Thursday, 30 December 2010

Rissa Fights Leukemia - Writers Helping Writers

A colleague of mine was diagnosed this week with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, otherwise known as ALL. My friends - my writing family, really - at the Yahoo! Content Network have mobilized to help raise funds for Rissa Watkins' medical bills and living expenses. Rissa has not been able to work while doctors were trying to sort out what was wrong, and now she's been diagnosed she faces a period of difficult treatments and astronomical bills that her insurance will only partially cover.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Facebook Numbers Game: A Writer's Perspective

Writers, especially freelance and content writers, often spend a lot of time online promoting their work. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can be powerful tools - but too often our friends and family mistake our use of these sites for fooling around. Here's an example of a Facebook game that offers serious benefits to writers who play:

Facebook numbers game develops writing skills
Writers of all kinds use writing challenges and prompts to help develop our writing skills, and this game is a good example of a challenge that demands we hone these skills. The Facebook numbers in status game is a challenge: receive a concealed number from a known contact, then write in just a few sentences what you think of that person.


Thursday, 4 November 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 4

Still behind today, after a restless morning and an afternoon pondering how to handle an educational matter.

I had intended to start writing early, while the girls and their Dad were out at Ju-Jutsu. I ended up helping the boy with his homework.

I didn't get started until late tonight, and I'm literally falling asleep as I write. Hopefully I'll get to work on my novel tomorrow morning, because I have company coming by in the afternoon.

Good night all!

NaNoWriMo - Day 3

After two days of staying ahead of my goal, I've fallen behind. It's OK. I had a productive day in several other ways, and I spent a good part of the day with friends.

My word count is now 4,136 words, where I should be just over 5,000 (6,668 by midnight, tonight.) As you can see from the graphic, I'm sleepy at the moment. I'm going to take a quick nap, and hopefully
I'll wake up with a good bit of energy.

I'm going to echo the advice of fellow writer Jennifer Walker: if you're doing NaNoWriMo make sure to write something every day. Even if life gets on the way you'll feel better if you can dash out a few words!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 2

Work continues! I was able to update some floor plans for the house where my protagonist lives, and then I sat and wrote another 1723 words.That puts me ahead for a second day, but only just slightly.

According to the NaNo progress meter, wrimos like me in Montreal have written 557,276 words so far. How are you doing?

Happy writing!

Monday, 1 November 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 1

So I'm tackling NaNoWriMo this year! I signed up last year with the best of intentions, but then life got in the way and I never ended up writing a single word. This year is going better, already.

I didn't have as much time to outline my novel as I would have liked, but this particular story is one I've been mulling over for a few years now. I managed to put a rough outline together, and I took time to revamp a couple of the characters. I also dropped the original setting (a real town) and am creating a fictitious town in a slightly different location, based loosely on the real town but with a history I've cobbled together from real and imagined events.

I am not nearly finished with my outlining, but was able to go ahead with my first day of writing anyway. As you can see from the neat graphic above, I wrote 1915 words today, which means one successful day and also one day in which I surpassed my goal of 1667 words.

I am building the outline in layers, loosely following Randy Ingermanson's snowflake method. I like the way one layer of work builds upon the previous layer, and then contributes to the next one.

For those who are interested in the technical mechanics of writing (the act of recording the words, not the composition itself) I'm using a book writing template produced for OpenOffice. I had originally considered getting software made for writing fiction, but so far this seems quite adequate and it's also free! I've tweaked the template styles slightly, and added extra details into the sections for characters, settings and items. I also added a to do list at the very beginning.

It was a good day, but I'm not done yet. I'm off to work on some of those details that need filling in, and then it's supper with the family.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo and want to add me as a writing buddy, you can find me at ruby3881. Happy novel writing!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A Little Blog Test

I've been able to upload and link to certain types of files from a blog, but a friend just asked if it was possible to upload a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet for her readers to download. I wasn't sure if Blogger allowed for this, so I figured I would test it out.

So here I am in Blogger composing a new post, and I'm looking for a place to upload a text. I can insert an image or a video, but don't see a place for uploading a file. Do you? (In theory, you should be able to click on these images to enlarge them. Unfortunately, Blogger seems to have shrunk them in the upload process. I apologize if it's hard to make out the details.)

I figured I could try uploading the doc as an image, but that was rejected right away.

