Episode 25 - Copywork
In this episode, we discuss how likable characters are ruining movies, doing research for historical fiction, and how doing copywork can improve your writing. We also take an in-depth look at using truenovelist.com to organize your story.
Works in Progress
[00:00:29] John started a new story idea to break out of writer’s block. He also did some editing to the first chapter of the hobo story.
Eric is working on Don’t Wake Up and wrote some new chapters. He discovered he needed to make some character adjustments. He also picked up Road of Fire for the first time since June.
Mike is working on research for Zero Ward. He’s putting the relevant content in Evernote, but also including why it is important to the story and where it fits in.
What’s happening online
Wheel of Fortune
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece on Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak.
Another example: Mr. Sajak has commented that as Americans lose their common culture, it becomes difficult to find puzzles that are fair to everyone. And it isn’t simply that the generation gap, say, regarding popular music, has widened. “We rarely do books anymore,” he tells me, “because fewer and fewer people read them.”
This was hard to read.
In a show last year during college week, the puzzle was “Mythological Hero Achilles.” Every letter had been turned, so the full phrase was visible. But instead of pronouncing it Uh-kill-ees, the contestant in the Indiana University shirt said A-chill-iss. “Going to commercial,” Mr. Sajak recalls, “he leans over and he says, ‘Well I’m a business major.’ ” (The guy still won, taking home $11,700.)
“The great irony of our time: That device you’ve got sitting in front of you”—he means my iPhone on the table, recording the interview—“there is nothing in the history of mankind that you can’t find out about in 15 seconds if you pick that up. And yet we know less about things,” he says. “There’s less information floating around in our heads. It’s all in the devices.”
[00:03:45] How Character Likability is Killing Movies and How it Can Save Books discusses the problem with mainstream movies and the requirements for likable characters in these blockbusters. Movie studios aren’t willing to take a chance on characters the audience may not like.
as theater revenue shrinks, studios will be less and less willing to gamble on unlikable main characters.
The hunger for unlikable characters will exist, as it always has, and the risk of unlikable characters is one you can take in your writing. And good news, it pays off. Huge, top-selling books are packed with unlikable characters.
In literature, there’s less of a concern about making sure the characters are likable because there’s no studio executives breathing down your neck as an author.
Oyster, a Netflix for Books, Is Shutting Down
Oyster, considered the “Netflix for Books”, is shutting down. The Oyster service, which launched in 2013 had access to over a million ebooks which were available for a monthly fee. It turns out a number of
Google is rumored to be paying some of the investors back for their investors in order to aqui-hire the staff.
Mission was to “connect readers with books they’ll love.”
“Looking forward, we feel this is best seized by taking on new opportunities to fully realize our vision for ebooks.”
- Oyster, a Netflix for e-books, to shut down
- Google hires Oyster execs as ebook service announces shutdown
- Oyster, a Netflix for Books, Is Shutting Down. But Most of Its Team Is Heading to Google.
Historical Fiction Research
[00:10:19] 8 Rules of Writing Historical Fiction Research is a guest post on Writer’s Digest by Kim van Alkemade.
- Take bad notes – just enough for a seed of an idea
- Use archives
- Study old photos
- Travel for research
- Read old books from the time period
- Go to museums
- Research on the internet
- Start Writing! John attended a writer’s group where the topic was also research. A few additional resources:
- Use the New York Times archives to research a story as it unfolds over time.
- Use your local library’s online resources: many libraries now subscribe to databases that can be accessed with your library card.
The guys talked a little about translating languages, and several movies and television shows were mentioned:
- The 13th Warrior
- Game of Thrones
[00:17:35] Mike is still reading Pale Queen Rising by A. R. Kahler. He got distracted by The Power of Broke by Daymond John of FUBU and Shark Tank fame.
“It helps to be so hungry you have choice but to succeed”
Eric has only been reading kids books (Red Truck, Dear Zoo, Good Dog, Carl and spending the rest of his time writing.
John’s still reading The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.
Tech Focus – True Novelist
[00:20:01] True Novelist is a web-app (still in Beta) by Neil Meredith.
This is one of the closest online representations of Scrivener in terms of organizing chapters, scenes and sections. All of it is drag-and-drop, and anything can be nested inside something else.
There isn’t much for options to export your writing, only HTML. It’s also a full export, not an individual.
The site is very clean and has great statistics about your writing. You can also create snapshots of your work in order to keep revisions, but only two. It also does not have change tracking.
Almost all of the online editors are pretty good these days, and it’s really the other organization options and exporting that make a difference between different writing apps.
Tech Focus – Exporting to audio
[00:26:09] Eric exported his work to audio using the Mac’s say command. He did the following steps
Export to plain text called file.txt.
say -f file.txt -o file.aiff (converts text to aiff file)
lame -m m file.aiff file.mp3 ( converts aiff to mp3)
Say reads back whatever was sent to it. Granted, it’s a computerized voice, but it works well for listening to your rough drafts. Eric was able to listen to this “audio book” version of his draft while he was working, and it gave him a chance to understand places he needed to make changes to his work.
Another option is using Google Translate to speak text for you.
Craft Talk – Copywork
[00:28:35] Eric found an article, misleadingly titled How to Not Write Like an A--hole. Title aside, the gem in this article is the concept of Copywork.
The easiest way to become a better writer is to copy great writers. It’s that simple.
Copywork is the art of transcribing the works of others in order to learn the techniques, tips and tricks they use to write great prose.
The concept of copywork doesn’t end with religious folks. Even after the invention of the printing press, copywork was the primary method that American schools used to teach handwriting, grammar, and sentence structure. Students spent hours copying Shakespeare and Plutarch.
It has become a lost art in a world where originality is prized above all else. But even famous authors have done copywork.
Jack London copyworked Rudyard Kipling. Hunter S. Thompson copyworked Scott F. Fitzgerald. Even Benjamin Franklin recomposed works from his competitor’s newspapers and compared his writing to their original to understand how the articles were written.
Three steps to copywork:
- Find an author you love. As you’ll spend a lot of time with their work, you should really love it.
- Get a notebook and a pen. Studies have indicated we retain much more when we handwrite.
- Start writing. Start with 10 minutes a day.
Writing that Pays
[00:35:24] Premium WP is looking for people to write high quality articles for their blog.
We’re after high quality, useful and interesting WordPress articles. We want articles that help people build and run the best WordPress website possible using the best practices, products, and services. We are particularly interested in articles relating to the premium / commercial WordPress industry.
Don’t forget NaNoWriMo is coming up! Be sure to see if there are local meetups for planning or writing in your area for moral support! Meetup.com also local writing groups.
And tell your family that November is Coming!