Tag: writing

Tech For Writers: Freewrite Traveler

freewrite
Freewrite Traveler:  New Tech for Writers

A new tech gadget appeared in my Facebook feed that caught my attention which, if done right, could be a great new thing for writers.  I am excited about it and hope it meets the expectations.

The Freewrite Traveler is a project from the people who created the Astrohaus Freewrite device. I wasn’t onboard with that device because it has been way too overpriced and more of a high tech typewriter but this new model is something different.   It would appear to be something writers would actually use to get “unplugged” from everything.

The Freewrite Traveler is a much better concept that I think could be a better device.

So what is this Freewrite Traveler? It is a high tech word processing device without internet, email, games or other distractions. There is Wifi capability where documents can be saved or backed up into cloud storage. This is a distraction-free device which is ideal for writers or students.

Okay, I know the critic out there who would say:  “Just use a laptop or tablet and turn off your email and stay off of the Internet, Facebook, etc.”  You would have a point but this is more than just a device to force self-discipline. This is an ideal writer’s tool.  Distraction is such a huge obstacle for writers.

Inspiration hits in many ways and having an effective tool to capture those moments would be amazing.

The last truly effective similar device was the Alphasmart devices. I still have one that I will throw into a bag when going outdoors because it is the perfect device to use in outdoor lighting and more comfortable to type on. Text is uploaded to a PC via USB cable. The Traveler promises to be a new and improved model.

Here are some of the details that are planned for this device:

  • E Ink Screen – This should help with eye strain you get from laptops and tablets.
  • Less than 2 lbs – ideal for travel
  • Full-size scissor switch keyboard – a real keyboard
  • Document cloud synch through WiFi – Never lose a document
  • Millions of pages of memory
  • Four weeks of battery life

These are some pretty nifty features for this device but here are some things I would want for this device:

  • Instant on – I want a device that doesn’t  have to “boot up”.  It needs to instantly turn on.
  • Backlit keys – No a deal breaker but it would be a nice option if inspiration hits at night and you don’t want to disturb others.
  • Look – I have to be honest.  The prototype looks wonky.  I don’t like all the white plus can’t the screen be bigger and not look like a 60s television?
  • Feel – The keys are the most important part of this device.  It must be easy to type and not feel cramped.  It doesn’t have to be a full-size keyboard but it needs to be the right size.
  • USB or SD Slot – I know it plans to have documents synching to the cloud but it would be nice to have this option when you don’t have WiFi access.

I like the idea for this and I hope the final design is something that will help us to finally forget the AlphaSmart.  The Traveler is not available yet and there is no indication on when it will be available.  The website states that it will be “crowdsourcing soon”.   There is no estimate on what the price will be for the Traveler but most are hoping for no more than $250.00.  (The original Freewrite Smart Typewriter currently sells for $499 which is the main reason I never jumped on it.)  If you would like more information on the Freewrite Traveler and signup for updates, you can go to their website here.

Advertisements

I’ve Lost The Writing Mojo

writerThere…I have confessed.  My writing has lost its steam.  I was rolling along pretty well with writing a page-per-day or 1,000 words each day working on my next novel.  Now it seems I look for every reason NOT to write.

“I MUST click on that link about what happened on the Andy Griffith Show that no one knew.”

“There must be a cat video I haven’t seen yet on YOUTUBE.”

“I need a nap.”

“I need to shop for a new (add tech gadget here) to help me with my writing.”

Here’s a good one…..”I will even read about writing.  I just don’t want to write.”

What’s wrong with me?

Apparently every writer goes through this.  Well, I don’t like it.  In fact, I would rather write a blog post than work on the novel that’s just sitting there laughing at me on my to-do list.

This is terrible.

The easy answer is to just sit down and write.  So why can’t I do it?

I think one huge thing is the lack of success in getting an agent or getting published.  It is difficult to stay motivated when you put a lot of work to submit what the agent/publisher wants only to be rejected.  If you think it’s just simply the work of submitting your manuscript, let me tell you that it’s more involved than that.  For the last submission, the agent wanted the following:

  • Two-page synopsis on the book
  • Query letter
  • Book marketing plan (isn’t that their job?)
  • Chapter summary
  • First five pages of the manuscript
  • My writing resume

Each agent wants something different so it isn’t that you can simply prepare all of this ahead of time and send them out to every agent.  Oh no.  Not so fast my friends.

So you spend time working on these requirements, send them in and immediately – thanks to the power of technology – receive a rejection email which was probably an auto-reply.

And you wonder why I have lost some steam?

