Archive for the ‘ Tips ’ Category

Knowing Your Length

This past Thursday I began working on the revisions to Project X after getting it back from my second beta reader. In reading her comprehensive and detailed notes, I realized something important: You must pay attention to length!

In working on Project X, I’ve focused strictly on word count and not number of pages. My go-to, most favorite writing software Scrivener doesn’t even understand page numbers as it’s designed to work in small chunks. Only when compiling the WIP into Word do I see where I stand. This seems to have bitten me in the ass.

My second beta reader liked the idea and the execution but felt the story was very front-loaded. It took me 12 pages just to get to the action! The entire manuscript was 29 pages, so this is a glaring issue. It was also a surprise to me since in my Scrivener world, I had three documents broken down to about 1,100 words each that lead up to this action. Broken down, it doesn’t seem like much. Combine it all into real-world formatting and BOOM I’m dragging my feet on the story.

It was only by viewing my writing in a linear format did I see areas that needed improvement. My advantage here was having Scrivener AND Word open side by side. As I read through the WIP in Word (and staying mindful of what page I was on) I was able to make the appropriate edits in Scrivener. With just a few hours of work, that pesky page 12 action was bumped up to page 6 with some shuffling of scenes and cutting fat off the WIP as a whole. Even reading it mid-revision, I see the story is a lot tighter and significantly improved.

Sometimes we need multiple viewing angles to see what needs to be done and that requires multiple tools. While I’ll never do my primary writing in Word, I’ve now seen it can be valuable for analysis in the editing process.

So how do you change your setup and approach when shifting from the writing stage to editing? Sound off in the comments!


The Weekender for May 20-22: Stop Aspiring

Twitter is interesting in the fact that it’s a collection of the vast knowledge we all possess and the people it brings us into contact with. Besides being a huge time-waster we can utilize it to find out things by ‘asking the masses’ and also searching it. Used correctly, it’s not just for saying what you had for lunch.

I’m talking Twitter because last week I came across a tweet (I’d link to it but unfortunately it’s lost to the ether of the Internet) saying that if you put “aspiring writer” in your description, you shouldn’t. If you write, you’re a writer. You’re not aspiring to write. I’ve given this advice lots of thought and realized that person is right. I’m writing my third book in four years and I’ve hit a stride in my life where writing is important. Plus I have a goal in mind. We always hear about people saying “treat writing like a job” and “envision yourself at the end so you know how to get there.” I’ve done this and I keep reaching the same conclusion: I am a writer.

So from this point on I’m dropping the ‘aspiring’ moniker from any of my descriptions or titles. I don’t need my name in print in order to be validated as a writer. Of course that’s the goal and ultimate prize but I am a writer, book deal or not. I’ll say it once more:

I am a writer.

Sharing My Knowledge

UPDATE: Looks like I posted just a few hours too hours too early because the speaker schedule has been posted! I’ll be speaking from 1:55 – 2:05 PM so be on the lookout for me after you’re done with lunch!

I’m taking a break from ‘The Weekender’ this week in order to bring an announcement I’m really excited about. Earlier this year I had heard through Twitter that the well-known 140 Characters Conference was coming to my neck of the woods, Long Island. The event is centralized on Twitter & social media and is a place where people can share their knowledge and passion for using this powerful tool for whatever we need in our lives.

Once I saw a local version of this event was heading my way, I signed up right away to speak and just recently I found out I was accepted to talk! Now Copious Notes is a writing blog and Twitter isn’t very good for writing (140-characters does not a plot make) so you may be asking yourself: “Self, what’s the connection here?” Well I’m glad you asked. 🙂

My topic for the conference will be writers and how we find & join communities through social media. I’ll be focusing on Hashtags and how I was able to utilize them to find a community and also get my book Spirit Hackers completed. In addition I’ll also be telling a cool story about how we are all connected in this crazy world.

If you’re within driving distance to Long Island, I’d love to see you at this conference on May 26th. You can use this link and save 10% off of your tickets. If you can’t make it, keep an eye on the website because the entire event will be live-streamed and you can watch my talk from the comfort of your couch.

We live in awesome times for communication and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned to those who think that writing is a completely solitary task. Hope to see you there!

Back Up or Suffer the Consequences

Being a techie guy, sometimes I assume things I do are things everyone does. In my time working in the IT field, it’s been made very clear to me that even in this digital age people do not take basic precautions to ensure their data is safe. Us nerds all shout from the mountaintop but until it happens to you, you’ll continue to ignore the warning: Back up your data.

