Friday, August 30, 2019

The World of Writing Is Not Immune to the Laws of Supply & Demand

I read this recently on Brevity. As I said in an earlier post - there are too many books. There are too many writers. There are too many other options to amuse us: YouTube, Instagram, the whole darn internet. As the supply increases, assuming the demand remains constant, the price drops. It's not rocket science. The audience for short work in literary fiction and poetry is small anyway. Throw in a whole bunch of free options and it's no wonder people, even other writers, will stop paying for what they can get for free elsewhere.
“But the massive proliferation of literary journals online has, among other things, diluted the meaning of publication to the degree that we’ve clung to pre-digital hierarchies as a defense against chaos. 
Despite our market-expressed preference for disruptive digital technologies, we still trust The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Paris Review, Granta and handful of other top-tier publications to tell us who is writing the most important, must-read work today. (There are notable all-digital exceptions to this rule, of course. You’re reading this diatribe on the Brevity blog, after all.) The important difference now, though, is that we don’t want to pay for access to that information, which is one of the reasons why journals like Tin House, Glimmer Train, and The Normal School, to name only a few recent (and painful) examples, are closing up the print-issue shop. 
The audience for literary journals is predominantly made up of writers. We can quibble over the reasons, but the cold, hard truth is that writers have decided that they don’t want to pay for access to literary journals.”
Read the entire article.

What does the picture of the best cat ever have to do with this post? Absolutely nothing. I miss him still.

Friday, August 23, 2019


On July 19th Publishers Weekly ran an article entitled: "9 Things You Didn’t Know About the Semicolon."
"For most of the history of the English language, punctuation was a matter of taste. Writers relied on their ears and their instincts to judge where best to mark a pause. But then, with the spread of public schooling in the 1800s, savvy teachers saw a market for a new class of books that would make grammar a teachable science. Perversely, instead of making people more confident in choosing a punctuation mark, rules seem to have had the opposite effect, conjuring up confusion and consternation. Gradually, proper punctuating came to be seen as the province of the elite, although the best writers still followed their own star: 'With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule,' Abraham Lincoln mused; 'with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say that I have a great respect for the semi-colon; it’s a very useful little chap.'"
I didn't know there could be 9 things in total to know about the semicolon! Author Cecelia Watson wrote a whole book about the little thing!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Speed Kills

Speed kills. I was told by a Marine Corps jet fighter pilot that that phrase was not always true, that speed is your friend when flying a jet. I will bow to his expertise and acknowledge there may be an exception, but i still feel my statement generally holds true.

As it relates to writing, I certainly believe it's true. I know. You've read posts from me that say you need to write more books and churn them out faster. I was wrong. I stand by the first part of that statement: more writing, more publishing, will lead to more sales. Write more, not just books either. Submit short stories and essays too. The more people read your work, the better chance they will buy more. Of course, the big caveat is they will buy more only if it's good, only if it's worth paying for. And that's where slowing down will help. I saw this post about handwriting the first draft.

“A laptop may be able to perfectly typeset my thoughts as I write them, but a first draft has no business being easy to read. A first draft shouldn’t herald itself in a cacophony of clattering keys. A first draft should arrive with the raindrop-quiet of the popping sound my ballpoint makes skittering through the cursive-and-printing hybrid of my handwriting. A first draft needs the whisper of the thoughts I haven’t made sense of yet to be echoed by the whisper of my hand gliding across the page as I finish with one word and move onto the next.”

I used to hand write the first draft all the time and I stopped for a long while. Now I'm back to it. I'm sure you've noticed the improved quality! 😀 The process feels right to me, for me. It turns out I can type much faster than I can think (same with talking, but that's another post), and that usually ends poorly. It think it's one of the reasons social media and the 24/7 cable news networks are so low quality. Too many are in too big a hurry to be first and so we read speculation more than actual facts far too often.

Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep publishing. Don't stop, but don't go too fast either. Pay attention to craft. Haste makes waste - that phrase has been around a long time for good reason.

“Instead of strapping into the digital fast lane where my touch-typed thoughts can be zapped—fast, fast, fast—onto a screen, pen and paper slow my mind long enough for my heart to get a word in edgewise; pen and paper slow my mind long enough for my heart to encourage me to wait for truths that filter up as slowly as water from an aquifer…”

Read the entire article.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Now Some Writers Will Have to Compete With Computers!