It gets old.  When I first started this writing hobby (I call it a hobby because it isn’t my full-time job nor have I been published by a real publisher) you could submit your manuscript with a query letter to the publisher.  Now the publishers won’t even talk to you unless you have representation of an agent.

So, instead of being rejected by publishers, the rejections come from agents now.

The most common reason for rejection is:  “This is not what I’m looking for right now”.

I will tell you that writing is a very subjective and a very competitive venture.  One agent got bent out of shape on how I used the word “parsonage” in one of my manuscripts.  I was happy that she even gave me feedback.

So, yes, the lack of success of finding an agent/publisher has worn me down.

Another thing is that I work a full-time job.  It is difficult to carve out writing time when you work a real paying job.  I have tried several ways but none seem to gain any momentum at all.  I don’t want to get up earlier than I have to and I run out of gas at the end of the day.

So why even do it?  Why bother writing?

Oh, believe me, I have asked myself that question many times.  Why do I put myself through this?  Just work my job and let that be it right?  The problem is that I can’t do it.  I feel the desire to write.  I can’t seem to turn it off.  It’s not that I think I’m so good.  That’s not it.  It’s not that I want to be successful – although I wouldn’t turn away the extra money from it.  For some reason, I just HAVE to write.  Maybe it’s my “calling” or my purpose in life.  I just can’t stop doing it.

So what’s the answer?  Well, I’m not liking the answer.  It’s going to take discipline.  I KNOW that’s the answer but I don’t like discipline.

It seems I can find every reason NOT to write.  I need to re-discover reasons TO write and then DO it.

 

Friday Flashback: The Best Job I Ever Had

Telegraph.jpg

I have had many interesting jobs throughout my life.  I have been in the military, worked as a private investigator and my current job as a litigation technology specialist but there was one job experience I will never forget.

I couldn’t believe it when I received the rejection letter for the job I had applied for.  I just knew I was the right fit for the job when I saw the ad in the Macon Telegraph Newspaper for a part-time clerk for the Sports Department.  I couldn’t believe they weren’t even going to interview me for the job.  Instead of tossing the rejection letter, I did something rather unorthodox – I wrote them back and told them it was a mistake for them not to hire me.  I would find out later that this impressed the Assistant Sports Editor so much that he called me for an interview.  I was hired for the position.

I didn’t start out doing the exciting stuff – far from it.  In fact, it was rather boring in the beginning.  I worked my shift taking phone calls from coaches and stat people on their baseball, softball, golf and whatever sports was being played in the spring.  I would take the information and type it into their antiquated computer system.  It was some form of a Macintosh system which was quite the learning curve for me. I was also trained to do the scoreboard section of the newspaper.  This involved me making some important decisions on what to cut or what to add to fill in the space that was available in the sports section of the newspaper.  I would do my best to measure the section and then send it downstairs where they would print it out and position it.  Before the deadline of each edition, I went downstairs and told the press operators what to cut and how to fit the scoreboard in.  I’m sure they probably do that a lot different now.

Remember this was a part-time job for me.  I was already working a full-time job at the time and I worked three nights a week at the newspaper.  My shift would run anywhere from 6 p.m. to Midnight including some weekends as well.  During the week I would go straight from work to the newspaper.  It was a hectic schedule at times and, although I liked getting paid, I enjoyed what I was doing.

The first five months breezed by and I thought I had a handle on the job until the first night of high school football hit the sports department.  I was warned but hardly prepared for the chaos which occurred in the newsroom on a Friday night in the fall.  It was madness.  Phones were ringing off the hook.  People were scampering everywhere.  Stress levels were on DEFCON status.  It was quite an experience which has caused others to quit with little or no notice.  The phone calls were called in at a frantic pace.  It was just for the scores of the games but statistics and short details of each contest.  One of the things that was required was to get the stats for BOTH teams in a game.  At times, most people calling in where giving the stats just for their team.  I got a little experience writing a short paragraph on a few games from the reports that came in.  One of my hidden talents which often amazed folks in the newsroom was that I knew the mascots for every public school sports team in the state of Georgia.  My memory isn’t as good now but back then I could tell you every nickname from the Villa Rica Wildcats to the Johnson Atom Smashers.  I loved being involved with sports.

Writing those short blurbs got something started inside of me.  I soon felt the desire to do more.  I approached the Sports Editor one day about letting me cover a sports event and write about it.  He obviously thought I could do it because one day he gave me an assignment to cover an American Legion baseball game in Cochran, Georgia.  It wasn’t the major leagues or even the minor leagues but I didn’t care.  It was a start.  In the game I wrote that Post 3 dented the scoreboard – literally – when Mark Johnson hit a homerun off the outfield scoreboard.  Johnson would later be drafted by the Chicago White Sox.  The team also had other future major league players such as John Rocker and Russ Branyan.  It started another phase for me in the job for me and I loved it. You can’t imagine the thrill of seeing your name in the byline of a sports article.  The Sports Editor eventually promoted me to another part-time position which allowed me to cover more sporting events.  I wasn’t the best writer but I learned a lot about it and enjoyed covering the games.

