Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, March 31, 2006

Don't get tangled in the World Wide Web

I recently saw a post by someone that they spent three hours reading blogs. I couldn't believe those words: Three hours reading blogs! Not writing, editing or submitting. (Though I have to wonder about the writer who spends three hours submitting queries/materials...) In truth, I'm not surprised someone could spend three hours reading blogs. There are blogs EVERYWHERE! I've come across so many I've started putting recent finds into my monthly update. Plus, some blogs can be pretty darn useful, offering information the writer would ordinarily use as an article, chapter or even a lecture.

But blogs are just one of the distractions facing connected writers these days. I may only post on this blog at MINIMUM of once a week (sometimes I forget to post here at all!). But during the rest of the week, I'm reading OTHER blogs in addition to the many other things I do while I'm online. I once told a good friend of mine that I was tired of the Internet taking up all of my time and he conceded that it's not exactly a profitable tool to put ALL of my writing energy into. Yes, it DOES have its strong points in helping writers get published, educated and promoted, but after comparing the input/output rate of my Internet activities to real life activities, well... let's just say I was not a happy camper.

The Internet is truly an unlimited world to learn things in. A playground for the aspiring writer. An escape for the frazzled, overworked and underpaid writer. And a promotional tool for the entrepreneur! But it still has its downsides.

We hear all about people getting addicted to the Internet and how Internet addiction has wrecked marriages/families. It can also serve as a time-waster.

A lot of people who are supposed to work online tend to do other activities like chat or play online games. The temptation to goof off is SO EASY, especially since, gasp! No one will know. It's just between you and your computer.

I've noticed this drawback in my own online time. I'm not saying you SHOULDN'T use the Internet to relax with or communicate with others. But I truly feel that there is a temptation to get too distracted or sidetracked with all the World Wide Web has to offer, and you've got to discipline yourself to make sure you don't let that happen.

If you don't have a lot of time to spend online, it's important to watch out that you don't get sucked into the Internet's distracting, hypnotic grasp.
Some things you can try to avoid this:

--Make it a rule to do the IMPORTANT things the minute you get online. Check your e-mail, pitch work or conduct research, interviews, etc.

--Make a list of important things you need to get done online and tackle a few of them each time you get to sit down for some online time.

--Reward yourself for completing important online tasks. Don't devote your entire online time to work; give yourself a breather and do some of those other fun things now that you've taken care of the important stuff.

--Don't try to do everything in one sitting. Believe me, I have tried this myself, Monday through Friday. The result? Being online for several hours, which was pretty much an inconvenience for me.

--Time yourself. Give yourself a half hour to do one task, one hour to do another task, etc. If you don't set up a timeframe for your tasks, the temptation to get distracted is all the more too hard to resist.

--Make sure you let others know that when you're online, you can't goof off. Not until you get the important jobs done first, anyway. You don't have time to chat, play games or send emails back and forth just yet. It's better to give everybody the heads-up instead of shutting them all out.

--Take some "time off" from your writing work. I make it a rule to do absolutely NO writing work on the weekends, just writing! Use your "day(s)" off to use your online time for fun and leisure.

With a behemoth like the World Wide Web at your fingertips, it's easy to get a little sidetracked. The worst part? It's often hard to tell that you ARE being sidetracked. Try using the ideas above (which I myself use) and see just how much more work you actually start getting DONE when you're online.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Changing stories

A publisher I queried for one of my children's books replied with a rejection. I'm thinking it's a good thing because now I'm seeing the book differently.

I haven't lost my passion for this book. I believe it is an original enough story to stand out among the thousands of other children's books out there and I know that some children would enjoy it. Well, perhaps children of Native American descent, anyway. (It's a Native American story.)

But what's different now is how I'm thinking it should be presented. I was going over the earlier drafts of the story the other day and realized something: Not only is it long but it's also got scenes that could be broken into mini chapters. You know, like with Stuart Little. (Adult or no, I still love that book.) And since it's for the 8-12 age group, maybe making it a first-chapter book would work out well for it.

It's just an idea. I think that ultimately, the publisher would decide if it should be printed as I have it formatted now or if it should be a mini-chapter good.

