Time to Auto-Analyze Your Blog!

La Pensierosa- The Thinker by John William GodwardMystery author Beth Groundwater posted about analyzing her blog using a web tool called Typealyzer. It’s easy to use — just type in your blog’s URL, and you’ll quickly receive an analysis of your blog persona, complete with an image of which parts of the brain — thinking, intuition, sensing, or feeling — are most active during the writing. I’m fascinated by analytical tools, so I ran Words Into Books through the analyzer, as well as two other blogs I write. Here are the results.

The analysis indicates that the author of http://wordsintobooks.com is of the type:

INTP – The Thinker

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.
They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about. [I’m really hoping that last bit isn’t true– I think I’m actually a nice person, and not any of those things!;-)]
Both of the other blog personas were variations of the Thinker persona (my brain graph was seriously lopsided in all the variations!). One was Mechanic (I write a lot of “how-to” things for that blog), and the other was The Scientist. Here are the descriptions for each of those personas.

ISTP – The Mechanic

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are highly skilled at seeing and fixing what needs to be fixed. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

INTJ – The Scientist

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it — often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things.
The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.
Now, no one who knows me would mistake me for a mechanic or scientist– those are just labels for particular types of “mind patterns, interests and human motivations,” according to the Typealyzer creator, Mattias Östmar. The common thread between the three types is that they centered on the thinking axis of the graph and extended in one case toward the Practical/Sensing, and in the other, toward Intuition. The “Feeling” quadrant of the graph was untouched, which means that there’s none of what my grandmother would call “the gooshy stuff.”
The analysis seems fairly accurate for each of the blog personas, and the description of the Scientist is probably closest to my actual personality. Beth writes that she revisited the Typealyzer about 18 months after her first analysis to see if her writing style was consistent, and she found that it was. If I remember, I might revisit it too, and see if anything’s changed. Writing that’s too cerebral can be a bit dry– maybe I need to try gooshing it up a bit!
While blog analysis is mostly just for fun, it can be helpful to analyze the focus and tone of your blog to be sure that you’re attracting the right readers. If you’re writing for “Thinker-style” readers, you probably won’t be successful writing with a “Feelers” voice, and “Feelers” probably won’t be very attracted to a strictly “Thinker” blog. If you’re not getting the readers you want, maybe it’s time to analyze your blog text and see who you’re speaking to!

How to Become A Writer (or Not)

I’m not sure if this is funny or just horrifying…

Single Space After Terminal Punctuation, Please

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. It ought to be orange!I’ve recently seen a number of manuscripts and blogs with double spaces after terminal punctuation (periods, question marks and exclamation points at the end of a sentence). I remember learning to do that way in a very long ago typing class, and I’m sure that’s where these writers learned it as well. However, times have changed.

Now that computers offer proportional typefaces, rather than the fixed-width Courier, it is correct to space only once after a sentence. Double spaces make unattractive gaps or “rivers of white space” down the page, and prevent the manuscript from looking professionally typeset. It may be a hard habit to break, but it’s worth it.

If you’re still a little dubious, or if you have a typing manual or teacher who still admonishes you to space twice after terminal punctuation, you may want to refer to the ultimate authority, The Chicago Manual of Style. The recently published 16th edition addresses “period/single space after” in sections 2.9, 2.11, 6.7. If the CMOS decrees it, you can be assured that it’s so! If you don’t have this edition on your shelf, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial online and see it for yourself.

“Gratefulness” by George Herbert: A Thanksgiving Poem

I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving!

This is my favorite Thanksgiving poem– I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving!

GRATEFULNESS

by George Herbert (1593- 1633)

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
See how thy beggar works on thee
By art.

He makes thy gifts occasion more,
And says, If he in this be crossed,
All thou hast given him heretofore
Is lost.

But thou didst reckon, when at first
Thy word our hearts and hands did crave,
What it would come to at the worst
To save.

Perpetual knockings at thy door,
Tears sullying thy transparent rooms,
Gift upon gift, much would have more,
And comes.

This not withstanding, thou wenst on,
And didst allow us all our noise:
Nay thou hast made a sigh and groan
Thy joys.

Not that thou hast not still above
Much better tunes, than groans can make;
But that these country-airs thy love
Did take.

Wherefore I cry, and cry again;
And in no quiet canst thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain
Of thee:

Not thankful, when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.

