Notes from the 1/14/10 Writer’s Group

Big group (11 writers at our peak). I would’ve have split into two groups if more people had brought work to read. As it was, you had two choices, read loudly, or bring a lot of copies. We had examples of both approaches.

Here are some relevant links:

Pine Ridge Reservation is a real place.

Em’s island is fictional, but based on the real Sandwich Archipelago in the south Atlantic/North Antarctic ocean.

www.ipulpfiction.com has some sort of Quicktime thing that locks up my browser. They have a $10 reading fee, which violates the Harlen Ellison Rule that money should always flow towards the writer, but they are up-front with the terms, and your odds are better than contest writing. Besides, some of that reading fee goes to one of our own.

An after-hours conversation brought up some interesting things:

That “long vowel sound” that your teachers beat into your head no longer exists. Its a relic from middle English (and several other languages) where a long vowel was just that – a vowel you held for multiple beats. It was abandoned in English around the 15th century, but its legacy still complicates our spelling. More on that here and here.

Finally, James Merill – poet – a brief bio from poets.org.

Now you know.

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It finally happened…

A moment to breath, and the will to blog coincide.

Holidays, the aftermath of holidays, work, other blogs, marketing initiatives and fiction have pushed ahead of this project for the past few weeks. So it goes.

My wife may have a marketng client, and we are cobbling together a business/marketing plan/site to help him (and presumably other self-published authors) get a little more exposure. There aren’tenough for-sure details yet to expound,but if you want to follow the thought process online, the dummy-test site is here: Writing Made Visible

For my Thursday night folk – I don’t have any good notes, but I do have this:

Writing: You're doing it wrong.

I discovered how far you can drive in a 2006 Equinox between the time the low-gas light comes on, and the time you actually run it out of gas – and that’s about 60 miles. Happily, I ran out of gas less than a block from my house, but that never makes for a good morning.

There’s really no good place in an Equinox, or any SUV, to put a gas can that has just been emptied.

Don’t even look at TV Tropes, or its kissing cousin Speculative Fiction Tropes unless you have several of hours of your life that you won’t need back. (A contributor to lack of production on this blog and many others).

Speaking of wastes of perfectly good space/time:

From Tor.com – and exchange of lunatic letters concerning our friends the octopi.

Werewolves are literary orphans

Have a few seconds? Need a comic-book or pup novel premise? They Fight Crime

Having failed to learn from previous attempts, I am thinking of putting together yet another RPG gaming group. Input welcome. In person (probably at my house in Phoenix) – I’m over gaming via e-mail.

Now You Know

Really Late writer’s group notes sans actual notes

If you don’t hit the blog right after writer’s group, the motivation evaporates.

Plus you remember that you have other deadlines.

Meanwhile, I learned that really good mariachi music is much less annoying than mediocre mariachi music. There was a time when I did not think this to be possible.

I can’t go into details here, but in customer service, you are only as smart as the client. Take a deep breath and get used to that.

My father in-law learned that when you can’t keep air in your lungs – its time to go to the hospital – dammit! (Pneumonia – he’ll be fine.)

I’ve lost my notes from the Thursday night group, but I have a ot of writing related links:

For non-fiction: A journalist’s guide to SEO

For fiction, three takes on markets for short fiction:

A summation of the “markey by Nihilistic Kid {writer/editor Nick Mamatis}

Submission strategies from writer/editor Cat Rambo

And the “Last Word” on pay rates from author John Scalzi

Writer’s Group notes 3 December 2009

If you trust the reader to keep track of information, you can avoid a lot of repetition in your manuscript.

No matter how well you summarize the map with written description, you are still better off showing the map.

A quick summary of Stargate Atlantis episodes with Todd. (because nerds keep count…)

Now for links:

Jeanne Cavelos on searching for reputable agents

Developing writers often have a very hard time finding a competent, reputable literary agent.

Info on the Flat Man Crooked poetry contest

Info on submitting to Glimmer Train

Word Count tackles the business and politics of working for content mills aggregators such as Demand Studios.

I’ve called it the race to the bottom, and maintain there are better ways to break into the freelance business, and better business models for building a successful freelance writing career.

Genreality discloses the true financial numbers behind a NYT bestseller.

And forwarded from our siblings in the North Phoenix Writer’s Group,

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

[Thanks to organizer Dharma Kelleher ]

Now You Know

After the Holidays

Thanksgiving in the USA. I was busy. Learned a few things.

When re-roping a fly system, someone is going to have to get on top of the head-block and feed the rope through – unless you’re a lot smarter than we were.

There is no biography of Alvin Gentry on line that I found useful – so I wrote one.

A timely, topical entry for Examiner, such as this one on Phx camping stores Black Friday specials, earns me about $0.40 for an hour’s work. So I stick to relatively evergreen stuff like campground profiles.

At the in-laws, I have to seize control of the TV or it will be stuck on game show re-runs from the 70’s. Not kidding. There are two things I can put on the TV that will not generate controversy from the wide confluenec of family in attendence: Sports or science documentaries.

From Nova, I learned that there are two different dream cycles: REM and non-REM. REM cycles ted to be more creative, but also involve more negative emotions. Non-REM dreams are more positive, but more limited to actual memories.

From Scientific American Frontiers, I learned one of the few useful things to coem out of Biosphere was the Biosphere Diet, a high vitamin, low calorie diet born of desperation (their gardening scheme yielded a fraction of expected results), but which actually left the participants leaner and healthier than when they went in.

