Lots-O-Words

Chapter Four of TE-55 is almost completed. Just a few details to flesh out. Also managed to get six later scenes drafted; plopped them into my Sundry Scenes folder in Scrivener. I am so loving this application.

That work amounts to about 4,000 words for the week, and if you add in the 40 or so writing exercises I wrote and uploaded to Writerspark this week, I am at roughly 6,000 words. Not too shabby.

Jotted some notes for another of the books, and spent some time considering cover designs for TE-55. I hope to publish before the end of this year. We’ll see.

Time for breakfast.

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Paper, Please

 As a writer, I can say that reading on CRTs (Does anyone still have them?) or on a flat screen display provides no difference in comprehension than does reading from a printed page or Digital Ink display.

What does change, however, is the ability to catch typographical, punctuation and spelling errors. I find that I miss quite a number of such blunders when editing from a computer or color tablet screen, but find far more when reading a printout.

I suspect this phenomenon stems from the fact that digital screens, no matter the type (besides Digital Ink), have some degree of “flicker” associated with the projection of information. This flicker, I believe, tricks they eye/brain connection in much the same way as reading one of those nonsense-spelled words that we automatically translate into real words.

If I write ‘buglary’ you will read burglary.

The screen flicker kind of hypnotizes your brain into believing everything is correct, so you skip along without noticing errors. Only on printed pages do you stall your reading when you come to mistakes.

If our screens were Digital Ink (black on white mimicing of actual paper), our ability to detect errors would match that of the printed page.

Still, you do get the information, which is the important part. Just don’t count on your novels, school papers or work documents being flawless if you don’t paper edit first.

See the following article on mobile NY Times.

Reading Literature On Screen: A Price for Convenience

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/arts/reading-literature-on-screen-a-price-for-convenience.html?_r=0&referrer

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TE-55 & Distancing

I’m well on my way on another of my novels-in-the-works process. The TE-55 book is now three chapters in, with the fourth and fifth well brainstormed. My plan is to focus exclusively on this novel through chapter ten, then skip from one to another of the other three.

Why work on more than one novel at a time? Although this might not be a workable process for everyone, for me the ability to continue to write while allowing space between projects helps to keep things from feeling stale. For me, working on another project, while I set one aside for a week or two, helps that subconscious part of my brain percolate ideas for those projects.

It was my passion for short and flash fiction that helped me recognize this distancing process as beneficial to my writing. Almost invariably, every time I sat down to compose a new short work my brain seemed to find ideas for other works. One story often led to two or more totally unrelated pieces. The same is true with the novels.

Many writers have recommended setting a draft aside for some period of time and return to it later. This distancing process is much the same thing, only instead of taking a break from writing you shift gears to another project.

If you feel your current project bogging down or have another you’re itching to start, give distancing a try. If it doesn’t work for you, you can always set one of the projects aside until the other is finished.

Words, words, words–Get them onto a page!

(Disclaimer: Wrote this on a phone with teeny-tiny virtual keyboard, so typos and misspellings may have seeped through.)

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“Visions” of Literature from TV

Back in the 1980s, while I stood at my workbench servicing people’s electronic gadgetry,  I used to wait for my favorite shows to appear on our local Chicago PBS television station. Both were shows about writing and literature. I devoured these shows, saw every episode, then later recorded them onto VHS tape to watch again later. Instill have a few of those tapes, whose masking tape labels are badly yellowed and the ink almost illegible: Literary Visions and Voices & Visions.

I had had forgotten about those shows, since they haven’t aired for decades, and I no longer own a VHS machine to play the old tapes. It was while cleaning out old clutter that I came upon those tapes, and that prompted me to search the Internet in the hope that some of them might be available online. To my astonishment and joy, all episodes of both programs are available online, free to view.

The Literary Visions series employs great works of fiction and drama to reveal not only what makes great writing great, but what makes writing memorable. these in depth discussions are a must for any aspiring writer, or writers of any experience level for that matter.

Voices & Visions is a series that looks at the lives and works of some of the literary greats of our distant and not so distant past. The fiction writers, playwrights and poets presented include Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams.

Don’t let the dated 1980s appearance of these programs deter you. Their value is no less relevant today as it was then. I’m sure you’ll decide to bookmark and share them both once you’ve started viewing.

Enjoy!

 

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Sundry Snippets

Two chapters of the newest novel concept are finished in first draft, the third is started. Although it may not seem like much, it has been a challenge in that some of the central elements of two main characters took a sudden shift as I waded into chapter two. Took a week of brain pain to work these things out, but it came into focus early yesterday and led to the entire chapter being written in one sitting over two hours. Felt the energy.

