Skip to content

Category: Writing Life

Talk Story to Me Episode 007 and Radish Blurb 01

Talk Story to Me is now back up and running. I’ll get into reviews once more. But today I’m going to talk about an exciting new serialization app and a little bit about the surprise I’ve been promising you. I’m now practicing embedding videos into WordPress. The guide makes it look easy, but I’m not holding my breath until I see the final product after I click “publish.”

 

The first blurb promo is up now as well. This one is for Carole McDonnell’s new serialized novel, Daughters of Men

 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Keep stopping by for more surprises. It’s going to be a fun ride.

P.S. It worked the first time! Oh my goodness! This is wonderful! Do you know how often that happens for me? Hardly ever! This month is closing out beautifully.

Nanowrimo 2015 Day 01

Today is the first day of Nanowrimo as well as the first of a new month. New beginnings always excite me. They hold so much potential. November 1 is a particular favorite because of Nanowrimo.

I’ve been doing Nanowrimo since I was 11 though my parents didn’t give me permission to sign up on the official site till I was a fair bit older. It was a great experience with lots of fun along the way, and it stretched me. That first book was less than ideal, of course. It had so many holes and tons of problems. (I think one character’s name even changed halfway through, and many other details spontaneously changed or became contradictory, lol.) But I was glad that I did it.

I’d encourage all writers to give it a shot. While it is a great challenge to complete 50,000 words during one of the busiest months of the year, that isn’t the only reason to do it. There’s a spirit of camaraderie throughout this month as thousands of writers support one another in this endeavor. It’s about shutting off that inner critic, dig into the stories that you have inside you, and start exploring them. You can’t fail in this. You won’t do it perfectly. In fact, you’re going to miss some days. You’re going to fall behind. But that’s okay. The point is to get as far as you can and get as much of the story down as you can. Every year I have found material that I can use.

Now some of my tutees, students, and friends have asked me to consider doing an additional challenge this year: write my Nanowrimo novel live. I’ve received a lot of questions about my process as well as what it looks like when I write. And since I’m not comfortable with people sitting next to me and watching what I write, recording it through a screen capture along with commentary on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it seems like a better choice.

I finished conducting some tests, and it looks like I can do this. I’m a little concerned about the upload speeds because the Internet is often slow. It can take an hour to upload 15 minutes. So there may be some delays. My other concern is how long a video with an actual writing session is going to run. After all, writing a novel takes a lot of time. (Not really sure how long, but I guess we’ll find out.)

What I’ll do to offset this is doing a brief recap that details what I did, how it’s going, and what tools I used. That way if you don’t want to slog through the whole video, you can get the highlights.

To help facilitate this, I’ve come up with some rules for myself.

  • All the writing will take place in front of the camera. This is going to be the hardest thing for me. But when I’m not writing on the screen capture, I won’t be working on the story.
  • I’m starting entirely from scratch, and I will document the whole process.
  • If I use a notebook while on camera, I’ll be sure to show you what I’m writing if I can.
  • I will be doing minimal editing before uploading to Wattpad. I’ll include that as well.

Since I’m trying to document the whole process, I’m starting with a fresh story. I’ve had this title and cover rattling around for awhile, potentially going to one or four stories. But I’m not going to use a story that I have already started. The story will be based in part off a dream I had, but that’s more for the general premise. I don’t even have character names yet or the Scrivener files prepped.

Frankly, I’m rather nervous, but I’m also excited. This is going to be a great month. I hope that I don’t fall flat on my face. I imagine there will be a fair bit of dead space and staring at the screen because that camera is going to add loads of pressure, lol.

So what about you? Are you doing Nanowrimo this year? Feel free to let me know what your project is and leave a link if you like either here or on the Youtube video. Have a wonderful night!

 

First Annual Story Fair

One of the things I love most about being a freelance writer, author, and an attorney who shares a firm with her husband is that I get a decent amount of flexibility. Which means that on days like today WPC2014-Giveawaywhen I have legal work that needs to get done, I can still take breaks and participate in fun opportunities like the First Annual Story Fair!

