Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 22 & 23, 2013

 

What do you know? A Great Stuff post without anything on craft! But that’s OK, there’s still Great Stuff out there: a convenient submission tracking form, yet another way to connect using social media and other ways to get support, acting like a writer, and a post like nothing you’ve ever seen—at least not recently.

BUSINESS

A couple weeks ago, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) published a post called Navigating the Guest Post Process on DIY MFA, which included a PDF guest post submission log form. Today she announced on Twitter a new and improved version that you can fill out using Adobe Reader. (Full disclosure: Gabriela designed the form, I suggested and created the capability to fill it in with Reader. Thanks for letting me contribute, Gabriela!) The form is good for other submissions besides guest posts, too: opinion pieces, even full-scale non-fiction articles for print or online publication. You can find the form by clicking on the link above or get it directly here.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Google+ continues to come up with its own takes on things other social media sites are already doing. Now Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) introduces us to the latest with Google+ Communities Create New Networks for Authors and Publishers. I won’t make any snarky comments about this being another way to spend time we should be spending writing: we know that already. What jumped out at me was this: there are four general types of groups: public, public moderated, private, and private hidden. That’s fine. But once the community’s been created, you can’t change the type, from public moderated to private, say? Really? If Joel’s not wrong, Google certainly is. That’s poor design.

THE WRITING LIFE

No doubt Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) chose the title Got Any Wise People in Your Village? Or Just Idiots? with the intention of getting our attention. And she succeeded. But the village she’s referring to is the group of writing-related people around us—the people who should be our support group. Are they wise or, um, not so helpful? Her key points are: (1) you need them; (2) you decide who to keep close and who not to.

Having that village around you will only help so much, however, if you’re not willing to help yourself. Carleen Brice (@carleenbrice) answers the question Can Acting As If You’re a Writer Make You a Writer? with a qualified yes. Yes if you use acting-as-if to get started or keep yourself motivated to keep going. There’s even scientific evidence now to show this works. But it’s the doing that matters in the end, not the pretending.

FUN

Oh, man, this is just too much fun to pass up. John Vorhaus’s (@TrueFactBarFact) Simile Fever Spreads Like Wildfire on Writer Unboxed is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Good thing you’re done with this post. You can stop what you’re doing an go read it—now!—without guilt.

Then share the laughs with all your writer friends.

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 8 & 9, 2013

Dystopian fiction and subplots, the future of fiction (maybe dystopian, maybe not), publicity in all its forms, and keeping your head in the game: we’re covering it all today. Dive in!

CRAFT

Dystopian fiction may not be your cuppa java—it wasn’t Karen Duvall’s (@KarenDuvall), at least not to write—but when she had a chance to write it she discovered 5 Ways Dystopian Fiction May Surprise You, which she shares on Writer Unboxed. The most surprising to me: opportunities for romance (love among the ruins, and all that).

So what good is a subplot, anyway? KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) explains why you should Use This Subplot to Bring Depth to Your Story. The “this” she’s referring to, by the way, is the emotional subplot, which brings out personal aspects of a character that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the story.

BUSINESS

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) Commodity Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Future of Fiction provides a very long for her overview of where she thinks the publishing industry is now and where pieces of it might be going in the future. There are points here I agree with and points I disagree with, sometimes vehemently. Give it a look, though. What do you think?

Ever wonder how to get book reviews? I have been lately. Dr. Rita Hancock (@DoctorRita) details how she went about Generating Buzz Through Book Reviews on WordServe Water Cooler. Note that some of her suggestions apply primarily to authors publishing primarily in print rather than electronically and it may not really be necessary to engage in 13—that’s right, thirteen—different publicity platforms the way she did, but her advice to start early is certainly on target.

Denise Wakeman (@DeniseWakeman) provides a bit of a sanity check against the last post with her post What’s Your Path to More Online Visibility? Her note that “you don’t have to do it all” is a welcome relief, although she also cautions, “Boosting your online visibility requires commitment and consistent action.” (Emphasis hers both times.)

Getting reviews is just one piece of the publicity pie, though. Rachelle Ayala (@AyalaRachelle) guest posts on The Book Designer on 5 Reasons It’s Hard to Market Indie Fiction and What to Do About It. Practical, actionable, reasonable advice.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jan O’Hara’s (@janohara) Solving a First-World Blogging Problem on Writer Unboxed, after a bit of a tease that makes a point, gets down to asking whether numbers (number of books sold this month, number of words written today, Klout score, etc.) really matter to writers and more importantly, if they do, how they should. In case you were wondering, 76.2% of her commenters agree. (I made that number up, by the way.)

