Monthly Archives: December 2013

How to Keep Your Writing Going for All of 2014

31 December 2013

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I’m starting this post with a couple of warnings: Understand what is failure in a goal and what isn’t failure.

Every time I talk with writers at the end of the year, I hear goals being set that are seemingly impossible when you do the math. I’ve set a few of them myself, to be honest, over the decades.

I honestly have no problem at all with impossible goals. None, as long as the person setting the goal understands that the likely failure can also be deemed a success. But most writers I know don’t understand that simple detail.

For example: Three years ago here I set a goal to write from titles and publish here and online 100 short stories. And even though slightly behind, I felt I was pretty much on schedule to hit that goal when one of my best friends died and I took over his estate. I turned away from writing almost completely to do the estate and only did what deadline work I had.

So did I fail? Nope. I wrote and got out over thirty original short stories that year, plus a number of stories for original anthologies that didn’t count in the challenge. Not the year I hoped, or even my best year, but not a bad year considering all the factors. It would have been far, far worse without the challenge.

But most writers I know, when faced with actually missing their goal, just stop completely. The problem is that the goal sets them up for a failure, and then they use the failure or life issue as an excuse to stop writing.

. . . .

Every long-term professional fiction writer can spot a hopeless want-to-be fiction writer easily.

— They are the fiction writers who talk about writing, but never finish anything.

— They are the fiction writers who feel jealous of all your writing time because they can never find the time.

— They are the fiction writers who come up with one idea and spend years on it, talking about it, researching it, workshopping parts of it, but never finishing it and moving on.

— They are the fiction writers who believe they will never succeed because they don’t have a major fan base like a major writer, so why bother. Or worse, they finish one thing and spend all year “promoting it.”

— They are the fiction writers who decide they are going to write in the new year, but set no plans, no goals, no structure.

— They are the writers who just get to their fiction writing when they can, when the muse strikes, because ideas are hard and writing is hard.  They “just can’t find the time.” And then the following year they try the same thing that didn’t work every year before.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

The Production Process

31 December 2013

I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.

Tom Clancy

More Rational Resolutions

31 December 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

Can “goal factoring” help you keep your New Year’s resolution to hit the gym every day in 2014?

“Goal factoring,” a method of designing better plans, is one of the techniques taught by the Center for Applied Rationality, which hosts three-day workshops that teach attendees how to use science-based approaches to achieve goals. A November workshop in Ossining, N.Y., instructed 23 participants on how thinking about one’s future self as a different person can help goal-setting and why building up an “emotional library” of associations can reduce procrastination.

CFAR, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit, is prominent in the growing “rationality movement,” which explores the science of optimized decision-making.

. . . .

Very smart people often make irrational decisions, says University of Toronto psychologist Keith Stanovich. This leads to, say, physicians choosing less effective medical treatments or governments spending millions on unneeded projects. In 2013, Dr. Stanovich received a $1 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to develop a rigorous “rationality quotient” test similar to an IQ test.

. . . .

For individuals, the odd secret of rationality is its reliance on emotions, proponents say. “People are always really surprised at how much time we spend at the workshops talking about our feelings,” says CFAR President Julia Galef, who has a statistics degree from Columbia University. “Rationality isn’t about getting rid of emotions, but analyzing them and taking them into consideration when making decisions,” she says.

. . . .

Similarly, goal factoring can help determine whether shelling out $40 a month at the YMCA is the best way to get in shape. This involves mapping out the motivations (health, stress relief, weight loss) behind doing something (going to the gym), and questioning whether there is a more effective way to achieve the same things. Goal factoring could lead a person to realize that, given time and interests, an hour on the treadmill is unrealistic, but a weekly soccer tournament with friends is doable.

Other lessons include “structured procrastination.” The idea is that if you’re going to procrastinate, you might as well procrastinate by doing something that works toward another goal—for example, procrastinate on starting a work project by watching a TED talk you’ve been meaning to catch or starting a book you’ve wanted to read.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Top Ebook Publishers in 2013 — Hachette, Penguin Random House on Top of Publisher Power Rankings

31 December 2013

From Digital Book World:

Below is a list of publishers who have made the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list in 2013, ranking them by number of appearances.

While Hachette made a very strong showing in the first half of the year, leading all publishers in ebook best-sellers, Penguin Random House had almost as many best-sellers in the second half of the year (230) as Hachette had all year. If you add up PRH’s numbers with Penguin’s and Random House’s from the first half of the year, the company had an astounding 478 ebook best-sellers, about 40% of all the best-sellers from 2013.

. . . .

The other big story in the best-seller rankings in 2013 was the strong showing of self-publishing. Aside from Hachette and Penguin Random House, self-published authors (when viewed as one single publisher) had more best-sellers than any other single publishing house.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

The Future of Libraries as Ebookstores

31 December 2013

From Digital Book World:

As the New Year approaches, I have a vision of the future that brings bookstores to every town and invigorates libraries. In this vision, libraries of the future are our local bookstores. I see a future where libraries let people borrow digital books—or buy them.

. . . .

Buying ebooks through public libraries gives every town a local bookstore. In 2013, we continued to watch independent bookstores (as well as large corporate bookstores) slip away from our communities. Online stores that offer ebooks continue to grow as more and more people acquire ereaders and tablets. But human interaction and the advice of knowing readers are vital to vibrant reading communities. So why not let our libraries become our in-person digital bookstores?