 

Unfortunately, I have lapsed in posting exercises to my Writerspark group (again), but after years in relationship limbo I have become more alive in my relationship with Mary, who I met a year ago this August. Our time together has been fun and inspirational, although focus on the group had to give way to time with her and my own novel writing.

I hope to set time aside to design a couple of months of exercises and blitz the group with enough inspiration to last a while. Stay tuned on this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Miscellany

Summer has brought activities with the grandsons and girlfriend, activities that will no doubt become or inform future stories.

 

Still working on my short story collection, two solid novel projects, setting the framework for a third, and have started to learn Scrivener in ernest. I hope to do a brief overview on Scrivener when I can do so intelligently. So far, things are going well.

 

I hope everyone is doing their actual on-page writing, as well as the accumulation of ideas that come through living life. These things, too, are part of the writing process.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You Writing?

Well are you? Writing, that is?

Let me begin by saying that this is my first attempt at writing a blog post directly on my smart phone. Small screen. Virtual keyboard.  Not ideal, but we’ll see how it goes.

If you’ve been around Writerspark for a while, you know that our motto is “Write something every day.” However, as nice as it would be to be actively engaged, every day, in writing that next great internationally-acclaimed novel, the point of our motto is not that every day must be filled with professional publication efforts but rather that we should be somehow engaged in the art.

What do I mean by “engaged in the art?” Contrary to what some may believe, writers are not only writing when they are…well…writing–that is, typing or scribbling words. Writers write when we are brainstorming ideas inside our brains, when we are sitting in a restaurant people watching, feeling the tickle in our belly when we breach the  rest of a hill on our bike and let gravity take over. Our experiences always find their way into our stories and poems, so even when we are simply out partaking in life we are writing.

Some of you may feel down about not being motivated to write, feeling somehow like frauds for considering yourself a writer when you haven’t written anything on a page for months. But if you were experiencing life, you actually were engaged in the craft, whether you knew it or not, because as a writer you noticed life. And that life will become part of your future work, whether it is the experience itself or just a sensation or smell. By experiencing, you are writing.

Mind you, I still firmly believe that it is helpful, just as is physical exercise, to physical write something on a page every day, even if it’s just a line or two, or ideas for future work. That tactile connection to your craft has a way of making you feel as though you have a complied something just for you. You have fed your inner writer,  Iif only a few crumbs. But don’t let the lapses get you down. As long as you are experiencing, you are writing. Still, try, whenever possible, to grab one of our exercises and play for a bit. Your inner writer will say “Yumm!” And you never know when the next line you write will ignite a rush of excitement that propels you down that hill of free flowing words.

Write something every day, in as many ways as you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Creating the 1,000 Days eBooks Series

Not that all four of our current 1,000 Days in Writerspark eBooks are published on several key eBook outlets, I thought I’d take a moment to exhale a bit and explain a bit about the process that got us to this point. It has been a long long process.

It was just a little more than 15 years ago, on April 8, 1999, 1:29 a.m., that I pressed Enter  on my keyboard and brought my Writerspark creative writing group to life on Yahoo Groups. Choosing the right venue took a great deal of consideration, and over the years we had a couple of detours to other venues but various glitches inevitably brought us back to Yahoo. Just getting the group up and running required an incredible amount of thought and work. but I got it done.

One thing that didn’t require much thought is what I wanted the group to be. Having experienced writer’s block on numerous occasions, and after speaking with other writers online and in person, I realized that random inspirations often serve to end writer’s block and get writers back on track–often with entirely new ideas. Thus I decided that Writerspark would be all about writing seeds, or as we have come to call them: Exercises.

The next question was how often to post exercise, and would I compose my own or link to others already available online. That, too, was an easy question to answer. I would write my own, and they would be daily. Daile, to give writers a choice of whether to work today’s, or tomorrow’s or the next day’s. that proved to be a sound decision.

Then came the name. I doodled names on paper for weeks, struggling to find a name that wouldn’t seem trite or become outmoded in short order. Finally, I decided that since the idea was to spark the creative energies or writers we would name our group Writerspark. this had an additional meaning in that it was a kind of Internet park where writers could play: Writers Park.

Over the past 15-plus years, members have come and gone, each enjoying the exercises and learning much about the craft of writing and their own writing abilities as they worked the exercises and shared critiques. Some have been with us since the beginning.

Other details had to be worked out, if the group was to function in an orderly manner: What would be our rules. How to format subject lines? Whether to allow general discussions? Where to store exercise images, and more.