Here were a few of the experiences that come to mind:

  • Spending an entire Saturday covering the midget football Super Bowl games.
  • Covering four high school football games in three days at one stadium.  When the public address announcer failed to show for one of the games, I decided to give it a try.  I have never done that again.
  • Covering the Flag City Shootout which was one of the world’s largest softball tournaments at the time.
  • Being forced to climb on the roof of the press box at West Laurens High School to cover a high school football playoff game.
  • Covering the first game played when Middle Georgia College resurrected their football program again.
  • Witnessing sports writers from Nassau, New York get kicked out of the press box at Georgia Military College for criticizing the officiating at a junior college football game.
  • Packed like a sardine in small private school gyms during holiday basketball tournaments.
  • The time I had my story finished and scrambling to change it when the losing team came back to win.
  • Locking my keys in the car when at a private school football game and an FBI agent helping me get it unlocked.
  • The girls’ basketball coach who wanted to read what I was going to write and got mad at me when I wouldn’t let her.  Sorry but her team stunk so it was a challenge to write a positive article anyway.
  • Using that darn Tandy Radio Shack portable computer.
  • Driving all over Gray, Georgia looking for a phone line to send my story back to the newsroom.
  • Wade Moore – the best stat man ever.
  • Learning how to do scoring in baseball.  I could have done better with college level algebra.  Believe it or not, the easiest sport for me was basketball.
  • My first ever trip to Sanford Stadium and meeting the legendary Larry Munson.
  • My first experience writing a story on an Atlanta Falcons game.
  • Going into the Falcons’ locker room to interview players.
  • Doing my best to keep from being one of those sports writers asking dumb questions.
  • Standing at the locker for Andre Rison with other reporters waiting to interview him and being told that he had ducked out to avoid being interviewed.

I was also given the opportunity to write sports columns which also produced my first “hate mail” when I was critical of the United States hosting the World Cup and how boring soccer was to Americans at the time.   At least they were reading it right?

I had never dreamed that I would want to be any kind of writer but being a sports writer lit the fuse inside.  I can assure you that it isn’t as glamorous as you might think.  It is a LOT of work and very stressful but I loved it.

So why didn’t I do this job full-time?

I tried.  When openings came up in the sports department I applied but was turned away for various reasons.  One time I was told that although I was talented, the newspaper wanted to hire a minority for the position.  Yeah, that one threw me a curve ball.  Another time I was told I just didn’t have enough daily experience although, at the time, I was doing more work than some others.  I also assumed that the absence of a college degree in journalism hurt my chances as well but sometimes you just don’t know what you want to do until you are doing it.  That’s kinda how this happened for me.

I decided to leave the Macon Telegraph but it wasn’t because I was never hired for a full-time position.  Actually, I was promoted at my full-time job and I needed to cut back on the part-time work.  I attempted to work for a newspaper closer to where I lived at the time in Warner Robins, Georgia but the place was badly mismanaged and headed toward going out of business anyway so my time there was very short.

At some point later a new newspaper was launched in the county and I went to work with the sports editor there.  I covered a lot of high school football and basketball in our county which was different than coverage in the larger Middle Georgia region.  I had some good relationships with most of the coaches.  I got to know the coaches at Warner Robins, Westfield, Perry, Northside and Houston County.  I even accompanied one of the coaches and his girls’ basketball team on their trip to play in the state championship game.  I had hoped for a better outcome but unfortunately I had to write a different story.  Covering that girls basketball team that season was magical and something I have never forgotten.

This part-time job which started out as being a “stringer” led to many other writing opportunities for me.  Although I have had some success with writing for magazines and self-publishing a few books, I think back to those days in the sports department at the Macon Telegraph.  I will be honest with you and admit that I am tempted when I see an ad for a part-time sports writer now, especially when football season approaches.  I won’t say that I won’t come out of retirement and do it again but it is not very likely that I will.

Looking back on it now, I am glad I was never hired for a full-time position.  It all worked out the way it should and I have had success with my current job but I still feel that twinge on Friday nights in the fall.

