Friday, October 30, 2009

announcing NaNoReVisMo!

In honor of November's tank-like determination to actually happen despite INTERN's fervent wishes that it be cute, silly October forever, INTERN is announcing a new Month as an alternative to the imminent National Novel Writing Month that gets people into such a frenzy at this time of year

It's National Novel REVISION Month, baby, and it means business.

It occurs to INTERN as she types this that someone has undoubtedly already thought of the idea of NaNoReVisMo, and there are probably something like five hundred active cells of the NaNoReVisMo underworld in a thousand different cities (yes, five hundred cells in a thousand different cities. You do the math!)

But let's ignore that for a moment and forge ahead as if were a semi-new idea. Humor INTERN? Yes?

So. NaNoReVisMo.

Here's how it works:

You open a first draft from your (no doubt monstrous) desktop file of first drafts. Maybe you read it all the way through once, just to get in the mood. You start to feel daunted, overwhelmed by the task of fixing all the fix-its and rewriting all the rewrites and cutting out all the six-page speeches about the collective unconscious you wrote in because you were reading a lot of Jung at the time. You start to feel like your manuscript is hopeless—OR WORSE: fine just the way it is.

You almost close the document and walk away (OR WORSE: bang out a query letter and start submitting your first draft to agents and editors as is).

Then you notice the word written on the back of your hand in permanent marker: REVISMO!

Heartened, stoic, determined, terrified, you go back to your computer, open that file, and plunge yourself into the filthy, glorious work that is revision.

Repeat daily for a month.

End of month: you emerge with a manuscript that is more cooked (possibly all the way cooked), more beautiful (possibly really beautiful), more finished (maybe really finished), and more saleable (maybe actually saleable!)

Sounds good, right?

NaNoReVisMo is also the six-month anniversary of when INTERN first started taking on freelance manuscript critiquing and editing projects from the Hire INTERN sidebar on this page. It has been nothing but delight and extreme brain-pleasure, and she plans to continue offering her services for a long time, because it's much more fun than doing anything else. ANYWAY, to celebrate NaNoReVisMo and the whole art and delight of editing, INTERN is going to be posting about the 8-10 most common criticisms/fix-its/rewrite notes/whatnots she encounters in fiction and memoir manuscripts.

She is also going to pull out one of her own blighted first drafts and hack that sucker to pieces.

Much love to all, NaNoWrimers and NaNoReVisers alike! Godspeed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

hail the robot overlords of novel-writing

This morning INTERN was going through her soon-to-be kaput computer's hard drive when she happened across a program called Writer's Dreamkit, a used-once present from INTERN's parents circa x-mas 2003.

Has anyone used or heard of it?

It's this completely insane novel-writing software that interrogates you at length about your characters and plot, then runs your answers through a baroque and frightening Story Engine and spits out a plot outline.

The best thing about Writer's Dreamkit is that it makes absolutely no bones about being a novel-writing robot. It doesn't try to put on a soft and friendly human face or pad its cold, hard plotting engine with fuzz. Writer's Dreamkit is like, "Hell yeah I'm a robot. And if you don't select your Impact Character's chief flaw from this pull-down menu in the next fifteen seconds, I'm gonna crash your system so hard you'll feel it for days."

INTERN was playing around with WDK all morning, and came to the following question:

Select the nature of what all your characters are hoping to achieve or prevent:

The Past
How Things are Changing
The Future
The Present
Gathering Information
Developing a Plan
Changing One's Nature
Conceiving an Idea

Yes, it begs the question how one's characters can Prevent the Past or Achieve their Memories, but if you grit your teeth and go through with it, WDK does a pretty solid job of forcing character motivation down your "experimental" "literary" throat. By the end of a round of Storyforming intense enough to rival a U.S customs interrogation, WDK has narrowed your story down from 30,000 possible plots to one single possible plot.


It hardly needs saying that the NaNoWriMo potential of this program is endless. Actually, INTERN is more curious about whether WDK can predict the plots of real people's lives based on their current conflicts, goals, and character traits. Will INTERN's fate be determined by a Timelock or an Optionlock? In order to achieve her (story engine-determined) goals, will she need to Change her Nature or Develop a Plan?

