Sunday, March 27, 2011

New projects go word by word, bird by bird

Starting a new writing project can be so daunting. All those ideas in your head, waiting to be organized. All those blank pages. All that ... nothingness.

I think it's so hard to start over. In fact, I try not to even think of it that way, to even use those words. I try to look at it as just more storytelling, another chance to share what I'm thinking with a new group of friends.

I take it page by page, sentence by sentence, word by word, if I have to.

For motivation, I think of a story from one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott. She tells this story in her wonderful bestseller, Bird by Bird:

"My older brother, who was 10 at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at the family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When do deadlines really become deadly?

Years ago, I watched a cocky young reporter have a meltdown while covering a major election. The clock was ticking, editors were hovering and he realized, suddenly and sickeningly, that no coursework had prepared him for pressure like this.

He started to cry. Then he started to hyperventilate. It wasn't pretty.

And this was when newspapers were relatively fat and happy, when seats were filled and shareholders were content. Not like now, when executives have sliced and diced newsrooms, leaving only the few, the brave and the very, very tired.

I was thinking about that the other day as I read David Callahan's piece in The Huffington Post, one that analyzed the case of Sari Horwitz - the Washington Post reporter recently suspended for plagiarism that occurred while she was covering the Arizona shootings.

See, Horwitz isn't some young hotshot. She's a Pulitzer Prize winner. And in her apology, Horwitz mentioned the stress of the tight deadlines she was under. But plagiarism? This is ... worrisome.

I don't know Horwitz; I don't know anything about the situation. But I know deadlines. I know that feeling of rising panic and the power it takes to quell it. I still remember how my heart would start beating faster and how I would count backwards to calm myself and slow things down. I know the feeling of how everyone is counting on you and how you better not screw up.

I don't work in a newsroom anymore. I can't even imagine how tough it is today - with staffs that are skeletal and expectations that are still sky-high.

I would never condone plagiarism, obviously. It's inexcusable. In Death on Deadline, plagiarism and the power of information are a big part of the story. That's fiction, of course. But I have to wonder if the issues caused by tight deadlines and corporate cutting might just be bleeding into real life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

E-book world is easy, even for techno-saurs

I'll be the first to tell you I'm a writer, not a salesperson. And I'm sure not the technical type.

But I finally, yes finally, put my book up for sale in Amazon's Kindle store. I had hemmed and hawed forever. I thought it would be too technical. I wouldn't know what to do. I'd get confused. Blah, blah, blah ... excuse, excuse, excuse. Then one day, I just realized that nobody was going to do it for me.

So I ventured tentatively onto the KDP site, the Kindle Digital Platform for self-publishing.
After a few false starts, I uploaded my book. Just. Like. That. It was actually pretty easy, even for a techno-saur like me. And I'm even selling a few copies - not only here, but on Kindle UK. (Go figure). Maybe I'll be realy popular in Europe - you know, the David Hasselhoff of self-publishers, if you will. Or ... not.

So if your e book is completed and you just have a case of nerves, take a deep breath and dive in. It's really not that bad. I swear.