Writing as a Daily Practice

An excellent post from author Libby Sommer. I’ve written in the past that I don’t adhere to the “write everyday” philsophy, but Libby’s post is a good counterpoint. I never thought of simply “writing just to write” without it being attached to a project.

Libby Sommer, Author

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Writing as a daily practice is a way to exercise the writing muscle. Like working out at the gym, the more you do it, the more results you get. Some days you just don’t feel like working out and you find a million reasons not to go to the gym or out for a jog, a walk, a swim, a bike ride, but you go anyway. You exercise whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around till you feel the urge to work out and have an overwhelming desire to go to the gym. It will never happen, especially if you haven’t been into health and fitness for a long time and you are pretty out of shape. But if you force yourself to exercise regularly, you’re telling your subconscious you are serious about this and it eventually releases its grip on your resistance. You just get on…

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Book Review: “ARTEMIS” by Andy Weir

image of book cover artemis by andy weir

Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN was a breakout hit. The originally self-published book went on to sell millions of copies and become a popular motion picture. His follow up ARTEMIS, while having sold well, really doesn’t live up to the quality of its predecessor

Artemis holds the unsavory distinction of the first DNF (Did Not Finish) book on my 2018 reading list.

An action-packed science fiction tale of smuggler “Jazz” Bashara who lives in a space station on the moon, it is much more deeply rooted in fantastical science fiction than The Martian was.

I enjoyed The Martian, with all it’s clever Macguyver-on-Mars moments, and the tension it built around primarily one character.

Artemis, on the other hand, fell flat. Getting to the point, it’s just not a well written book. It’s a successful book, but not a well written one. The dialogue is stilted, the pacing is inconsistent, and while the protagonist is enjoyable enough, Weir cannot help himself from inserting pseudo-science (or non-pseudo-science) lectures into the narrative roughly every three minutes. Even during action scenes. It just feels completely unnatural that someone in high-tension, life or death situations would stop to deliver a lesson on altered gravity. It worked well in the context of The Martian, but not here.

The other issue that stuck out to me (and this one is debatable) is the books “diversity”. It had a diverse cast which is great, but Weir’s references and description to physical appearance, clothing, and culture are extremely shallow and don’t really serve to enhance any of the characters or their stories beyond face-value. It felt pandering and that Weir didn’t particularly care outside of completing a checklist that included “don’t make your MC another white dude in space”. I’m not an expert in genre novel diversity, and while I applaud the attempt, something about the execution felt off.

I listened to this one on audio book, and made it about halfway through. That’s why the review ends here.

What I Liked:

  • The main character “Jazz” was snarky and fun.
  • Rosario Dawson did an excellent job reading on the audio book edition.
  • The first two chapters worth of scientific description.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Uncontrolled outbursts of scientific lecturing.
  • Cringe-worthy dialogue, including overuse of profanity.
  • Mediocre writing (description, pacing, character development)

The Slow Death of Barnes&Noble

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Barnes & Noble recently laid off 1800 employees.

This is one more step along its slow demise along with other “big box” brands being cannibalized by Amazon and other online retailers.

On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections).

I’m conflicted by this news, because I have something of a love/hate relationship with B&N.

Let’s start with the bad points first

  • I don’t ever want to see people lose their jobs. Ever.
  • B&N handled this really poorly. Not unexpected from a large corporation, but still not right.
  • B&N becoming a victim of “efficiency” and “profitability” at the sake of no longer being an interesting place to drink coffee and peruse books. Ayn Rand ultra-capitalism in action.
  • One less place to purchase books in your neighborhood (eventually), and one less e-reader to foster competition in the online space

Now let’s focus on the “good” points

  • Barnes & Noble (and Borders) all but killed independent bookstores in the 1990’s. Their collapse will create a space for small business owners to rise up
  • The lack of any physical bookstore in an area may drive people back to their local library (we can hope).
  • With proper leadership, maybe Barnes & Noble can save itself and get back to selling books on a smaller scale (instead of toys and board games)

There are a few items I purchase regularly at my local B&N, mainly magazines, that Amazon doesn’t carry. Shocking, I know.

The problem is that Barnes & Noble has begun to reek of desperation, in all the wrong ways. Like other big retailers who had their predatory hay day in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and ignored digital sales ::cough, Gamestop, cough:: they are adopting wildly irritating tactics in an attempt to salvage their remaining customers.

I want to buy a book or magazine. I do not want to

  • sign up for your discount card
  • buy more things to “save money”
  • sign up for your marketing emails under the guise of “getting my receipt emailed to me”

These are all annoyances that make myself, and most customers I bet, just want to shop online even more. This latest move to eliminate their full-time employees aka “the knowledgeable people who will provide customer service” will only hurt their shoppers experience even further.

What do you think? Do you shop at Barnes & Noble? Will you sit on the sidelines, shopping at Amazon until you hear about the going-out-of-business sale to get cheap hardcovers?

I won’t mourn the death of Barnes & Noble specifically, but more what its collapse signifies.

Elements of Style

Following up on last week’s post about “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” I wanted to post up what I still consider the single most valuable craft book in my collection. Elements of Style by Strunk and White. The cheapest, most portable, and infinitely useful little book on “the rules of writing”. It’s also a centerpiece in my kit of writing essentials for under $20 I outlined in an earlier post.

If you don’t own this book (in print), fix that. It will make you better.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Just finished reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. This is a fantastic resource for any author who is struggling with editing their own work or looking for some new knowledge. Written by two professional editors who have been through many a slush pile, it contains excellent advice about the craft using examples that are clear and easy to follow.

The examples are the strongest asset, as they are in context of actual works, not just one-off sentences like many editing and grammar books use.

Highly suggested if you or someone you know is deep in revising that manuscript.