 

 

 

 

I Ain’t Got No Grammar Problems

I have learned how both rewarding and difficult it is being a writer. Let me just say that it’s a good thing that I have a full time job. I won’t lie about it – there is a lot of competition out there so it is really important to write a good story and get lucky in getting a book published by a real publisher or finding an agent. Most traditional publishers won’t even look at a manuscript unless you have an agent. It can be pretty demanding trying to break in.

I have self-published two novels and a couple of short stories but my goal is to get published by a real publisher. That’s a problem. I have submitted my manuscripts to several publishers and agents only to be rejected for one reason or another. If you love rejection, you can get a lot of practice at it being a writer.

Most critiques are nothing more than a form letter while some can be brutal. I had one editor who ripped me with my use of the word “parsonage”. A lot of critiques are really purely subjective depending on the editor or what mood the person is when they read your manuscript.

One thing I do not understand is when they note some grammatical errors. In the name of Grammarly and Microsoft Word grammar checker you would thing that wouldn’t happen. Somehow it slips in their (see what I did THERE?).

The publishers that send me an email who WANT to publish my book are usually what some call “vanity presses”. These are people who will publish your book but the author has to pay the publisher.

This week I sent my book “Passing Toward The Prize” to a place called Christian Faith Publishing. I had seen their commercial on TV and decided to send them my manuscript to see what they would do with it. First, my manuscript went to their review board. Two days later I get a phone call that they loved it. Now, don’t take me wrong here. I wasn’t jumping up and down about it. Of course they loved it because they want my business right? The reviewer said there were a few minor grammatical errors. I mean, they’re not going to say it was perfect. It’s their job to find something to critique.

I agreed to let them send me the information on the next step in the process. I’m sure you can guess the next step was the details on what I would need to pay. In order to have them publish my book, they want $495 now and $295 per month for 10 months. Now I ask you – who can afford additional $295 in their budget? Not many people I know. Here I am an author who has never been published so how do they think I have the funds when I haven’t made any money yet? Self-publishing on Amazon hasn’t really made it rain. My 1099 from last year of $26.42 is painful reality of that.

So what does a writer/author like me do in dealing with these setbacks? The only way I know how – keep on writing and submitting. Will I ever “hit it big” or get published by a traditional publisher? I will. I mean you have to have goals. Even without a publisher or agent I am still a writer.

I probably should brush up on my grammar to. *wink*

Behind-the-Scenes Of Writing A Book

Tomorrow, I will be officially releasing my second novel.  I am not saying this to impress you because it really isn’t that impressive at all.  I’m certainly not a famous author by no means and I am not planning to quit my day job.  I want to tell you the honest truth about publishing a book.  The reality is that publishing a book is hard.  I won’t lie.  It isn’t as glamorous as you may think.

Let me share with you some of my personal experiences in publishing a book:

#1 – IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO PUBLISH A BOOK

My new book, “Passing Toward The Prize”, took almost two years to get to this point.  Writing the first draft was the easiest part but not as easy as you would think.  Aside from a few bursts of writing sessions, it takes a lot of discipline to actually dedicate time to write.  The best method for me is to at least write a page a day.  That way at least keeps me in the flow.   Once the story is finished, then comes the hardest part – editing.  This new book went through 10 revisions.  Every time I read through the book I would find yet another mistake or a formatting change that needed to be made.  I won’t say that the final version is completely error-free or but it’s the best version so far.  After several rounds of manual editing, Microsoft Word proofreading tools, Grammarly app and beta readers, this book has gone through more than the last book.  Why not hire a professional editing service?  That’s funny.  Look up the prices for that and you will find the answer to that one.

#2 – EVERYBODY BECOMES AN EDITOR OF YOUR BOOK

When you ask someome to take a look at your manuscript, they can’t resist becoming an editor.  I have submitted the manuscript to over 25 publishers and agents only to be rejected for many different reasons.  One rather well-known Christian fiction editor blasted me for using the term “church parsonage”.  You learn very quickly about the pet peeves and how subjective editors really are.  Some are unbending about rules of grammar or sticklers for comma placements.  Another was critical about my use of contractions regardless of how it affected the flow of the story.  You will find that your buddy suddenly becomes an editorial expert as well.  So as a writer, if you try to make the changes, you change someone else’s change to what you’ve already changed.  Confusing?  You have no idea.

Let me say to all of my beta readers that I appreciate all of the suggestions.  Please don’t take offense if I didn’t make the changes you offered but know that I absolutely considered them all.  The suggestions did make me think and I learned a lot from this process.

To the agents and publishers who turned me down – you still have a chance to pick up this awesome book.  Contact me and we will discuss it.

