Monday, February 21, 2011

Pressure Makes Perfect

Photo by William Warby via Flickr

A pressure cooker is an airtight metal pot that requires steam under pressure at a high temperature in order to cook food quickly. It may also be the way you feel when you are up against a deadline from your agent or publisher. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You see, pressure cookers make for some really well, evenly cooked food.

Sometimes publishers need to set a deadline before your material becomes a thing of the past. Seasons change in the industry, and while vampires might be "all the rage" right now, two years later while you are still trying to write the sequel, the moment has passed and you have lost your audience's attention.

Deadlines are necessary because they force you to work. It is too easy to procrastinate and put off something when the pressure is not on. Turn up the heat a little bit and suddenly you are scrambling to produce. Ironically, some of the greatest manuscripts are born under these circumstances.

In these less than impressive economic times, publishers are coming down hard on deadlines. This means that they cannot afford to keep you and there are plenty of authors waiting in the wings for your spot. So, keep in mind that if you have produced little or nothing, and you have only a short time frame left, it’s time to dig deeper, focus harder, jump in with both feet, and do not stop until you are finished.

Create a masterpiece under pressure; it will not be the first time—and certainly will not be the last.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Polishing a Manuscript

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While it is possible to submit a clean, polished manuscript, absolute perfection is difficult to achieve. So how do you know when you’re finished editing, rewriting and polishing? Except for those rare moments of creative genius when the perfect ideas, expressed through the ideal words, in flawless order, flow easily and gracefully from the mind, all experienced writers edit their work.

Hemingway rewrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times. So at what point are you only successfully making a piece of writing different--instead of better? The answer--that intuitive knowledge comes with experience.

Many authors write and rewrite chapters and sometimes entire manuscripts five, ten, a gazillion times. If that’s what it takes for you to send in your best work, go for it. From my years of experience in the publishing industry, I have seen that writers who submit the cleanest work simply write one day, edit the next day, and polish when the whole thing is finished. Beyond that, you may not be making it better--only different.

This is the part where your own intuition comes into play--if you have any little niggling doubt that you can still make it better, work on it until you feel good about it. You never want to turn in the second-best version and expect your editor to rescue something you know isn’t your best work. Commit to making your writing your cleanest and best before submitting it. Whatever it takes to send in your best work, that’s what you want to strive for--and then trust your own intuition to know when enough is enough.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Qualifications of a Writer

photo by Keith Williamson

You want nothing more than to be a writer, perhaps the author of a published book, a journalist or even to freelance. You admire those who have conquered that which you have only dared to dream.

You ask yourself,  "How did they do it?"   What "inside connection" did they have that allowed them to get their feet in the door? Surely you do not possess the skills to be qualified as an author and to someday become published—or do you?

So what does qualify you? One word sums it up best: desire. You either have it or you don’t. Actually, only a small percentage of people even have that deep hunger to begin with. If it’s within you, then it will make itself known.

Anyone who has the desire to write is naturally attracted to reading. Like fuel, reading feeds your longing and helps to bring the author in you to the surface. Another good fuel that will kick-start your passion is to privately journal or blog.  These avenues allow you to write without inhibitions or concerns for what others may "think" about your particular writing style.

A writer is passionate about the written word.  He/she learns from and is inspired by what he/she reads. It’s a simple process, really; there is desire, and desire brings forth productivity. Finally, productivity brings about work that can be shaped into something of worth. Passion and desire do not replace hard work, and if the effort is absent, it will show.

Commit to paper what is on the inside, and your effort and work will manifest itself on the outside. Remember, though, it must begin with desire.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Plan to Party on the Today Show

Just a few months ago, Dawn and I connected on Twitter and started brainstorming about a book. After a tremendous amount of hard teamwork, they are on the Today show and available in bookstores nationwide.  Congratulations to Elizabeth Mascali and Dawn Sandomeno!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From Madagascar to Tunisia to Egypt: Social Media and Political Crisis

The widespread influence of modern social media worldwide has been phenomenal in the last couple of years.  No longer do remote locations need to exist in isolation from the rest of the world. Island nations, such as Madagascar have adopted modern technology, friends and family who have moved away to various other countries, but have realized that social media tools have evolved into much, much more.  For example, through social media people can express themselves, their opinions, political or otherwise, with wild abandon.  Robert Fine’s The Big Book of Social Media Case Studies, Stories, Perspectives depicts the unprecedented growth and influence of social media outlets throughout the world, including the impact on political issues in Tunisia, Egypt and Madagascar.

Facebook, for instance, used by over six hundred million people, is the most dominant form of social media today. Although newspapers and radio, which now have become less accessible forms of media, and were heretofore regularly utilized to cover major political issues, 2009 marked the emergence of social media bearing great importance in reporting and influencing political hot-spots the world over. While traditional media outlets, such as radio stations, are, to a great extent, regulated in most countries; social media outlets are not, until now.

As a result, residents, politicians, business people, or anyone with something to say can do so freely. So, in places like Madagascar, for example, the residents now have the freedom to speak their minds, as well as benefit from real-time updates during times of unrest and riots, which are, unfortunately, part of the political landscape.

Haja Rasambainarivo, chapter author of “Political Crisis As The Lever-Effect to the Expansion of Social Media: A Case Study of Madagascar”, reveals that:

“…some users took enormous risks to tape videos of pillaging and shootings, which were posted on YouTube or Daily Motion within a few minutes. Twitter has been used in a similar manner to share useful and life saving information.”

On the same note, social media has had a similar impact on the current “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, which traditionally has been a relatively peaceful territory, though under authoritarian rule. While Madagascar faces political crises every seven to ten years, Tunisia has seen very little in its political history. Tunisia has experienced an extremely high unemployment rate, especially for the educated youth of its society, which some attributed to widespread government corruption. Shockingly, organized dissent in the streets of Tunisia—which normally would not be tolerated—made national and international headline news because of social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and heated CNN reports.

Ultimately, the Tunisian political crisis could be on the cusp of unlimited exposure when it comes to using media outlets to spread the news of its country’s turmoil. News is traveling at light speed, providing instant coverage, and perhaps saving many people from falling victim to violence during this political upheaval. Also, beneficial or not, victims are being portrayed as martyrs on blogs and websites such as Youtube, Facebook, and Daily Motion. Even this week, we can see the impact that social media has had, as the uprisings have jumped from Tunisia to Egypt. Based on the Tunisian experience, the Egyptian government has recently blocked the use of Twitter, to clamp down on it’s citizen’s abilities to communicate and organize.

Without a doubt, social media is revealing all aspects of the communicating world, even changing the world as we speak, and giving ordinary citizens a powerful weapon to wield against corrupt government tactics and injustice.  Robert Fine’s book, The Big Book of Social Media Case Studies, Stories, Perspectives, is an excellent resource for explaining the phenomenon that is social media, and its far-reaching implications.  A must read for those who want to stay abreast of the latest developments in this developing area of technology and communication.
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