Archive for April, 2010

22
Apr

Passion For Writing: April 22nd, 2010

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Passion for Writing

Kurt Vonnegut: “Our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.”
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Cec Murphey has a great couple of cautionary articles on using the progressive tense (-ing verbs). Part 1. Part 2. Cec Murphy’s blog is fantastic, btw. That reminds me to go add him to my blogroll …
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Marian Schembari asks, “How horrible is your About page“? She offers suggestions on what to do and what not to do.
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The difference between an alpha and a beta reader.
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@Zoe Winters has a nice piece on how to be a patron of (support) independent writers.
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C. Patrick Schulze explains How to Get Your Self-Published Novel Reviewed
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@Xander Bennett offers advice for (screenplay) writers on how to write a kick-ass protagonist:
1 – Make her WANT SOMETHING.
2 – Make her INCREDIBLY GOOD at what she does.
3 – Have her CHANGE enormously.

See his article for his arguments on each point.
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And here’s a video of me and my 3-year-old son, in which he thinks he hears the smell of poo-poo, then suggests it’s hiding:

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15
Apr

Passion for Writing: April 15th, 2010

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Passion for Writing

“Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn’t writing, doesn’t.” -Ernest Hemingway.
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Darren Rowse writes on the ProBlogger blog about: 4 Classic Mistakes I Made In My First Year of Blogging [and How I Got 1000 Subscribers Anyway]

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Michael A Stackpole forecasts that traditional publishing distribution may crash in 2012, based on Michael Shatzkin’s estimates.
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Steve White, aka Novel Dog blogs about four current authors who have succeeded thanks to their moxie, hustle, or genius rather than following a strictly traditional paradigm @ScottSigler, @JAKonrath, @JCHutchins, and Bruce Holland Rogers.

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James Frenkel, longtime Tor editor, says on a PW blog: “Good writing can be, to some extent, learned. Good storytelling, however, seems to be a talent, not a learned skill.”

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Kevin J Anderson explains how he writes his first drafts by dictation, while hiking in nature.

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Watch out. It’s a geek debate. The David Gemmell Award Is Bad for Fantasy. No, sucka, it’s not.
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Finally, this cat is better than you:

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Joe Konrath is a thriller writer, a genuinely good guy, and a very successful ebook seller for the Kindle. He’s blogged about the surprising value of e-rights. Yesterday, he hosted an incredibly valuable chat on Twitter about ebooks while saving an average midwestern city from a meteor that was about to destroy it (I know, amazing right?). Anyway, he handed down some hard-won tips about publishing to Kindle that I collected for you and yours. Before I list his tips, here’s a larger, overriding point that he made:

“Bottom Line: Ebooks aren’t the future. They’re the now. Exploit your erights, keep the $$$.”

Self-Publishing Kindle Mistakes

#1: Pricing too high. People don’t want to pay more than $5 for an ebook.

#2: Amateur cover. Unless you have crazy mad Photoshop skills, get a pro to do it.

#3: Expecting instant success. You’re 1 book out of 500,000. Help people find you.

#4: Spelling/grammar errors in book description. Duh!

#5: Not checking your preview. You have to proof read it, make sure it is perfect.

#6: Forgetting about it. Once your book is live, it requires occasional attention from you.

Kindle Ebook Success Tips

#1: A good book. Well written, no formatting errors, no grammar/spelling problems.

#2: Good product description. It should read like back jacket copy.

#3: The more ebooks listed, the easier you are to find, the more you’ll sell.

#4: Add teaser chapters for your other books in the back matter of your ebooks.

#5: Trade chapters with other authors to include in back matter for cross pollination of fans.

#6: Post links to your ebook on your website, blog, and www.kindleboards.com

#7: Price it between 99 cents and $3.99. This is the most important tip of all.

#8: Experiment. Change covers, prices, promo techniques, descriptions, and track sales.

Ebook cover art tips

#1: Hire a pro. Expect to pay between $200 and $1000 per cover

#2: Make sure it is readable as a thumbnail–most covers are seen when tiny

#3: Don’t make it too “busy.” Clean and simple is better.

#4: Brand yourself. Your covers should look similar, or have a common theme.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll considering following my blog, or adding it to your own blogroll.