All that just to get things started.

headerEventually, a Web site had to be constructed to add a home base for the group. That design process took more than six months, owing largely to the inexperience of yours truly and decisions as to where to host the site. What would the site look like? What would it include? And when I decided there should be a “Toys” section (Javascript character, plot and other generators) I had to learn basic Javascript. More time. But I trudged through and a functional Web site emerged. Could it be better? Sure. For now, however, it is home. perhaps some day we can afford a professional’s hand. We named the Web site Writerspark.

cropped-writersblog_header1.jpgNext came this blog. I wanted a place where I could let the world know about Writerspark and provide a venue to write about things writerly. Choosing a venue for this proved draining, as a good many online blogging vendors had cropped up, along with various Web-imbedded personal blogging tools. I finally decided to add a WordPress blog to our Writerspark Web site, a choice that has proven the right one for many reasons, not the least of which is control. we are not owing to any vendor for what we can and can not do with our blog.

Again, the naming issue cropped up. lots of possibilities came to mind, but I finally decided on what is the most simple yet compatible name that popped up: Writersblog.

The possibility of publishing our exercises, which by the time I actually produced passable copy to upload had risen to near 3,000, eBooks had come into their own, with Kindle and Nook selling in numbers. Without much in the way of guidelines available at the time, I compiled the first two eBooks into .epub format and pumped them up to Barnes & Noble, converted to Acrobat for Web readers, and eventually to Kindle.

Getting those books ready took much work. line by line editing of more than 2,000 pages was excruciating, but eventually we had workable pages and sent them up. but almost immediately I noticed typos and other problems that needed to be addressed, but life got in the way and I had to set that aside. Still, we sold a few eBooks and earned the funds to extend our Web hosting a while.

The next round involved re-editing the first two while I edited and then compiled three eBooks for publication. this process took several months, but finally we had a better looking product and replaced the original two and published the third. more were sold.

Finally, I had our 4,000th exercise in hand and immediately set to work editing that volume. in the midst of that process, however, I discovered Smashwords, another online publishing venue, and  The Smashwords Style Guide. This guide showed me a better way to format and ultimately to begin and grow any future works so that they convert into much cleaner eBooks. The problem was that in order to achieve these improvements it was necessary for me to strip every single bit of formatting and every image from every exercise in every eBook, by copying it from the Word doc originals, pasting all into Notepad, and then re-copying from Notepad to a fresh Word doc. Not only that, I would have to create Styles in Word that could be applied to each element of each exercise in every eBook.

If you’re thinking of publishing an eBook, or any book for that matter, I can’t recommend The Smashwords Style Guide strongly enough.

So I learned about Styles, reverted to raw format, and set about three more months of editing, formatting, compiling, and publishing. even got around to creating better front and back content, complete with a links-based contents page and contact links at the end. pretty jazzy.

Covers_1-2-3-sidebarOur four eBook 1,000 Days in Writerspark series is now up in every popular format.

 

 

Just this past week, I made the decision to move Writerspark from Yohoo to our new group home at Google Groups. This was not an easy decision, as past moves had flopped and the that thought nagged at me. Still, some serious bugs in the Yahoo system caused problems for our members, and if you can’t get emails or see images, it’s kinda hard to do exercises or communicate with a group. so we moved to Writerspark at Google Groups.

Feel free to join us there, but be warned: Participation is required. We are a no-lurkers zone.

I have no idea how many man hours have gone into this process. The term “a lot” will have to suffice. although I do, of course, hope to generate a modest income from the sale of these books, the reason for publishing them is the same as my original reason for founding Writerspark: To help writers kick writer’s block and find unexpected inspiration. At $2.99 for 1,000 exercises. That comes down to about 1/3-cent per exercise. Not a bad deal. I have no illusions of best seller status; creative writers are a niche market, and only a tiny fraction will likely hear about these eBooks, but it is my hope that folks will spread the word, snag a copy or the set, and little by little our seeds will result in a garden of new stories and poems.

On to Volume 5!

 

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Finally: My Author’s FB Page!

After much study and chewing over how to pursue a social media presence to promote our ebooks and upcoming works, I finally decided that a Facebook page separate from my personal space is the best way to go.

Click on Bill Weiss Author to visit and Like my page.

Thanks!

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Podcasts on Writing

In between writing sessions there’s a lot of life to which we writers must tend. There’s commuting to work, trips for groceries, dental appointments, hair cuts…all sorts of everyday stuff we do, well, every day. Pile onto that the occasional vacation flight, drives to see Aunt Gertrude, or that 50 mile bike ride for charity, and there’s a lot of hours spent away from the keyboard or notebook. But that doesn’t mean you have to be far from writing.

Podcasts offer a simple and entertaining way to stay in touch with your writerness while learning and improving your craft. There are podcasts on novel writing, short fiction, poetry, publishing, screenplays, and even audio readings of some incredible work. Whatever your writing interest, odds are there’s a podcast that’ll make your down time more rewarding.

