Tag Archives: Tips

Regarding Netiquette

netiquetteThe internet is the collective human expression of Self, in all its facets:  You can find ANYTHING on here, literally.  I for one am very grateful; historical, scientific, archaeological, medical, and general research available online enables writers such as myself to stand on the shoulders of generations gone before and view the wider world from that enriched perspective.   You can also find anything for sale or free, an endless knowledge base, or entertainment, or simply a trivial waste of time, available to the entire wireless planet 24/7.  It’s a place to express opinions (informed or not), ideas (thought-through or not), philosophies (ditto), creations from songs to videos, crafts, discoveries and more.  Wonders to behold, as well as just plain wondering what the heck someone was thinking when they uploaded that.

But with the good come the bad.  I’ve gotten spam sidelined; it’s obviously spam when the text is something like, “I think you people just need to lighten up.  The writer of this article is just trying to…  (blah, blah, blah)”; there are no comments on that particular article yet, which tells me the spam’s originator is just out to stir up dissention if it happens to land on a live and already-active blog.  Why?  Are people so directionless in their lives that they have nothing better to do than stir up trouble?  Apparently.

The anonymity of the internet often brings out the worst side of people; they seem to think that, because they don’t know the person they are responding / reacting to and will probably never meet, that somehow gives them the license to be rude, belligerent, aggressive, offensive, and sloppy with everything from spelling to sentence structure.  Whatever happened to Netiquette?  Remember that quaint word (I was about to say old, but wait – internet has only been on the scene since 1993) that was an updated version of its predecessor, etiquette?  The definition (according to Wikipedia) of netiquette is, “Conduct while online that is appropriate and courteous to other Internet users.”  Ironically, the word is exactly as old as the internet itself; the need was quickly seen of reminding people to be courteous within such an anonymous setting.  In that most famous of books, the Bible, one guideline is found in Colossians 4:6:  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  That’s what’s missing in a lot of the communication online:  Graciousness.  Salt is mentioned because it is a preservative, and something that adds flavour.  Graciousness not only preserves your own dignity, but guards the dignity of the person being responded to, and those that will end up reading it.  The danger in unguarded remarks is that they will bite back; it’s all too easy to wear blinders, thinking everyone will agree with our viewpoint while forgetting that we live on a planet of diversity.  Rudeness isolates; graciousness invites.  It’s the old adage about honey drawing more bees than vinegar.

There seem to be a lot of people out there who have either never learned, or have forgotten the basic rules of Netiquette.  On one hand it’s easiest and most comfortable to say that it’s not our place to educate them; after all, they’re strangers, and to each his own, right?  I say wrong:  Why do I write, if not to communicate what’s important to me?  Why do I interact with others online if not to learn something new, or be encouraged by a great story or news item or event in the life of a friend on Facebook?  And if I interact, that means addressing issues, comfortable or not.  If someone is rude, the challenge is to point it out with graciousness, not reacting to fire with fire, but with water – putting out the brush fires that have potential to do damage… taking the wind out of their sails in a gentle way.  And try to use the sandwich technique:  A compliment first, the meat of the matter (graciously put, the correction, or rebuke, or however you want to label it), and then ending on another positive note.  If they continue a barrage of crudeness, there’s always that “delete” or “block” possibility.  Peer pressure is the most effective way of making changes, for good and bad.  Let’s become peers for good in this vast cyberworld, one step at a time.   And the next time you’re tempted to fight fire with fire, remember the salt of Grace.

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Coherency: Just sayin’…

gibberish-cartoonIs it just my imagination, or is written English slipping in quality, even among writers?  Is it that less attention is paid to the end results than to the actual “getting it out there to be read by others”?  I just returned to my blog after taking a jaunt around WordPress Land; the blogs I visited, I went to with good will, interested to see what others are thinking and writing about.  But I have to admit I couldn’t understand half of what was written.  Half.  Now, I’m an English teacher and writer and all that, and yes, I’ve been living in a non-English speaking environment for a quarter of a century.  But has it really deteriorated to the point of not only miscommunication, but of downright gibberish at times?  I’m not looking down my nose at those who are trying to communicate (something); I am simply throwing out this question into the cosmos and asking if I’m the only one who’s noticed this?

Where is the satisfaction of a job well done in a sentence that looks like it was fed through BabbleFish a few dozen times?  Where is the pride in having written something well, communicated the heart of the matter, and allowed others a glimpse into the mind of the writer without confusing them with poor spelling, syntax and punctuation?  I find myself editing more than reading sometimes, and that does not bode well for the writer.  As a writer I take my job seriously, in all its aspects, from research, to presentation.  If we as writers don’t set a good example to follow, how will the next generation know right from wrong, or rite from wong?