-Moses Siregar III

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13
Apr

Passion for Writing: April 13th, 2010

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Passion for Writing

“Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.” –Arthur Rimbaud
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“I can do anything I put my mind to–except put my mind to anything.” -Nicholas Vesiri
Thanks Atsiko.
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This is an excellent, short piece from @SoniaSimone. Seriously, if you write, read it. 5 Editors Secrets to Help You Write Like a Pro. Better to be safe than sorry. ;-)
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Malone Editorial Services discusses where new writers fail. Excerpt: “Here’s the kicker: Though you may sell a lot of copies of the first book, and therefore think it was good, those readers if not truly entertained won’t buy the second. And your career as an author has just tanked. Only the iceberg you hit was you.”
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Mette Ivie Harrison has a number of good articles on Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. I like her comments on dialogue: “They say that the eyes are the windows of the soul, but that’s not in a novel. In a novel, dialog is the window of the soul, and all the descriptions of eyes shining, glowing, or burning will not make up for bad dialog.”
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A list of “50 best book people to follow on Twitter,” from Huffington Post. Only, they forgot to mention @MosesSiregar.
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The Complete Flake’s Guide to Getting Things Done, also from Sonia Simone. A funny, self-help flavored piece: “You, my friend, are a flake. Congratulations. We are a worldwide force. If we could all get ourselves moving in the same direction, we would change the world. However, that will never happen.”
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And if you’re not following Joe Konrath’s blog where he’s talking about his experience with ebooks, here’s a powerful new one from him where he wonders if print is a subsidiary right and he discusses his crisis of faith in traditional publishing.
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Courtney Johnson, aspiring writer, is running a contest on her blog. Enter for a chance to win a free 10,000 word critique.

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9
Apr

Cinderella Man: The Matter of the Too Perfect Character

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Craft of Storytelling

I finally got around to watching Cinderella Man (directed by Ron Howard). For me, the movie highlights one major writing issue: the dilemma of the “perfect” character.

In this real-life story, Russell Crowe plays James J Braddock, a professional boxer who wore the heavyweight championship belt from June, 1935 to June, 1937 (he lost the title to Joe Louis). All in all, I thought it was a very effective film, but what’s most interesting to me is how the writers and director chose to portray James Braddock.

Russell Crowe had to play Braddock like an unequivocally good guy. He works hard, and he fights hard. He loves his kids. He passes every moral test. He never raises his voice to his wife, even when she’s provoking him. He even gives some extra money back to the US government once he can afford to pay back some of the assistance money he needed to pay his electricity bill in the middle of winter.

Sounds like a pretty boring character, huh? Sounds like someone almost annoying, because none of us will ever be that good. I will admit, I wished he had been a little less perfect, and if he was, the movie would’ve been 4 stars for me instead of 3 1/2.

However, there are some reasons why this “perfect” character either works, or almost works.

1) The movie is based on a real-life story.

This is double-edged, though. On the one hand, knowing that the movie is based on reality ought to be all the more reason to give a character some flaws, right? But on the flip side, it also means that Braddock isn’t all made up. There is a little credence we can give to the movie, knowing it’s based on a man who actually lived, and knowing that he was considered by many to be a good man. Great, inspiring people do exist. Nonetheless, perfect people don’t exist, so we need something else. The main thing is …

2) Though the character is too good to be true, his struggles aren’t.

The Great Depression hit Braddock and his family hard. Without revealing too many spoilers, his family struggled during those years and this was thoroughly believable. Also, Braddock dealt with realistic injuries and problems in his career as a boxer.

Ah, now we see why his character is starting to work. One benefit to having the “perfect” character is that he’s easy to like. But that’s not the problem here. We like James Braddock, no problem. He’s a good guy. The problem is with not believing him because he’s too good. So where’s the sleight of hand? Simply, he suffers. Maybe the best way to drum up emotional interest in a character is to have him or her suffer.

(a character we like) + (that character suffering) = (reader/viewer interest in that character)

That’s a formula that works.

3) Russell Crowe.

Crowe must have been challenged by this role. Still, he found a way to make Mr. Perfect gritty. Bravo.

I could also add things like the wonderful depression-era costumes, cinematography, sound, etc. It was a classy production.

4) Ron Howard’s artistic play.

Howard had to have known what he was up against. He was trying to sell all of us on a character who is, let’s face it, better than us. Boring! Or, annoying! But here’s what I respect about Howard’s artistic vision:

He wanted us inspire us.

Forget 100% gritty realism. Forget the conventional wisdom about not making characters too perfect. Howard must’ve said to himself, I want to tell a story that makes people want to be better and more moral people by giving them someone to look up to, but I want to do it well.

And one can argue that that’s exactly what he did. He found A. a true story, B. a story full of gritty hardship, C. a great actor to portray him, and then D. gave us a man to look up to in the middle of it all.

Though I still would’ve liked the story better if Braddock had at least one major flaw, I can also respect Howard’s vision (also, credit the writer of the story, Cliff Hollingsworth, and the co-writers of the screenplay, Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman). His vision is optimistic, and it speaks to our better angels.

In the end, Howard decided he wanted to transform and uplift his audience, even though he knew his story was a little less believable because of how he approached his goal. Still, it either worked anyway, or it pretty much worked. The positive response, then, is to be inspired by James J Braddock. To play by the rules, be kind to those around us, and work a little harder for what we love. That, I can believe in.

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7
Apr

Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth (a Review)

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in On Authors

“Just shoot the fucking thing, so I can go back to my life,” Harlan Ellison says, opening Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth, a 2008 documentary about the irascible, prolific writer.