Oh, and when the Detroit Lions have lost, its time to serve the turkey.

A backlog of [writer] links:

Book Marketing Maven: blog ideas for your fiction-writing blog

Caren Gussoff shares 5 Truths about Editors

And some more opinion of the Demand Studios and ilk dillema:

Carol Tice’s 7 reasons not to write a $15 blog (a numbered list – just like a non-fic freelancer…)

Now You Know

 

 

 

Agents, taxes and oddities – Thurs Nite notes for 11/5/09

Quick & Dirty guide to finding agents

I have a list of twelve agents or agencies that I plan to submit Beanstalk and Beyond to. I assembled that list mostly from Publisher’s Marketplace.

Here are the steps:

1) Finish the book. If you haven’t done that, stop here and go finish the book.

2) Go to Publisher’s Marketplace. You do not need to sign up for a membership. What you need to find is the “Search Members” link.

3) Search for the genre, and add the word “agent” unless you want to see the pages of a couple dozen writers who also write in that genre.

4) Click through their pages. Write down the names of those you would like to submit to. (We all have our own ways of weeding through that list) Make sure you spelled the name correctly.

5) Onec you have your list of names, Google each name – and find out something about them. Check out their agencies’ actual website. read their blog if they have one. Get a vibe.

6) You’ll come across a lot of links for QueryTracker. This is worth joining at the free level.

7) Order your list in agents you wuld most like to represent you. Double-check the first one’s requirements. Send your query.

8) Wait.

There is a lot of conflictin onformation about te propriety of querying multiple agents at a time. I don’t – but that;s mostly because I can’t keep track of such things. Most of them have come to expect this practice, and the ones who want exclusives from the get-go are usually fairly specific in the submission guidelines.

If you don’t have at least a nibble after 12 queries – its time to look at your query letter. Hard.

OK – that’s what I know about that.

Agent Janet Reid shared her 20 nuggets of advice with Writer’s Digest. Worth reading.

Assuming you sell something (or even if you don’t) – Inkygirl has assembled a list of tax advice for freelance writers (so I don’t have to).

Inkygirl rocks – BTW.

I know less about Japanese poetry – but these guys know more.

The cloud at Chowhound considers fruitcake.

And if you draw a picture at Bored.com – they’ll tell you what sort of person you are. (I’m the sort that really doesn’t have time for that tonight.) (Can they predict whether you’ll like fruitcake?)

Now you know

 

Beyond Demand Studios

I have decided to blow off Demand Studios for a while. Some of that simply coincided with the creative blahs that left this blog unattended for a week. But most of it had to do with money.

DS pays a flat fee of $5-20 for a 250-500 word article – preferably with photos. I decided from the get-go that they didnt pay me enough to find photos for them. But they had some topics on the list that I actually had an interest in, so I wrote them up, and the money appeared in Pay Pal. All well and good.

But what they purchased for less than a penny a word was All Rights. So I can’t re-use that material elsewhere, which – so you know – is the staple of free-lance profitability. The difference between a hobby and a living is the ability to sell an article (or at least a version of it) several different times.

My stuff about headlamps and forest rangers appears on Trails.com, if you care. But I’ve been paid off and have no incentive to actively promote the content.

Angela Hoy of Writer’s Weekly did a long expose on DS recently, and while I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, the fire kinda went out after I read it. I don’t care the Freelancewriting.com is in cahoots with DS. I don’t really mind that DS makes a lot of money (a lot!), though I think they’d be better served sharing a little more with the writers.

To be fair, Deborah Ng, of freelancewriters.com objects to Hoy’s characterizations.

DS claims proficient writers can earn above minimum wage, which runs contrary to my experience. Of course, I am notorious for over-research. If I knew the subject of a $20 article, and could bang it out off the top of my head, this would be true. But that seems the exception for just about every writer.

I do not, as a matter of policy, track writing income by the hour. On that basis, I make far more money as a stagehand – let alone a technical director – than writing anything. I calculate income by the published word.

Now, factor in that I don’t have to query – they pick the topics. BUT factor in my time slogging through their long (and slow-loading) topic list, chock full of unclear, troublesome prompts. Well, still easier than concocting a 250 word query.

Even so, $.04/word – max – is below my minimum rate – which is based on first rights, not all rights, and never includes photos (always extra!).

I’m not saying I’ll never write for them again. After all, the check cleared. I’m just saying that I’m not that hungry – and I don’t anticipate getting that hungry.

Web writing in general pays a fraction of what free-lancers have become accustomed to from magazines. But the web isn’t dying – its growing, Magazines are having the opposite experience. So I ask myself, do I want to fight with all the other veteran freelancers for a hold on the last parts of the ship still above water? Or do I cast about looking for a new way to stay afloat on what has become a very different ocean?

(The metaphor’s a mess – I know. This blog is always a first draft. You get what you pay for. )

I’m not the only one trying to figure this out.

Meanwhile, after 23 articles, my Examiner earnings are still below what I grossed in 9 articles for DS. But that will eventually reverse. And my Examiner experiment is more of self-education about SEO than serious revenue generation.

And I just took a gig blogging about the suns for phxsunsnews.com for a rate so low I dare not speak of it. But that’s largely recreational.

I’m thinking about starting a blog covering the sea-change in short non-fiction. Since I’m desperately trying to keep track of it anyway.

But I’m not making any promises – unless  you’re writing me a check.

Now you know.