Hail the robot overlords of novel-writing! Brothers, sisters, we are saved!

Monday, October 26, 2009

today, INTERN is reading her hippy roommate's raw food uncookbooks

...and if she reads another recipe like this:


Core an organic apple and slice into rings. Sprinkle apple rings with organic cinnamon and drizzle with agave nectar. Now enjoy your delicious RAW donuts!

or this


Core an organic apple and slice into thick, burger-shaped circles. Sprinkle with organic sea salt and drizzle with Braggs Liquid Aminos. Now sink your fangs into your hearty and filling RAW burger!

she is going to lose her shizz.

INTERN spent the weekend job-hunting, a task made ten times more interesting by the fact that Techie Boyfriend found a college friend of his (who is from Seattle!) wandering the streets in a manic episode, took him home, and generously offered him half of INTERN's dwindling stash of antipsychotics (Manic Friend's supply of said drug had run out several days before). Result: Manic Friend sleeps for the first time in days, and INTERN is overcome by a fit of uncontrollable frolicking.

It's all cool, though, because INTERN has now applied for a few jobs ranging from "office assistant" to "life-drawing model" and has even secured herself a few gigs as a self-described Piano Whisperer (basically a faith healer for the worn-out Little Mozarts of high-powered investment banker parents). She had her first piano whispering gig on Saturday, and it was powerful stuff:

First two minutes: INTERN arrives, exchanges professional niceties with investment banker parents.

Next two minutes: Parents depart. Their nice but obviously stressed-out eight-year old daughter leads INTERN to the grand piano and tinkles her way through the first sixteen measures of some awful sonatina.

Next twenty minutes: Eight-year old girl explodes in tears. INTERN listens and responds caringly to ensuing piano-related catharsis.

Next twenty minutes: INTERN asks eight-year old girl to run get her iPod. Rest of piano whispering session is spent listening to T-Pain. Now and then INTERN makes some casual inquiry about T-Pain and his music, and eight-year old girl (a T-Pain expert, practically an academic in the field) responds knowledgeably.

Next two minutes: Investment banker parents reappear with a cheque. Eight-year old girl's confidence appears to be restored. Appointment is made for the following week.

There's got to be a future in this.

Anyway, things are pretty good. INTERN is off to make herself a raw donut now. Mmm...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

impressive boondoggle #63

INTERN has been thinking about the different ways authors (particularly non-fiction authors) cash in on their books apart from actual book sales. The most common side-project is public speaking. Next is instructional seminars, either in-person or online.

In her rambles around the internet this morning, INTERN happened across the website of Andy Behrman, author of "Electroboy," a memoir of bipolar disorder (and spokesperson for other mental illness-related stuff). And wow. This dude has taken the idea of the Book Spinoff to the next level.

The first thing you see when you go to his website is a plug for his "Services as a Consultant for People with Mental Illness(and Those who Love Them)". For a mere $225 per hour—PER HOUR—e.g. more than INTERN spends on food in a month, including splurges on the occasional avocado—he will talk to you on the phone or shoot you some e-mails about how to pick a psychiatrist, figure out how to get on disability, remind you to take your meds and...whatever else a semi-famous writer with no medical degrees is qualified to do for his (well-heeled) homies in mental illness.

Perhaps INTERN is coming across as bitter or cynical about Mr. Behrman's services. Let her assure you (and Mr. Behrman, if he is reading this) that she is not. She in fact kind of awed and impressed by the spirit of get-go behind this venture. In INTERN's internal dictionary, "boondoggle" is a term of serious respect. INTERN wishes more authors would audaciously and shamelessly pursue their own personal boondoggles. Imagine how fun the world would be if Stephanie Meyer offered vampire consulting services, or if Dan Brown offered private genealogy sessions linking ones distant relatives to the Virgin Mary. Good work, if you can get it (and you can apparently get it, if you try.)

Anyway. Point is: public speaking: out. Ingenious and dizzyingly expensive consulting services: in.

You heard it here first.