A few simple rules I follow:

1) Read your text aloud before you hit that “post” button.

2) Have a good dictionary available (such as onelook.com), and check those words you’re unsure of.

3) Do NOT trust a spell-checker!  Learn the basic rules of spelling, punctuation and syntax, and if you’re still not sure, double-check online with reliable sources.

Let’s swim against the tide of laziness and stagnation in writing; let’s expand our vocabulary instead of relying on the same ol’ same ol’; let’s set an example of good writing, even though it may not be perfect every time.

 

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Cover Art, Cover Art, Where Art Thou

For those of us who are writers, you know what I mean when I say that we’d MUCH rather spend our time writing, creating, moulding, researching characters and plots, and basically ANYTHING else than the dusty technical nuts & bolts of publication.  With the hurdles one has to leap in the publishing world, it’s no wonder that e-books are becoming THE path of choice.  I spent those required months writing cover letters, creating packages to agents, etc. only to get those letters back that said, “Great ideas!  We loved it!  But…” when they already have clients in that genre, they’re not about to take on competition for them…  So like many others, I’ve chosen the route of Kindle.  I’ve got one book ready to go, and another first draft just completed, as well as no less than 5 other projects at various stages of completion.  A meeting with an artist proved fruitless to my purpose; he knows art, but not all the aspects of doing cover art.  I’ve worked with graphic artists for album covers and artwork, but I’m not prepared to invest several thousand at a time when I’ve got dozens in my future… so…

That’s where www.Fiverr.com comes in!  For a fiver, you can find just about any service you can think of, from fake testimonials, to placebo-effect health talks, to business advertising on the back of a Harley, to language lessons over Skype,  to cover art for e-books.  If you find yourself swimming in the Maelstrom of publishing, check it out.

But a word to the wise:  You get what you pay for.  Take it as a springboard, an idea; but take it and own it yourself.  Take the time to invest your energy in learning all you can about each step of the publishing, editing, and artistic processes.  Also, such offers only cover e-book cover art; they are lower in pixel than will be required for a paperback cover, so it’s worth looking into a solution that covers both formats.

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Mental Sparks: RAWs

Writers tend to have vivid imaginations.  If they’re organized like I am, they probably have a dozen books on the subjects of writing better, plotting, structure, syntax and the like.  But I sometimes find that I can become too bogged down in the nitty-gritty to enjoy; that’s when writer’s block can come.  I’ve found ways to spark creativity in such times (like many writers have, and have made books out of them to share with others), and my way is called RAW:  Randomly Applied Word.

I have a wee box on my desk filled with bits of paper (folded, wadded, you name it), and on each one is written a single word.  I also have a dice in the box that has sides of “place,” “time,” “name,” etc. written on it to give me a further direction if I need it.  I pull out a word and start brainstorming; these have led to short stories, and two manuscripts (so far) that I will be finishing off as novels.  The key for me in the exercise is to think outside of the box – look at it from different camera angles, if you will.  For instance, I pulled the word Drought; automatically I thought of desert; but what if that desert weren’t the usual tan or red colour?  Something completely unexpected?  That led to a science fiction manuscript (in the queue to finish next!), and studies in geology.  Another word was Cardinal.  From that came a modern two-part fantasy novel, The Cardinal.

When I come across an interesting or unusual word, no matter where, I write it down and toss it in the box.  If you want to apply this exercise, get a creative or decorative box or tin (mine is a wooden treasure chest), and start scrapping!

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A Date with History

In writing, I like to have my days of the week accurate with the year I’m writing in; at the moment I’m putting the final touches on a novel set in 1788, and to get the dates accurate, here’s the website I’ve been using:

http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/?year=2013&country=9

Just feed in the year and place you’re wanting, and bob’s your uncle.  If you go further back in time, just be aware that calculations of months and days have not always been the same; The Gregorian calendar has gone through some changes since its inception; for instance, there are 10 days missing in October 1582 (the last day of the Julian calendar was Thursday, 4 October 1582 and this was followed by the first day of the Gregorian calendar, Friday, 15 October 1582).

There are also other calendars to consider, e.g. the Roman calendar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_calendar), Germanic, Icelandic, Asian, Arabic… time has long been calculated.  It’s a bit comforting to know, when I have trouble remembering what day of the week it is sometimes!

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