#3 – THERE IS A LOT OF COMPETITION

A few months ago, I attended a local book festival and was completely humbled by the competition.  There are a lot of writers out there.  I left that festival discouraged and wondered how I could possibly make any kind of impact.  I had to do some serious soul searching about what I was doing.  I had to ask myself repeatedly “Why am I doing this?”  Sure, I would like to “make it” as an author.  I want to write a bestseller and quit my day job.  I want to be successful.  Anyone who doesn’t think that is only lying to themselves.  Seeing the competition out there, I kept digging away at the reasons I do this and fleshed out the reality.  I came to the conclusion that I am simply compelled to write.  Somewhere along the course of my life, I have tapped into that vein that I MUST write.  Regardless if I ever become successful or write the best seller, I feel the need to write.  When I have tried to convince myself that this writing is just a hobby or the silliness of all this work when I don’t really need to do it, I still can’t stop.  I get sad if I feel like I must give it up.  I don’t know why I feel this way.  Maybe it stems from my introverted personality or the notion that I communicate better through writing.   Somehow from the moment a sports editor gave me my first opportunity at writing, I have been infected with the desire ever since.

#4 – A WRITER’S MOOD IS VERY COMPLEX

I have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions on this journey in writing this book.  From the sting of rejection by agents and publishers to the joy of receiving a copy of the book in print.   My feelings tend to be very sensitive during the process.  Self-doubt appears often.  When a co-worker found out I was a writer, he grilled me by asking if I had a college degree or had taken college courses in creative writing.  “Great!” I thought.  “Now I need to enroll in some classes to become a writer.”   Then there’s the person who has never been to college who wants to give me writing advice.  It’s enough to mess with my head and to completely discourage me from writing at all.  Then there is the thrill when my wife finishes the first draft and says it’s the best one I have written so far.  With my last book, I kept it a secret from my co-workers because I knew how cruel and unfiltered they can be.  Unfortunately, I have had to realize that criticism comes with the reality of making my writing public.  This is very difficult because one criticism tends to cancel out affirmations.  I’m still learning this lesson and maybe it’s something God is teaching me.

#5 – JUST BECAUSE YOU PUBLISH A BOOK DOESN’T MEAN YOU’VE MADE IT

As I stated before, this is my second book.  My first book sold about 20 copies.   It didn’t make me rich and I didn’t go on a book signing tour.  Just putting it out on Amazon didn’t change my life.  When I saw my first book in print and saw it on Amazon I felt a brief satisfaction that somehow I had made it as a writer.  That notion was short-lived after most of my family and friends bought the book.  I say MOST because many won’t buy your book.  I had to overcome that one tiny sting that some family and friends didn’t buy the first book.  The fact is that some are not readers or the subject of the book simply doesn’t interest them.  I have tried to do better about not taking offense on who isn’t buying my book and keep writing anyway.

#6 – AFTER PUBLISHING YOU MUST PROMOTE THE BOOK

I learned from my last book that buy simply putting the book on Amazon isn’t enough.  I still have to find ways to promote the book.  With this new book, I have developed a new strategy to promote it.   Since it is a Christian football fiction book, I have relied upon my contacts in ministry and sports to help me in spreading the word on the book.  I have done this by having promotional media created which can easily be passed along.   Vistaprint has been a newly discovered source for me.  Once I clarified my book was about American football, they created some quality promotional bookmarks for my book.   I have also created a PowerPoint slide that I have made available so those in media ministry can insert into their announcement slides at their church.  I am hopeful these creative methods will market it this new book more effectively than my first book.

#7 – SELF-PUBLISHING IS A GOOD OPTION

My new book is also self-published.  I know some people wrinkle their noses at this but, honestly, if it is a good story and you enjoy the book does it really matter if it was published by Tyndale or Amazon?  Honestly I have never purchased a book based solely – or at all – on who published it.  Most of my book purchases have been related to the genre, subject or a particular author.  For the reader, I don’t think it matters.  For me as the writer, the main motivator for getting published by a known publisher is ability to disbute the book more widely than I have the capabilities to do.  The manuscript for this book was sent out to several agents and publishers first before I finally returned to the self-publishing option.  Self-publishing also allows me to publish my words my way without the subjectivity of an editor getting in the way of the story.  I hate to say this out loud but sometimes editors are wrong.  So self-publishing gives me the freedom to do it my way even if others disagree.

So when I make my blog post tomorrow with the official release of “Passing Toward The Prize”, remember todays post about the process it takes to publish it.  Is it rewarding? Yes.  Is it easy? No.  Although I hope this book will be more successful than the last one I will still continue writing.  I can’t stop doing it.  In fact at this very moment, I have two other books in the process.