Monday, October 19, 2009

author websites part 1.75: what not to blog

So you've made yourself an author website, your first book has come out, and you're feeling kinda famous. Kinda famous enough that you think people might want to hear about your daily life, your writing process, or your two cents on the latest tempest in the publishing teapot. Kinda famous enough that they might want to download a picture of your pet iguana reading a copy of your book and use it as wallpaper for their cellphone. That kinda famous.

So you decide to add a blog to your author website, where readers can do just that.

Now what?

Now you have to write content for your stinkin' blog. Or harness the power of globalization to hire a personal valet in India to write your blog posts for you for six dollars an hour. But do you have six dollars an hour to spare? No? Then it's time to write blog posts.

Lucky for you, INTERN has broken it down somewhat. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

PART 1: What's Hot:

-Publishing or book-related news and opinions

You belong to an authors association, right? You read other books in your genre, right? You're concerned with the fate of books and publishing...right? No? Well...let's just say that if you *did*, you could blog about the goings-on in the book world, like this post by womens' fiction writer Cathy Yardley about a scuffle between print and e-published authors in the Romance Writers' Association. Or if you can't be bothered to inform yourself about industry goings-on, you could always use your blog to start rumors.

-Writing about writing

Readers love to know how a book came to be written—what inspired it, what the your writing schedule looked like, the exact view from the window over your writing desk, how you came up with the character names. Posts about the writing life generally make for happy readers, and the more specific you can get, the better. Bonus if you wrote the book naked (or at least claim to on your blog).

-Updates on forthcoming books

You have a forthcoming book (or, if you're Meg Cabot, a constant stream of forthcoming books) right? You're excited 'cause your publisher just sent you the cover art/a galley/a list of scathing comments on your latest revision. Slap those on your blog, and readers will ogle (or weep) right along with you.

Contests and giveaways

Send a free book to the first ten readers who send in a photo of themselves waterskiing while wearing only the paperback edition of your novel. But only try this if you have a big enough readership that ten people will actually enter, 'cause it's a bit of a buzzkill if nobody enters.

Shoutouts to other writers

Tired of talking about yourself all the time? Turn the spotlight on other books and writers that will interest your readers. By "spotlight," INTERN means, "say nice things about." Not "trash their new book and/or announce plans to firebomb the mansion they bought with that ridiculously engorged advance that was rightfully yours."

Personal stuff that your readers will care about

A big theme in Cupcake Brown's book "Piece of Cake" is drug addiction and recovery. This week she blogged about the party she's throwing to celebrate her 20 years of sobriety. Totally relevant news to her audience of readers who feel an emotional connection to her recovery. If Cupcake Brown was, say, a children's cookbook author, this news might not touch her readership in quite the same way.


Once you're famous enough, you can post photos of pretty much anything you want. Until then, keep it to pictures of your books, yourself, and your readers engaging in aforementioned nudist stunts.

Links to relevant media

This probably doesn't need mentioning, but if you're appearing on TV, on the radio, in a magazine, or as a guest blogger, then by god provide a link. Mentioning you're nervous or excited about said media appearance is OK too, and tends to increase your likeability-factor.

PART 2: What's Not

-Any personal information that's boring or...boring.
-Anything mean. You will regret it. No exceptions.
-Random, junky links and photos that have nothing to do with your subject matter or target audience.
-Lengthy rambles pertaining to religious conversion, unless directly related to your book.

Go forth, and blog ye in goodness!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

publishing observations round-up


INTERN went out to the plant store and bought herself a fern the size of a smart-car to fill the post-internship space in her life, and is feeling ready to take on the world. She is naming the fern "Head Ed" and will be taking assignments from it (envelope-licking and such) whenever necessary. Techie Boyfriend is a little concerned, but seems to buy INTERN's argument that she has to cope however she can.

Right now "Head Ed" is telling INTERN to write a round-up of Things Learned About Publishing before going on to write new things. So, anxious to please her new boss, here it is:

Round-Up of Things Learned About Publishing

1. On her first day of interning, INTERN was shocked to learn that the acquisitions editor listed in Writer's Market does not necessarily always exist.

2. Editors can and will check the sales figures of your previous books. Fools who tweak their numbers get pitied. And not just by INTERN.