Kind of in the same line of thought, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) advises, Don’t Feed Your Discontent. Among other things, she asks, “Are you worrying about things you can’t control instead of focusing on things within your sphere of influence?emphasis hers, and suggests ways to refocus.

There must be something in the air this week—New Year’s resolutions starting to fail, maybe?—because here’s the third article posted in the last two days on keeping focus: James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) Don’t Let Worry Drag You Down. His pyramid diagram puts into a concise image the writer’s path. Keep climbing.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten for staying focused on your long-term goals?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 1-3, 2012

Busy, busy weekend, with lots and lots of Great Stuff on the web. No more delays—let’s get right to it all.

CRAFT

OK, it sounds like an oxymoron, or maybe a new twist on a long-standing theme, or maybe even a new way to cross genres, but in fact Mark Alpert’s (@AlpertMark) The Poetic Thriller is none of these. Well, not quite, anyway. Along his writing journey, Mark realized that poem and thrillers should both (you’ll pardon his pun) “end with a bang.” Maybe not literally with a gunshot but with a line the reader won’t soon forget. Not just thrillers, either, by the way.

There were several posts relating to character over the weekend.

  • James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) What Writers Can Learn From Downton Abbey on The Kill Zone is one. Five of the 7 things he identifies have to do with character.
  • Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) first part of a coming series on realistic characters, Stereotypes and Character Traits delves into what mix of what types of traits primary characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist,  and secondary characters should have.
  • Geoff Wyss’s Character and Mystery on Glimmer Train’s bulletin seems to contradict, at least in part, what Harvey wrote, but in large part that’s just the difference between the culture of literary fiction and other genres. Thanks to Jane Friedman for pointing out this article.

Receiving feedback on one’s writing, like editing and rewriting, are (or should be) part of our writing process. So Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) brought in Jake [Last name not revealed! What’s up with that?], founder of a feedback and editing advice web site called DocuToss to write about Editing Through Community Critique. He makes some good points about why we should seek out feedback from others, and maybe you’ll want to check out DocuToss, but I know, dear readers, you also know about my Critique Technique posts, and I hope they’re useful to you.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND BUSINESS

Denise Wakeman’s (@denisewakeman) Four Super Easy Ways to Create Quote Graphics for Facebook, Pinterest and Your Blog introduces some really cool tools. You know what a quote graphic is, of course: an image of some sort used as a background behind a quote. So now you can choose between Pinwords, Pinstamatic, Quozio, or Picmark to brighten up that post. What’s even more cool is all are free, all are purely web-based (no downloads required), and only Picmark requires you to create an account.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) compiled a set of 8 pieces she calls Best Business Advice for Writers on her own blog. Two stand out but all are worth a look.

  • Otis Chandler (@otown), the founder of Goodreads wrote How Readers Discovered a Debut Novel: A Case Study and I think it and the accompanying slide presentation available via slideshare are must-reads for any budding author. Critical information here on how one author (Colleen Hoover) went from unknown to picked up by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books YA imprint in just 7 months! OK, a sample size of one should be treated with caution, but the study shows what she and Goodreads readers did to make that book a success.
  • Darcy Pattison’s (@FictionNotes) Facebook Best Practices for Profiles, Pages, Groups, and Posts is quite long and will take time to read and absorb, but if you want to get better results from this social medium, it’ll be worth your time to study this one.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) reminds us that when it comes to social media, A Community Means Getting a Response, and then goes on to suggest ways for you to do just that.

I know this post will have only limited appeal, but if you’re thinking about turning a blog into a book, check out Becca Puglisi’s (@beccapuglisi) guest post on How to Blog a Book, titled How a Blog Series Created Reader Demand for a Booked Blog. If Becca’s name rings a bell, it’s because she and Angela Ackerman of The Bookshelf Muse are the co-authors of the various thesauri they’ve put on the Muse. And you probably know that they turned their emotion thesaurus into a book, which is what this post is about: lessons learned along the way. Useful material if the idea’s been on your mind.

