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    Organizing Your Files and Pages and Notes and Stuff

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 3 comments
    Jan
    19

     

    Discussion questions: When you have work/writing/notes scattered all over your living space and work space, how do you keep it organized, and how do you know where to find what you need? I’m talking computer files, index cards, random scraps of paper, photographs, notes scribbled in margins of books. Or do you have a good way to avoid descending into such chaos to begin with? Let me know in the comments below.

     

    After last week’s chaos involving my lost chapter, and all of your wonderful feedback on how to avoid future such catastrophes–organizing external storage on Google Drive, flash drives, etc.–I started thinking about organization in general.

    If you’re anything like me, you have work/writing scattered everywhere. If you’re even more like me, too often you don’t know where to find what you need.

    For my novel, I have files on my computer and files on flash drives. I also have handwritten pages and notes spanning three writing journals. I have notes on index cards and other scraps of paper. I have printed copies of early drafts of work, stuff that doesn’t even exist as computer files anymore. I have notes scribbled in the margins of books I’ve read about my novel’s topic.

    I have all of that for my memoir as well, in addition to: voice memos on two phones of interviews and notes-to-self; other interviews on a separate audio recorder; hundreds of photos, both physical and on flash drives; and relevant objects (a particular baseball glove; a particular 1956 high school yearbook; a seventy-year-old business card) in various drawers in my nightstand, my desk, and my closet.

    When I need to find something specific, I often know where to look. Roughly. But just as often, I don’t.

    There’s got to be a better way! But short of creating some sort of card cataloging system, I’m just not sure what that way is.

    What is your way? Let me know below.

    Also, P.S., I’m pleased to report that not more than three hours ago I learned that the Chapter 1 I lost last week has been refound. After I was told on Thursday that it was probably lost forever. This news has set me much more at ease. A huge thank you to Jose at Lincoln Business Machines. If you’re in NYC and ever need data recovery or repairs, they have my full endorsement.

    Now comes the most difficult part: Reading this resurrected Chapter 1 and hoping like hell that it merits all the lengths so many people went to save it.

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2019 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

    Losing Your Writing, Vol. 2

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 26 comments
    Jan
    12

     

    Discussion questions: What do you use/do to back up your work? What’s your most horribly horrific horror story involving lost writing? Let me know in the comments below.

     

    I owe some work to my new writing group, and the new group coincides with a re-envisioning of my fiction: What started as a novel and then became a linked story collection is now again a novel.

    So on Saturday I sat myself down, wrote Chapter 1 at the top of the page, and dove in.

    Monday afternoon, after about six hours of work over three days, I had a 2,500-word chapter.

    Not only that, it felt like a good chapter. Something that, after a small amount of revision, I’d be comfortable sharing with the bunch of strangers that make up my new group.

    Monday night, my computer died. The photo above? Of the sad faces behind what looks like prison bars? That was the graphic on the screen that led me to believe that this experience was not going to end well.

    And it didn’t. My computer is unfixable, and the file, my new Chapter 1, is unrecoverable. read more

    In 2019, You Will!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 12 comments
    Jan
    5

    Happy 2019, WriteByNighters! I feel like this is going to be our best year yet. Are you feeling the same?

    And what better way to kick it off than to talk about what we want to accomplish as writers and readers.

    “Resolutions” can be an intimidating word; if you prefer not to, don’t use it. Goals. Wants. Hopes. However you phrase it, I want to hear what you’d like to achieve between now and December 31.

    Our tradition has been to ask you to complete the following sentence:

    “In 2019, I will _______”

    But “will” is edging into resolution territory, so this year, let’s try something new:

    “In 2019, I _______” read more

    Your 2018 Writing Accomplishments

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 28 comments
    Dec
    29

    I was planning on doing our annual writing goals post for this week, but I think I want to push that off to next week and instead allow us all a minute to acknowledge the great things we did in 2018.

    If you set a 2018 literary resolution, did you hit it, or at least make good progress toward it?