3. Getting a book deal is 10% reason for celebration is 90% reason for nervous breakdown.

4. It's not enough for a book to be good—it has to be a good fit for the publisher (and the publisher's boobs.)

5. If you want to publish a memoir, merely having an interesting life is not enough—you also gotta write good, and stop talking about yourself so dang much.

6. That no matter how brilliant you think your title is, the overlords in marketing know better.

7. That all sorts of things like gift books and journals can and do get cranked out in-house in, like, fifty-five minutes. Counting pee breaks.

8. That in fiction, emotional truth trumps literal truth every time. Write from the heart, folks—not from memory.

9. Authors get discovered all over the place—in magazines, on the radio, in the elevator—not just in the slush or agented submission pile.

10. That no matter how true your story is or how extravagant your promotion plan, what matters at the end of the day is the quality of your writing. Oh, and good timing doesn't hurt either.


What's that, 'Head Ed'? You want some coffee? Cream or sugar? Both? And some water from that spray bottle?

INTERN must run now. Urgent duties. Good day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

tidings of imminent yore

INTERN has eaten her Goodbye Lunch of curry and various triangular fried things.
INTERN has opened her Goodbye Card and delighted that 9 out of 12 signees spelled her name right.
INTERN has taken one last wander through the book shelves and filled her backpack to capacity with irresistible Goodbye Books.
INTERN has made one last round of jovial conversation with the Head and Assistant Eds, the Editorial Assistant, and various and sundry other friendly publishing folk.
INTERN has cast last, loving gazes at the mail machine, the rare orchids in their pots, the coffee machine, and the red leather couch where she spent so many days reading queries and tinkering with stuff.
INTERN has taken the stairs down, carrying her bike on her shoulder, and said goodbye to the cheerful doorman.
INTERN is not even writing this from Big Fancy Publishing Office, but from a coffee shop a few blocks down.

INTERN is officially not an intern anymore, though she remains so in spirit.

"What now?" wonders INTERN, taking a bite of an oversized Oatmeal Cookie.

Shall she run away to sea, become a vacuum cleaner saleswoman, or busk for spare change with her doleful melodica? And what of this blog?

And what of this blog?

Should she axe the thing completely, or keep it going in some other vein? Keep writing about publishing/writing, or allow it to wander? Start afresh under a brave new pseudonym? Post pictures of church pews and kittens? Is it time for INTERN to slink off into the dusk?

Comment, and INTERN will ponder.

For now, she has that giant cookie to finish, and a train to catch, and a felicitous jig or two to dance when she gets home.

INTERN will post again soon with some debriefing-type thoughts on interning in general. Also: INTERN is still available for hire for all sorts of writerly critiquerly business, even (especially!) if she runs away to sea.

Off, now, an intern no more, to greet what disasters come next!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

author websites: read this

INTERN was going to write down more basic ingredients of an author website, but The Book Publicity beat her to it.

In other news, when INTERN was biking home yesterday evening, she found some free church pews on the side of the road, and, seeing her inspect them, a friendly construction worker offered to throw pews, bike, and INTERN in the back of his pickup and ferry them home. It was wonderful and exhilerating and awesome, and even though INTERN kept her head ducked down for most of the ride because she was paranoid about the legal snags of pickup bed riding in big cities, she managed to peek up now and then and look at the city and scare people.

Now INTERN's room looks like some kind of shrine to her Webster's New World Dictionary, which sits on one of the pews like a hymnal. Word of the day: granadilla.

But seriously: have a look at that Book Publicity post!

Monday, October 5, 2009

author website curmuddlement

In the past few months, several people have asked INTERN her opinion on author websites, particularly websites for authors who have not yet published a book or significant body of magazine articles/similar.

A few months ago, INTERN's response was a grouchy: "no! too many unpublished author websites INTERN has to look up as part of her slush pile duties are festering caves full of broken links and unflattering writing samples."