Just one of those instances when rejection can be a good thing. Gives the writer a chance to reexamine the book. Ask themselves if it's the absolute final draft and if it's how they want the book to be.

Sometimes, though, this can be a bad thing. I’ve heard of writers meeting with rejection then frantically taking their manuscript through the nth rewrite. While I’m tempted to do the same (I am soooo worried that some references I have included in this story would actually insult Native Americans), I realize that you can rewrite your story to death and it still might get rejected. I mean, take the case of agents and publishers rejecting your query. Without seeing a single word of your manuscript. Unless you’re including your first three with the query, don’t bother rewriting it for the millionth time. Why? Because that’s going to seep out to the rest of your manuscript, which the agent or publisher will notice. It’ll also prove hazardous in other ways: You can’t stop rewriting the same manuscript over and over, even after it’s published. It’ll show a lack of confidence on YOUR part in your ability to write something you’re ready to submit. And it’ll keep you from working on your next book.

So, the rejection can be good. And it can be bad. I don’t really know if the children’s book is 100% ready; the only person who beta read it is my older sister. And I’m still debating over whether I should make it a first-chapter book.

Still, I'm thinking that actually getting an acceptance for this book would be a whole lot better than the chance to see if it needs some kind of change. The hunt for a publisher continues.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Trying-to-read an Ebook Week

It is midnight, March 12th, as I type this. Read an Ebook Week has come and gone.

Did anyone get the chance to read an ebook this week? C'mon, be honest.

Yeah, I hear ya.

I hardly read an Ebook as much as I wanted to. I did get some Ebook reading done this week, but I wasn't able to read the whole thing.

In between finally getting a new set of wheels (which translates into LONG overdue errands finally getting taken care of), my daughter had a doctor appointment this week that involved getting three shots. Ouch. I literally got sick to my stomach during the shot-giving procedures, so much so that I just didn't have it in me to hold her down for the shots. (A nurse had to do it.) So I also spent more time with her and taking her out for treats. She got her first library card today and she fell in love with the place.

But Read an Ebook Week stayed foremost in my mind and, with any extra free minute I could grab, I plopped myself down at the computer to read an Ebook. It's the same one I'm planning to buy but I wanted to read it, anyway. Just because it was the one Ebook I had that I wanted to read now.

It's kind of strange reading an Ebook. Sure, it's like reading an article on the Internet, but seeing "this book" and chapter subheads remind me that I'm reading something that's on the shelves in a bookstore. I have read Ebooks before but they were mostly JUST Ebooks and not alternatively published as print books. And as I read this Ebook-that's-also-a-print-book, I kept imagining that I was actually reading it as the print book instead, curled up in a chair with it.

That's not to say it was a bad thing. Just that it was different. I don't read a whole lot of Ebooks, mainly because I prefer the print variety. One reason I like print books better is because I can put them down in between my many other tasks going on that day. You can't do that with an Ebook; just leave it open. (Is there some way to bookmark them??) I also like to carry books around with me. I like reading in different places; in a chair, on my bed, at the kitchen table after a meal. It's just more convenient. And of course there is always that "new book smell" I occasionally take note of (not to mention "old book smell" I often come across with some books in my collection). I know you can print out an Ebook (and get that "printed Ebook smell!") but it's just not the same. I mean, I'd settle for something in wirebound printing over a stack of papers to read through.

Still. Ebooks have their positives. I mean, they're great marketing tools. People use them as promotional freebies all the time. Their flexibility makes for an interesting variety of books to choose from, some as short as 7 pages. An Ebook is still a book, even if it hasn't passed the discerning hands of a major publisher. That's one good thing you can count on seeing, too, with Ebooks: More titles available because, even if the manuscript gets rejected by innumerable publishers out there just not interested in it, you'll have the chance to read it if the author decides to self-publish it as an Ebook. Of course it means some lousy writing is bound to crop up this way, and of course it compromises where the manuscript as-is stands in the printing process, but at least more people get to have the chance to read it. More people get to judge for themselves. And more desk drawers won't be overstuffed with material the author has given up on ever seeing in print.