Nature or Nurture?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Journalism Net Effect Defies Expectation

“The afternoon newspaper is in a sense being reborn online”

The Internet has profoundly changed journalism, but not necessarily in ways that were predicted even a few years ago, a study on the industry released Sunday found.

It was believed at one point that the Net would democratize the media, offering many new voices, stories and perspectives. Yet the news agenda actually seems to be narrowing, with many Web sites primarily packaging news that is produced elsewhere, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual State of the News Media report. Read more

[Topix Publishing News]

To Publish or Self-Publish

Recently, while thinking about some work I’d done on a new
project I’m working on, I happened upon an article about writing a
novel in 100 days or less.

There’s a great amount of good advice in there, especially for the
first-time novelist. But along about the last 10 days of his process, I
started wondering how long ago the article was written, and why there’s
no mention of on-demand printing and self-publishing as options for the

In a little less than a decade, the Internet changed the world, in both the way we communicate and the way we conduct business, especially in the world of publishing.

Newspapers (particularly their classifieds) are struggling with the
freedom websites like CraigsList provide. People no longer have to pay
a person on the phone, who may or may not be able to spell, money to
print their ad for a single time in a product fewer and fewer people
are bothering to pick up.

Likewise, there once was a time when a writer could spend months or
even years of his life working on his craft, his masterpiece, and it
was up to an editor or an agent to determine whether the book was
“worth” the risk and cost of printing to the publisher, to try in
advance to guess how well it would sell.

The article above goes so far as to even suggest what type of bag to
carry around your printed manuscript in and things to do and think
about while you’re struggling to get your work represented by an agent
or accepted by a publisher.

These days, though, we have,,,
eBook/PDF-creation tools, and gigabytes upon gigabytes of cheap Web
space. Indeed, these days if you want to get your words out there for
the world to read, it’s much easier than relying on an agent or an
editor to decide for you whether the public will ever get the

Of course, easier opportunity still does not guarantee that the public will bite and read your work, and there is the expense of actually marketing your work to consider, which traditional publishers perform well.

Still, if you’re like me, you’re writing because it’s something you
like to do, and you’re publishing just because you want to get your
work out there, and not necessarily to make a living off it.

Back to work.

Even Flow

There’s a certain amount of rhythm a writer tries to maintain while composing his latest masterpiece. Much creative writing starts out as a kind of stream of consciousness setting down of thoughts on paper, and then, eventually, those thoughts become a single coherent stream. And from that stream rolls in the creative tide.

The frustrating part is when that flow is difficult to achieve. Whether one calls it writer’s block or simple tiredness from long hours at a day job, knowing what you want to say but not being able to set it down the way you want—not being able to achieve a “rhythm”—is aggravating.

Nevertheless, the rhythm eventually comes, and the flow follows, and the tide rolls in.

Roll with it.

Good Storytelling or Rut?

Stephen King once said that he is not so much a “good writer” as a “good re-writer.” And I think that would have to be said of anyone who tells a tale of any significant length in type.

Perhaps there are some writers who just “get it right” the first time through. I have had a little experience with getting it right the first time, but most of the time I write, then I revisit and write some more. Then I revisit and edit some choppiness. Then I revisit and write some more. Then I rewrite.

It occurs to me that there are several good reasons writers need to revisit and rewrite portions of a work in progress:

  1. A story evolves in the writer’s mind, and there may be elements that need to be added in earlier places to reflect later evolutions of the plot.
  2. The writer may have the basic skeleton of the plot written out in a basic narrative form, but the characters and settings haven’t been fleshed out well enough for the reader to actually enjoy the story or “get it.”
  3. There may be choppy sections of text where the writer originally struggled with conveying his story  or message to the reader that need to be smoothed out or rewritten completely later.

Like any other job, the ease of writing, the “getting it right the first time,” depends mainly on the frame of mind of the author at the particular time on the particular day he is writing.

Sometimes the words just come, and flow, and the writer rides a comfortable stream of consciousness that pools into keystrokes unobstructed.

And then there are the days when all he can do is pound his head against the desk.

When Comic Books Were Under Attack

I’ll probably order this book because I find its subject interesting: the interference of government in freedom of expression/creative freedom.

When comic books were under attack (AP)

AP – "The Ten-Cent Plague" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 334 pages. $26), by David Hajdu: Hey, Kids! Dad was an abusive drunk, mom had a public boyfriend and angelic, blond-haired little Lucy hated them all.

[Yahoo! Books and Publishing News]

The Art of the Word Count

I am a meticulous word-counter.

It doesn’t matter how well I am telling a story–how poetic the prose or how professional and entertaining the narrative–if I haven’t written at least 1,000 words by the end of a two-hour session of pounding keys.

A thousand words isn’t a lot, but I imagine I’m slower at the craft than most, more careful in my first draft than many other wordsmiths, who spend a greater amount of time rewriting on the second and third times through than I.

Tonight I am pleased to announce that I wrote 1,230 words on a new narrative piece of fiction, and I feel good about it. Not only do I feel good about the word count, but I also feel good about the the story, and the characters, and the pace of the tale-telling.

It’s the kind of story I actually must force myself to slow down in the telling. Otherwise, I tend to skip over some narrative that is unimportant to me in my mind because I’ve already noted it in my head, but is important to the reader for a complete comprehension of the characters, the setting, and the circumstances.

If only I had more hours in the day to write, which is, unfortunately, no longer my day job.

My Copyright Certificate Arrived

Some months ago (about six, to be precise), I submitted an application with the United States Copyright Office to obtain a registered copyright for my time travel-related novella Timecast. According to the Copyright Office website, it takes an average of four months to procure the copyright and receive the copyright certificate in the mail.

My certificate, which turns out to be an exact photocopy of the form I mailed to the office with an attached message from the Copyright Registerer notifying me that my copyright has been registered, arrived Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008. My application and fee for registration arrived at the Registerer’s office Friday, Aug. 10, 2007.

Now, I’m willing to forgive the delay because I am quite certain a great deal of research goes into whether a copyright applicant should, indeed, be certified by the Registerer’s office as owner of said copyright.

I also understand that this is “government work,” which is typically much slower than service performed by the private sector.

However, I do think the U.S. Copyright Office is misleading the public a bit with the four-month statement on its website. My certificate took two months longer than that to arrive in my mailbox.

In fact, I had, as of a couple of months ago, given up on obtaining my certificate, assumed that I had been rejected because I missed some minor detail in the submission guidelines for my copyright.

Still and all, I am happy to have the piece of paper stating that my creative work is officially mine.