Z – Zines

ZRather than end the A to Z Challenge with a bang, I think I’m going to end it with a half-joke.

What the heck happened to Zines?

I mean, they seemed like a fad, I suppose, anyway, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised they’re gone. What were they, you ask? To merriam-webster.com!

Zine:

a small magazine that is written by people who are not professional writers and that usually has stories about a particular subject”

e-Zine:

an electronic magazine : a magazine that is on the Internet”

Oh… wait a minute… do they mean a blog?

Blog:

“a Web site on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences”

So… kind of. Mostly. Maybe? There are probably a number of Blogs which might be more accurately Zines or e-Zines, maybe especially ones that have a specific subject, and which have multiple writers.

I didn’t end up going with my original plan for the letter M which was going to be Magazines… I felt like I was beating on them enough between Journalism and Newspapers. And because I knew eventually I would be writing about Zines… was it supposed to be the cool, hip, trendy, online word for a magazine? Was it supposed to catch on? Can you choose and control those sorts of things? Or do they just naturally happen – like the adoption of the word Blog instead.

I don’t know. But it seemed like a fun word to close out the A to Z Challenge with! Do you read any Zines? Or did you ever? Let me know in the comments below!

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Y – You

YI seem to be missing one last critical component of writing – You! The reader! Without an audience, a book is not a very interesting thing, and a writer is not going to be a paid author for long. So on the one hand, the goal is to get published – but on the other hand, the goal is to get read.

I think that’s a lot of the appeal to self-publishing. Yes, money, a career, all that. But really, if the goal is to be read – if the goal is to get the book to You – then by any means necessary!

It’s the reader who must meet your words with their understanding, it is the reader who tries to figure you out. Who tries – and wants to try! – to know what you scrawled out on the page, what you typed hastily into a computer. It is the reader who makes this worth it.

I missed the opportunity to write about Audience, when I wrote about Author instead, for this A to Z Challenge. So instead, I’ll let you read a post better than I would have written anyway, from the Writing Catalog. I say that in part because I like Gene’O’s writing, but also in part because I don’t think enough about the audience when I write. In a lot of ways, I write for an audience of one: myself.

And maybe that’s why I have a hard time starting to write. Because while I could write, if my main audience is myself, well, I already have the story here in my head. I know what happens. Would anyone else care what I write? Would anyone else like it?

So that means for me the most important question right now goes back to audience. And actually, I think that it may also answer a question I asked before: why write a blog? The answer may well be that you write a blog to have an audience. To experience that, to want that. To interact with them and find out what they like and don’t like. To get praise, or constructive criticism, or to get shared – all to give you that little bit of confidence you need, to know that you might just have an audience outside of yourself (or maybe your family, hopefully they’d read it too…), and that it might be worth it to drag those ideas out of your head and let them see the light of day.

Thus, concluding my posts on the essentials of writing, I dedicate this post to you: my reader, my audience. That’s right, you. Right there. I’m thinking about you when I write this. And I am thanking you for being there. Whether you’re there just as a blogger, wandering by from the Challenge – great! I know I don’t read nearly as many blog posts as I should. I am a bad audience member. Or whether you’re a follower – thank you so much! You remind me time and again that maybe I really can be a writer.

And this seems like an excellent time for self-promotion. If you like my writing here, like being my audience here, check out my geeky blog I write with my wife: Comparative Geeks. It overall has much more content and posts than here. However, since my audience has grown quite a bit during the challenge, I’m going to have to keep going strong here too, I think!

Thank You!

X – Xerox

XAs we come to the last few days of the A to Z Challenge, I reflect back on the fact that I kind of had two threads of discussion.

One was about writing, books, and the craft. And I have that just about wrapped up with my posts last week, with Understanding and Voice and Writer’s Block. Though really, the conclusion to that line of thought will be tomorrow.

The other line of thought, however, has been about the business of writing. About Blogging and Journalism and the Internet. And I still have a bit more to say on that front, and it’s ending up in X and Z.

So while at first glance Xerox for X might look like some strange forced term or cop-out, allow me to explain. Like a few other brands have become, Xerox is a brand name that also became a noun and a verb for generally making copies. Think Google and Googling something. So to Xerox something is to photocopy it, right?