Though controversial, Harlan Ellison is a legendary science fiction writer. As a recognized Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, he belongs to an elite group of (currently) twenty-five that includes the likes of Heinlein, Asimov, and Bradbury. He’s amassed a pile of other trophies, too, including eight and a half Nebula awards and three Hugo awards (source: wiki).

First things first. I absolutely recommend the documentary to anyone with interest in biographies, writers, or speculative fiction. Appropriate to the man himself, it’s brutally honest and even more brutally funny.

Ellison’s doubled-edged reputation is that of a masterful, but abrasive and confrontational, writer. One of his own book jackets describes him as “possibly the most contentious person on Earth.” As an example, he relates in the film that while being asked a stupid question by a fan beside him at a urinal, he turned and peed on the fan’s foot as he answered.

In a 1976 interview with Ellison, he defends the value of being vengeful: “I think revenge is a very terrific, good thing for everybody.” He said so honestly, it appeared to me, but with underlying humor. The topic came up after he explains how he responded to a writing professor that told him he had no talent. Harlan sent him voluminous evidence of his later success for many years, a copy of every single thing he got published.

Two things struck me most: his difficult youth, and his feelings about his own personality.

He recounts his childhood, as a diminutive Jewish boy who grew up in a “very anti-Semitic town” in Ohio. He was beaten up “every day” by groups of bullies. He says, “When you’ve been made an outsider, you are always angry. You respond to it in a lot of different ways. A lot of people get surly, a lot of people get mean, some people turn into serial killers. I got so smart that I could just kill ‘em with logic, or their own mouths.”

Ellison watched his father die suddenly at the age of 14. He becomes emotional while looking at the only surviving video of his father, and it’s plain that however angry and ornery a man he may or may not have been without the traumas of his childhood, the painful events of his youth are sufficient to explain his nature.

His most interesting comment, for me, was when talking about his personality:

“… Yeah, everything makes me angry. And they say, well you should be a little mellow, get a little mellow. And I say, oh really? Gee, I had never thought of that. Get a little mellow. Woo! What an epiphany. Like I enjoy this? Do you think I enjoy getting up angry every morning, going to bed angrier every night to go through the day with the veins standing out, the bolts unscrewing in my neck. Jesus Christ, I would give anything to be as mellow and cool as most people. I’d be one of those slaves [laughing], the walking dead, but it would be a relief. Give me six months as a walking dead, and I’ll never say anything angry again.”

We have a man, who whether through nature or nurture (well, it’s always some of both, isn’t it?) is exactly what he is. To me, that’s someone hilariously candid, passionate, and determined far more than most to live his life “exactly” as he wishes to. He admits that lifestyle comes with a price, mentioning Hunter S. Thompson, who spoke of knowing “the dead-end loneliness of a person who makes his own rules.”

Whether or not that price is worth it is something Harlan Ellison’s story left me thinking about.

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Below are two videos. The first is an epic rant from Harlan Ellison about wanting to be paid for a long film interview if Warner Brothers includes it on a DVD (“I should do a freebie for Warner Brothers? What is Warner Brothers, out with an eye patch and a tin cup out on the street?”), and the other is a trailer for the documentary.

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1
Apr

Passion for Writing: April 1st, 2010

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Passion for Writing

“Writing takes over your life. If you’re lucky, it takes over your soul.” -Kit Ehrman

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RT noveldoctor Errant comma in new printing of Moby-Dick unexpectedly changes book’s genre to romance. “Call me, Ishmael.”

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RT noveldoctor As of today, literary agents are no longer accepting submissions from people who can’t write.

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RT noveldoctorJames Cameron combines Titanic sequel with second Avatar film. Turns out that diamond was actually Unobtanium.

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On Jeff VanderMeer’s BookLifeNow blog, 15 authors are asked: “What is the best piece of general writing advice you’ve ever received?”

Victoria Blake: “The best piece of writing advice? Keep writing. Don’t settle for what comes out on the first draft. Investigate what’s on the page. And remember that fiction writing has more in common with ditch digging than it does with painting. There’s just a lot of dirt to move out of  the way.”

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From Jane Friedman’s blog on perfectionism vs progress: “It’s like what Ira Glass has said: There is the excellence (or quality) you can see and appreciate—and then there is what you’re actually capable of.

This can cause paralysis.”

The Ira Glass video (5:20) talks about how excellence takes years of work, and what it’s like to start out and know this.

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Vonda N McIntyre has a nice little list of 12 Pitfalls for Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy (though most of the items are applicable to any genre). My favorite is one of my own pet peeves, the misuse of the word, “literally:”
Pitfall #11: Literal v. Figurative, or “His Head Literally Exploded!”

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An article from Cheryl Morgan suggests how to improve attendance at WorldCon.

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Here are pics from the Superstars Writing Seminar that I attended recently, on Kevin J Anderson’s blog.

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