In the end, the only way I could figure to link to a downloadable file was to upload the file to an outside server, or to use another blogging platform. WordPress does allow media uploads, including several kinds of word processing files. I was pleased to see the *.odt format used by OpenOffice was among them! Here's a peek at how it works if I wanted to offer a file for download from my WordPress writing blog:

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Bitten By the Blogging Bug :)

Being part of a community of writers is a great way to stay motivated and to share resources. My community at Associated Content is  one of those where members also get each other moving. It’s a very gentle thing, even when a challenge grows from a few comments in a forum post or a Facebook status to something more official. But it usually has the effect of setting a bunch of us off on some writing adventure together.

In July of 2010 we all caught a blogging bug. Those who had never blogged before learned what blogs are and how to write one. Those of us who had been neglecting our blogs for other kinds of writing returned to our blogs, or perhaps started new ones.

In my case, I ended up creating several niche blogs and really giving the Blogger platform a fair shake. I was also inspired to write some articles on blogging for other writers, and as I create this page that work is underway. If the topics interest you, I hope you’ll pop by and read one or more of them.

Writing Blogs

Ruby Writer: The blog you are currently reading, and the place where you can learn more about my writing

Read Write Up: A secondary writing blog at Blogger, which offers different features and has different rules on what content can be displayed. In all likelihood, I will probably merge the two blogs and buy a domain for the resulting writing blog.

Education Blogs

The Character of Education: A look at what public education is and should be; philosophy of education, alternative education and homeschooling; educational policy

Education in Montreal: Topics of interest to students, parents and educators in Montreal and the province of Quebec
Homeschool Writer: General topics for those interested in home-based education

Homeschooling in Quebec: Topics of interest to home educators in the Montreal area, and throughout Quebec

School Days: Resources and tips; mainly for parents, but students and classroom teachers may also find it useful

Blogs About Home & Family

Canaduceus: Topics in health care, conditions and diseases, health and wellness from one Canadian’s point of view

Cooking à la Canadienne: History of foods; recipes from Quebec, Canada & elsewhere; tips for food buying & preparation. This blog will run from meal starters and once a month cooking (OAMC) to cooking for picky eaters and people with special needs.

Just Desserts: The politics of food & housing; social justice; sharing our bounty & surviving on a fixed income
Parenting in the 21st Century: The challenges of contemporary parenting

The Special Needs Family: Resources for families of special needs children; as I have personal experience with autism spectrum disorders and ADHD, these will be more frequently discussed

Blogs on Other Diverse Topics

Au Tournant des Saisons: Celebrating the turning of the seasons

Between the Worlds: Personal reflections on earth-based religion

Coffee with Kyla: A bit more of a catch-all blog; arts and entertainment, books, recipes, reviews

Wild Thyme Blows: An odd little blog about oral traditions, recitation and the lore of flowers and herbs

Most of these blogs are quite new, so I hope you will be patient as I add content to each of them. I will make an effort to keep an up to date listing at Ruby Writer, so if there are any changes they should appear there.

This post was originally published at Ruby Writer, the sister blog to Read Write Up.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Help for Non-Fiction Publishers

My oldest and dearest friend, Angie Mohr, is the author of the Numbers 101 for Small Business series of books. In her blog Writing & Selling Non-Fiction Books she discusses the ins and outs of the publishing business, with a specific focus on non-fiction writing. In a series of articles "Negotiating a Non-Fiction Book Contract," Angie discusses the process of negotiating with a non-fiction publisher. Teaching from personal experience, she offers accessible advice that writers can use to get the most out of a contract.

Here's an excerpt from the second article in the series, which discusses how writers can avoid getting locked into a contract where a publisher reserves rights for different formats, markets or foreign language editions and then does not exploit those rights to the writer's advantage.
Reading over a book publishing contract can be a daunting task for many first-time authors. Knowing what rights your contract grants the publisher, however, can mean the difference of thousands of dollars over time.

Here's what you need to know about the grant of rights section in your publishing contract:

Photo: Daniel Jaeger Vendruscolo,

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Using Twitter to Promote Your Writing

Search engine optimization is emphasized on many writing sites. A lot of writers will say they get the majority of their page views from Google searches, among others. But social media does contribute to page views as well. Many writing sites offer promotion tips that make use of sites like Facebook and Twitter, Digg, Technorati or others. It is not uncommon for sites to also offer tools that will automatically post links to these sites for a writer, or that encourage readers to "share" on one of a number of sites.

Despite the encouragement, not all writers are yet comfortable with social networking sites. Privacy is one concern that is frequently cited, but it may also be that the writer feels a little put off by a new and unfamiliar technology. Some of us perhaps feel we must become attached to our mobile devices at the thumbs in order to become part of the Twitterverse. Or maybe the question, "What are you doing right now?" just seems a little too invasive...


