, but I also remember listening to "Reading Aloud" in the late 1960s. It was probably out of Boston. Every day after lunch, a big fat pregnant yours truly sprawled on our new couch to listen to another chapter of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I learned all about the habits of hobbits during that long winter, quite content to remain indoors out of the ice storms that blew across Portsmouth Harbor and right through the old house we'd rented.

Now similar programs are appearing on the Internet. Just do a search on "radio stories" or "story radio", and see what you come up with. I think a podcast would be a perfect venue for this type of program, and sure enough there's the Radio Detective Story Hour, Short Story Radio, and beginning October 27, you can listen to Halloween tales on The Writing Show.

O.K., so the Internet isn't radio, really, but what does that matter? The sound comes out of a speaker or earphones, and that's really old radio!

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sci-Fi Writing

I Should Be a Science Fiction Writer

Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from.

And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi.

Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...

Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Use LinkedIn for Writing Work

Remember the phrases "upwardly mobile" and "social climbing"? If you're old enough, you will. Keep them in mind as you read on.

Quite a few years ago, I took advice from someone I should have not. Eventually I discovered the person was less than stable and had multiple family problems. The advice? To join Google's Orkut social networking site rather than Linkedin. The notion was to network for business purposes, but Orkut turned into a sandbox for foreigners to practice English and play at Machiavellian principles.

Although I'm still trying to sort out how the various parts of Linkedin operate, I get the drift. (I'm still pondering the differences among contacts, connections, invitations, and introductions.) The way to work it for business is to not treat the service as a social network. Sounds simple, yes? No, we are conditioned to immediately enroll all our friends when we join such a group, simply duplicating our existing social network. Anyway, how many "friends" can one have?

With Linkedin, the phrase "upwardly mobile" might best be kept in mind. It's like getting useful back links for your website--you want ones from more prestigious sites, those with a PageRank at least one notch higher than yours. At Linkedin, go for the contacts/connections with people who can do you some good, crass as it may sound. Their contacts, to whom they can provide you with introductions, may be the perfect sources for new work for you. When you join the site, it offers a link to The LinkedIn Blog: Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn | Guy Kawasaki. Highly recommended. Read it first, before joining, if you can.

I haven't touched on the search processes at Linkedin, finding those initial best connections, mainly because I don't have a handle on them yet. One new discovery: Linkedin has higher levels of paid membership with even better features.

See the initial post about this adventure and one made a few days later.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Writer's Digest Editor Departs, Starts Blog

Just a quick alert that Maria Schneider, formerly the editor of Writer's Digest magazine and blogger at The Writer's Perspective, has left the WD building. She cited creative differences with the new honcho, Jane Friedman, editorial director of Writer's Digest Books. Not one to be bereft of an outlet, however, Maria is starting a new blog, probably to be named Editor Unleashed. It's not active yet, but we can look forward to all the juicy tidbits of insider gossip and writing tips we desire.


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Writing for Good: Join Blog Action Day Chain

It is only two weeks until Blog Action Day on October 15. This year we're blogging about poverty. I doubt anyone will be in favor, but many, many in this world are familiar with it. Have you joined the Blog Action Day Chain at A Writer's Edge? You'll receive a link to your blog on the home page of A Writer's Edge, which Google visits frequently throughout each day. Raise your site's visibility in search rankings and participate in a good cause.

How to do it: Sign up at Blogactionday.org. Publish a post containing a link to http://www.writers-edge.info/2008/08/writing-for-blog-action-day.htm (the original call). Let me know in a comment or by email that you have joined. That's it! Instant fame, fortune, and good will.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Writing Websites: Critical Listings

Last month when I wrote about how to have better websites for a book, yourself and your writing, I listed some of the components that enable attracting visitors, capturing their attention to keep them browsing, and causing them to return to your site. I promised to explore each of these components more in depth. This is the first follow up. Today we'll consider critical listings for your site.

Directories: Listing your website on The Open Directory (DMOZ.org) is neither simple nor automatic. Many people are unaware of its existence, but it is important to attempt to obtain a listing with it because many other directories (including Google's) feed from it. In fact, the only difference between Google's Directory and DMOZ is that Google allows the sites to be displayed by Page Rank order or alphabetically. One trick to getting a listing at DMOZ is to first study its structure and carefully choose which category you want you site listed in. You must submit your application ("suggest URL" link in the grey bar at the top of the page) while you're on the page of that desired category. Craft your description carefully, because this is not a place where changes are easily made, if at all. Do not try to list your website in more than one category!

The Yahoo! Directory is primarily commercial, and you can buy a listing. If your site is definitely noncommercial, you may "suggest a site" similar to the DMOZ process, although it currently kicks you back into the paid submission page, and the link about noncommercial submissions goes to the search help section. Not useful!

If you have a blog, multitudinous directories exist for them. See some of the ones A Writer's Edge is listed in for ideas. To find directories on your topic (e.g., book subject, type of writing, ones just for authors) search Google with the topic word and "directory" or "directories".

Search Engines: Google and Yahoo! control most of the web searches. MSN Live Search has a small part and others, tiny fractions. I think it is worth the effort to submit your site to the top two or three. Google and Yahoo! also have a sitemap service by which you can direct search engines to scrutinize the exact pages you want. I think these are also beneficial, especially if you have a large site with many web pages. They do require some degree of web expertise, although HTTP uploading helps.

The practices I've outlined above are part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for a website and web pages. It's all about getting you, your site, your book, your writing in front of people's eyes. If you build it, they won't come unless someone or something tells them about it and where to find it.

This article is an extension of Better Websites for Writing.

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