Speaking of turning, sure, plenty of us have thought or dreamed about, maybe even planned for having our book turned into a movie. But what about a TV series? Laurie Scheer (@UWwriters) discusses A Novel Idea for a Series: When Writers Think About Adapting Their Novel for TV on Writer Unboxed. Long post short, there’s a lot more to it than you’d probably expect at first, and a lot of work you’ll have to do. But, if the idea intrigues you, check the post out.

Staying on the subject of movies (sort of), mystery writer James Moushon (@jimhbs) looks at book trailers and wonders, Do Authors Get Enough Bang for Their Buck? The short answer to this long post is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Fortunately, he suggests ways for writers to get a trailer that’s a yes. Warning: the red background of this blog is a bit hard on the eyes.

On a lighter but still serious note, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) lists 7 Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh (and not in a good way). Don’t use these. Please!

THE WRITER’S LIFE

I have to admit when I saw this title on Writer Unboxed—What Working Out Taught Us about Writing OR How We Saved Our Writerly Asses—I wondered if it was one of those posts that would end up with a 404 Page Not Found error. Or worse. Not so. In fact, it’s Julia Munroe Martin (@wordsxo) and Bernadette Phipps-Lincke (bernadette.lincke on Facebook) writing about how getting regular exercise helps their writing. It’s a long post, so it’ll take a little endurance to get through it, but they’re right and I know I should be getting more exercise than I am, too. So, OK, “yes, dears.” 😉

FUN

Know a special writer? Of course you do. Want to give them a special holiday gift? Check out OPERATION: HELP THE ELF! On The Bookshelf Muse. You can also put your name and blog address if you have one on Santa’s “Nice List.” 🙂

Have you “Liked” this Great Stuff post, or another one in the past? Thank you! But don’t keep it a secret! Tell just one writer friend about it. They’ll be glad you did.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 29 & 30, 2012

Today marks the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo. If you were NaNo-ing, I hope you made your target. Now the fun begins: editing that (bleep)y first draft. 😉 Maybe the posts below will help you do that and get the final result published.

CRAFT

When Jeanne Kisacky writes about deep and shallow plots, she isn’t necessarily referring to graves, although for someone writing a murder mystery, that certainly could apply. Instead, what she’s referring to in Building a Plot of Variable Depth on Writer Unboxed is how plot relates to pace and character. When the plot is shallow, the story’s pace is quick. When the plot is deep, that’s a time of exploring character and change. A well-written story moves back and forth between the two.

Two posts on characters to check out. How Do You Create Characters? on The Kill Zone asks TKZ readers for their techniques. Mine’s there and you can check out other writers’ as well. Jennifer R. Hubbard (@JenRHubbard) has a concise discussion of The supporting cast on her blog, writerjenn, with good examples of how writers have used them badly and well. Thanks to Nathan Bransford for pointing out this piece.

There are also two posts on tension/suspense. Ollin Morales’ (@OllinMorales) How to Create Suspense on Write to Done uses an example of a Hitchcock movie to make the point of telling the reader just enough—and no more—to keep them wondering what will happen next. Victoria Mixon’s (@VictoriaMixon) longer Making Tension Tense on Writer Unboxed says much the same thing, but with three examples.

BUSINESS

Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) of Writer Beware joins the chorus of negative reviews today in Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division. In case you hadn’t heard, Archway is S&S’s link to Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), which I mentioned last time. Unlike Dean Wesley Smith’s previous post on the topic, however, Strauss goes into much more detail on why sensible writers should stay far far away from anything having to do with ASI. Read and heed.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s latest Business Rusch (@kriswrites; again, as always, very long) column, Getting Rid of the Middle Man, is really about Kickstarter, one of the “crowdsourcing” web sites (along with FaithFunder and IndieGoGo), writers and others can use to fund projects. Unfortunately, getting to the real meat of the piece—what to do and not do in order to have a reasonable chance at getting your Kickstarter project funded—requires skipping screen after screen of other material. If you’re thinking of using Kickstarter or one of the others, the piece is probably worth a look, but plan on hitting the Page Down key several times before you get to the good stuff.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) introduces something I think is very cool: A New (Free) Way to Sell Books from Your Sidebar. Agent Claire Ryan (@rayntweets) has created a WordPress plugin called Buy This Book (available through the WordPress Plugin Directory) that lets blog visitors to click on an image of the book’s cover and get a slide-out menu of links to websites where the book can be purchased. While the plugin is available only for blogs/web sites using WordPress.org software, Ryan also provides the HTML code that can be copied into a WordPress.com blog and modified as necessary—plus the instructions on how to install it properly as a widget.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Write It! Wednesday piece, Your Writing Superheroes talks about hers, which may or may not be interesting. But one of her four stood out to me: the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. (a.k.a 826NYC). These folks are part of an organization called 826 National, a nonprofit that supports eight writing and tutoring centers around the country for kids 6-18—in New York, DC, Ann Arbor, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. (Darn shame it’s just eight.) Anyway, if you live in one of these cities, have a thing for kids and writing, and want to do some volunteer work, you might want to check them out.

