Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back Up the Truck

Do you back up your data? How often?

Thankfully, I've never lost anything of consequence, and I'll knock on wood that I continue to have that good luck. But part of that is preparation. We can talk a lot about the craft of writing, the business, getting published, and all that, but what happens when your hard drive takes a dump?

I know someone who just had a hard drive go bad. He said he didn't have any backups because he's never had one turn out so bad he couldn't fix it. Unfortunately, he couldn't fix this one, and now he's missing a ton of files.

Backup options are plentiful. External hard drives are cheap. Flash drives are even cheaper. Writable CDs and DVDs are cheaper still. There are also online backup options available. Dropbox gives you two gigs for free (and you can get more if you accept someone's invite or invite others who sign up. Today, Amazon announced five free gigs as part of their Cloud Drive project. Online storage is out there. (I would do my due diligence with respect to security and confidentiality first, of course.) There is a backup utility built into most flavors of Windows, and many security suite products will include a backup utility, also. There's really no excuse for not finding some way to back up your important data.

I have an external hard drive, multiple flash drives, a spindle of CDs and DVDs, and online storage. At the risk of sounding overconfident and tempting the fates, I think I'm covered. Are you covered? You might want to be sure you are. Don't lose that work in progress. It would be a shame for all of us if a great novel were lost to the vagaries of power surges.

Happy writing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Fumblerules of Grammar

Years ago, New York Times columnist William Safire compiled "The Fumblerules of Grammar." I got reminded of one of them today. If you've never seen them, they are hilarious and tremendous. If you've seen them before, enjoy another chuckle.

1. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
2. Don't use no double negatives.
3. Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't.
4. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.
5. Do not put statements in the negative form.
6. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
7. No sentence fragments.
8. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
9. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
10. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
11. A writer must not shift your point of view.
12. Eschew dialect, irregardless.
13. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
14. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!
15. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
16. Hyphenate between sy-llables and avoid un-necessary hyphens.
17. Write all adverbial forms correct.
18. Don't use contractions in formal writing.
19. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
20. It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.
21. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
22. Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.
23. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.
24. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
25. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
26. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
27. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.
28. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
29. Don't string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
30. Always pick on the correct idiom.
31. "Avoid overuse of 'quotation "marks.""'
32. The adverb always follows the verb.
33. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

The Fumblerules are supposed to be a joke and make you laugh. But here's the rub: they contain a lot of great advice. As writers, most of these are things we should try our damnedest to avoid doing. While you might chuckle at, say, Fumblerule #28, maybe you'll recall it when you see a long string of alliteration in your own writing.

Other Fumblerules, maybe attributable to Safire, exist. My favorite of those is "eschew obfuscation." I saw that on a bumper sticker once. Never have I wanted a bumper sticker more than I wanted that one.

Safire's Fumblerules of Grammar are concise and excellent to look at every now and again to make sure you're not falling into bad habits.

I'll close with this joke I heard about Safire: William Safire walks into Burger King and orders two Whoppers Junior.

Happy writing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writing Groups

How many writers out there belong to writing or critique groups?

I'm in one that spawned from our NaNoWriMo write-ins. Basically, we just decided to keep showing up and writing. Now, though, instead of just blitzing thru a first draft to meet a word count goal, we talk about projects, the business of writing, offer critiques, and even share works with each other. We're also discussing an anthology for next month that we would self-publish, both for the practice and for any additional exposure that it gets us. In fact, we're meeting tonight, and I plan to get at least 2000 words done in a new first draft.

Even though I talk to people at our write-ins, I get a lot done. Being around other creative people helps. I don't buy into any rubbish about the spark of creativity flying around the room or whatever, but I think seeing everyone else grinding away on their projects encourages me to do the same. And I get to have an awesome chai drink at the same time.

So, share your thoughts on writing groups and your experiences with them. I think (as long as you find the right group, of course, and don't end up with a bunch of schmucks) they can be very beneficial to aspiring and established writers alike.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hello, world!

Welcome to my blog. I hope I'll update it at least semi-regularly.

My name is Tom. I'm a writer. I don't earn a living from writing, but I don't think that's necessary to call oneself a writer. Writers write. They hone their craft. They associate with other writers and creative people. They throw up their hands, curse, and delete whole blocks of text. They edit, revise, and make honest efforts to share their writing with an audience. I do all of those things (some days, I do the cursing and deleting parts more than the others), so I say I'm a writer. If you do all of those things, you can call yourself a writer too. Just tell the doubters you have my permission. That and $4.00 will get you a latte at your favorite coffee shop.

This blog will be a place where I talk about my writing projects, the writing process, publication and publishing, post reviews, and maybe ramble a little bit about pop culture. After all, we're all pop culture junkies to some extent, aren't we?

I plan to enjoy this ride. I hope you'll enjoy it, too.