Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Friday Poll ~ What’s Your Writing Space?

As always, we’ll begin with the results from last week’s poll—Readers’ & Writers’ Distractions.

The following table lists distractions from most votes to least votes in both categories…

Paying Bills
Social Media
‘Net Surfing
Social Media
Having to wear two pairs of glasses
‘Net Surfing
Paying Bills

Now, on to this week’s new poll—What Kind of Writer’s Space Do You Have?

Obviously, this one’s  for Writers ~ Next week’s will be for Readers :-)

Writer's Space

Image Courtesy of stephan fleet ~

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What Is “Literature”?

Defining “Literature” is a more slippery task than writing it…

What Is Literature?

Image Courtesy of ostillac callisto ~

If you look to the root meanings of the word, you find it becoming a letter—written to the reader…

The best definition I’ve found is “well-written” and “dealing with universal ideas”…

Naturally, “well-written” does not mean written in a way that confuses the average reader—in spite of the opinions of various “literary ‘experts'”…

And, also naturally, “dealing with universal ideas” doesn’t mean the book isn’t exciting, gripping, and hard to put down…

Some folks would define literature as “not genre” (check out my past articles on genre); yet, I wrote, in one of those past posts:

“I’ve read ‘literary fiction’ that seemed to me to be insipid and tortuously self-contained—hardly wrestling with universal dilemmas; more like whining about over-valued pet peeves

“And, I’ve read ‘genre fiction’ that met every qualifier of that ‘definition’ of ‘literary fiction’.”

And, concerning “genre”, this comment, on the post I drew that quote from, by Jane Watson, is quite enlightening:

“I think that you nailed it when you commented on: ‘…how ‘issues’ can be created from ‘imagined’ ‘facts…’. Personally I think ‘genre’ of any kind, including ‘Literary Fiction’ is a marketing term used by publishers to ‘sell’ books to people, who they think can’t make up their mind on what to buy – but I believe readers are very smart and can tell if they like a book or not and usually judge and pick it, not on genre, but on whether it reads well for them in the first few pages or is described well in a review or a recommendation from a friend. I am hardly ever told by a friend recommending a book — ‘You’ll love this – it’s Chicklit’. — but am often told — ‘You’ll love this, it’s great!'”

So, shall we believe that “Literature” is in the eye (and heart) of the reader?

Then, perhaps, we could ask: “What does literature do for us, the readers, that other writing doesn’t do?”

One perspective on that question is explored in the article What Books Do for the Human Soul: The Four Psychological Functions of Great Literature:


And, if those functions of Literature seem less than worthy determinants for such important writing, watch this video:

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Do We Really Know What “Writing” Is?

I’m a writer…

I’ve published 5 books and I’m working on number 6…

I’ve been writing this blog for 3 years, 9 months, and 29 days…

The longer I’ve been writing the more writing has changed…

Most of us learn to write at a young age—most of us do some sort of writing daily—some of us do professional writing—some do creative writing—some creative writers make a living at it…

Yet how often do we notice how we change as writers?

29 days into the life of this blog, I wrote a post called, Really, No *Really*, What The Heck Is Writing?

Since I’m 29 days into the 10th month of the 4th year of this blog—and, because the work on my 6th book is taking me to new realms of writing—I’ll reproduce that “old” post here (plus the comments it got…).


So many things in life are taken for granted. So much is automated. Even things like Love can suffer from a lack of proper awareness.

Ever walk down a street you’ve been down hundreds of times and wonder at some detail that seems like it just appeared yet has always been part of the landscape?

Perhaps I can do that for you in this post—give you a fresh vision of what the heck Writing really is.

I often find that checking an Etymology Dictionary gives me fresh perspectives on words and concepts that have become a bit stale.

“Write” has roots that mean carve, scratch, cut, or paint.

Pardon me while I let the poetic side of my personality take control for a minute:

Authors can sometimes be said to “carve” a place for themselves in our culture.

There are also many writers barely “scratching” out a living.

Many wish they could “cut” a swath of recognition through the crowd of other writers.

And, our favorite writers are those who “paint” images in our minds with their words.

Anyone who ranks high on tests of left-brained activity is probably cringing at such a poor example of the application of word roots to an understanding of the meaning of writing.

