Great Stuff for Writers, March 14 & 15, 2013

It’s the Ides of March—beware! It’s about to be St. Patty’s Day—rejoice! (But don’t drive afterwards.) Some big news about Google Reader, in case you hadn’t heard, along with our usual supply of Great Stuff.

CRAFT

I’ll let you in on a secret. When Lisa Cron (@lisacron) asks, Does Your Protagonist Have Amnesia?, she’s really asking about you, not your hero(ine). Why? Because, she says, that character’s past is her prologue, what leads to the change she needs to make over the course of the story. If you’ve forgotten to develop the critical details of that past (and not the 1,000-question list of irrelevant details some writing teachers advocate), you won’t know the how and why of the past that makes that change critical. Without that knowledge, there won’t be any motivation for the change, and the change will be hollow.

Anna Elliott’s (@anna_elliott) The Voice on Writer Unboxed isn’t about the TV show but about finding the true voice of the narrator or protagonist (and, for that matter, each important character). The key line and insight from the post is this: “I think what makes the most striking voices so striking is that the authors have truly, absolutely accessed the essential truth of who their characters believe themselves to be.” (Emphasis hers) While this is especially true for character-focused fiction, it will certainly enrich fiction that’s stronger in plot as well.

BUSINESS

Recently I wrote about a class-action lawsuit having been filed against PublishAmerica. Now Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) prints one of PA’s solicitations in For Those of You Who Are Wondering Why Someone Might Want to Launch a Class Action Lawsuit Against PublishAmerica. Combine amateurish presentation (bright colors, big type, underlines, and more), hype, and PA’s “literary agency department,” among other things and, well, take a look for yourself, if you dare.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) offers The Single Best Tip for Using Twitter (and other social media) on the Books & Such blog today. I’ll spill the beans: use Hootsuite. Rachelle explains why, including why it’s better than Tweetdeck. If you have 5 or fewer social media accounts, Hootsuite is free. Once you cross that threshold, however, it’s $9.99/month, which is something she doesn’t mention.

Then there’s L.L. Barkat’s (@llbarkat) assertion that It’s Time for (Many) Experienced Writers to Stop Blogging on Jane Friedman’s blog. They key word in the title is “experienced.” The post is not intended for new writers. Her essential arguments are that (a) blogging is a time-suck, particularly if you have lots of commenters to respond to, (b) that it isn’t particularly effective in bringing paying readers to your for-sale works, and (c) the people who made it big via blogging were the early adopters who had the advantage of being first. I can certainly see (a) and (c); (b) it seems depends on how you use your blog. What do you think?

TECHNOLOGY

On Wednesday, Google announced on its blog that, among other things, it is “retiring” Google Reader as of July 1st. The reason, Google claims, is declining use. Google has a service called Google Takeout, developed by a company called Data Liberation Front, that allows you to take the essential data from a variety of Google products, including Blogger, Buzz, Reader, Voice, and YouTube, and transfer them to other non-Google products, so that, for example, you won’t lose all of your Reader subscriptions once Reader closes. We already knew that Google has stopped supporting Feedburner, so this isn’t much of a surprise, but it is disappointing. Darren Rowse at ProBlogger (@problogger), where I first learned about this, has a link to an online petition to try to get Google to reverse its decision. (Good luck with that.) Guess I’ll be looking for a new way to get my daily blog feeds. The times, they are a’changin’ (still).

No surprise, Google’s announcement has generated a lot of interest in alternatives/replacements. Jerod Morris (@JerodMorris) has an article on CopyBlogger titled A Real Simple Solution to the Death of Google Reader. That solution is to transfer all your subscriptions from RSS to e-mail. Yes, that would work, but if you’re like me and have a panoply of clogged inboxes already, it may not be a desirable solution. Fortunately, Morris goes on to list other RSS services, even providing a link to 12 Google Reader Alternatives on Marketing Land. (This is actually a list of 11 because one will be shutting down, but commenters added links to lists of as many as 100 ( ! ) other alternatives.)

Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) weighed in with 7 Reasons I Picked Feedly to Replace Google Reader. He looked at 5 alternatives, all listed in Morris’s post, and explains why he chose Feedly. I’ve taken a quick look at that program and agree with his assessment, but haven’t looked at the others.

FUN

Since Saint Patrick’s Day is nigh upon us, Mignon Fogarty (@GrammarGirl) chats up a few differences between American English and Irish English (a phrase which, all by itself, might raise some hackles in certain quarters—but I digress) in Irish Influences on English (note: not THE English). The article focuses mostly on the Irish (and Scottish) use of himself, herself, and myself in ways that are different from how we use them on this side of The Pond. And having had the pleasure of speaking with a true Scot in a tech support role this week, I can tell you Mignon’s right. What she didn’t mention what the Scots pronunciation of “us”: it’s “uzz” (closer to “oozz,” actually), in case you’ve never heard it. Myself thinks that’s marvelous.

Have a great weekend!

Thanks for leaving a reply