Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Links -- Volume Ten

So how's Nano going for everybody? We're now halfway through the month, so everyone should be over 25,000 words by now, right? I wish all of you NaNo participants good luck. I'm still mucking about with the so-called story I did last November, so I declined to enter. It’s nice being able to get some sleep during November.

Yesterday, I was privileged to be the recipient of many good soakings, thanks to Soak-a-Bloke day (hosted by Christina Rains). It's part of the Realms Faire, details of which can be found over at M. Pax’s blog.

In other news, Janice Hardy is offering a three chapter critique over at the Crits For Water Auction.

Okay, on to the Friday Links.  Have a great weekend!

Why I Choose a Digital Publisher Instead of Self-Publishing

9 Ways To Undermine Your Characters’ Best Laid Plans

Common Problems With Beginnings

Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Started … Part 3

Twitter: Are You Taking the Lazy Way Out?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Have Your Book Buying Habits Changed?

Has the way you make book buying decisions changed in the past few years? It certainly has for me. And I don’t mean the fact that I can buy e-books for less money than print books. I’m taking about how I've had to change the way I make my book buying decisions.

Back before Amazon came along, I would walk into a bookstore, head directly to the shelves holding my desired genre (usually fantasy), and peruse the books. I’d check out titles and authors, and if I was intrigued, I’d read the back cover copy to see if the premise was interesting.  If so, I’d open the book.

Somewhere roughly in the middle.

You see, I’d learned at any early age that the opening chapter of a book was usually a poor way of judging a book. Back then, most books started slowly, with the MC doing something rather mundane, like thinking about the weather or something similarly uninspiring, and it would be a while before the story got around to anything interesting. There might be a prologue, or lots of backstory (which I don’t mind all that much myself, as long as it’s entertaining), but those things didn't give the reader a good handle on how the author was going to tell the story, which is what I wanted to know before I bought a book.

So I’d open the book somewhere in the middle and look for things like the percentage of dialogue. Too little and it might be a tough read, but too much and it might be a sign of a weak plot. Did the author spend too much time harping on the character’s feelings or did he/she get on with the story? Was the prose too purple for my tastes?

Now everything has changed. I don’t have as much time to visit bookstores these days, despite the warm  fuzzy feeling I get whenever I’m inside one, so I spend much of my book searching time on Amazon. And Amazon’s previewer only allows me to see the beginning chapters, which means I’m often forced to make a buying decision based on the part of the book that happens long before the story-worthy problem (as Larry Brooks puts it) is revealed. How much different will the writing be once the story gets going? Did the author spend all their energy on that first chapter and leave a sagging middle? The whole process leaves me feeling rather anxious. I will admit, though, that the lower price of e-books does help mitigate the risk of choosing wrongly.

This new paradigm has also changed how I write. When I first began writing fiction, I never paid much attention to those people who said that your first chapter is the most important chapter. I grew up in a time when first chapters weren't all that exciting. But now, with the Amazon previewer, I’ll agree that the first chapter is pretty darn important. Not only does it have to demonstrate your writing style, but it also has to convince the reader that your character is worth following for the next twenty chapters and that the excitement is only just beginning. A rather tall order.

 So how has the Amazon previewer changed the way you buy books?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Insecure Writer and a Lack of Quality Mind Wandering Time

Today is November's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because of the worry that my source of ideas may be running out..

The past several months have been pretty busy, especially October, which is my excuse for not having posted here the last couple of weeks. I suspect laziness played some part too, but that’s another story. And the little time I had left was spent critting. This lack of time didn’t bother me too much. I knew as soon as things lightened up and I had a chance to sit down in front of a computer again, I’d jump back into posting and critting and writing again as if I’d never been away.

What really worried me was my lack of quality time for generating new ideas. Turns out my best ideas come to me when I’m in the shower, or driving to and from work, or taking walks by myself—basically the times when my mind can free-associate. It’s the part of writing I’ve always enjoyed the most. Just allowing my mind to wander and letting those ideas come pouring in. Getting them down on paper is the hard part.

But as I’ve learned these past couple of months, these ideas only come when my mind can wander around guilt-free. If there’s something else I know I should be thinking about, like the next day’s lecture for the chemistry class I teach, or the homework I should be grading, or the next meeting of robotics class I’m coaching, or projects I should be doing at home—the ideas just don’t come. When I know there are other things I should be thinking about, concentrating on my story is hard. And it had been such a long time since I’d had any new good ideas, I worried that maybe the ideas weren’t going to come anymore.

Fortunately, I've discovered this will not be a problem. My plate is still pretty full, but I’ve been able to work up a schedule that allows me to fulfill all my obligations and still leaves me with a few hours of guilt-free mind wandering time. And the ideas are beginning to return. Thank goodness!

 Finally, an Insecure Writer’s post that ends on a happy note.