The Creative Penn blog recently posted about how AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been used to create books.

Computers have already been used for quite a while to “write” news articles, particularly sports articles.

AI has been successfully utilized in many areas: chess, poker, medical research… The concept of “deep learning” enables a computer to play millions of games of chess, or poker, and learn what works and what does not. Now, these same capabilities of artificial intelligence are enabling computers to encroach upon the world of fiction writing. Feeding the AI millions of books and articles allows the computer to learn what makes a bestseller and what does not.
“The ‘write and publish faster’ model will soon be broken. You cannot write as fast as AI. It doesn’t get tired or burn out and it can consume millions of academic papers or books much faster than you can read. 
Publishers are not charities and authors are basically content creators, writing products to be sold. An in-house proprietary creative AI will work constantly with no hand-holding and no need to be looked after in any way. 
For example, what if my objective is to write a bestselling horror novel — and what if I give the AI the entire Stephen King backlist to learn from? 
Or the top 1000 bestselling horror novels from Amazon? 
I could probably do a rudimentary version of that right now with AWS Amazon Comprehend (which discovers insight and relationships in text) and then utilize a Natural Language Generation [Wikipedia] tool like GPT2, considered so dangerous that it has not been released (OpenAI), but of course, many other such tools will be created. 
The first movie has been created from a screenplay written by an AI [Ars Technica]. While the result might not be high art, it’s a first draft, and it took only a few minutes to create (after much deep learning from existing scripts).

If content is produced by AI at a faster rate in every medium — and possibly with the addition of translated material — then the tsunami of content will soon bury us all.
Authors and publishers already have to pay for Amazon Advertising to even be seen in the Amazon stores right now and this model will soon be broken as ads become too expensive for most.”
How will humans compete? You will have to abandon generic, formula-driven literature. You will have to write more about niche subjects, with strong emotional impact, something that computers will struggle with for a while. Another advantage to this approach: marketing is easier, more effective, if you write a narrower-niched, more focused work.
"The mass market is dead. Bestsellers are dead. Micro-niche will be everything and more granular discoverability will be better with AI, e.g. emotional resonance matching or specifics like I want a thriller set in Rome with a female protagonist who likes fast cars and Renaissance art. 
We’re starting to see this with Amazon Advertising auto-targeted ads. They were pretty bad a year ago but now they are starting to become more effective."
You can’t fight these developments. You can writer in your style, telling your stories (it’s not likely computers will be writing memoir, or tightly-niched history any time soon) with an intense devotion to craft. This may turn out to be a boom time to those writers who can writer for the love of story, language, ad the craft of writing.

"Publishers are businesses. They will use whatever tools they can to bring down the costs of doing business and authors are just content creators at the end of the day. Yes, your editor may love you, but it’s the accountants who make the decisions. 
You cannot win on speed when an AI can write a screenplay in two minutes, or generate a textbook, or translate a book faster than you can read this sentence. 
But there is one thing that you can do that AI cannot — be you. 
Move away from the ‘faster is better’ model to ‘artisan craftsmanship.’ Stand out by having a unique voice. Don’t write anything without giving it your own authentic stamp. Focus on local, imperfect, real connection with other humans."
Read the entire article.  

Friday, August 2, 2019

Where is the Growth in Publishing?

There is massive growth in digital books (ebooks and audio), but it’s not happening in the US.

"By 2025, there will be another 4 billion people online and most of those will be accessing the internet through mobile devices. This is why Streetlib now has a publishing portal in every country, in every language, positioning themselves as the portal for the 2020s (and why I am now distributing on their platform as well as others). 
The massive growth of digital book sales (ebook and audio) is not in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia. It’s everywhere else — and most of those countries don’t use Amazon to shop for books."
Another thing about Streetlib: you can upload your manuscript and they will create both the ebook (suitable for multiple platforms, not just the Kindle) and printed book - for free. I'm looking for new business opportunities soon as it's more and more apparent that book designers will no longer be in demand! 😟

Beautiful Fall Day

It's a beautiful fall day here in Illinois. Seen on the Fox River Trail