Three of my personal favorites include Writing Excuses, Fiction School, and Quick and Dirty Tips by The Grammar Girl.

Writing Excuses

Authors Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler and Mary Robinette Kowal present 15 minute discussions of the nuts and bolts of producing good fiction and insiders’ views of the publication process.
www.writingexcuses.com

Fiction School

The insightful and usually hilarious back and forth between authors Baker Lawley, Jody Gehrman and Tommy Zurhellen make learning the fiction craft and nuance of the publication process fun and enlightening. I usually learn best when something makes me laugh.
www.fictionschool.com

Grammar Girl: Quick & Dirty Tips

Mignon Fogerty’s often humorous yet informative audio tutorials on the nuance of grammar and style is a must-listen for every writer. You’ll be surprised that what you thought you knew has changed and happy to learn that you’re not alone in not knowing what you don’t.

www.quickanddirtytips.com

Although I list those three as my favorites, the following are right up there on my listening list, and I inevitably run out of episodes and find myself checking for new downloads regularly. Whether you’re looking for insights into the craft or simply want to hear a good yarn read by great voices, this list will give you a great place to start.

Angry Robot Books

Interviews with science fiction authors, especially those published under the Angry Robots label.
www.angryrobotbooks.com

Self-Publishing Roundtable

Round-table discussions with independent authors about self publishing and all things writing related.
www.selfpublishingroundtable.com

Rocking Self Publishing Podcast

Interviews with self published authors and people in the know about all aspects of self publishing.
www.rockingselfpublishing.com

Fanboys on Fiction

General fiction writing discussion that bridges print and visual story mediums.
Available via iTunes

So You Want to be a Writer

General writing discussion, particularly fiction and self publishing.
Available via iTunes

Helping Writers Become Authors

Author K.M Weiland provides audio tutorials on various aspects of story writing, key. Among them her 13 part “Crafting Stunning Character Arcs” series.
www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com

The Writer and the Critic

Kristyn McDermott and Ian Mond discuss works of speculative fiction.
www.writerandcritic.com

Meet the Writers (Barnes & Noble)

Interviews with published authors.
www.barnesandnoble.com/writers

Escape Pod

Audio readings of short science fiction.
www.escapepod.org

New Yorker: Fiction

Audio readings of classic and more current short fiction works that have appeared in the pages of New Yorker Magazine.
Available via iTunes and New Yorker Magazine online

Writing for Rookies

Fun discussion of all aspects of fiction writing and publishing, with a sci-fi leaning.
www.writingforrookies.com

Flash Fiction Online

Audio readings of flash fiction works submitted by writers. Quick, entertaining listens.
www.flashfictiononline.com

I Should Be Writing

Mur Lafferty’s discussion of all things fiction writing.
www.murverse.com

The Creative Writer’s Tool Belt

Andrew J. Chamberlain’s cast digs into the nuts and bolts of good story telling, as well as the nuance of things like sentence structure and choosing the strongest possible verbs.
Available via iTunes

Clark’s World

Audio presentations of current short science fiction, along with interviews and discussion.
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/category/podcast/

Drabblecast.org

Drabblecast.org focuses on extremely short fiction pieces called “Drabbles”: Complete stories told within 100 words–exactly, no more than 100, now fewer than 100.

Members post their drabbles and fellow members comment. Select drabbles are read by Drabblecast narrators in upcoming editions of the podcasts.

There’s also a section on Twabbles: 100 character stories (including punctuations).

Want to see how short short can be, stop by and be amazed. and do give theor podcast a try.
http://www.drabblecast.org/

The Pocket Casts Podcast Player

The folks at Shifty Jelly have created what I consider to be the best podcast player around, and I have tried many. Its simple icon-driven interface provides a visual glimpse of all casts to which you subscribe, as well as a Discover page to check out other popular casts or to search for categories or titles that interest you. Click subscribe if you find something you like and it appears with its icon on your main page.

Pocket Casts allows you to select a cast to hear now, then tap subsequent casts that will begin the moment your initial choice ends. There are FF and REV buttons that allow you to skip forward or back, as well as a slider to move quickly through a cast.

This great tool remembers where you left off, an pauses for incoming calls when using Bluetooth hands-free devices. Casts resume where they left off when the call ends.

If you’re the impatient type, Pocket Casts has a slider that allows increments up to 3x normal playback speed; you can slow to 1/2 speed, as well.

Yes, Pocket Casts plays both audio and video casts.

Versions for iPhone or IPad are available via iTunes Store; the Android version is available through your Play a Store.

By the way, while the podcasts I mentioned above are available via iTunes or the Web sites associated with those casts, all are available through the search tool in the Pocket Casts Discovery page.

Learn more about Pocket Casts player at www.schiftyjelly.com

Enjoy!

 

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