Tag Archive for email

Shredding The History Of Old Manuscripts

Shredding Documents For RecyclingAs a teenager destined to write the next Great American Novel, I wrote for history and saved every single page (including pages I should have crumpled up and tossed into the waste basket). Generations of English majors would toil to trace my inspirations through the voluminous pages of my old manuscripts. And then the REAL WORLD™ intruded. Becoming a writer became a childish fantasy. All those old manuscripts from my teenage years were lost when I became an adult. The story ideas from that time continued to bang around in my head for years, which drove me crazy at times.

When I became serious about writing in my mid-thirties in 2006, I still wrote for history and saved every single page (except for those that I crumpled up and tossed into the wastebasket). I eventually wrote 80+ short stories, a 25,000-word novella, a 120,000-word unpublished first novel and several aborted novels. This filled out a four-drawer filing cabinet in my office and four storage boxes in the closet. I also have stacks of file folders with unfinished manuscripts on a back table in my office area.

Keeping paper manuscripts made sense back in the snail mail submission days when I had 50+ manuscripts circulating in the slush piles, spending $100 USD a month on office supplies and postage, and visiting the post office every six weeks. Drowning in paper came with the job. A successful writer would have numerous filing cabinets lining a long wall in his office.

When I stopped writing literary short stories and started writing speculative short stories in 2009, snail mail submissions gave way to email submissions. Soon I had 30+ short stories published in anthologies. Those published short stories later became ebooks. I slowly embraced the mythical paperless office as I used paper less often for editing my manuscripts.

After my father passed away from lung cancer this past May, I went through and tossed out 98.8% of his stuff. A sad reality when you consider that we go through life to accumulate stuff that our heirs will toss into the dumpster after we die. I brought a heavy-duty paper shredder to destroy his financial and medical paperwork.

I recently realized I was no longer writing for history but for business. As a small business owner, I have numerous problems with writing new content, publishing ebooks and maintaining websites that needed solutions now. Writing the next Great American Novel was no longer a practical business goal. History can sort itself out and generations of English majors can suffer without my help.

Besides, if my heirs will be tossing out 98.8% of what I owned at the end of my life, I might as well get a head start by shredding my old manuscripts. Before I shred a set of manuscripts, I made sure that I consolidated all the electronic files into my DropBox folder. I’m planning to move the file folders off the back table into the filing cabinet and destroy any working papers after a year. The mythical paperless office might become a reality in 2013.

 

Amanda Hocking – Young, Ambitious and Whining About The Work?

The writing blogosphere is alit this with the news of Amanda Hocking, a 26-year-old writer from Minnesota who had written nine ebooks and sold 900,000 copies, was looking for a traditional publisher and signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. That’s like winning the lottery. For those of us tolling away in relative obscurity from the bright lights of the publishing world, the message is loud and clear: sell enough copies of self-published books and/or ebooks, the traditional publishing world will soon slobber for the opportunity to throw down big money on the next big thing. However, Hocking’s reason for wanting a traditional publishing deal is somewhat curious.

But here’s what I can say – I’m writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation. As I said before in my post – Some Things That Need to be Said – I am spending so much time on things that are not writing.

What makes her think that by signing a four-book contract with a traditional publisher she will actually have more time as a writer who actually writes?

Some of the more bothersome tasks of being a DIY writer will go away with a traditional publisher. But, by signing a four-book contract, Hocking is trading in the idiosyncratic demands of running her own writing business for the idiosyncratic whims of a traditional publisher concern about the bottom line.

She will have to write, submit, revise and proofread on the publisher’s schedule. If she gets sent out on a nationwide book tour for several weeks or months, she may find it next to impossible to find time to write on the road. Or, if she does find the time to write, the quality of her writing may suffer. Although she may now be a successful ebook writer in the virtual world, her dead tree books may fail to find a broad enough audience in the real world to justify the large advance being paid out and the publisher could easily cancel the contract after the first book. If that happens, finding her next publisher will be problematic and going back to being a DIY writer even more so.

Stephen King, who spends every day writing, had to hire assistants to handle the administrative side of his publishing empire. Even living out in far-flung Maine doesn’t prevent the publisher, media and Hollywood from making excessive demands on his time that can take him away from writing. Every now and then, he reportedly drops out of sight to focus exclusively on his writing.

I mentioned on #writechat this past Sunday that I missed my early days of submitting short stories by snail mail. I would go to the post office with 20 to 30 envelopes, come home to write new short stories, and the responses to my submissions would start to tickle in six weeks later. The following weekend I would prepare all the rejected short stories for submission again, go back to the post office, and write new short stories for the next six weeks. Every seventh weekend I did nothing but admin tasks. I did that for three years straight.

Then two years ago I started submitting my short stories by email. This came about because literary magazines were starting to move away from snail mail submissions, and I started writing speculative fiction for anthologies that accepted submissions only by email. My office expenses for paper, envelopes and postage dropped by two-thirds.