    (Maybe you announced it in the comments of 2018’s goals post?)

    Did you grow and improve as a writer? As a reader?

    What was your greatest literary achievement in 2018? The thing you’re most proud of as a writer and/or a reader? read more

    The Best Part of Self-Publishing Your Book

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 4 comments
    Dec
    15

    In last week’s post, “The Hardest Part of Self-Publishing Your Book,” a few WriteByNighters took the time to discuss with us the pitfalls they had to jump across during the process of self-publishing their books.

    This week, those same WriteByNighters have given even *more* of their time to tell us about the most rewarding parts of self-publishing. 

    read more

    The Hardest Part of Self-Publishing Your Book

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 2 comments
    Dec
    8

    Since announcing our new publication assistance services, we’ve received more than the usual amount of questions about self-publishing, particularly: What is the hardest part of self-publishing your book and are there any easy parts?

    We figured who better to pose these questions to than WriteByNight clients with real-world experience. Four helpful writers responded: Dana Frank, Assaf Raz, Dan Hays, and Marcia Drut-Davis.

    We’ll tackle the “easy” part next week, but for this week we’re going to start with the hard stuff. read more

    Here Comes 2019! And Why Do You Write?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 9 comments
    Dec
    1

    2019 — and its attendant resolutions — is less than a month away.

    That means you have four solid weeks to come up with your new writing goals.

    If you partake of such things! Not all of us do. I go back and forth. Some years I set a vague goal such as “Get better!” or “Write more!” Some years, no goal at all. For 2018, according to this post where I, and some of you, shared our 2018 writing goals, I wanted to “complete a draft of the book I began writing in May.”

    lol. read more

    Franzen Folderol

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 16 comments
    Nov
    17

    The other day LitHub published a piece titled “Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists,” borrowed from Jonathan Franzen’s new essay collection.

    It caused some hubbub.

    Literary Twitter went nuts. Writers and readers piled on Franzen, calling his list pretentious, narrow-minded, and/or just plain ridiculous. Chuck Wendig, to the delight of many, went on a long rant.

    Others argued that the piece is taken out of context and say that Franzen’s publicists were just trying to promote the book. Some even claimed the list is meant to be satire. (It may be. I’ve never read Franzen, so I’m not familiar enough to comment.)

    Anyway, agree with the list (or parts of it) or not, there are two of them I want to dig into, especially here in mid-November, halfway through NaNoWriMo. read more

    On NaNoWriMo, NaNoReMo, and Mo’

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 13 comments
    Nov
    4

    National Novel Writing MonthShow of hands: Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year?

    Before I got wise, I thought NaNoWriMo stood for National November Writing Month. Which doesn’t make a ton of sense.

    But as most of you know, it’s really National Novel Writing Month, during which thousands of writers vow to write every day and have a first draft of a novel by November 30, a.k.a. my birthday, what should be a national holiday.

    I won’t be NaNoWriMoing, but I will be NaShoStoWriMoing. My old accountability partner and I are restarting our thing, and my goal is to each week write a first draft of one new short story and revise one old story.

    Roll call: Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it before? Did it work? Tell us about your approach and process in the comments. read more

    Observations on Books & Reading in Ireland

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 7 comments
    Oct
    28

    Justine and I spent a week in Ireland in mid-October, half in Sligo on the northwest coast, half in Dublin. We visited about a dozen bookstores and libraries and took note as best we could of the literary culture. Here are a few (hopefully not lame) observations:

     

    1. Two of the Dublin bookstores we stopped at mark their books up from the cover price. I don’t mean hard-to-find first editions–I mean trade or mass market paperbacks of new or recent books. These stores place their own price tag sticker over the price printed on the book.

    One book whose cover price was 10 Euro was marked 15.50. That’s a $6 markup!

    Your turn: Have you ever seen this anywhere in the States? Is it a turn-off, or do you not mind? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below.