You right-brained folks are probably creating other, equally-poetic examples :-)

You! Citizen! Step away from the keyboard!!

Keyboards aren’t real good at carving, scratching, cutting, or painting. But the many former instruments of writing did all those things.

This attempt to go back a few steps so we can advance our understanding of writing has just reminded me of the many comments I see in the Twitter stream for #amwriting declaring, sometimes with boldness, sometimes with an excuse, that the Tweep is actually using a pen and paper for their WIP.

Just like my glee at saying my favorite word is “word”, I find an absurd pleasure in perusing written attempts at defining “writing”. Kind of like reciting the Kama Sutra while making love. Or, even better, putting two mirrors face to face and creating an infinite regress. And, possibly best, the self-importance of this example of self-reference: “I think the first word in this sentence is egotistical.

Seems like I’ve written myself into a corner: Carved a cul-de-sac, Scratched a non-existent itch, Cut off more than I can chew, Painted something non-representational…

Still, writing exists and I’m doing it now.

Your Feelings, Thoughts, Written Affidavits, Rants, or Explanations??


Simone Benedict January 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm

  1. Well….to me writing is carving, scratching, cutting, and painting. In my mind, writing is still work that is much like the stone mason. It involves getting wet, dirty, and sweaty but the end result is still something beautiful (hopefully).

    As a ‘rant,’ it seems to me some people see being a writer in very romantic terms (I’m guilty of it at times for sure). So while I would like to think I can sit in my unheated garret waxing artistically along in some kind of egotistical and isolated way, the truth is I have to spend my time out in the world getting my hands dirty–a point you address in the post about walking down the street and seeing details. To me that is what the heck writing really is. Getting your hands dirty then rushing home to wash them so you can hammer out what you’ve experienced on your keyboard…or sharpening your quill and scratching it out on some paper, whatever your tools are.

    Alexander M Zoltai January 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I *Love* the way your right-brainedness made a beautiful left-brain-appealing point, Simone.

    Writing is Work.

    BTW, Happy Kansas Day !!!

  2. Karla Telega January 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    There are a lot of gaps in the English language. There are different interpretations of any given word. The reader is an important part of writing, since it’s his interpretation of words that make them real. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there, does it make a sound? We give ourselves all kinds of credit for creating images with our writing, but it’s the reader who makes writing real.

    Alexander M Zoltai January 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Must repeat these words, Karla !!!:

    “The reader is an important part of writing, since it’s his interpretation of words that make them real….We give ourselves all kinds of credit for creating images with our writing, but it’s the reader who makes writing real.”

  3. Simone Benedict January 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    You do think I have right-brainedness, Alex? Gasp…are you sure? Is that the side that does math and stuff? If so, then no that side has atrophied.

    Yes, writing is work but it is mostly fun work, I think.

    Happy Kansas Day….lol. For a deep thinker, you sure do have a great sense of humor.

    Alexander M Zoltai January 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Simone, the right brain is all about imagery and color and sensation and meaning…

    Writing=Fun Work {taking notes from my commenters…}

    Deep thinker? Hmmm… Must ponder that statement………………………:-)

    Thing is, I’ve done so damned much thinking, at such depth, that the underlying humor of life has risen to the surface of my worn-out brain…

  4. sfnowak January 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    As you know, my preferred writing instrument is a fountain pen. It feels like I’m writing and adds a certain flow. However, when I write a blog or an article, I think through my fingers a the keyboard. Long ago I stopped trying to figure it out and just decided it was one of my life’s many dichotomies, or evidence of schizophrenia, or maybe even creativity.

    Alexander M Zoltai January 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Well, Steve, back when my destiny of becoming a writer was still an unconscious urge—grade school—I loved my fountain pens; and, even back then, about 50 years ago, I was strange because the usual tool was a ballpoint pen.

    If I have only dichotomy, schizophrenia, or creativity to choose from, I must select creativity :-)

  5. Simone Benedict January 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for straightening me out, Alex. I’ve confused my right brain with my left brain again. Drat, that stupid dyscalculia continues to befuddle me!

    I still like using the antiquated tools for writing, but my keyboard is so much like a musical instrument. I can pound out rhythms that are delightful to my ear even when the rest of the world fails to hear them.

