Monday, March 28, 2011

Blogging from my Smartphone

As an experiment, I thought I'd try to write and post an entry from my smartphone. Personally I don't think this is good idea, but I constantly look for new workflows. By doing so I learn what works for me and what does not. Slowly over time, this leads to changes and improvements.

For example, but experimenting with different authoring tools I found could write novels with Scrivener and export any format I require including Word, PDF, ePub, Kindle, and HTML. This makes for a very efficient process since I can author once and reuse/convert the text as needed without major effort. 

Blogging is a little different, at least for me. I don't need to repurpose the entries although I do repost them on Twitter, Facebook, and Goggle Buzz. I've posted a few on GoodReads, Delicious, and Digg. But some reposed are automated and some are simple copy and pastes. I've not given any thought to how I compose my blog posts in the first place. 

Up till now I've been typing them from a desktop or laptop keyboard. Sometimes I write them in advance and sometimes I don't, depending on whether I get an idea for post or I just improvise. But this post is being cobbled together from my smartphone using an app called blogwriter. The app is a good one but I miss the full keyboard and the use of all fingers typing as I wordsmith. I also don't know how well Blogger handle this text until I send it.

So if it turns out that integrating this post is really hard I won't be repeating this experiment. On the other hand, if the post comes without too many problems, I may decide to look for another to type the text into the phone or buy a tablet because my thumbs hurt from typing all this text.

Welcome to the 21st century I guess.

Friday, March 25, 2011

X's and O's

I'm not talking about hugs and kisses or tic-tac-toe.  X's and O's refers to social phenomenon.  The O's are all the same type of people.  Maybe they are all extraverts or type-A people.  The X is a different type of person.  When you are an X in a room full of O's you are invisible.  No one sees you, no one registers you've been there.

We've all had that experience.  Social media makes this worse because I can blog and post to my heart's content but never reach anyone.  Somehow I have to promote myself and my posts on sites like Digg or Delicious and hope some finds my ideas and point of view interesting enough to read.  If I'm really lucky the reader will share it.

That's only happened to me once in almost a year of blogging.  But given the amount of content being produced by bloggers worldwide, I support I should feel lucky I hit gold at least once.

And yet I can't help feel that social media is the wrong path for humanity.  I don't have evidence of this, it is just a feeling and an impression.  Proponents will say that social media helps people find information about products and services.  Company A posts or tweets information about their products and services and that help me find information when I need it.

Perhaps.  But if I don't have a product or service, then what?  If I sell content, how do I create content about content?  And if I figure that out, I still have the promotion problem.  I need to be in a place where people look for that content.  So if the content is a book I need to be in Amazon and Barnes and Noble and lots of other bookstore.

And even being there isn't enough.  I need to get in front of people and jump up and down and wave my hands screaming, "Over here!"  Otherwise I am an X in a world of O's.  The sad fact is, there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to promote my work and write new material.  Not without help.

And I don't know where that help would become from.  Perhaps this is why most writers are discovered after they die.  They don't take the time to promote themselves.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Does the Universe Speak to You?

Have you been in the situation when you plan an event, say going on vacation, but nothing goes right?  And it does not come off as you expected it to?  At times like this, I sometimes feel like the Universe is speaking to me trying to tell me something.  But be careful, we often hear what we want to.

For example, when I was a senior in high school, my parents decided they had to moved west to be closer to my father's job.  No one in the family wanted to do this, but that was the decision so that's what we made plans to do.

But as we got closer to the day of moving, more and more things went wrong.  The car broke down.  The house we were moving into wasn't ready.  And so on.  I was convinced that we weren't going to move because I don't want to do it.  But moving day came and we went.

I spent a day or two afterwards in disbelief because I was sure it would not happen, but it did.  So when reading the signs from the Universe you need to be sure you understand what it is trying to tell you.

Personally, I'm not sure the Universe speaks to us at all.  It is far more likely that we experience things we don't understand and in trying to make sense of them we reach conclusions that re-enforce our beliefs.  This sort of thing happens to me all the time and often my challenge is understand what is really going on.  For example, I write a story that I like and that other people I know say is good.  I submit it to a publication.  They reject it.  Why?  It is a good story and I know it.  I try again.  It is rejected again.  Again I ask why?

Often I never know why.  Often my story does not fit their publication in some way.  That does not mean my story is bad only that no one wants to purchase it for publication.

And my only reaction to that conclusion is:  it's their loss.

Friday, March 18, 2011

We Need a Clearinghouse for New Writers

It is so hard for new writers to establish themselves and get recognized these days.  Part of this is because there are so many voices in the chorus.  But part of this is also because there is no way for readers to know what new writers are worth reading and which are not.

Sure, reviewers provide some of this function, but there's no repository of reviews I can access for all newly published work.  There's just too much content and not enough people reviewing the content.

Additionally, I find many self-published works are of poor quality in terms of writing, spelling, and basic mechanics; it would be great to have a clearinghouse of some kind that readers could use to identify quality work.  It would be good for writers too because it would give them a clear channel to sell their work in.  At the moment, there's a plethora of channels, each one different and each one needs special treatment.  For example, to sell in the Amazon bookstore, I need an Amazon version.  To sell in Apple's iBookstore I need an epub version and sign up as a partner.  Smashwords requires its own version with a special license attached; I can't use the iBookstore version without modification.  For the writer, this is really like death by a thousand cuts.

A single central clearinghouse would solve this problem.  Smashwords tries to be this but their versions of content do not always play well with all the available electronic devices and they do not let me upload my own version of a specific output.  They do all the conversion.  So even through I can create a better Apple version locally on my computer, I cannot use Smashwords to distribute it to all the channels they support.