     

    2. Few new releases in Ireland (and the UK, since that’s where most of them are published) seem to come in hardcover. Most of them are trade paperbacks that are just a little taller than the standard trade. I like this. They’re also less expensive than the U.S.’s $25-30 per.

    Your turn: Do you like hardcovers or do you wish U.S. new releases came in paperback? read more

    Your Top 6 Questions About Publishing

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 2 comments
    Oct
    13

    After last week’s announcement of our three new publication assistance services, a few readers reached out with questions about publication, and we answered ’em, because that’s why we’re here.

    But when it comes to publishing, many writers have questions, and many writers have the same questions, so I grabbed the six most popular (actually, it’s kind of seven; I’m cheating a little) to answer here today.

    Some are about self-publishing, some are about traditional vs. self- vs. hybrid, some are about WriteByNight’s role in the process (spoiler alert: We don’t publish books! But we can help you find a publisher). All of them are questions we’ve heard more than a few times each, so chances are that you’ve wondered about one or two of them yourself.

    If you have any questions about publication that we haven’t answered here, leave ’em in the comments and we’ll respond. read more

    Who Are Today’s Top Horror Writers?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 13 comments
    Sep
    29

    I’ve just finished (and loved) reading Frankenstein for the first time, a discussion of which you can listen to for Yak Babies (my books podcast) October Spooktacular, a series of episodes about horror books, movies, games, and more.

    Now I’m in the mood to read more horror, both old and new, as Halloween approaches. But I need help.

    I have a few classics I’ve never read but plan to, including DraculaThe Haunting of Hill House, and Dorian Gray.

    I might also revisit a few American gothic favorites such as Edgar HuntlySleepy Hollowand maybe some Hawthorne short stories.

    As for contemporary horror, I’m looking for some new names. That’s where you come in. read more

    Should You Use Obscure Words & Jargon?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Dos & Don'ts     Comments 20 comments
    Sep
    23

    Within the past month I’ve had conversations with two people expressing opposite viewpoints on a (not) hotly debated topic: Using big and/or obscure words in your writing.

    On one these people, Andrew, bemoaned the fact that so many writers, particularly in literary fiction, will sometimes spend an entire paragraph describing the intricacies of, say, the woodworking that went into making an end table.

    To paraphrase: “They use all this esoteric jargon to describe this thing, using all these words I don’t know, rather than just describing the thing in everyday language.

    “Or,” he continued, “not describing the thing at all. Why does it matter that there’s an end table, if it’s not significant to the story? And even if it is, who cares what sort of tools or whatever the woodworker used? It’s so masturbatory. Why do I need three pages about an end table when I can get the same effect with one line?”

    Andrew went on to talk about how annoying he thinks it is to come across words he doesn’t know, because he has to either stop reading and look up the word or continue reading without fully understanding what’s happening.

    But Daniel would call that lazy reading. read more

    Packing Books for Vacation

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 13 comments
    Sep
    8

    I’ve been on vacation — a beach vacation, at that — for ten days now and I’ve read not even half a book.

    Before we left, I asked Justine to be my book sheriff: “Don’t let me bring more than two books,” I said. Because usually I get out of control when packing for a trip. I always think I’m going to do nothing but read, and so I bring the number of books that aligns with constant reading.

    Like, a book per day. read more

    Seasonal Reading Habits & You

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 4 comments
    Sep
    1

    With autumn fast approaching, it’s almost time to put away our summer books and look to the fall.

    That’s a thing, right? Don’t our reading habits shift with the seasons?

    I’m going to take a stab at diagnosing myself as a reader — what kinds of books do I turn to in which seasons —  and then afterwards I’ll consult my reading list to see how wrong I am.

    Your turn: How about you? Do you read different kinds of books in different seasons? Let us know in the comments. read more

    Share Your Rejection

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 12 comments
    Aug
    25

    The #ShareYourRejection hashtag on Twitter has gotten a lot of action lately, and in no surprise, writers are among the most vocal.