The first annual Wattpad Story Fair is today Sept. 19th at 12:00 – 12:30 and 3:30-4:00 PST. Join me and the amazing Wattpad Class of 2014 to learn about all the exciting things we’re doing for fellow Wattpadders! It’s going to be a blast!

The WPC2014 will be appearing at two time slots – 12-12:30 and 3:30-4:00pm PST. Learn more about our Profile Makeover Contests, Twitter Chats, Story Reviews, and awesome articles on how to succeed as a writer. We also have this amazing giveaway from the WPC2014 going on – Books, ebooks, interviews, chapter dedications and chapter critiques! So please stop on by!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1628644337393871/The Celebrity Story Fair Submission 03

Oh, and before I forget, I’m also being featured as an author! Yay! Today I’m focusing on my first ever sweet romance with no fantasy and no paranormal elements: The Celebrity. I’m also giving away some great prizes plus a special Reader’s Dream Package if you sign up for my newsletter http://forms.aweber.com/form/13/666935913.htm or answer questions on my Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/jmbutler1728
 or at my “booth” at the fair https://www.facebook.com/MALICEAUTHORS/photos/gm.1634720403452931/905388482877091/?type=1 .

I hope to see you there!

 

 

Review of the Fiction Serialization Site, The Micro Times

Just recently I discovered another site that is looking for stories. It describes itself as a modern version of the Victorian serialization, and it promises to put readers in touch with great up and coming authors while connecting authors to voracious readers. The site: The Micro Times.

Here are my notes on what I’ve seen on the site. You can scroll straight down to the bottom to get my general thoughts or read the individual sections for a more in depth overview.

Readers Versus Writers

Anyone can create a series on the site, and anyone can read. You just have to have the rights to the story you are uploading as well as a cover. It doesn’t look like this would be a good location for fanfiction as that runs into various copyright issues and the fact that one is profiting off another’s intellectual property.

Format and Setup

Right now, one of the larger weaknesses is that the format is rather clunky for searching, and it is difficult to see what books are available. You can’t just browse all the available books. But you can search for genres in the search bar. Also you don’t scroll down. You scroll to the side. Rather counterintuitive, but this may be my American showing.

Currently it seems to be just web based. The contract is clear that readers cannot download multiple copies. Actually it doesn’t look as if there’s anyway to download anything, though the contract discusses downloads. It does not look as if there is an app right now, but the structure of the site and its features as well as the contract language suggest that there might be one soon.

There are some nice features such as the ability to change font size or invert color. And, as a side note, I like the cheery but subtle palette they’re using. The artistic feel is quite nice, and it appears fairly professional. It would be a pleasant site to read on. Plus it makes all the books look like actual books on a table.

Getting Around on The Micro Times

There is a guide on how to succeed at The MicroTimes, but it is sadly small and exceptionally general in its content. (This blog post will be significantly longer.) Much of the site suggests that it is still a work in progress. If things go well for it, I expect it to be a sleek platform.

Fortunately, the site itself is mostly intuitive. You can figure out just about everything you need.

Library and Book Availability

The vast majority (right now probably 90%) of the available work is from various classics that are in the public domain. Good news is that you don’t have to worry about paying for these. They’re free in their entirety.

The few non public domain works typically have the first chapter free (though most of these books aren’t completed and don’t have more than a few chapters) with each subsequent chapter costing a credit or two. I am not sure where you check to see if the book is uploaded in its entirety.

There is no browse feature as mentioned before. And it is not clear how you remove a book from your library once you’re done with it. You cannot organize books at this time, though there are two automatic lists to allow you to sift through books you have started and books you haven’t read.

Payment

Authors retain 90% of what they earn on the site. (The contract does include a fairly standard, “we reserve the right to change this” which is what most other paying platforms seem to use.)