So, in our be-green, try-to-avoid-using-paper modern world, combined with our mobile-and-cloud-everything workflows, what’s happening to photocopies? Yes, in most of the offices I’ve worked in there’s still been a ton of paper generated. Yes, people still print out things that you send them digitally with the intent that they will read it digitally and not in paper. Yes, I’ve worked a job where we printed almost every email and kept it as a paper record.

Still, what is going to happen to Xeroxing things over time? As tablets move into the workplace, will we be copying things less and less? With increasingly simple online sharing and cloud access, will we need to bring or give paper copies less and less?

And as we stop using Xeroxed copies in the workplace, and use a digital copy instead, how will this change our mindset for personal reading? Will we be more inclined to read e-books and Kindles? My thought is, perhaps yes.

However, although email seems to have killed the written letter, and online news might be killing newspapers, are we really moving away from paper? Or are we just moving towards convenience? In which case, is sharing something online more or less convenient than Xeroxing something? Sometimes. Is an e-book more or less convenient than a physical book? Sometimes. However, until the answer is “most of the time” maybe things aren’t going to change, but simply plateau.

What do you think? If we move towards doing everything digitally at the office, will it change how we do things at home? Just ask someone checking their work email on their cell phone! Or let me know in the comments below!

W – Writer’s Block

WAh, Writer’s Block. That scourge of writers the world over. I suppose. Is it though? What are some of the elements of Writer’s Block?

For me, the very first and major hurdle of Writer’s Block is how to start. I, like many writers I imagine, have a number of stories mapped out in my head, notes hidden around in margins, on smart phones, tablets, writing programs. When do you know enough? About your characters, your setting? Do you understand it all? Have you read enough to know that no one else has already written your story? And how do you hook your readers?

This is a hard wall to get past, for sure. As best I understand, at some point you just have to start. For me, that’s still a work in progress.

Once you’re going, maybe you started too soon! Oh no, how do you resolve this part? Describe this scene? How do you convey to your readers exactly what you feel when you think about it? Or maybe you know time needs to pass, but don’t know what might happen between where you’re coming from and where you’re going. Maybe you need to give another character some time in the sun, but aren’t sure what to have happen.

Or maybe Writer’s Block is just your excuse – your excuse for having a life, for letting time get away from you, for not being as diligent in writing as you feel like you ought to be. Because while the largest category is likely the books never written, there is still very likely a very large selection of books started but unfinished. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s life.

And then there’s towards the end, you have a written story! But you’re editing. Thinking it through, revising. Have you developed your voice enough? Have you used good language to convey your points and story? And is it something unique, something that hasn’t been written before? Is it something new under the sun?

At some point you have to let it go, have to decide it’s good enough. Not everyone can be J.K. Rowling or George Lucas and edit their works after they’re already published. But before you reach that point, you can likely hit the hardest road blocks, the most doubt: is it good enough? Will anyone, in their right mind – or at least the mind they bring to the table on the day they’re making the decision – publish it? Would you even self-publish it yourself? As you might be your hardest critic, after all.

I can see a lot of things we might mean by Writer’s Block. Once I get going, in a single session, I tend not to stop when writing – I tend to flow. For me, the trouble is getting started, is having the time, is taking the time. How about you? Any Writer’s Block stories or tips to share? Venture forth to the comments below! Can’t think of what to comment about? Writer’s Block strikes again!

V – Voice

VOne of the most important things in writing – because it is one of the most unique things you have access to as a writer – is your writer’s voice. After all,

There is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

I was surprised when I found out this was a quote from the Bible, actually, because for one thing, it doesn’t seem to fit, and for another thing, that was a long time ago for people to already be believing that there were no new stories or ideas! Yet that same mentality exists today, in full force: there are no new stories.

I’m not here to argue that point. Well, I’d be happy to in the comments. My point, though, is that if there is nothing new under the sun – if your readers, by applying their life experiences (which include any number of books and movies and other stories) find references and analogies between your writing and stories and something someone else has written, well… you’re likely just like every other writer ever! Even if you did not mean a similarity – even if you had never experienced it before – it can still happen. And probably does. All the time. Like, maybe, all the times.

But that just brings us back to Voice – it is how you write that will distinguish your work from someone else’s, no matter how similar or different. It shows the difference in how you understand things. It is also the sort of thing that will bring readers back to your works – enjoying how you write, they might try something they would not otherwise read, just because you wrote it.