The Magic of the First Line

In a recent workshop a student asked, “What is the best way to start writing a story?” Though I was tempted to prescribe composing in purple ink on a yellow legal pad while sitting in a green leather chair in a room with exactly seven windows, I settled on sharing a bit about my own fiction writing process.

I do a lot of thinking before I ever start to write. Storylines and characters form, shift, and morph until I finally begin to make notes. I keep paper and a pen in every room of the house, and scribble down scenes, descriptions, and dialog fragments that arrive.

Once I feel that I know the characters fairly well, I begin transferring character and scene notes into StoryBlue (software for writers). This always feels like the first official step in establishing structure, but it’s not yet the beginning of writing.

Sometimes my writing process seems to stall at this point and I’ll turn to other projects. The story simmers at the back of my mind until a perfectly formed first line* presents itself. As soon as it arrives and I write it down, the story starts to unfold, scene after scene.

I’ve tried writing without the magical first line, but find that until it arrives I struggle to capture the voice of the story. It’s almost as if the story elements have to go through a process of ripening before they’re ready to be written. For me, that luscious first line is the beginning of a writing harvest.

So… how do you start writing fiction? NaNoWriMo is coming up, so now’s a good time to start thinking about it!

*The first line may change by the end of the book, but at the moment of beginning, it’s perfect for its purpose.

Five Reasons to Go To A Writers Conference

I enjoyed the James River Writers Conference in Richmond last weekend, and am combing through my notes for all the good ideas I wanted to apply. There are a lot of them, but they’re all lining up after the non-fiction proposal I have to finish and send. The best part of the conference was just being around so many other people who loved to write. We could talk writing morning, noon, and night, and no one started yawning after the first sentence!

Whether you’re an established writer or just getting started, a writers conference is a great place to be. Here are five good reasons to go:

  1. Meet agents, editors, and publishers, and maybe even pitch your ideas to them. Conferences are one of the few times you can catch them away from Mt. Olympus.
  2. Rub shoulders with the pros– people who are earning a living through writing. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. They have a lot of wisdom to share.
  3. Hone your craft. Attend workshop that will make you a better writer, then go home and apply what you’ve learned.
  4. Learn about the business end of being a writer. It is a business, you know!
  5. Hang out with writers, and easily open any conversation with “What do you write?” How many other opportunities do you have to talk writing with people who actually have a clue? Even if you’re an introvert, you can join in the fun.

Four Things Publishers Expect From Authors (they may not be what you expect)

Be prolific, consistent, predictable, and marketable for publishing success. I just talked to Jerry Simmons, NAIWE’s publishing expert, and came away with some interesting insights into the expectations of publishers. I suspect that there are more than four things that publishers want authors to bring to the table, but the ones that Jerry chose were based on his own vast experience in the business side of the publishing world. A couple of them surprised me– how about you?

Here are Jerry’s picks for four indispensable ingredients for publishing success:

Be Prolific

Publishers are in the business of producing content that they can sell. If you write decently and can turn in at least a manuscript every year, a publisher is more likely to value you.

Be Consistent

Stick to your area of expertise, and turn in good quality work each time. If you’ve gained an audience for a particular type of work or in a particular genre, write for your audience. It not only keeps your backlist alive longer, but it’s also easier to sell to an established audience, rather than having to build an entirely different audience. If you feel you must write in other genres, you may want to get a different agent and use a pseudonym. According to Jerry, publishers regard commitment and consistency as a huge plus, and that can have a positive impact on your writing career.

Be Predictable

No, this isn’t quite the same as being consistent. Predictability actually has to do with percent of predictable sales. If a publisher ships out 1000 copies of your book, they want at least 65% of them to sell (the ones that don’t sell are returned from the bookstore to the publisher to meet a dismal fate). Publishers also like to see your backlist continue to sell (the backlist is books that are over about six months old). If your work consistently sells at a high percentage rate, you’ll be considered a publisher’s gold mine, and you’ll benefit from the multiple streams of royalty income.

Be Marketable

The best way to sell books is through publicity. Are you presentable and articulate for book signings or radio and television interviews? Remember, you’re representing not only yourself, but also the publisher, so they need to be convinced that you won’t embarrass them, and that you’ll effectively participate in the marketing of your book. Marketability can weigh quite heavily in a manuscript-purchasing decision, so take a close look and see how you can make yourself more marketable.

You may decide you need to get a media coach or join Toastmasters International to learn about speaking, or get your teeth whitened, a fresh hairstyle, or perhaps just a nice outfit or two (get good advice from a professional who understands business wear). Whatever you do, it will be an investment in marketability which can further your writing career.

