Monday, February 28, 2011

Random Thoughts

Because I haven’t done this in a while.

---I really think Charlie Sheen is funnier now than when Two and Half Men was first on.
---Also: best “series finale” ever at Videogum.
---The last American WWI Veteran died. He was 110.
---Looking at the list of Oscar winners, all I can do is go “Well, duh.”
---Among the millions of other things he’s doing, James Franco is teaching a class. On James Franco.
---So many other cat owners have told me how their cats also chew up their nail files/emery boards. What is up with that? Seriously, my cat rips apart things to get to the nail file and chew it up.
---Yay! It’s Girl Scout Cookie season!
---Future news: 2030: “Doctor James Franco cures cancer. All of it.”
---Okay, this is getting cut short. I had to go help my sister with something and it just ate up my time. Sorry. Wait for the next installment.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


One of the trickiest—and most important—parts of writing is capturing a voice. If you don’t have one, the reader might as well be reading a text book. It’s dry, it’s uninteresting and they are oh so aware of the fact that they are reading.

What is “voice”? Voice is what you write so the reader will read it a certain way. Confused? Yes, me too, and I’m the one who wrote it.

Voice isn’t necessarily the voice of the character (although that’s important too) or the narrator. It’s more like why the narrator reads it that way. Okay, let’s go look at a book that absolutely drips with voice, PUSH, by Sapphire. The language is harsh, the spelling often in error, the grammar completely off. But it really feels like you’re there with Precious, listening to her. It helps that it’s a first person book, but third person can also have wonderfully evocative narrators. Ever read THE PRINCESS BRIDE? The Lord of the Rings Series also does it beautifully.

I follow a lot of agents and almost every single one has said that voice is the most important thing when they read a manuscript. And while you can shape and enhance it, voice is not something that is easy to just create.

What’s my voice? Kind of sarcastic. Clipped. Full of “holy crap, am I going to die?” anxiety with a touch of “how the hell did this happen?” At least, that’s what I’m trying for and it sounds that way when I read it aloud. Readers might have a different view. It’s a little hard to judge your own voice.

Tell me: what is your voice like? Do you have any tricks for cultivating it?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Websites for Writers

Okay, busy day today and I stupidly don’t have the post pre-ready, so this is probably going to be a bit short. Or…let’s call it succinct. That way it seems like I really put the effort in.

Anyway, Absolute Write is a great site to check out. It’s full of interesting information, like a list of writing classes and resources—including Workshops and Conferences and Writer’s Organizations.

Perhaps their best feature is their forums. Want advice on your writing? They have it. Want help with your freelance writing? They have it. Looking for beta readers? They have a forum for that too.

So yes, I recommend checking them out. We writers need to stick together. And this is a great place to do so.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Distraction Friday: And Now For Something Completely Different

I was supposed to be writing this post yesterday. I had a nice idea in mind, too. But I was feeling a little bored with...well, the internet. I took an "internet break." My laptop was still on and I was writing, but I wasn't looking up anything, I stayed away from Twitter (gasp!) and even Blogger (shudder...sorry for the lack of replies, by the way).

I know. It doesn't make sense when I type it out. But sometimes, one needs a break from social networking and internet distractions. So that's why for this Friday, the distraction is...turning off your internet connection.

The insanity! Still, a break is nice. I like visiting all my friend's blogs and reading their tweets, but sometimes I just want to be asocial and shut out the world. It's kind of nice, I have to admit. And here I am, back and ready to go!

So take a deep breath and hit the X in the upper right hand corner of your computer screen. You don't have to leave a comment. Distract yourselves with the joys of the non-internet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Keeping It Short

Okay, writing this is a little awkward. I mean the actual act. A cat insisted on jumping into my lap and now my laptop is balanced off of one knee. Why she is insisting upon having attention now, I don't know. Wait, yes I do. I'm doing something that does not involve cats.

Anyway, I'm here to talk to you (or write at you) about the importance of brevity. The First Crusader Challenge made me think of this because as most of you know, it's required to be under 300 words. When I saw that, I was all "No way! How am I supposed to keep it that short?"

And it really made me think about how a nice quick post tends to be easier to read. As someone who tends to spew words, I think showing a little more restraint might be helpful. I know it's a little late to add to my resolutions list, but I'm doing it anyway. From now on, no more than 300 words per post. And yes, that includes word nerd Wednesdays. I'm sure there will be exceptions, but I'm going to make sure they're only for good reasons.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The amusing part of the word prefix is that it has its own prefix. That just makes it delightful. But enough about that. I’m sure I’ll get around to its etymology one of these days. This is for the actual etymology of some prefixes.

