Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Silencing the Watcher so that the Writer can WRITE

Silencing the Watcher so that the Writer can WRITE

You may be familiar with this routine:

You write a line. You read it. You change a word. You read it. You change another word. You add a comma. You delete the comma. You add the comma.

You write a line. You read it. You change a word. You change it back. You visit thesaurus.com and find a different word. You read it. You change another word.

You write a line. You read it. You change a word...
This is known as the most painful possible way to write. Unfortunately, it's the only way a lot of beginner - and some veteran - writers seem to be able to do it.

As Geoff Williams says on the Songwriting & Beyond blog, "The worse 'creativity killer' is the analytical part of your mind. This is the part that judges everything you do. If you try and judge something AS you are creating it, the creative part of your mind 'shuts down.'"

I think I was a junior in high school when I first learned of this phenomenon. My English teacher recommended a book about the "Watcher" and the "Writer" - the dual roles we play whenever we sit down to string letters into words into writing that makes sense. If you've become accustomed to letting the Watcher have free reign while you write, it may take some reconditioning to break that habit and silence the buttinsky until it's time for them to do their work - during the editing process.

As a recent post on Copyblogger states, you've got to put the writing first:
So sit down and write. That’s the key. Don’t go back and edit. Don’t sit there and contemplate what you’ll say next. The more you can just write or type your thoughts out as they come to you, the easier the whole project will be. Don’t allow yourself to rethink what you wrote at this point. Don’t stop to go back and make changes yet. Just write it until it’s finished.
My biggest personal challenge is the struggle for precisely the right word. Having lost more than one train of thought on this red herring, however, I've learned to write the closest imperfect word and circle it, highlight it, change the font, or just leave a blank (________) so that I can keep on writing. I can always come back later and find the proper word ... but I can't always call back the creative thoughts that flew out the window while I was needlessly exercising MS Word's thesaurus function.

The thing to remember is that you're changing a habit, so this new behavior is probably going to take some time to develop. And as with developing most new behaviors, the first step toward success is noticing when you're doing the thing you want to change. Although our goal may be effortless, relaxed writing, for the next little while, you'll want to watch for your Watcher and catch him/her in the act. As soon as you notice yourself editing, STOP. Make a note if you need to. And go back to writing.

It may not be easy, but soon this new writing process will become the norm for you, and you'll wonder how you ever let the Watcher have so much control. Only when you've finished with the writing part (blog post, article, chapter, poem) is it the Watcher's time to shine.
Fluency is when self-editing happens so quickly that we can’t see it. ~Copyblogger

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A NEW Idea for Garnering Book Reviews

A NEW Idea for Garnering Book Reviews

Every author dreams of writing a book that garners dazzling reviews. They also dream of conquering Amazon. Here's a great idea for a way to do both: reach out to Amazon users who write prolific reviews on the site!

According to a very informative article on the Amazon site, here are a couple of tips:

Identifying and contacting 100 to 300 potential online reviewers and sending a copy of your book to each respondent who expresses willingness to look at it and perhaps post an honest critique.

If you spend two or three days contacting about 300 potential Amazon reviewers, you can expect to receive about 40 to 50 responses, and wind up with perhaps 35 reviews, a quite satisfactory result.

(Author's note: Recently Amazon seems to be restricting communications between authors and readers, and not all Amazon Friends invitations have been going through. Whether this is a policy change by Amazon or simply a glitch isn't known.) 4/13/2009

Look for potential reviewers on Amazon’s Top Reviewers list - and target the people who regularly post reviews of books similar to yours.
Getting your book in front of traditional publications like The New York Times and Booklist would still be a great goal - but why not take your book to the masses, right where they're looking for it anyway?

Visit Write | Market | Design today to download your free copy of the eBook: First-Time Author's Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Are Christmas cards dead?

Are Christmas cards dead?

For many, many years, I took great pride - and an enormous amount of time - in making my own Christmas cards. In fact, I don't think I've bought pre-printed cards in nearly 25 years.

Over the last few years, though, I've taken to making my cards digitally - and sending them that way, too. Interestingly, the images here are samples of the physical cards I've made over the years ... the digital ones seem to have become lost in cyberspace.

In her December 20 post for Slate, Kate Julian asks, "Did Facebook kill the Christmas card?" I would say no - and yes. For me, running a business killed the Christmas card. The wanton unnecessary sacrifice of trees aside, I agree with Kate, in that I absolutely love printed cards. Time, though, is precious. And since I just can't bring myself to buy store cards anymore - not with the nice ones going for upwards of $5 EACH - making my own is the only way I can go. And making individual cards for 50+ people no longer fits in my time budget.

So digital it is. I re-upped my Blue Mountain subscription this year, along with subscribing to a couple other e-card services. The good news is that since they're digital, I make the effort to send them to a lot more people ... more than likely because it's so much easier than buying/making a card, putting a stamp on it, addressing it, and crossing that last hurdle of finding a mailbox into which to deposit it!

I'm with you, Kate - I miss the Christmas cards, too. I hope you're wrong about 2010 being the year they died - maybe if I put it on my calendar now, I'll remember to make my 2011 Christmas cards during the summer lull. In the meantime, here's this year's digital card. Happy Christmas to all!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rewriting the Classics: Audacity or Common Sense?

Rewriting the Classics: Audacity or Common Sense?

Jesse Kornbluth has a lot of nerve. He had the chutzpah to rewrite one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The editor of HeadButler.com has what he considers a valid reason: he wants his nearly 8-year-old daughter to experience the story, but she was so bored with it she refused to listen. So he changed it up.

In his HuffPost piece, Kornbluth makes a fair point:
Books change over time, and over 170 years, "A Christmas Carol" has changed more than most. We like a punchy opening; "A Christmas Carol" is a slow starter. By our standards, the language is clotted and the piece is seriously overwritten - as I was reading it, I was scanning ahead to see what I could paraphrase or cut.

I'm not parenting, and I'm not sure how I would feel if my son were to have dumped my all-time favorite, The Grapes of Wrath, after giving it a go for less than a chapter ... so I appreciate Kornbluth's desire to share this literary holiday gift with his daughter. Yet the purist in me recoils a bit at the thought that we should have to change literature to soup it up or dumb it down or somehow improve it for the newer generations.

After all, classic, by its very definition, means something that withstands the test of time. As the author of Paisley and Plaid writes, "A classic portrays life as complex and depicts negative and positive aspects of human nature and the trying of values and character." This is precisely Dickens' gift.

Perhaps the question to be asked is whether or not this gift is lost in translation.

Given the choices Kornbluth faced - (1) allowing his daughter to walk away and miss out on the classic, (2) forcing her to sit through it against her will, and (3) rewriting it so it would be more appealing, I suppose his solution is the best of the three. Maybe. My face is scrunched up as I write that ... liking it not at all, but allowing it, because I have long believed that reading something is almost always better than not reading at all.

But it's Dickens! We don't REwrite Dickens! Unless, of course, we do.

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