Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Writing Scene in Portland, Ore.

Burnt Tongue 2 reading at Crush
Portland writers give readings in dark places. Writers here call themselves dangerous. What they write is edgy and alternately ordinary. Writers here spend years in weekly critique groups working on novels. Newbies covet spots on the outer rings of said groups, knowing they are pond scum. If they shun the scum spots, there's no shortage of other groups to join, albeit less prestigious. Writers in Portland create their own support groups. They moon each other to express thanks. They break up and get back together. They break up and don't get back together. They write about breaking up and getting back together. They use the F word. A lot. Successful Portland writer still have to teach to make ends meet. Some start their own presses to publish work they know warrants attention. Some win the Pulitzer Prize. Some do guerrilla marketing. Some get movie options. They know movie stars and directors. Most are approachable. Many are very serious. Even the serious ones need inspiration and reasons to keep on writing. Because writing is a bitch as a living, but they can't quit it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Portland Bloggers Learn SEO (RE: I've Come a Long Way, Baby)

I could have posted a new poem today, but I'm going to give you the shorter-than-short version of key points I learned at the SEO workshop organized by Portland Bloggers. Though I'm not going to give a play-by-play, be assured Google continues to change the world.

So, how do you optimize your blog? First, google (verb: to look up online) Authorship to find the steps to verify yourself as a real, live Google author (and I'm not talking about telling the big G you are a novelist). Once you've done that, blog smarter by linking out, promoting others and being unique. Offer GOOD CONTENT. I'm being lame today with BAD CONTENT because I want to skip the blogging and go on to the real writing, but GOOD CONTENT is essential.

The two Js: me (L)
and Jenni Bost, Portland bloggers.

SEO and Google

But SEO is a game. Making Google like you is the trick. (See my heading trick? You've got to use the <h2> HTML code for that one.) To be exact, you must be liked by the Google algorithm geeks. You need to be obvious about your content's message, but not too obvious. So if I'm writing about Fifty Shades of Gray, I need to mention Fifty Shades about Fifty times. (Can you hear my sarcasm through the computer?) More accurately, you should only mention key words about 3-5x, otherwise the Google spiders don't likey you very much and think you're mooching for clicks. Hey, if I were mooching for clicks I'd start writing a fan fiction thread that's an erotic takeoff on Katniss and Peeta. Don't kid yourself, it's probably already been done. Granted, I have no room to talk, except that my characters are older.

Thanks to for the workshop. It made me take a hard look at a few things, and by doing so, I reflected on where I've been over the course of two years of blogging. Whew, some of those first posts are scary. I'm moving on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Makings of a Manuscript

At least my book project looks fairly organized. I move parts of it around the house from place to place, and one day last week it all ended up on the corner of my dresser. The double-decker story.

THE TOPPER: Two dictionaries. It's odd how different definitions can be from book to book.
THE BREAD: The light blue binder is the query collection. I started off printing pages from agents' websites and making notations directly on the hardcopy submission guidelines when I heard back. I've abandoned that method because I realize it will waste a lot of paper. I use an Excel spreadsheet now.
THE MAYO: The first stack of white paper is from my critique group. I submit chapters weekly, and three other writers make comments. I'm waaaaay behind making changes from their suggestions.
THE SANDWICH MEAT: The manila envelope is Part One of the book with proofreading marks (grammar, spelling, etc.) from a professional editor. Part Two is filed away for now. I bartered with the editor. I'm waaaaaay behind making ... you get the picture.
THE LETTUCE: There's a green folder in the stack which contains copies of my synopsis, rewritten ad naseum.
THE BIG CHEESE: The largest stack of white paper is the book itself, one version of it. At the time, it was probably about 400 pages. I've shortened it considerably since then, but I often use the hardcopy as a reference. That's about $25 of paper and ink from Kinko's. So far, Kinko's has made more money on my book than I have.
THE HEEL: At the very bottom, a yellow legal pad sits on top of a few copies of a magazine that actually pays me to write real stuff. No make-believe. For cash. I like cash. Wish I had more of it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Philosophical Questions for A Writer

A question a writer asks is: Why write? I told someone the other day, "I would never encourage someone to become a writer." My cynicism for pursuing a career as a writer was running high. Believe me, there are easier ways to make money and feel validated.

Then I focused a little on that last part: validation. Such a loaded word. We all need it. We all attempt to get more of it. We have egos, and anyone with blood pumping has a brain wired to seek it. But, I have had to let the desire for validation go. In essence, life isn't a gift to me that comes wrapped in a silken bow of validation. Neither is it guaranteed or promised by the divine or the mortal (e.g. anyone who loves you unconditionally). It is a human construct tied to our need to feel like we are somebody.

So have I really let "it" go? Validation? I'm practicing. I am writing and pursuing publication while trying to hold on less to the outcome. For the record, I'm not writing that much fiction. I'm actually writing more non-fiction these days for pay. And yes, the pay is validation. And when my editor, when I hand in a solid story or two, writes back immediately, "I want to marry you," that is validation. But I am not writing for the pay or the nice comments. I'm writing because I like to write. Because when I am in the middle of crafting a sentence, any sentence, I am in the middle of a creative process that takes me out of my troubles and the mundane flow. It is good to be in the words. There, there, is where I choose to place my life.