Prefixes influence the meaning of words, and they tend to do it in the same way. For example, let’s look at a common prefix for two, bi. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s Latin (i.e. Classical Latin) in origin (the same word, even). That bi- stems from the Old Latin dvi-, which is less strange if you know that in Old Latin, the v was used like a w, and dvi- would be pronounced more like dwi-. As for why d switched to b, I haven’t found a specific source on it, but I do know that Old Latin was in large part taken from the Etruscan language, and they did not have a letter b at all. The Old Latin B came from the Greeks and was probably applied to their dwi to become bi. Why? I don’t know. They liked the way it sounded, I guess. And for the record, dwi goes back even further, to the old Proto-Indo-European dwo-, which of course, meant two. But the point is, when you bi is in front of a word, it always indicates two. Sometimes, it is a slightly different variation—biannual means twice a year, bicycle means two wheels, bisexual means dual sexed—but it’s always two.

Maybe something more complex would illustrate it better. Like com-. See what I did there? See it? Okay, I’m getting entirely too pleased with myself. Back to com, and it’s children with similar meanings, con-, and co-. There is also, col-(as in colleague), and cor-(as in correlation), but they only appear in front of l and r, respectively. Like the others, they mean together or with.

Let me use complex to explain that better. The word is from the Classical Latin complexus (surrounding, encompassing), the past participle of complecti, to encircle or embrace. Plecti comes from plectere, to weave, making complecti to weave or twine together, which is a lot like embrace (when you embrace something, you wrap your arms around it…well, a lot of words seem to represent what they seem like). The point is, in literal terms, it goes from weave to weave together. This is what the com- family of prefixes does for their words.

Oh, and because I’m sure you’re curious: com- appears when the root word begins with b, l, m, p, or r. Con- appears in front of c, d, j, n, q, s, t, v. Finally, co- appears before the vowels and letters that can sound like vowels, like h, as well as gn, which is in a lot of words, like cognizance. There are also co- words that were once two parts (costar used to be co-star; codependent used to be co-dependent) but lost the dash along the way.


The Online Etymology Dictionary
Latin Pronunciation Demystified by Michael A. Covington of the University of Georgia.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blogging and Platforming

You’ve read Janet Reid’s post about the dangers of talking about rejections online, correct? Just making sure.

She suggests keeping your querying off your blog completely and I understand her reasoning. She says it sounds like complaining. Well, yeah, it is. Posting about rejection or waiting is cathartic. Unfortunately, if you’re using your blog to build your platform, then venting is not what it’s for. It’s for building connections in the blogosphere and publishing industry.

You know, this isn’t my only blog. I have another one where I complain about everything. It would be nice to get sympathy from friends about the process, but that’s not what this is for. It’s for inflicting etymology on you. My other blog, however, is just for complaining. It’s also just for me because I don’t think it’s very fun to read groaning and moaning about how everything is everyone else’s fault. Hey, it’s my blog and I’m not using it to make connections.

That isn’t to say it’s completely wrong to voice a complaint on your blog. Just do it with sensitivity to the blog’s purpose. Remember that there are a lot of agents out here with us and they might not like seeing criticisms of their policies. Say you worked in advertising and you had a blog to connect with other industry professionals. You wouldn’t start bashing their companies when a deal fell through, would you? No. Because it would be professional suicide. As awesome as writing and blogging is, it is a profession, too. Unless you want to stay at amateur status, you can’t rip on people. A legitimate complaint is different, but even then it could turn companies off from working with you. That may not seem fair, but everyone is uneasy with working with someone who might go to the internet and complain about them.

Look at this situation that Paul Joseph brought up (and especially read the two articles he links to). A teacher’s personal blog was found by her students and her venting did not go over well with the parents. On one hand, it’s her blog, she didn’t post details and the people are really being oversensitive. On the other hand, it upset--and I can’t blame them for this--the students she’s supposed to be teaching.

I’m all for freedom of speech, but with that comes with a legitimate factor: you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from repercussions. It means freedom from interference. I don’t like that the teacher may be fired but that’s the thing about the digital age. Anything you post is really hard to eradicate. That’s why people suggest you don’t post drunken pictures of yourself on Facebook. Perspective employers can access them. 

In the end, all of this is a murky issue. The answer to "how much is too much?" is not easy to get to and requires constant thought, reevaluation, and sensitivity. It’s possible that in ten years, people will be far more accepting of annoyed blog posts. It’s also possible they’ll put in a "no blogging" clause in employee contracts. 

Blog with care. The internet is not as consequence free as it seems.