JUST FOR FUN

Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epigraph to The Great Gatsby is a fake—that he quoted a character from one of his previous books? Check out Robert Bruce’s (@robertbruce76) latest 101 Books post, The “High Bouncing Lover”?

And one more thing, from Dan Blank’s (@DanBlank) e-newsletter today. You may have seen images like the ones in this video by @kottke as chalk drawings on city streets… but you probably haven’t seen anything quite like them, either. What’s the relation to writing? They’re both illusions: some are optical, some are mental. Enjoy.

Come across something great? Don’t delay: share it in the Comments below!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 27 & 28, 2012

WOWSERS, is the season of giving ever upon us—and I’m not talking about shopping, unless you mean shopping for great information on writing and publishing out there on the blogosphere. Check out today’s jam-packed line-up of articles, starting right now with

CRAFT

Today’s three pieces form an interesting contrast between themselves and between the cultures and to some extent between the demands of “literary” and “genre” fiction. We’ll start with Barbara O’Neal’s (@barbaraoneal) Cornerstones of Excellence: the Art of Detail on Writer Unboxed. While I certainly don’t disagree with her point that the right details in the right places can create depth and insight that a story without them would lack, I guess it’s my bias that there’s such a thing as too much, too. I’m just not a fan of spending so much time querying a character, for example—especially within the piece—that the story ends up getting lost. The “right” amount of detail for a particular story depends in part on the genre it’s a part of.

So it’s no surprise, then, that freelance thriller editor Jodie Renner (@JodieRennerEd) would have a different take on details in Writing Tense Action Scenes on The Kill Zone. Her dozen techniques for writing these scenes, plus before-and-after-editing examples, are excellent for any writer whose work includes action scenes, irrespective of genre. Even “literary!”

And then we get Writing Advice from Somerset Maugham on Michael Swanwick’s Flogging Babel blog. The advice is a couple of quotes from his introduction to a collection of his own work. Swanwick sums it up thusly: “Gonnabe writers should keep this in mind:  Advice from writers on how to write the sort of thing they themselves write is usually very good.  Their advice on what not to write, however, is always suspect.” Bloggers (and their readers) beware! J

SOCIAL MEDIA

Lori Lynn Smith (@lorilynnsmith) provides a very long but very thorough resource in The First 7 Steps to a Successful Social Media Plan for Writers on Write to Done. Not just bullet points but hows and whys for each step. This post happens to be particularly timely for me and my writers’ group as it’s something we’re starting to pay more attention to. I’ll be spending more time with this post, that’s for sure.

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) 10 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Traffic to Your Author Website or Blog is a terrific complement to Smith’s piece. Also long but full of links to other resources, this one is definitely another one to linger with.

And then there’s Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) ‘Social’ Media: ‘Sharing’ Our Narcissism, also on Writer Unboxed, which isn’t really a counterpoint as much as a sanity check: does everything we “share” on our social media platforms really have value to all our followers, friends, connections, circles, etc., or some of them, or, if we’re not a foodie writing for foodies, does anyone really care what we had for lunch? Not just a rant, Anderson provides three tips for better SM posts.

BUSINESS

Jordyn Redwood’s (@JordynRedwood) One Hundred Thirty-Eight Points and Bestseller Lists on WordServe Water Cooler ponders numbers and what they mean, whether in a college basketball game or on somebody’s bestseller list. You probably won’t be surprised to learn her take is that it depends on whether and how the points were earned. Kinda hearkens back to the kerfuffle of a month or so ago about the purchased and ghost-written reviews, doesn’t it? The desperation to get ahead can be a sad thing.