    Many of these responses are inspirational tales of books that were rejected dozens of times before finding a publisher, like Arianna Huffington’s, Jill Orr’s, and Dea Poirier’s.

    Other writers flash some humor within the trauma, like Hannah Khalil, Erin Vincent, and Joseph Finder.

    And then there are the anecdotes that are truly horrific and/or weird, like this one from A.N. Devers.

    As writers, rejection is folded into our lives. So many thousands of agents, publications, and publishers reject so many thousands of projects and writers each year. It’s just math. read more

    Literary vs. Genre Fiction: Your Reading & Writing Habits

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 20 comments
    Jul
    28

    For this week’s new episode of Yak Babies we discuss so-called literary fiction: What does the phrase mean, is it little more than a marketing term, how is it distinguished from genre fiction, etc.

    Growing up, I read only genre fiction, except for assigned books. Like I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I started with the Hardy Boys, and then eventually moved into Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Cussler territory. On the podcast I speculate that all teenagers are drawn to genre fiction, and then I say something like “No teenager wants to read Ann Beattie.”

    It would’ve been more accurate to say “Few teenagers” rather than “No teenager.” Of course there are teens out there who love Ann Beattie. But I think the spirit of what I’m saying is true.

    But here’s your chance to prove me wrong!

    Your turn #1: As a teenage reader, were you drawn more to genre fiction or to literary fiction? Why? read more

    What Is Your Desert Island Book?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 25 comments
    Jul
    21

    The other day I was watching the episode of The Office where Ryan starts a fire and the gang mills around in the parking lot playing “Desert Island.” Each person gets to choose three books, and Jim reminds them that these are the books they’ll be forced to read over and over again for the rest of their lonely lives, barring rescue.

    Dwight chooses the Physician’s Desk Reference, but then goes on to say that the book is hollowed out, and inside he has matches, a knife, whatever other survival gear. And then, “in case I get bored,” he also chooses a Harry Potter book.

    Like these things do, it got me to thinking about what my desert island books would be. And when I think of anything related to books or my own writing, I naturally wonder about all of you too.

    Choosing three books seems too easy. Choosing one is difficult.

    Your turn: What is your one desert island book? And, most importantly, why?  read more

    Music While You Read, Music While You Write

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 36 comments
    Jul
    14

    In this quick Yak Babies bonus episode, my personal pals and I discuss whether or not we listen to music while we read or while we write.

    I do not. At least, not if I’m reading or writing at home; I won’t put music on.

    But if I’m doing those activities in public, at a bar or coffee shop or what have you, I don’t mind the music. It doesn’t distract me. In fact, I think it adds to the experience; I imagine I’d struggle to write or read in a quiet, musicless bar. (Musicless. What a weird-lookin’ word.)

    I’ve tried listening to music at home, and it just doesn’t work. Why, then, does it help me when I’m in public? I dunno. It’s just woven into the experience, I suppose. It’s part of the ambiance.

    Your turn: Music while you read or while you write, yes or no? If no, why not? If yes, what kind? Headphones or not? And what purpose does it serve for you? Let us know in the comments. read more

    “Purr” Gold: The Hardy Boys & Childhood Pride in Reading

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 67 comments
    Jul
    7

    It’s no mystery why Hardy Boys books are almost unreadable: lame plots, terribly stilted dialogue, flat characters who remain wholly undeveloped, even after nearly sixty books. Not to mention the lack of verisimilitude of two characters who are eternally eighteen and seventeen and seemingly never attend school.

    But boy did I love those books as a kid. I don’t think I read all fifty-eight of the original series, but I gave it the ol’ Frank and Joe Hardy high school try.

    I read plenty of ABC and Dr. Seuss-level books, but the Hardys are what first grabbed me and made me curious about the world. Those guys went everywhere, man, and I read at a fever pace just to keep up with them.

    But not only were these books fun and adventure-filled, they also gave me my first feelings of pride as a reader. read more




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