I think about data backup every once in a while but it was an event that took place on Saturday that drove a point home to one writer’s social circle. My friend Melanie posted on Facebook that she was on the home stretch of her edits and she was showing the last 80 pages of her WIP who’s boss. We cheered and encouraged her to make it to the end. Shortly thereafter a post came up that would strike fear in the hearts of any writer:

I’ve edited 80 pages… and FINISHED this draft, then… my anti-virus software deleted my files.

A collective “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” was heard across the interwebs as we all experienced something no one should go through: the loss of data into the ether of nothingness. Now Melanie’s a smart cookie because she backs up her files but those were gone too. She also syncs to Dropbox where the files were gone as well. What’s a writer to do? Luckily Dropbox is awesome and THEY also back up files. Using their handy dandy website, Melanie was able to recover a very-recent version of her manuscript and get almost everything back. An insurmountable 80-page loss turned into a completely doable 17-page recreation. With the edits fresh in her mind, 30-minutes was all she needed to reach the end again.

What’s the moral of the story? You guessed it: Back up your data. This is something I’ve been obsessed with for years and ever since I began writing a few years ago, I’ve become more diligent to ensure I lose nothing. When I write in Scrivener, it auto-saves every 3 seconds of idle time after any change has been made to my WIP. It also has a built-in ‘Snapshots’ feature that keeps versions of each part of the document. I try to take a snapshot every few writing sessions. Once I’m done for the day, my Mac has Time Machine running to take care of the rest. In less than 60-minutes, it’s hourly backup runs and copies the file to my spare drive. That’s not enough for me though. I also use OS X’s Backup program to back up my entire ‘Writing’ folder daily at 1AM. Finally, every once in a while I will also completely duplicate my WIP file into a backup file in case the master version is ever corrupted beyond repair.

Between all these methods, it would take a catastrophic failure of epic proportions (or someone really messing with me) to cause my WIP to be lost forever. Luckily for me Time Machine also backs up my entire Mac so my music, movies and irreplaceable photos are also safe. Remember we live in a digital world where data is erased forever as easily as it’s created. If you do ANYTHING creative backing up is not an option. It’s required.

PS- Help Melanie out!! Dropbox is a fantastic and FREE service and gives you extra space if your friends sign up. Since I don’t even use half of my space, the Dropbox link in paragraph 3 is Melanie’s referral. Sign up through that link to toss her some extra space while you get 2Gb!

Yet Another Writer Busted for Lying


Good Wednesday Copious Notes readers. Yesterday CNN broke the news that yet another book based on a true story is a hoax. You may remember a couple of years ago how James Frey was busted about his book ‘A Million Little Pieces’ and how the book, which seemed like an amazing story, was significantly embellished. This time it’s Herman Rosenblat and a book that was set to come out in just a few short months titled “Angel at the Fence”.

The story is simple in that Rosenblat was in a Nazi concentration camp and claimed a little girl would throw him apples over the fence each day. A chance meeting 10 years later lead to them marrying. It sounds extraordinary and it was. The only true part was that he was really in a Nazi concentration camp. His publisher has pulled the plug and demanded all their money back from his advance. The book was to be made into a movie and that, interestingly enough, is still slated to be done at this point. The final nail in the coffin is that people have reported his real love story was good enough where he didn’t need to lie for the book.

Below is an excerpt from the story but feel free to click the above link to read the whole story.

Finally, I’m going to tag this post in my ‘Tips’ area because here is a tip for all writers: Don’t Lie! How’s that for a concept?

Holocaust ‘greatest’ love story a hoax

(CNN) — Oprah Winfrey once dubbed it the “greatest love story” she had ever heard: a boy held at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and a girl on the outside who tossed him apples to keep him alive. They eventually married and grew old together.

It turns out the story of Herman and Roma Rosenblat isn’t true.

The two had told their love story for years and years, inspiring a book deal, an upcoming movie, and stories across the globe on television,……

Lyrically Speaking for October 3

Good Friday everyone! Today brings a new edition of lyrically speaking for all of you to enjoy. I wanted to bring it back home a little bit and let you guys know about a local band that you all probably have heard of. The band nine days had their breakout hit “story of a girl” back around 2000. I’m sure all most all of you heard it on your main radio stations where you live. Unfortunately nine days seem to be a one-hit wonder. But here on Long Island things are a little bit different.