But arguments pro author websites for everyone (see Nathan Bransford's post on the subject) seem pretty reasonable, and INTERN's stance has shifted closer to the middle. Her thoughts on the matter now go as follows:

-A website is like a new puppy. Cute and fun, but, like your parents loved to say, "a big responsibility." If it's a blog, you need to feed it new content regularly or it will look abandoned. If it's a website written in some finnicky language, you'll need to know how to fix the code if something breaks (or call an expensive internet-veterinarian). And no matter what it is, you'll need to resist the urge to dress it up in those ridiculous sweaters.

-In other words, a good author website is rarely a "set it and forget it" type deal. That sucker is going to need maintenance in order to keep looking professional and interesting over months and years. How much maintenance depends on the website. Some sites can do well with minimal updating, and others seem to wilt almost immediately if you leave them alone. Keep this in mind when dreaming yours up.

-INTERN gets confused if the author website the author provides doubles as the author's personal ferret photo collection/manga link farm/news feeds from other random websites, and one has to sift through all this other stuff to find writing-related information. Save your author website for content directly related to your writerly self (and/or your professional self, if applicable). Please?

-For non-fiction, (say, a book about healing broken bones through cosmic mind-melding) it's OK to just include a link to your professional website. If you're an established doctor/academic/public speaker/whatever, you don't need to make an awkward new website presenting yourself as a writer (not yet, anyway). Your platform in your field is probably more relevant than your fledgling book-writerly credentials at this point.

-For an unpublished author, INTERN defines a "good" author website as a website that lets interested parties know how to contact the author, identifies what kind of thing the author writes, and pulls these two tasks off in a manner that does not embarrass the author. That's all there is to it.

-For an author with a book or two already published, INTERN defines a "good" author website as a website that lets interested parties know how to contact the author, identifies what kind of books the author writes and how to buy them, gives the occasional, timely update on forthcoming books and media appearances, and pulls off these three or fourish tasks in a manner that does not make the author look completely insane. That's all there is to that.

-For an established author (OK, fine, a semi-famous or famous author), INTERN defines a "good" author website as a website that lets interested parties know how to contact the author's assistant or spam filter, identifies what kind of books the author writes and how to pre-order them, gives more frequent updates on forthcoming books and media appearances, includes a nice bio or personal statement and photograph and an FAQ, and pulls off these four-or-fiveish tasks in a manner that does not make the author look like some kind of book-writing robot overlord.

INTERN will probably revisit this topic later in the week, and will try to drum up some examples of awesome author websites to illustrate. In the meantime, she will be visiting the websites of the potential authors the Editorial Assistant wrote down for her to investigate, and they'd better be good!

Friday, October 2, 2009

den of frivolity, take two

This morning on the train, the skinny young gentleman in the XXL white t-shirt sitting in front of INTERN was listening to Ludacris, loudly. Over the course of half an hour, INTERN realized that Ludacris might be moonlighting as a literary agent or publisher. Evidence:

"I've got hoes in different area codes."

Ludacris has successfully pimped foreign rights to his authors' novels.

"Move bitch, get out the way, get out the way bitch, get out the way."

Ludacris recalls the manner in which he butted in line to buy the new Dan Brown novel. Move, bitch!

"Lady in da street but a freak in da bed."

Ludacris recalls how one of his authors' novels only did modestly in bookstores ("da street") but totally rocked Amazon ("da bed").

"One day we on the autobahn swervin drivin,
next day we in the sun on the Virgin Islands."

Only the best book tours for Ludacris' authors.

" Let it rush through your veins, cause I'ma be the one
to step up and put a hundred thousand dollars on the game"

Manuscript auction? Ludacris is on it.


In other news, INTERN is going to be a guest on some sort of books-and-publishing related radio show this evening. She has no idea what she is getting into, but if you care to witness the havoc, you can do so at 9 PM (new york time) here.

Update Just finished radio interview (well, an hour ago). INTERN is pretty sure her IQ drops 50 points the moment she picks up a phone. Still, INTERN managed to communicate a few things semi-coherently, namely:

-that the people she knows in publishing are smart and nice and not (as a host inquired) catty (except on their blogs, for fun!)

-after six months of interning, INTERN still believes earnestly that Good Writing matters more than anything else in whether or not a ms gets picked out of the slush pile.

-that her opinion on the subjects of POD publishing and what makes writing good are "Um" and "Wha—" respectively.

So that is that.