Friday, August 28, 2015

Type Racer

Most writers I know use a keyboard. Not all are lightning fast typists, but some get their fingers to smoking. I think I'm a pretty snappy typer, so I put my skills to the test on TypeRacer.

TypeRace is a site that's an online typing competition. It pits you against other people by typing quotes from books, movies, and songs.

But it's not only a game. It actually improves your typing speed, some say as much as 50 words-per-minute. So I decided to give it a whirl.

For my first go around, I played against 2 others. The site chooses who and how many you play against. The text was taken from The Thermodynamics of Pizza by Harold J. Morowitz. I came in first place at 92 WPM. Since I was a little champion, I decided to do it one more time.

I should have quit while I was ahead. I came in 3rd with only 80 WPM typing a quote from the movie The Dark Knight.

Go ahead and pop over there. It's super fun and it's free. And if you're brave enough, let me know how you did in the comment section.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ten Writing Words of Wisdom

I've learned a thing or ten over the years. Here are some writerly nuggets of wisdom . . .

1. Rejections. One-star reviews. Rotten sales numbers. The writing gig is filled with negativity. You've got to not simply balance that out with positive influences, but over compensate with the cheerleaders in your life.

2. Time for writing or reading or running a marathon doesn't just happen. You have to make it happen. That means you will probably have to cut something else out of your schedule.

3. Great writing engages all five senses.

4. No writer really knows what he's doing. There are too many factors that go into creating art. Insecurity is blankie all writers curl up with and suck their thumbs.

5. Comparing yourself to other writers makes for an unhappy camper. Don't be that camper.

6. Being a rookie can be an asset because you're fearless . . . mostly because you haven't learned what to fear yet.

7. A reader doesn't have to be reading your book. It's your job as a writer to force them to read it.

8. Too much backstory at the beginning of a story is a big fat no-no.

9. Reveal too much information and your reader will wander away to play pinochle or something even more entertaining like watching the fish in the aquarium. But if you don't reveal enough information, your reader will get frustrated and slam the book against a wall.

10. Timid writers don't take risks, and non-risk takers are frustrated artists. Go for it. Try all kinds of writing just for the creativity of it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ever Wanted to Run a Bookstore?

When I toodle around the country and/or the world, one of my favorite things to do -- besides start international scandals -- is to stay at Airbnb's. I know. Looks like a stupid made-up word, right? Well, it kind of is, actually, but there's nothing stupid about it.

Airbnb was founded in 2008, so it's been around awhile. It's a website where travelers can find overnight accommodations in a collection of other people's homes, villas, castles, campers . . . you name it, they've probably got it. How cool is that? Well, hold on to your hats little cowboys, because things just got real. I recently discovered a booklover's dream for rent.

You can have your very own bookshop by the sea in Scotland for a week or two for only $40 a night. How sweet is that? In their own words:
We'll give you your very own bookshop, and apartment above, supported by a team of friendly volunteers and bookshop sellers to make your trip as lovely as possible. Set up by The Wigtown Festival Company, the bookshop residency's aim is to celebrate bookshops, encourage education in running independent bookshops and welcome people around the world to Scotland's National Book Town. The fee for your stay is low because we are a non-profit. It covers the running costs of the holiday but that is all. A laptop and WiFi are provided, plus bicycles for those who like to explore the bucolic countryside on two wheels!
Yeah. Beam me there, Scotty.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Book Pet Peeves

Do you get annoyed by dog-ears or cracked spines? You're not alone if you do. I ran across an interesting survey on Goodreads that listed booklover's top pet peeves . . .

1. Library books that have crumbs left between the pages.
2. When publishers change covers mid-series.
3. Mystery stains found in library books -- like is it spilled coffee? Blood? Nuclear waste?
4. Dog-eared pages.
5. Books defaced with a yellow highlighter.
6. Sandy pages left by someone who obviously took the book to the beach.
7. A dying Kindle or Nook battery.
8. Price tag stickers that tear the cover when you try to remove them.
9. When you lend out a book and the borrower never returns it.
10. Pages that are ripped, or worse . . . completely missing.

How about you? What's one of your pet peeves?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Writers as Magicians

Every writer has a little Houdini in them because a great story is a slight-of-hand magic trick. Here's how it works . . .

The writer grabs the reader's hand and takes them into a story world. Think of this as the pulling out of the black top hat. Exposing the reader to how things are, turning the hat one way and another beneath the spotlight, showing there are no strings attached.

Then the tension of the story ramps up. The writer creates conflict for the characters, just like the magician shoves his hand into the hat, all the way up to his elbow. You know something is going to happen. He's going to pull something out, but what? The reader expects drastic action is about to take place, everything is going to fall apart, but how?

Gah! The magician yanks out his hand. No rabbit. No roses. There's a big, bitey piranha attacking his fingers. He flails, the audience gasps, and in the blink of an eye, the piranha changes into a rainbow glitter unicorn that he hops onto and rides off the stage.

Whoa. Didn't see that one coming.

And that, my friends, is what a great writer does. Sets up a story. Causes a reader to believe the story is headed a particular direction, then shazam! Switches the story into a whole different direction that the reader didn't expect.

This format works because readers like to think they're smart, that they know how everything is going to play out, but they really want to be delighted with something they didn't expect.

Friday, August 21, 2015

One Word Sentences

Can one word make a sentence? Sure. See? Just did. Okay, so that last one was two words. I never said I was great at math. Who needs to balance their checkbooks anyway? That's so twentieth century.

Anyway, I came across a fantastic, short video that explains how this is a perfectly acceptable grammatically correct sentence:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo
buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Yeah, I know. I didn't believe it either until I started watching the 3 minute YouTube. Happy watching!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Publishing Doesn't Solve Your Problems

Everyone's got problems. A hangnail on your thumb. The doggy-doo-doo stuck in the crevice of your best sneakers even though you took out a dang toothbrush and scrubbed it outside under the hose nozzle, blasting it at neuron-splitting speed. You can't remember your password for Words With Friends even if a Russian gang threatens to mainline borscht into your carotid artery.

Even authors have problems.

Oh, I know. Some people think that authors have it made. That once you've signed a contract, hello Easy Street. Grab me a drink with and umbrella an park my heinie beachside.

Uh . . . nope.

Hate to break it to you, especially any newbie writers out there with starry eyes, but that is one big fat ugly misconception, all snarly and gross like the nastiness you pull out of the bathroom drain. And that's no exaggeration.

Actually, if anything, it's more like Grind Avenue, and the published author is the roadkill on the side. Why? Pressure. The pressure of:
     - meeting a deadline
     - wondering how sales numbers are doing
     - trying to crank out fresh prose at breakneck speed
     - balancing social media and marketing all while coming up with new story ideas
     - not looking like the schlub you really are because that would freak out the readers

Not that I want to scare away any potential authors out there. It's a great gig, losing yourself in Storyworld, getting to hobnob with other authors, receiving a shipment of free bookmarkers from your publisher. Those are all great perks.

I'm just saying take off your rose-colored glasses the next time you meet a published author. They're as insecure as you are.

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