Nine days started out as a local band that took the area by storm and want a very publicized contest to become the best band on Long Island. I knew the song “story of a girl” approximately 3-4 years before anybody heard it on the radio outside of the area. After they faded away from the national music scene they laid low around here too, but still continue to put out some material. Recently, the band put out a new EP with some great songs on it.

The new album’s slow-motion life part one is a collection of six songs that sound really great. One of the top songs is an inspirational melody called “brand-new me”. The music on the song is fantastic but the lyrics are even more powerful. I just heard this album for the first time last week and knew right away that some of the songs had to become part of the lyrically speaking series. I hope you all enjoy the song as much as I do.

From the band Nine Days, this is Brand New Me:

i could not change, i could not be
what you needed me to be
so i lay down my arms
and i will fight no more
give my wounds some time to heal
so i cannot feel
let me be numb so i can smile
and fake it for a while

just give me faith and give me love
let it fall from up above
give me something i don’t know
that i do not recognize
a brand new face, a brand new soul
let me rise up from the old
become someone you don’t know
that you will not recognize

and if i knew your memory
looking back what would i see
were you different on your own
how could i know
and is it easier to heal
do you break now just to feel
a little something after all
and now something is gone

just give me faith and give me love
let it fall from up above
give me something i don’t know
that i do not recognize
a brand new face, a brand new soul
let me rise up from the old
become someone you don’t know
that you will not recognize

follow in your will that’ll get there for you
following behind and i won’t ignore you
i hear the voices in my head
but i do not listen to them

just give me faith and give me love
let it fall from up above
give me something i don’t know
a brand new face, a brand new soul
let me rise up from the old
become someone you don’t know

just give me wind upon my back
let me say that i won’t come back
take me somewhere i don’t know
that i do not recognize
a brand new place to call my own
let me rise up from the old
become someone you don’t know
that you will not recognize
that you will not recognize
that you will not recognize

Talk your way out of it

You’ll have to excuse the lack of picture for today’s post. I spent a good 10 minutes looking for a picture that would fit today’s topic or be a play on words for today, but I was unable to find anything. So, you’re stuck with just this entry.

Right now, I want you to close your eyes, lean your head back and go ahead and imagine that this post is typing itself. Well, that’s exactly what is going on. This post is the first half of what I want to demonstrate for my new writing setup. Late last year, during my writing group, one of the members talked about how she uses a dictation program in order to get all of her writing done. The main motivation for this was that her wrists and hands were hurting so much that it hurts type after a while. She told me about the program Dragon naturally speaking and said how amazingly accurate it was.

Now, I really didn’t believe her because I had used a different dictation program back in college only about four or five years ago. But let me tell you that the program was atrocious! It would only get about 50% of the words correct, and then at a certain point, for whatever reason it felt like, it would just start typing gobbledygook. Only after using it for about two weeks that I decided it was garbage and I threw it out. I really should’ve went back to the store and got my money back, but I was just that upset. I was relegated to physically typing all of my papers for the rest of my college career. Anyhow, this person from my writing group was extremely correct in how accurate this software has become.

Right now my hands are behind my head and I’m very relaxed. My eyes are closed. I am dictating this entire blog post to all of you. Now, I do use a Macintosh so that means that I cannot use Dragon NaturallySpeaking. There is a new program now, called MacSpeech Dictate. This program uses the Dragon NaturallySpeaking engine but they implemented it for the Macintosh platform. This program has heavily impressed me even to the point were I went out and bought a $20 microphone. I tested it out for about two or three weeks, and decided that it really is amazing. It does get tripped upon words here and there, but it is only a program so I don’t expect it to be 100% accurate. I have a little headset microphone that doubles as speakers for my computer so I can listen to music and dictate at the same time if I feel like it.

The program is easy to set up, and I only have to do a little bit of training to get it to accurately recognize my voice. When you run it for the first time, you go through about a 10 minute reading process where it listens to everything you’re saying and tries to adjust itself to how you speak. After that it is very accurate. If you wish to fine-tune even further, there are two other selections you can read to train even further. An additional benefit, is that you can use the software to control your computer. I can dictate commands to have it control my computer and have it open and close programs. Overall, I am very very satisfied with this product.

So, I am really hoping that this program helps me generate my writing even faster. I think that once Spirit hackers is ready to go, I can use this program in order to dictate thousands of words much faster than I can ever typed them. And my wrists won’t hurt when I’m done!

So what do you guys think? Do any of you use dictation software? Have you tried it in the past? It’s definitely something to look into, especially if you do tons of writing. Also, most modern headset microphones don’t make you look like a total dork!

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