Ten Words You Don’t Want Used to Describe Your Story

Starting with “pretentious,” the Mysterious Matters blog lists “[T]he 10 worst words we can use to describe a manuscript.”

I scanned the list and think my ts fits, eight out of ten. Ouch.

I’ll keep at it. My story is simply waiting for a writer to appear to let it out.

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My Dana by AlphaSmart, One Year In

I got my Dana wireless by AlphaSmart about thirteen months ago so it feels like a good time to comment on how well I like the electronic critter. I do this partly because last week I attended the Willamette (rhymes with dammit) Writers’ Conference a week ago. People saw me using my Dana to take notes and would ask what the little widget was and how I liked it. “I’ve seen those in The Writer magazine and Writer’s Digest but I didn’t know if they were good or not.”

I love it.

On the Plus Side I’ve found:
  • It’s light and, at about two pounds, it’s quite portable.
  • It’s cool, literally. The battery does not get hot, not even warm, ever.
  • The battery’s charge lasts for a long time (continuously for about 24+ hours for a Dana and around 300+ hours for the AlphaSmart Neo).
  • If the battery dies, it can be replaced with three AA batteries and it’s up and running again. (Try that with a Laptop/Notebook)
  • No boot-up needed. It comes on instantly.
  • I can use it in lowlight conditions and in full outdoor sunlight.
  • It’s darn near indestructible. It’s made from durable polycarbonate ABS plastic and can operate in temperatures from freezing to desert hot.
  • Both the AlphaSmart Dana and it’s little brother, the Neo, run AlphaWord which synchronizes with either a PC or a Mac. I run an Apple Powerbook G4 and haven’t had any problems with connectivity. My only admonition would be to backup any important files before syncing.
  • AlphaWord is a decent word processor. Nothing fancy but it can do cut/paste; bold, italics, and underline; indents, different spacing possibilities; plus a few other features. Files are saved on the synced computer in rich text format (rtf).
  • A full sized keyboard that is more comfortable to type on than a notebook computer.
  • It uses flash memory so the moment something is typed it’s pretty much saved.
  • It’s great for taking notes. It’s unobtrusive. The LCD screen holds just enough text to see what I’ve typed but not so much that I want to be editing a page.
  • The AlphaSmart Dana has a few more whistles and bells than the Neo because it runs Palm OS v4.1 so you can keep your address list, memos, calendar, to do lists, and play some games.
  • The Neo and Dana are pretty affordable. But with the decreasing computer prices are close to the same price ranges with the low end of laptops/notebooks ($220 for Neo and $350-430 for Danas).
  • With the memory expansion cards, it can hold lots of text. I have the first draft of my 80K word novel on it plus plenty other files.
Some of the downsides I’ve found:
  • The model I have has wireless capability to check email and access the Internet. It sounds cool, but the WiFi connection is somewhat clunky and I’ve yet to find a decent email program or web browser for it (the ones I’ve seen cost enough to give me pause—do I need it that much?).
  • The small screen works in a pinch for editing document but is not optimal.
  • The flash memory means that you can’t return to a previous version on the Alpha unless you saved it to another name before you started.
  • The on/off button is on the keyboard. The unit can be turned on accidentally and any program files that are open can be changed.
  • Some of my Alpha’s keys are loose and ajar.

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Elizabeth Lyon on Style and Voice

A few months back Elizabeth Lyon gave a talk about Style and Voice from her book Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford To Ignore.

She says that she put style first in her book because style (words used to create a desired effect to fit genre and character),voice (“…the author’s natural use of language to create” authentic characters and story) and a good story, trump craft.

One technique she suggests is “riff writing.” Select a passage from your writing that seems sparse or overly tight and pick a point to “jump off” and free associate without limits to what goes into the text.

She recommends that after riffing on paper, give it a chance to cool off and then see if any or all of it fits into your story.

You might recall that I said, “Writing is like jazz. Each word, like each note, must be unexpected and yet feel inevitable, always following the theme. If it doesn’t echo the theme, then no matter how pure and clear, it sounds wrong.”

Ms Lyon spoke at a Vancouver Writers’ Mixer at Cover to Cover Bookstore in Vancouver, WA. Carolyn Rose and Mike Nettleton coordinate the mixers and are terrific folks. I’ve taken three of the courses they give at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. You might check out their Top Ten Mistakes Newbie Novelists Make.

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