Payment is made through Paypal. You have to earn 10 GBP or your currency’s equivalent to receive a payout. They offer payment in multiple currencies ranging from the US dollar to the British pound to the euro as well as a few others. Assuming you charge an average of 2 credits per chapter with only one free chapter, you would have to have someone either read almost 500 chapters or have your 26 chapter book read  20 times to reach the payout. (Bearing in mind of course that the 1 British pound is roughly equivalent to $1.50 right now).

However, with that said, 1000 credits costs only a little more than $16 US currency. So you’re essentially selling each chapter for a few cents. At first, I thought you started off with a few free credits to try some stuff out, but that’s not the case. And that also answers how they are going to stay in business. You do have to pay upfront if you want the non public domain stories. The packs range in credit size from 500 to 10000. There isn’t a discount for buying larger quantities of reading credits.

Security

The Micro Times is a closed community. You have to have a password and account to enter and read. Paid chapters cannot be accessed even as previews. I really like this security feature. You can’t google up various books on the site.

However, unlike Wattpad which has programs in place to prevent copying and pasting, users can copy and paste free chapters and presumably paid chapters that they have access to. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though as the same can be done to Kindle and Nook ebooks.

Community

Users can review books and rate them as well as “like” individual chapters. However, there doesn’t appear to be a community component in either forums or comments on the individual chapters. You can connect through your Facebook, G+, or Twitter account, but you cannot do much more than say that you are reading something or invite others to join.

Writers

It looks pretty basic to get a story setup. Unlike on Amazon or Wattpad, there is no cover creator. Covers are supposed to be 620 x 420. But there is a general cover that appears on all initial works that includes the title and subtitle as well as the author’s name.

Other than that, you upload it the same as you would on most other sites. You set which chapters are free and which chapters require credits. You input keywords as well as a short summary, and off it goes. The story appears with a table of contents. Users can then rate the overall work and “like” individual chapters. It doesn’t appear as if there are places for comments (which would actually be nice.)

The dashboard gives you an overview of what people are reading and where they are stopping. You can see your overall payout and your high marks. The tool that looks most valuable to me is the one where you see where readers stop. I don’t have any paid chapters up yet, so I don’t know how this works in depth. Just what was shown in the brief overview.

This doesn’t look like the kind of site where you can advertise. Essentially, as a writer, it looks like all you do is write the best story you can and then let it go out and make its way.

Likely Culture and Potentially Successful Works Here

The philosophy behind the site is intriguing. They claim to love authors and the Victorian serials. Their goal is to provide an author centered platform with a focus on these serials. If this is all true, I really like that. And I’m all for keeping a variety of businesses about and not relying only on a single massive corporation. (Not saying corporations are evil, but competition gives them a better incentive not to treat authors poorly.)

Given the current setup, I predict that fast paced romances and suspense stories will be the primary focus. Chapters that are between 1000 and 2000 words would be an easy reading length (though I recommend pricing that reflects the length) for the current format.  There are no page breaks in the chapters. Just a single page filled with text. Cliffhangers as well as stories with many promises of future secrets to be revealed are likely to be popular.

That isn’t to say that slower paced stories that focus on the details and a deeper experience can’t succeed. But I suspect that they will be more niched.

General thought here, but I wouldn’t recommend uploading chapters in parts. I could see readers getting testy, even if the chapters are long. Instead, just refer to each one as a whole chapter.

Also readers are probably going to expect better quality here. At least I would. If I can go to a site like Wattpad or Writing.com and read all the work I want for free, then when I go and pay, I’m going to expect better quality. Not literary prose, of course. Just no rampant grammatical errors or stuff that looks like it belongs in a random person’s journal. In other words, make sure you post more polished work rather than the initial rough draft.

Terms

First, please note that none of this is legal advice. I’m just giving my general thoughts as I’m browsing through this. It is up to you and you alone what you do, and if you have questions, you need to consult with your own attorney. And while I did read the contract in its entirety, this is just a general impression of what is currently up. Last but not least, the contract can and possibly will change as the site continues to grow, and it expressly states that it has that right to update its Terms and Conditions.