So I think we need a clearinghouse like Smashwords but with editors and reviewers of note so that readers would have confidence in their reviewers and certifications.  And that's unlikely since the writers would have to pay them some amount of money to be listed; otherwise, the clearinghouse would have attract advertisers so that the editors and reviewers could be paid.

And all this assumes only ebooks would be involved because they cost so little to create.  If you bring paper versions or audio versions into the mix, your costs rise since you'd need to involve more people to handle these versions of each publication and you introduce printing and shipping costs for the paper version too.

Perhaps someday.  Until then I just do what I can to create the best quality work possible and promote as well as I can.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Race to Finish

I'm about halfway through my revision now.  I had planned to be done by the end of March.  I don't know if I can finish by then but I can certainly move faster.  Why?  Because a writing friend put me in touch with an editor who is helping caught all the error I can't.  Thank God, for networking.  The best part here is my friend volunteered the information.  I followed up and now I've got someone reading the first 11 chapters.

I know I've used outside help in the past and have been disappointed.  But this time is different.  She is only looking at grammar, punctuation, word choice, and sentence structure.  Everything else is done.  So I should be able to move faster in my revision and I should end up with clearer copy when this is all done.  

I know, famous last words.  I am skeptical too but I have no choice because I'm not finding all the errors myself.  I've read the text too many time.  So at least for this book, I must have outside help in order to produce clean enough text to sell the book to the publisher who is interested.

Hopefully, I will not have these same problems in the next book.  We'll see.  One step at a time.

First, finish the revision and send it out to the publisher.  If it sells, move onto book 2.

If it does not, update all my self-published versions and renew my promotion of the book.  Then move onto book 2.

Either way, I should be completing my second book this year. That should help with sales.

That's the plan anyway.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: The Kindle 3G

I received my Kindle the other day and have been using it ever since.

Kindle uses something they call electronic paper to render text much like text in a book.  It works well and it the heart of the device.

To my surprise, it is more than just an e-book reader.  It plays audio books from Audible too and I've got lots of those.  It will open text file, HTML files, PDFs, and Word files.

It plays MP3 files too so you listen to music while reading.  You can't control the playback as tightly as you can on an iPod or MP3 player, but I was surprised to see this feature.

There's a web browser too.  But it is severely limited.  It won't only links that pop new windows and it was not play video of any kind.  That's okay.  I'm not going to use the feature; however, if Amazon enhances the browser it could be a win for the device.

Navigation and usability is a little clunky, relying on buttons built into the device.  After using Palm devices and iPhone, a touch screen is really hard to give up.  I think the device could benefit from such technology.

The screen is black and white, which is fine most of the time; however, color display of book covers would enhance the experience.

Overall, I am impressed by the device and if you are an avid reader, I recommend the Kindle.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's Harder than it Looks

I know many people who think writing is easy.  They believe you just have to type words on the screen, say what you want to say, and that's it.  I wish it were that easy.

It's not, as any writer who has done this for awhile knows.  Each word, each phrase, each sentence is crafted to contribute to the overall work and to keep the writing move.  Writing must flow.

But there are other obstacles too.  A lack of support is a big one.  While family and friends wish me well in my writing and give moral support, that's not really the kind of support and encouragement I'm talking about.

A writer needs a support system; people to help critique the writing and people to spark ideas.  Of these two, I am surprised how hard it is to find people to help critique the writing.  This takes several forms.  One is people to read and review the finished story.  But also people to often suggestions to the work in progress.  Of all the people who read my first novel in its infinite carnations no one every said my characters were flat or I was too repetitious.  No, I had to find out by asking an editor who had rejected my work.  

Another obstacle is finding a publisher, assuming you do not want to self-publish.  I have a sense that so long as the story or novel is good and you've done your homework regarding what a given publisher wants, finding a home for your work isn't too hard.  Does that mean you will always be able to sell your work?  No.  Sometimes, a publisher just doesn't need what you are selling.  But if you look around a look and gauge the market, you should be able to make a few sales.  

Of course, doing all that work is time-consuming and can be an obstacle too.  It means studying target publications/publishers to ready know what they put into print.  It also means reading novels from new writers and online magazines.

Self-publishing has it's own obstacles too.  You've got to know the technology so you can provide quality versions of your novel in print and electronically.  This can be difficult depending on the service you use.  

And even after you learn the process to create the best versions of your work, you have to promote it yourself too.  That means a lot of time online getting the word out.

If all this seems daunting, take a deep breath.  And focus on the current step of your project.  If the story is not complete, finish it.  If it is complete, focus on publishing it.  Don't get ahead of yourself.  Just take it one step at a time.

Friday, March 4, 2011

2011 is the Year of the Kindle

My birthday is later this month.  As a surprise, my wife brought me a Kindle.  I know this, not because she told me; she didn't.  In fact she refused to tell me.  But I was able to guess correctly from the clues she let drop.  Once I guessed, she admitted it.

I'm sure I will enjoy using the e-book reader.  I certainly can use it to debug the Kindle version of my e-book.

Interestingly enough, a friend of mine, another writer, got a Kindle for his birthday in January from his wife.  It does seems that 2011 is the year of the Kindle.  I'll be sure to post a review of the device here once I receive and start using it.

I am very interested to see if the claim Amazon makes, about being able to read text of the screen in bright sunlight, is true.  I say this because I am thinking about purchasing an iPad and the commercial Amazon runs showing this capability really slams the iPad but good.  Of course, the iPad does a lot more but I'm trying to determine what e-book format to investigate in.

So I may have many more gadgets to play with soon.  Technology, can't live with it ...