Almost all libraries in the United States have an electronic catalog and offers ebooks in addition to their paper collections. Allowing people to buy digital books through public library catalogs should be possible with a bit of software development and a few new publisher contractual agreements.

. . . .

Jamie LaRue, Director Douglas County Libraries in Colorado understands this vision. In fact, he may be the one who planted this idea in my brain. LaRue and his team have developed their own independent ebook distribution platform that’s part of their overall library catalog.

One of the features of this system is that some ebooks are available for purchase. If patrons at Douglas County Libraries can’t find the books they want, no problem. They can purchase them directly from the catalog via Bilbary. The ebooks are available for sale in EPUB form, which is a start. The vision is there.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Marvel Stops Distributing Comics to Bookstores – Comic Shops Appear Unaffected

31 December 2013

From The Digital Reader:

With first newsstands and then supermarkets dropping comic books, it’s gotten harder and harder to find comic books in stores. And now that Marvel has pulled their titles from Barnes & Noble the task is going to get a little more difficult.

Bleeding Cool reported late last week (and B&N confirmed today) that Marvel will no longer be distributing the weekly comic books to B&N stores. B&N hasn’t given a reason for the change, but they did note that they will still be carrying the longer and more expensive graphic novels:

This is a Marvel decision to pull single issue comics from retailers. Not a B&N decision. This doesn’t apply to graphic novels.

. . . .

Now that Marvel has pulled out of bookstores they’re going to have to depend more heavily on digital sales and on sales via  comics shops, but I don’t think they’re going to feel much of a pinch.  In my area there were only a couple B&N stores within driving distance, but according to comiXology’s shop locator there were 50 comic book stores within 50 miles.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity

30 December 2013

From Brain Pickings:

“In both writing and sleeping,” Stephen King observed in his excellent meditation on the art of “creative sleep” and wakeful dreaming, “we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”

Over the years, in my endless fascination withdaily routines, I found myself especially intrigued by successful writers’ sleep habits — after all, it’s been argued that “sleep is the best (and easiest) creative aphrodisiac” and science tells us that it impacts everything from our moods to our brain development to our every waking moment. I found myself wondering whether there might be a correlation between sleep habits and literary productivity.

. . . .

We ended up with a roster of thirty-seven writers for whom wake-up times were available.

. . . .

[W]e settled on a set of quantifiable criteria to measure “productivity”: number of published works and major awards received. Given that both the duration and the era of an author’s life affect literary output — longer lives offer more time to write, and some authors lived before the major awards were established — those variables were also indicated for context.

. . . .

The most important caveat of all, of course, is that there are countless factors that shape a writer’s creative output, of which sleep is only one — so this isn’t meant to indicate any direction of causation, only to highlight some interesting correlations: for instance, the fact that (with the exception of outliers who are both highly prolific and award-winning, such as like Bradbury and King) late risers seem to produce more works but win fewer awards than early birds.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings where you’ll see some cool data visualizations for various writers.

If a nation loses

30 December 2013
Comments Off on If a nation loses

If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.

Peter Handke

The last bookstore

30 December 2013

From The Washington Post:

‘Good morning, how can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a book.”

“Great. What book?”

“I think it’s about a bird. It might be called ‘The Canary.’ ”

“There’s ‘The Canary Handbook.’ It’s not in stock, but I could order it for you.”

“No, that’s not it. Maybe it wasn’t a canary. I know: It was about something that flies. It could have been a parrot.”

“Sure, lots of parrot books out there. There was the one about Alex, the African grey parrot. It’s the true story of . . . ”

“No, this is more of a made-up story. It’s for my granddaughter.”

“Sounds like you want to try the children’s department, right down those stairs.”

“How can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a book.”

“Would you happen to have the title?”

“It’s a long shot, but I was in my car about a month ago and heard an author on the radio. Sounded really interesting.”

“Fiction? Nonfiction?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Anything about it you can remember?”

“It was raining.”

“About the book, please.”

“I think it was about a president.”

“That’s very helpful! A biography of a president?”

“Maybe.”

“Kennedy? We just had the 50th anniversary of his assassination. ”

“It could’ve been Kennedy, maybe.”

. . . .

“Hi, there, it’s me again! The children’s department sent me back. They said to tell you that next time you should ask how old someone’s granddaughter is before sending her downstairs.”

“Is that what they said? Well you can tell them . . . ”

“I wasn’t planning to go back down. I called my granddaughter and she wasn’t home, but her roommate said it might not have been birds. Maybe it was butterflies. It was definitely something that flies.”

“Oh, butterflies! I’ll bet you want the new Barbara Kingsolver book — here. Go sit in that chair in the corner and read it for a while.”

“It’s not for me.”

. . . .

“Oh, hi, how did you make out with the Kennedy books?”

“I’m thinking it might have been Lincoln.”

“Sure, easy to confuse. Here, let me show you a few recent titles: There’s ‘Lincoln in the World,’ ‘Rise to Greatness’ . . . ”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Jessica for the tip.

Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’

30 December 2013

From The Independent:

Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.

. . . .

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

Link to the rest at The Independent and thanks to Meryl for the tip..

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