The contract in the terms and conditions (aside from being a pain to read because all of the first letters are capitalized, no matter what) appear fairly typical. The Micro Times wants non exclusive rights, which is typical and the best deal for writers.

One thing I’m a little uneasy about is a clause that says if someone plagiarizes your work, you only have two years to bring a complaint. It uses the nebulous term “when the cause arises,” but I am not at this point clear whether that is at the point of discovery (which would be reasonable and is probably the case) or when the plagiarism starts (which would, in my opinion, be unreasonable).

They do prohibit copying the content and uploading it elsewhere if it is not your own. So people aren’t allowed to go on and scrape together content as they sometimes do on other sites.

They have a fairly strict no plagiarism rule. If it’s alleged against you, you have to take your work down. Then you can defend.

Pornography is not permitted, but it’s not clear whether erotica is excluded. The typical “no promoting illegality” is also present. There’s also a “Moral Right” cause, but I don’t know what that means. It may be a UK legal precedent as it’s in the section that typically discusses not uploading instruction manuals on committing crimes and so forth.

All in all, it looks fairly standard.

General Thoughts

Initially, I thought that The Micro Times was going to be another attempt to rip off Wattpad’s model. There are some similarities, of course, but its goal is different. Plus it is trying to compensate writers from the start, which is a rather novel idea.

Now, truth be told, compensation for authors is not going to be very much. Assuming I charge 2 credits per chapter for a serial novel of 120,000 words that winds up having 60 chapters, I wind up with 120 credits, which would probably equal $1.72 after they took out their cut. Paypal is going to take another sliver of that plus taxes, so let’s just round down and say that each book will make $1.50. If I were to sell that same book on Amazon, I would probably sell it for $4.99, and, after fees and taxes, probably earn $3.00. (Please note that these numbers are approximate and not exact.)

But…I don’t think that means The Micro Times should be discounted. Subscription services are likely to become even more popular as seen through Oyster, Scribd, Kindle Unlimited, and so on. Particularly among romance readers (Scribd actually just recently started culling some of its romance entries if I recall because there were too many and romance readers are voracious).

The Micro Times does not charge a flat fee, which means that writers aren’t fighting over a potentially limited pool of funding (one of the criticisms of KU). If a reader likes what she’s reading and wants to purchase the credits, she can do so and spend it on the author with the author benefiting. It also means it’s less likely that you’ll get hate readers who are just reading it because it’s free and they want to trash it. At best though, The Micro Times  is probably going to be a source of passive income for most authors, though I do like the fact that you don’t have to worry about marketing here. You just upload and move on. I wouldn’t expect to see any great movement on any stories right away, but that may mean I’m just cynical.

While there’s still room for improvement on the site, I have to say that this one catches my eye more than any of the other Wattpad similar platforms, and that’s primarily because it’s doing its own thing. I’m curious to see what happens with The Micro Times, and I appreciate their pluckiness and their stated goals.

So yes, I’ll probably dust off some stories, polish them up, and upload them. There is a risk that I won’t ever reach the payout. But I’m intrigued with this program, and one thing is for certain. It isn’t going to succeed without some great content, and I think I’m willing to take a gamble and see how it goes.

The Premise of Obsession

What is obsession, and is it good or bad? So often, obsession is seen as a bad thing, typically associated with individuals who don’t know when to let go or how to balance life with everything else. Oftentimes, it’s associated too with stalkers, criminals, master criminals, and drug addicts.

A dear friend of mine was just told that she was obsessive, and that is, in fact, what made me start to ponder the concept. (Her horrific obsession? Posting more than what someone thought was a reasonable number of links and posts on Facebook in a day. Yeah…considering she only put out about a dozen or so throughout the course of the day and none of them were ads or spam, I have to wonder whether the complainer actually spent much time on Facebook. I have some friends who literally spam my feed with more than 50 posts in a day.)

Obsession seems to be connected to passion. A number of incredible artists and people who have made such differences in the world could be qualified as obsessed. For this, I’d like to limit it to artists, actors, authors, and other creative individuals.