Speaking of which, maybe you haven’t heard that Simon & Schuster is the latest publishing house to sign on with Author Solutions, Inc., a company that’s made it (bad) reputation by selling packages of “services,” that could be done for little or no cost, to naïve authors for substantial amounts of money—in some cases in the tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not kidding. Dean Wesley Smith (@deanwesleysmith) basically says, “didn’t I tell you this was coming?” in his New Way For Uninformed Writers to Spend Money. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly article Smith links to.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks Do You Have Impostor Syndrome? What in the world is that? It’s that feeling that you really don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re just an impostor writer (or agent, in her case), or whatever. We’ve all had that, haven’t we—those days when the words won’t come, when our characters go on strike, when our plot drifts off into the wrong morass—definitely NOT the one we wanted the characters to get into! Oh, yeah. When that happens, Gardner writes, that’s the time to remember those days when things DO go right, when the words sing, when the plot flows, when you’re confident in saying, “This is what I do.”

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) says much the same thing in Tempted to Give Up on Your Story? Don’t! In her last in the series on what she learned from writing her latest book, she talks about how she had those give-up days but didn’t give in to them, and as a result, she’s now able to promote that book.

WHEW! Told you there was a lot of Great Stuff out there today! But surely that wasn’t everything. What did you find?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 23-26, 2012

Well, the Thanksgiving tryptophan hangover is certainly over! After a quiet weekend, bloggers are back in force today. LOTS to get to, so here we go.

CRAFT

KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) latest post in her series on lessons learned while writing her latest book has to do with 6 Types of Courageous Characters. This is something I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere. (The Bookshelf Muse’s Character Trait Thesaurus has an entry for courage but takes a different approach.) Katie qualifies courage, or “bravery,” as heroic, steadfast, quiet, personal, devil-may-care, or frightened, and describes and gives literary examples of each. This post and the thesaurus entry complement each other. Both are well worth the look.

I’d heard of “beat sheets” before but never really seen a summary of how they work. Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) provides that in her guest post, Adapting Story Structure for Any Project, on The Bookshelf Muse. In this long post, Lydia lays out her beat sheet for her most recent YA book, so you can see how it works, then makes an important point: “It [the story] should flow naturally from point to point, never feel forced.” In other words, don’t feel you absolutely MUST hit certain events at exactly certain points (especially by chapter or word count).

Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) offers some suggestions on how to start a novel based on What The Movie TRUE LIES Taught Me. OK, spoiler alert: what it taught him was to start fast. But to find out why and how it taught that lesson, check out the post.

Finally for this section, we haven’t had much information here on memoir but Gillian Marchenko (@GillianMarchenk) provides 5 Starter Tips on Writing A Memoir on WordServe Water Cooler. They’re all “don’ts” and some seem contradictory (don’t rush/don’t wait) but the piece is easy, useful, and fun. Don’t skip it!

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) revisits a topic she’s written about before, “interval training for writers,” in Success in 90-Minute Increments. The basic idea, which she picked up from a Tony Schwartz post on, of all places, the Huffington Post, is that we work best if we work in concentrated 90-minute chunks (3 maximum per day), each followed by a bit of down time to refresh and recharge. Haven’t tried this myself, don’t know if it works, but give it a look. Let us know what your experience was in the comments below, if you’d like.

BUSINESS

I’ve been doing a fairly intensive study of platform-building lately, and blogging is an important part of that, says every source I’ve come across. So Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) Top 10 Tasks to Get Your Blog Ready for Prime Time is timely, even though this blog has been around for a bit over half a year now, particularly because I’m planning some changes (you heard it here first!). Whether you’re just thinking about starting a blog or have one running already, this post provides a good checklist to make sure you’re covering key bases.

Most of you don’t live in southeast Arizona, so you can’t take advantage of Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) in-person seminars, so his Everything About Epublishing (or Where to Find it) provides a good starting point for what you need to know if you’re considering e-publishing your work (with, of course, the obligatory plug for his own publishing effort, StoneThread Publishing).

On The Kill Zone, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) discusses a new but not really surprising development in e-publishing from Apple’s iBooks Author program, the “immersive” book. Bell’s take on this in Will Immersive Reading Save Publishing and Kill the Traditional Novel? frankly reminds me of other conversations inside and outside of publishing (Will e-books kill the printed book? Will recorded music kill the live performance?) for many years—over a century in the case of music. His concerns about the cost to produce such books are legitimate to a degree now but history shows these costs will come down over time as the tools get cheaper (many eventually free) and better. Anyway, the discussion in response is lively. Take a look. What do you think?