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Trappings of a Writer

When I was about the age my oldest daughter is now, I fell in love with writing paper. There were all sorts of little writing kits in the stores then - note cards, little cardboard folios with matching paper and envelopes, citrus scented paper decorated with oranges and lemons, faux antique paper with Hobby Holly in four different poses. I must have had half a dozen sets at any given time. Oh, and don't even get me started on the blank, fabric-covered "anything books" that turned up a few years later!

Photo by Chris Wightman Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
It seems most of us eschew the old pen & paper methods now. It's rare to use snail mail unless you're sending a package. We email, text & Facebook each other. Writers use a word processor. People keep electronic calendars and to do lists. Some people are even using electronic wedding invitations these days.

But there's no getting away from the trappings, even with our electronic platforms. In fact, maybe it's become more of a distraction than ever. Be honest, have you ever wanted to get some writing done but instead ended up spend an hour browsing through new blog templates and updating your layout so everything looked just right? Have you ever come back a week later, only to redo the whole thing again because the new template is even better than the last one was? I bet you have!

 The trappings of writing are still with us. They are no longer bottles of ink and crisp sheets of paper, but at times they seem almost as tangible. And if they help us get the job done, why complain?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What Web Writers Want You to Know About Online Sharing

I started my morning having to deal with not one, but two, copyright violations. Two different individuals had "borrowed" entire articles I wrote and republished them without my permission. Only they weren't "borrowing" anything. They had committed theft.

There are some people out on the web who intentionally steal others' work, but I have come to believe a lot of copyright violation is due to laziness, ignorance of how copyright works, and confusing copyright with plagiarism. I'm sorry to say I have no miracle cures to offer for laziness, but I hope I can help to clear up the confusion around copyright here.

What is copyright?
There are a good number of sites that explain copyright in detail, so I'm not going to do that. What I will do is simplify it. At the most basic level, copyright is the right of an author to determine under what circumstances a work will be copied.


Doing Everything But Writing

It's been one of those days when I got very little writing done. I spent my morning dealing with kids and copyright infringements, and preparing for our day trip tomorrow. Writers quickly learn that our work consists of more  than writing. There is also planning, researching, networking, promoting and protecting our work. Most times I enjoy taking a break from writing to do something a little different, but chasing down copyright violations is not a favourite task.

The afternoon saw some actual writing get done, but there were interruptions for a number of reasons. One was a very pleasant one: a call from my daughter. She has been calling in the evening after the cadets get liberty, but today apparently there was a career fair at the camp and once she had seen all the kiosques that interested her she was allowed free time. We will be getting up at an absolutely ungodly hour to drive up for her graduation parade in the morning, but nothing could keep me from being there. We are so proud of her!

I managed to get one piece written today, and I hope both writers and their readers will find it helpful. I also want to say how grateful I am to Mohamed, who took care of one of the copyright violations for me as soon as he read my email. I have to believe that most of  the wrongs done in the world are a matter of ignorance. Educating ourselves allows us to choose the right, more often.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Negative Aspects of Freelance Writing

In A Bunch of Crap I Hate About Writing and a Challenge Jaipi Sixbear issues a challenge to "positive" writers to dig deep and give voice to some of their more negative feelings about writing. I have never given much thought to whether or not I count as a positive writer. I am a writer, and I hope a good one. One who is getting better with each day's writing and each new challenge - perhaps not measurably from one day to the next, but I know I'm making progress.

I don't generally engage in discussions of what I don't like about writing. I mean, why depress myself? Dwelling on all the drawbacks of one's job is counterproductive. Speaking ill of one's profession, one's colleagues or one's employers has a predictably negative effect on one's career. Sure, sometimes a little catharsis can be healthy. Airing the results of that process on the internet for all to see? Maybe not so healthy.

Still . . .


The Associated Content Model for Success: A Community of Writers with Heart

"Content farms": a derogatory term used by the mainstream for sites like Associated Content, Demand Studios and Seed. Sites like these regularly accept writing from ordinary people - people who don't have the benefit of a degree in journalism or communications, but who all the same have something to say.

The business model is making big money, and has got internet giants like Yahoo! and Google looking to get involved. But writers from the mainstream media view sites like Associated Content as a threat to the survival of their profession. One group has set out to create controls for online writing. They have even gone so far as to suggest Google should change the way it ranks content, because they feel articles by Associated Content writers and their peers are choking out mainstream content in search engine rankings.


Image: Chris Wightman, Wikimedia Commons