So let’s start with someone that just about everyone would agree was phenomenal. Leonardo da Vinci. He painted fewer than 30 known paintings, but with all of his drawings and sketches that have survived, he completed thousands. I’m guessing that that number does not actually include all the sketches and doodles that he did on the side, in the dust, or on his table and walls. One of his most famous paintings and one of the most well known paintings of all time, the Mona Lisa, underwent numerous renditions. From analyses of the paintings, experts now believe that he repainted the Mona Lisa over a dozen times, trying to get it just right. From articles on the Daily Mall to biographies that detail this incredible man’s life, most would agree that da Vinci was incredible, and he certainly was obsessed with his art.

A more modern example of a woman who took obsession to an extreme to hone her craft is Anne Hathaway. In preparation for the role of Fantine in Les Miserables, she lost 25 pounds, and anyone who has seen that woman knows that she did not have 25 pounds to lose. In addition to that, she had her long hair cut during the filming, to help to convey the emotion and trauma of what Fantine went through. It’s hard to watch that particular scene without experiencing the drama and the emotion. A lot of people were actually concerned that she had taken preparation for the role too far, but Anne Hathaway took the role so seriously that she did not even allow concerns over her own health and well being get in the way of performing it to the best of her ability. Had she done it in moderation and balanced it all equally, I doubt that the scene would have been quite as moving.

Another example of one of my favorites is J.R.R. Tolkien with his series, The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings took him more than twelve years to complete, perhaps longer, depending on where you start the clock. He toiled long and hard over the series, crafting his races, characters, languages, and scenes. You can’t pick up that series without realizing that it was a labor of love and a passion for storytelling that brought it all together.

These are only a few. I could talk about so many others who have sacrificed, honed, and challenged themselves, sacrificing health and so much more to push themselves to the limit of their craft and art. Obsession can lead to bad results if the object of the obsession is bad or flawed. Serial killers, stalkers, and the like are bad examples of obsession, but they are not the only one. Here’s one thing that I have noticed though. People who are obsessed tend to get results in the areas that they pursue. Harold Brown once said, “It’s the addicts that stay with it. They’re not necessarily the most talented, they’re just the ones that can’t get it out of their systems.”

Now maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. After all, I know that I obsess over writing. I write between 10,000 and 15,000 words every day, working on various stories, novels, articles, and legal pieces. Only a fraction of it has ever been published, primarily because I don’t think it’s good enough and because it needs “just one more edit.” Or maybe it’s because I worry for my friend. She is passionate and vivacious, even when she feels isolated and unsure about her place in the world. Yet her obsession is with justice, raising awareness, and storytelling. I think that her ability to be obsessive is actually one of her strengths. Not in her Facebook posts so much as in the honing of her craft and the perpetual pursuit of characters that are true to real people and who are drawn from the corners of society that most of the world would rather ignore.

People often say that balance and moderation are the key to life. However, here’s something interesting about balance. Balance does not necessarily mean equal as so many people seem to think. When I make soup, balancing the broth requires adding spices, but I don’t put in equal amounts of salt and pepper. I put in a little more of the one over the other. So perhaps one can be obsessed while living life in appropriate balance when you consider the craft, the goal, and the desired impact. So here’s to obsession, friends.

That Low Point You Feel

 

Sometimes it’s just hard being a writer. You pour yourself into the stories you’re writing, mold the worlds, craft the characters, and give it your all. Then you set that little story out into the world, hoping that maybe…just maybe it’s good enough to do something. And inevitably, someone will dislike it. Someone may hate it. Or…perhaps the one that hurts the most, they’ll read it, and they just won’t care one way or the other.

And often it seems that those readers and their comments show up on the same day when everything else is going bad. When your car breaks down. When a pay check gets lost in the mail. When you accidentally slam your pinky finger in the door because you weren’t paying attention.

And at that low point, you may find yourself wondering, why do I try? And it’s a fair question. Artistic individuals pour their souls into their work. It is a labor of love.