And last but not least, Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) posts key points from an interview podcast (plus a link to the YouTube video of the 40 minute interview) on Ebook Publishing on Kobo with Mark Lefebvre. Mark is the Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations for Kobo and also a published author, so he should know whereof he speaks. Kobo is actively looking to compete with Amazon and has a better international reach, so they shouldn’t be off your list if you’re looking to e-publish.

WHEW! I wasn’t kidding about LOTS of stuff, was I? Happy reading!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 6-8, 2012

Good-to-great stuff in lots of areas over the weekend, so without further ado…

CRAFT

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her Most Common Mistakes series with this surprising question: Are You Skipping the Best Parts? Let’s turn this around: have you ever read a book or story where things were getting really tense or exciting, a big event is waiting on the very next page, and then…nothing. No shift to another character or location to stretch out the tension. No promise of coming back to that big scene. Nothing. How frustrating is THAT? That’s what KM teaches you not to do in your own work.

L. L. Barkat (@llbarkat) guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog with a not-really-so-unusual technique: Steal Your Way to Better Writing. Of course, she’s not referring to plagiarism, but learning via close reading of something that draws you. This may not work as well for you as it did for her would-be-poet daughter, but it has value for everyone.

Quality work depends to some extent on productivity, which is why Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) post How Productive Are You? may be something you want to follow up on. Rachelle introduces a product called “Rescue Time” that is supposed to help you identify your work habits—and, one presumes, the times and ways you’re wasting time—so you can be more productive. I haven’t tried or used this tool or others like it, so I have no opinions on them, but if this is a concern of yours, you might want to check them out.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

That’s a good transition into one way to use time productively: going to writers’ conferences and conventions. New Kill Zone contributor Boyd Morrison (@boydmorrison) offers 20 Writers’ Conference Tips to make your time there more fun and more productive. Very practical and right on target from my own experiences.

OK, this next post might seem a bit morbid, but you know what, I’m right there with James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) in his thoughts about How Writers Should Die. His story is about novelist James M. Cain, who after a string of early successes (The Postman Always Rings Twice, among others) hit a dry patch and was urged to quit writing. He didn’t, found his way back to success late in life, and died at age 85 after completing two more books. While he didn’t literally die at the keyboard as some writers have, he did what he loved right to the end. How cool is that?

BUSINESS

OK, on to a cheerier topic, although not necessarily an easier one. Cheryl Craigie (@manageablelife) takes on a topic on Write to Done we all have to face at one point, writing the dreaded author bio. How to Write About Yourself offers practical tips on saying what you need to say—and no more—for the audience you’re writing for at that moment.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) takes on the process of self-publishing again today, making the point that there are Only 2 Things Authors Ought to be Doing: writing and marketing. His central point is that there are a lot of very technical things that go into turning a manuscript into a self-published book and that an author who is an expert at none of them is going to end up producing something that looks like it was produced by an amateur. While Friedlander’s point might seem a bit self-serving since he is a professional book designer, leaving certain work to the pros is something we do every day, so why not do it in something we hope will make us money? That’s just common sense, isn’t it?

Along these lines, and maybe in direct contradiction to Friedlander, Matt Setter (@maltblue) posted over the weekend two tutorials on Essential HTML for Bloggers, part 1 and part 2.  Seems like a good idea, right? A quick and friendly introduction to the basics of the programming language that’s the basis for so much that’s done on the web, so you can use it better. Unfortunately, these posts weren’t proofread closely, so important information is sometimes missing and Matt’s web site isn’t available as I type this, both of which hurt his credibility, but since I mentioned this series in my last post, I feel obliged to tell you about it now.

Finally, Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) reports on Writer Beware® Blogs that Publishers Settle With Google—But What About Authors? This all has to do with an effort Google started years ago to scan and make available on-line every book that’s ever been written of which a copy survives. Several organizations, including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Author’s Guild (AG) sued to block the effort over copyright concerns. After years in court, the AAP has settled with Google, Strauss reports, but AG has not and there are many questions remaining about what the AAP settlement means for authors, particularly in terms of royalties, because the terms of the settlement are confidential. This may seem very esoteric but the questions are legitimate. Much more to come on this in the years ahead, I’m sure.

What great stuff have you found out on the web? Share it in the Comments.