Unfortunately, now that everything is done by email and I recently started publishing short story ebooks, it seems like I have less and less time to write because of all the admin tasks that need to get done. Even if I did finish revising the 700-page rough draft of my first novel and found a traditional publisher, the admin tasks will still demand more of my time. Being a writer these days is no longer about being a writer who writes.

Recovering From A Disappearing ISP

The ISP hosting my three websites and a dozen email accounts disappeared from the Internet for 36 hours last week, starting on Thursday morning at 10:00AM and ending Friday night at 9:30PM. If the outage was less than 24 hours, I would’ve shrugged my shoulders and went on with life. Internet outages do happen from time to time. When 24 hours came and went without a peep from my ISP, I started looking for a new website host.

I soon discovered that my domain registrar, DirectNIC, could host my websites for half the monthly fee I was paying. By the time the outage was over, all my websites got transferred over. This was purely a business decision. When you’re a writer who sends short stories and receive payments through email, being off the Internet for an extended period of time is bad for business.

What happen to the ISP? The separate data lines that the ISP had to the data center weren’t redundant and both went down at the same time. The ISP owner made alternative arrangements that was both expensive and time-consuming.

I’m sorry that I found it necessary to take my business elsewhere. I’ve been with this particular ISP for 15 years, starting with a shell account to view web pages in Lynx (a text-based web browser) over a dial-up modem back in 1995. The extended outage reminded me that this ISP was a successful one-man operation. That’s fine for hosting a personal website. Not so fine when you’re running a business with multiple websites and email accounts.

Fortunately, I had recent backups and retrieved the current data after the old ISP came back up. Since DirectNIC doesn’t offer a shell account for web hosting, I couldn’t upload and decompress the backup file on the server. Uploading all the files uncompressed took a long time with the DSL upload speed being slower than the download speed. Restoring the databases took a few minutes, chasing down the various glitches took a few hours. Having gone through a few of these backup transitions over the years, this was the smoothest to date.

I didn’t suffer too much from being off the Internet for 36 hours. My writing productivity was the biggest casualty: no blogging on any of the websites, no revisions on my first novel, and forget about writing short stories. All my time got focused on getting my websites up and running without any glitches. Queued email found its way home and web traffic soon resumed to normal levels.

The biggest benefits with the new web hosting are the reduced monthly cost, a finer control over the backend for each website, and a much more responsive support team. Otherwise, everything remains the same as it should be. If there is an outage next time, I don’t think it will take 36 hours to fix.

The Non-Universal RTF File Format

Over the past year or so, I have switched from submitting my short stories via snail mail to email. That decision was driven by both economics and practicality. Being without a full-time non-writing job for 16 months had forced me to reduce expenses to live on my unemployment benefits. Fewer snail mail submissions means buying fewer reams of paper, envelopes and stamps. Since I’ve been on a speculative fiction writing bender for the last nine months, many of those markets accept submissions only by email. The manuscript is submitted either in the body of the email, or attached as a Word (.doc) or RTF (.rtf) file. Of the two file formats, RTF (Rich Text Format) is the universal format that should open in any word processor on any system.

Several editors had recently informed me that wasn’t true. They could view the contents of the RTF file on the screen without problem. When they try to format and/or print out the text, strange symbols appear on the end of each line. Two things became quite obvious: I’m using a Mac and the editors are using Microsoft Word 95 or another older word processor.

My primary word processor is Pages (Mac) for creating and maintaining my manuscript files. I also use Microsoft Word 2004 to double-check my manuscripts against the grammar checker (expect a rejection slip if you don’t do this) and ensure that the Word file exported from Pages work without problem. The only reason why I don’t use Word by default is that it runs slower than molasses on my MacBook, which uses Rosetta to emulate PPC CPU software on the Intel CPU. I might switch to Microsoft Word 2011 when it comes out later this year. I’m overdue to upgrade my writing tools.

Why are some editors still using Word 95 that came out for 15 years ago? Beats me.

I can’t imagine an editor being more cash-strapped than a writer when it comes to writing tools. Perhaps these editors are working for bootstrap publishers that haven’t let go of the bootstraps yet. The full version of Microsoft Office is always expensive, but the student version is quite affordable.

Some academic editors still use WordPerfect because their colleges upgrade software at a glacial pace. I very much doubt I’ll ever run into a hard-core WordStar fanatic who lives and die by the 1980’s word processor. An instructor warned me that I might encounter such a person when I took a technical writing course San Jose State University in 1994. These older word processors have problems reading the newer RTF files that have unsupported features such as character encoding and password protection, and don’t recognize that files created on the Mac have the end of line encoded differently than Windows.

What’s the solution for this problem?

Export the file from Pages as an RTF file, open the file in Word, and re-save the file as a Word 95-compatible RTF file (you will need to select this option from the pull-down menu). You could also use TextEdit to re-save the file, but that would be a Word 97-compatible RTF file and I’m not sure if that would be compatible with Word 95.

If I submit a manuscript to a market that requires an RTF file attachment, I’ll send it out as Word 95-compatible RTF file to avoid having problems. Some editors are willing to work with you on a file compatibility issue. Most editors will find it easier to reject a submission for having a “corrupt” file attachment.

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