    Alexander M Zoltai January 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Wow, Simone, thanks! Always love seeing a word I don’t know the meaning of :-)

    O.K., since waving our hands in the air seems to be the cutting edge of user interfaces, we can say that “writing” comes from roots that include: carve, scratch, cut, paint, and pound out rhythms…

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NaNoWriMo Is Nearly Upon Us ~ Check Out All These Helpful Writing Tools

Not every writer, aspiring or accomplished, gets involved in NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month.


Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

November 1st is when the writers are released from the gate…

Each is racing against themselves—write 50,000 words before the end of November…

No one expects those words to be brilliant or compelling—most folks end up with a very messy first draft…


They may just have written the raw copy of what, if revised and edited, might be a good novel.

310,000 people from around the world took on the challenge last year.

PressConnects says:

“Those interested in participating can sign up for free on the website [NaNoWriMo], which tracks participants’ progress as they write. The site offers an array of other resources for writers, along with online forums where people can connect with others taking the challenge.

“In January and February, the NaNoWriMo organization hosts the ‘Now What?’ months, where the focus is on revision of rough drafts and getting published.”

Before I give links to some resources from NaNoWriMo, I’ll list some tools featured on PC Magazine that could help any writer:

Microsoft Word for iPad — Free

Pages for Mac — $20

Special Trial Edition of Scrivener — Free for a month, then 50% off if you finish NaNoWriMo. Plus, even if you don’t do NaNoWriMo, try Scrivener for a month then get it for 20% off—$32 for Windows, $36 for Mac

Ulysses for Mac — $45

yWriter — Free (Win/Mac/Linux)

And, there are these “Distraction-Free Writing” programs:

iA Writer — Mac – $10

WriteRoom — Mac – $10

CreaWriter — Windows – for a Donation

WriteMonkey — Windows – Free

ZenWriter — Windows – Free Trial, then $17.50

OmmWriter — Mac, Windows – $4.11,  or iPad – $1.99

FocusWriter — Win/Mac/Linux – TipWare, between $1 and $20

There are yet more tools at PC Magazine —> Online Writing & Research and Mobile Apps


Now for some help from the folks at NaNoWriMo (passed to me by my friend JohnPaul):

[ The links aren't purple but they work just fine :-) ]

Pre-NaNo Prep Resources


Storyboard & Plot Development


Character Profile Worksheets & Questionnaires


Writing Cheatsheet


Cliché Finder


Online Graphical Dictionary (find word meanings and associations)


Other Useful Links

Go Forth And Write :-)
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Starting Today ~ Amazon Lets Readers Help Decide Who Gets Published

Some would say that readers have always decided who gets published; but, the truth is that they have, at best, helped determine who gets published again…

Before the digital-book-age, legacy publishers were the only people who chose who got published.

In fact, through media manipulation, legacy publishers helped drive what most readers decided was worth reading.

In September, in the post, 3 More Ways To Publish An E-book, I revealed the first hint of what’s beginning today…

Then, at the beginning of this month, in the post, Amazon Reveals Its New Path To Being Published, I revealed the writer’s side of what’s beginning today…

Since then, writers have been submitting manuscripts to Amazon for what’s beginning today…

From BusinessWire:

…Amazon’s New Reader-Powered Publishing Program, Opens for Voting

Readers can now nominate favorite books for publication

New, never-before-published submissions across romance, science fiction and mystery & thriller genres are now live for nominations

Books that are popular with readers will be considered for publication by Kindle Press

They go on to say how it works:

  • Readers preview excerpts from new, never-before-published books…and nominate up to three favorites at a time.

  • At the end of a 30-day nomination campaign, the Kindle Scout team will review popular books and select the ones to be published.

  • As a thank you from Kindle Scout and the author, readers who nominated the published book receive a free, full-length Kindle edition one week before the book’s official release date.

  • New books are submitted every day, so readers should check back often.

And, from Amazon’s Scout Site, there’s what the authors get:

Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.

So, if your a writer with a book that’s not yet published, you can Submit Your Manuscript.

And, if you want to be one of the readers helping decide who gets published, head on over to KindleScout
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