There… what do you think? Were you surprised by any of these items? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can listen to the interview on NAIWE NewsWire.

Banned Books: What Are You Reading This Week?

Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.  -Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

The last week in September is Banned Books Week, and as usual, I’m celebrating by reading something that has been banned somewhere. This year, it’s one of my old favorites, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.  -Henry Steele Commager

I oppose book banning because it’s a slippery slope. I see the potential for it to become a place for the politically inclined to score points, with everyone losing in the long run. Just imagine–one faction bans Judy Blume, and the opposition retaliates by banning C.S. Lewis. One group bans Huckleberry Finn; another strikes back by banning The Diary of Anne Frank. The Koran is pulled from libraries in one area, and the Bible is banished in another. As the idea-rich pool of thought shrinks, minds and hearts desiccate, leaving nothing more than bland encyclopedia summaries to be forgotten at the end of the day.

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.  -John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 185

Books are powerful– they can change hearts, minds, lives. I read to learn, grow, remember, and yes, to laugh. I read to enlarge my world, and I write to open doors for others. I shared books with my children to open their eyes, hearts, and minds to ideas and people they didn’t encounter in their daily life, and I want them to have the opportunity to do the same for their own children.

Books won’t stay banned.  They won’t burn.  Ideas won’t go to jail.  In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.  The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.  -Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

I’m not willing to allow others to decide what I read or write; therefore, I relinquish the option of deciding what others read. Instead of trying to suppress ideas that I don’t care for, I can write books that share what I do believe. And so can you.

The populist authoritarianism that is the downside of political correctness means that anyone, sometimes it seems like everyone, can proclaim their grief and have it acknowledged.  The victim culture, every sufferer grasping for their own Holocaust, ensures that anyone who feels offended can call for moderation, for dilution, and in the end, as is all too often the case, for censorship.  And censorship, that by-product of fear – stemming as it does not from some positive agenda, but from the desire to escape our own terrors and superstitions by imposing them on others – must surely be resisted.  -Jonathon Green, “Did You Say ‘Offensive?'”

Who Are These People, And Why Are They Sending Me Money?

I’ve recently gotten a couple of small payments from Demand Studios (in the $5-10 range), and because I’ve been rushed, didn’t figure out until today who they are and why they’re sending me money. Of course, I’d have been on it much faster if they were billing me for something I didn’t recognize!

I submitted an article to the eHow network last year, just to see if it might be another viable stream of passive income. They’re apparently part of Demand Media, so that’s the who and the why. I just didn’t recognize the name.

I realize there is a lot of debate as to the wisdom of these work-for-hire arrangements, but because I teach the Multiple Streams of Income for Writers classes, I felt it would be a good idea to check it out. Anything in the name of research!

Based on this small sample, I can’t say whether or not it’s worth trying, so I’m going to add a total of about ten articles and see what happens. The biggest caveat is that it’s a work for hire system, so you retain no rights to your work. This was irrelevant to me, as the topic I wrote on was not one of my primary teaching topics, so I don’t anticipate ever wanting to reuse it. If the articles sit there and continue to generate passive income, it just might be worth it. I’ll let you know!

Famous Authors Who Self-Published

I think it’s instructive to realize that self-publishing isn’t really a new and different approach. Instead, it’s the way that many authors chose to get their words to market. Some of those authors sank, and some swam. Here are a few you’ll probably recognize.

William Blake
Ken Blanchard
Robert Bly
Lord Byron
Willa Cather
Pat Conroy
Stephen Crane
e.e. cummings
W.E.B. DuBois
Alexander Dumas
T.S. Eliot
Benjamin Franklin
Zane Grey
Thomas Hardy
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ernest Hemingway
Robinson Jeffers
Stephen King
Rudyard Kipling
Louis L’Amour
D.H. Lawrence
Rod McKuen
John Muir
Anais Nin
Thomas Paine
Tom Peters
Edgar Allen Poe
Alexander Pope
Beatrix Potter
Ezra Pound
Marcel Proust
Irma Rombauer
Carl Sandburg
George Bernard Shaw
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Upton Sinclair
Gertrude Stein
William Strunk
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Henry David Thoreau
Leo Tolstoy
Mark Twain
Walt Whitman
Virginia Woolf

Do you have an addition? Add it in the comments below, and I’ll edit the post to make the list more complete. If possible, please cite a reliable source for your information.