Whose writer’s Voice do you like? One of my very favorites is Peter David – his humor, his pacing, his character. He has done a lot of work in existing universes – comics, Star Trek, movie novelizations, things like that. However, I’ve found his work in these fields surpasses others, because of how he writes it. I gave a number of examples in the post linked above… since then, I have tried out the Marvel comic A+X, where they do two ten-page stories, with no continuity, no relation to each other or another story, and by a wide variety of writers and artists. And of those, the ones by Peter David might be my favorites. They stood out to me. They were great. Also, this is a fun comic if you want to check out different writers and illustrators and see who you might like!

I should add also that it’s been over a year since that post, and since then Peter David is doing much better, and is back to writing 🙂

I asked a question and then answered it, but let me ask again: whose writer’s voice do you like? Who would you hunt down to read, who do you buy a ton of? And I guess… are all these questions the same thing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

And if you haven’t read any Ecclesiastes, I highly recommend it. Likely not what you are expecting.

 

U – Understanding

U

Okay, so on the one hand, this seems like me reaching for something that starts with U for the A to Z Challenge. On the other hand, this is one of the ones that made some of the most sense to me.

The famous quote is, of course, Write What You Know. Because in so many ways, writing is taking what you know, and making it so it’s a thing the reader knows. Maybe they won’t know all of it – maybe they’ll only take a quote away. Nonetheless, you’re adding to what they know.

However, as you may have noticed, I am a fan of science fiction and fantasy – genres that are impossible if you take a literal interpretation of “Write What You Know.” Only a handful of people would be qualified to write about travel in space. No one has been to Middle Earth (except apparently anyone who has been to New Zealand). And yet, these works can be written, and read, and understood.

So that is the crux of the matter: it’s about understanding. The writer should understand what they are including in their book: understand the language they are using, understand the grammar and words; understand the characters they are including, their psychology and experiences; understand the setting and the things that happen there, whether that’s the climate or how the people fight or what they eat for breakfast.

And maybe you don’t have to know all of those things. And certainly you don’t have to have experienced them all yourself. But the writer should have an understanding of these things – whether that comes from education, research, reading, experiences, talking to people or experts, or wild extrapolation.

Because when you understand it, and put it in such that it makes sense and is believable, your readers will get it too. Not to say all writing must be realistic in that it is only real things that happen; however, the things that happen should be internally consistent, should have a realism within the world they are in. Whether that’s how alien technologies work or magic systems or biology or computer software (No click enhance! Bad!). By understanding these things happening, you can create that consistency, make things make sense, and have their own logic. And then your readers will understand, too.

What do you think? Write What You Know? How much do you need to understand? Let me know in the comments down below!

T – Twitter

TOf all the various Social Media options out there, one stands above the rest for writers, from what I have seen. And that option is Twitter. It doesn’t necessarily make sense – after all, Twitter does not allow you to write particularly much. However, it’s not about the writing, or writing there.

With Twitter, it’s the avenue for connecting and marketing.

I say connecting, and use my Twitter account (@dbc_ii) as an example. From the get-go, my description read that I was a writer, and listed it first. That’s some of my self-perception, and though I’m not sure I can call myself an Author, I can go with writer. And from there, it’s been interesting to watch. I have been followed by a whole bunch of writers or authors and publishing groups or companies. Twitter has done an amazing job of connecting writers this way, all on its own. And as I have been followed, and have followed back, writers, the writer quotient is just increasing.

I say marketing, then, because of what I see the authors doing with Twitter. Their description will be a link to their book, through an e-publishing site, or on Amazon. Often mentioning that the first book is reduced price or free – to of course get you hooked on the series! The other thing I see many of them doing is having a follower-reply message, that thanks you for the follow, and either suggests their book or their other Social Media presences. For people who are self-publishing, doing things like this is even more important – they may not have anyone else promoting their works like this!

Obviously writers are not the only folks able to take advantage of Twitter for the reasons I list above. However, of the different types of Social Media, I see Twitter doing this by far the best. Facebook doesn’t do a whole lot of recommending to you – especially of pages – that hasn’t been paid for. And a lot of the others don’t have the public presence and connection.

So if you are a writer, make sure you have a Twitter! And this goes for bloggers too – it’s really easy to connect Twitter with your site, and use things like Publicize to push your posts as well. And I follow back writers 🙂 Include your Twitter in the comments below to connect with folks!

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