So what do you do? You pick yourself up. You remember why you write what you write. At this point, the desire for fame and fortune alone aren’t going to be enough to carry you through. Not at the lowest point. Not when you’re fighting depression or anxiety or fear. So write it down. Put it somewhere you will see it.

And now comes the hard part. Look at that comment or feedback and determine whether it’s a fair assessment. Is it a true weakness of the story? Is there something that you have failed to do? While it could be that the reader just wasn’t in your target audience, you should at least consider it. And if you realize it’s a weakness, then you fix it.

It’s hard. But when that low point hits, you have to keep going. Maybe you’ll need to take a little break, or perhaps even a longer one. But you need to make sure that you get back and you get going. The low point won’t last forever. One day, it will leave.

Forging Ahead When Discouraged and Depressed

Effective writing requires pouring out your soul onto the page. Over the years, I’ve often struggled with depression. And I don’t just mean feeling down or low. That happens regularly. It’s a battle to stay above those lines sometimes. Depression itself is more than just a sad mood or a down mood. It is soul sucking and draining at an entirely different level, one that sometimes feels as if it will never go away.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason that this becomes such an enormous issue is because as writers we must constantly pour out our hearts and souls into the pages, and we never know whether we are doing it well. Then when feedback does come, it’s often brief or negative. And few things hurt more than the realization that perhaps what you did was not the best or perhaps you did not do as well as you thought or perhaps you failed entirely.

Yet the thing that seems most important to me in all this is pushing on through those low points. I know I’ll be writing about that again soon. It’s frustrating to run into a reader who just doesn’t get your story or who just doesn’t enjoy it. That’s to be expected, but it doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. This is more of a rambling post, so my apologies.

But when you’re feeling down and depressed, take a break if you must. But make sure that you forge on ahead. Don’t let the grief, weariness, depression, or discouragement stop you from forging on.

Bitterness

Bitterness is one of the things I hate to see in writers, both as a reader and as a fellow writer. It’s a thousand times worse when it’s combined with ego.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a number of writers bemoaning the standards in the writing world, the state of the publishing world in general, and the overall stupidity of readers. Everyone needs a place to vent. The risk of venting online is that those ventings can last forever. The other risk of perpetual venting is that resentment and bitterness may start to grow. Rather than purging the negative emotions, it can sometimes cause them to fester. By letting them out, these negative feelings are then reinforced and brought back in.

Here’s the deal. The writing world is not fair. I can’t think of any place that is fair. The publishing world has developed a series of standards that are intended first and foremost to bring in money. While that might seem to some like it’s spitting in the face of the art form, it’s actually not. Publishers want to make money, sure. But they have to have money to get the books out there. And while on the author end, I get why it’s so frustrating that a publisher isn’t willing to take a chance, no writer deserves to be published without earning it. And someone has to care for the business.

The problem comes when bitterness sucks the joy from the writing process. Writing is hard work. Finding an audience is a hard work. Most writers will never be recognized for their abilities, and not everyone with a platform deserves one for the quality of her writing. But bitterness does nothing more than weaken us as writers. When I let bitterness take hold of me, it does nothing but ruin my enjoyment of the craft.

From a reader’s perspective, it makes me uneasy about connecting with that author. The writers whom I am most loyal to, aside from the greats, are those writers who I have connected with personally. Whether their works will stand the test of time like Lord of the Rings or Treasure Island remains to be seen, but I am loyal to them because I have gotten to know them as individuals. Bitter people make me uneasy because they are often just looking for someone to spew their venom on. And so if I am reading a writer’s blog or commentary on a site, I sometimes take note if they seem excessively bitter, and I make it a point to avoid those individuals. That sort of sentiment typically bleeds through into the writing itself, and it can be remarkably offputting.

Again this isn’t meant to criticize those who need to vent. It hurts. It’s painful. Writing is so difficult. And sometimes we just need to let that out. But don’t let the bitterness remain. It can be devastating.

%d bloggers like this: