Sunday, March 21, 2010

Time’s Up

The six-week cooling off period between ending the rough draft of my novel and beginning the rewriting process ended last week. I chose that length of time because it was the minimum recommended by people who should know. I was going to extend it, but I was itching to get back to the project and was running out of ways to avoid writing all the things I was supposed to be writing during the down time.

So I spent this past week re-reading the manuscript and making notes. A lot of notes. I know I was obnoxiously self-congratulatory when I finished the rough draft in 10 weeks, but you can now rest assured I no longer consider it such a momentous feat. Anyone could have done it, honestly. All it amounts to is typing random words every day until you hit 75,000. And that’s what the rough draft looks like, a big pile of random words.

My task now, is to try to make something out of this mountain of rubbish. This is by far the harder task, and it is one I have little experience in. Fortunately, I have a clear idea where I want to go and a road map on how to get there. I’m not saying it won’t lead me down a dead end, but at least, for now, I’m moving forward.

What I’m not going to do is gleefully describe my process and progress. Despite this being a supposed writing blog, I think that would be pointless.

Some time ago I aired my view about blogs being Level I, II or III. I even stopped writing the blog for a while until I arrived at Level II (and then only to announce it) and took it back up with I hit Level III—as a bona fide, published author.

Now, I’m not so sure about the levels, or about me being an author. I’m still thrilled to have a book out, but in my mind, it doesn’t count. And it won’t until I publish a novel. So I am back to thinking of myself as a beginner (which, in this arena, I am) and refraining from giving advice or sharing my methods because, well, who am I? I might be doing this all wrong and that would be doing you a disservice. When I publish a novel, then I can dispense wisdom from my lofty height. ;)

Until then, the best thing I can do is recommend “How Not to Write a Novel” by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark. It is funny, informative and a very good read. I learned a lot from it, between cringing at the mistakes I found out I am making. But it was also inspiring to note that I could generally remember a novel I enjoyed reading that had broken the rule I was reading about.

In writing, the only rule is, there are no rules. But until you become good enough to understand how to bend them to your advantage, it’s best to keep within the guidelines.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a big pile of words I have to get back to.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cross-Dressing Blogs

In casting about so something new to write about, it came to my attention that the "Sucking Face" post on my Life of Writing blog had as much to do with writing as the post on my Postcards From Across the Pond blog had to do about being an expat. So, in the interest of buying myself more time (and perhaps gaining a few crossover fans) I have simply swapped them around.

I hope this doesn’t break some sort of blogshere code of honor or anything. I’m not trying to pull a fast one; I’m just too tired to write anything new (in the blog arena) at the moment.

And the best part it, the Sucking Face post, when it goes on my Postcards blog, will automatically be posted to Facebook.

Without further ado, here is the reposted post from Postcards:


ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

I received the following e-mail the other day. The header is heavily edited for obvious reasons, but the body of the letter is word-for-word:

From: Bert Mckinnon: AssholeWithTooMuchTime@OnHis.Hands
To: NotMyEmailAddress@ButIGotItAnyway.Dammit
Subject: Hello
Attachments: (Brunette.jpg) – the sort of photo that comes in a new wallet
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello!!!
How your mood? I very much would like to know you better... I would like to write to you a little about myself... To me of 28 years. I the brunette, very cheerful and beautiful woman... If you wanted me the nobility better can write only to my personal Email.
I hope you to me will write about myself.


Aside from the obvious (this person is tragically in love with ellipses) I’m guessing English is not the native language of the sender. And I have to wonder at the point of such a letter.

How lonely and desperate do you have to be for “If you wanted me the nobility better…” to sweep you off your feet?

And “Bert McKinnon”? What sort of name is that for an Internet temptress? I don’t know about you, but Bert screams “I’m a man” in my world, unless you are a Roberta. But anyone out for a cyber-snog with the name of Roberta McKinnon would do well to adopt a more appropriate nom de plume, such a Sally Cyberslut or Julie I-want-To-Send-You-Naked-Photos-Of-Myself-To-Gain-Your-Trust-So-I-Can-Empty-Your-Bank-Account Smith.

At least she didn’t mention the size of my penis (how do they know?) like many of the mystery women who write to me do. You know, things like “Make your man-tree hard grow so women laughing at you will stop.” I made that up, but it isn’t far off of the mark.

Unfortunately, these are the types of communications that make up the bulk of my e-mail these days. I can’t complain; it’s my own fault.

A few years ago I naïvely thought I could defeat spammers by changing my e-mail address on a regular basis. So I changed my spam-ridden e-mail address to a new one and told all my friends. Many switched to the new address. Some did not. The spammers used both. Not one to give up on a bad idea, I tried this about five times before I admitted defeat. By then I had thoroughly confused my friends and provided a huge target for the spambots.

My supposed saviour, Yahoo Spam Filter, didn’t help. There is a button you can click to notify Yahoo that the letter is spam and the filter will “learn” what is and is not spam and filter out all the bad stuff. In my experience, all the button does is alert the spammers as to where I am because whenever I undertake a campaign to eradicate spam, I generally end up with ten times more.

Worse yet, the Yahoo Spam Filter also sends all my blog comments, which are specifically tagged to go into my IN box, into my spam folder. So I currently enjoy the irony of having to go to my spam folder because, if there is any mail for me, that’s where I’ll find it.

So I am reading a lot of letters from Bert and his buddies these days. It’s a bit of a nuisance, but on the bright side it is often a revelation to discover the extraordinary and starling ways desperate third-worlders with an internet connection and a penchant for larceny can torture the English language in their attempts to woo the gullible and, one has to suppose, functionally illiterate into revealing their bank details in exchange for virtual titillation.

So until Bert and his ilk discover they can make more money robbing liquor stores, or I become wealthy enough to develop my own, effective spam filter (or at least have enough money to hire people to read my mail for me) I’m afraid finding relevant communications will continue to be a scavenger hunt through spam hell.

But those days may be over sooner than you think: I just received a notification from The National Lottery Board informing me that I have won $87,674,287.37 in the National Lottery. I can’t wait until they deposit the money in my bank account!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Sucking Face

I suppose it’s time to stop bitching about Facebook; it doesn’t show signs of going away any time soon and, I have to admit, I’m beginning to find it useful.

Before you think I’m jumping too enthusiastically on the technology bandwagon, let me assure you I still eschew e-books and think Twitter is a waste of bandwidth. Twitter offers only a tiny part of Facebook’s most used and useful feature, but without any of the bells and whistles. It is a redundancy. It should slink away. Now.

But Facebook, despite still being beyond my understanding, is carving out a cozy corner in my heretofore cold heart. It is actually a time saver, allowing me to hit one page and find out what all my virtual acquaintances are up to in one go. That, to me, is the selling point, and why it is the page I usually hit after my Yahoo mail homepage. It doesn’t take as much time or effort as reading though blog after blog and it lets me catch up on everyone. That said, it is a lot more superficial, but these days, that is probably a bonus.

Logging on to Facebook is like wandering into the school cafeteria at lunchtime. You can see groups of people clustered around different tables, some you know, some you don’t. You can overhear snatches of conversation between your friends and friends of friends. You might even sit down and have a word with one or two of them. Then you leave, content knowing everyone is all right and having a good time and that they know that you are as well.

If, however, you’re looking to sit down over a buttered scone and a cup of tea with one of your closer friends, well then, you need to go somewhere else.

A blog, for instance, where you can ramble on for more than 140 characters, make a point, paint a scene, talk about something important to you in a meaningful way and not be forced to reduce it to, “Got dumped on Saturday. Really sucks. :(“

I was a long time coming to blogs, being happy in my Luddite world of HTML, but once I crossed over, I was hooked. Problem is, now that I am firmly settled in the blogshpere, I find they are, like, so 2008. I thought I was being hip, but I find myself, once again, sitting on the trailing edge of technology.

I just read an article claiming that e-mail will be extinct in another ten years. Seems it is being regarded as too old fashioned. The focus, the article claims, is shifting away from instantly sending a significant chunk of information directly to the person you want it delivered to and more toward broadcasting snippets of news to a wide group of people.

Texting, Facebook, Twitter—that’s what the hip young people are using these days. E-mail is, well, so, 2008.

It makes me want to crawl back to my HTML and hide,

F*&%$@G Facebook.