My Nonovels Experiment

photo credit: jdlasica via photopin cc

photo credit: jdlasica via photopin cc

So, I’m always looking for new outlets for my writing, and I recently ran across a site called Nonovels. It’s an interesting little site, made more interesting to me because it’s trying to do some really cool things. The guiding idea behind the site is fairly simple. A lot of people who won’t read novels, or simply don’t have the time to read novels, will read short stories. However, no one wants to read crappy short stories. Nonovels aims to provide solutions to both issues, while taking advantage of the explosion in mobile technologies.
A big part of the site is a set of training courses, most of them free, that center around short story best practices. The courses are primarily designed for beginning writers, but they do offer very sound advice. It’s the kind of advice that most fiction writers, me included, learn through extended, painful, trial-and-error. For example, one piece of advice they offer is to limit the number of settings you employ in a short story. This might be obvious to seasoned writers, but not so much for novice writers.

To be fair, like most writing rules, that one isn’t set in stone. Some writers can and do violate this piece of advice. I’ve done it. It is possible to sketch an authentic setting with a few well-written lines, but it’s not easy. As a guide for early forays into short fiction, though, that advice is invaluable. The other advice they offer on characterization, voice, point of view and so on follows the same essential principle: don’t overcomplicate things.

The other thing they offer, which is the selling point for me, is dealing with the entire formatting and submission process to turn the short stories into Kindle-ready products on Amazon. They take a percentage off the top of the royalties for this service and, to me, it’s worth it. Yes, I agree, the dedicated writer can do that formatting and submitting and cover creation. It is, however, time consuming and takes me away from the writing.

The base price they set on Amazon for Nonovels short stories is $2.99. I blinked at that, right at first, until I considered everything they’re doing in terms of managing submissions and offering training. Plus, it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than any Kindle-ready fiction from one of the big publishing houses. What you’re really paying for is helping to develop a cohort of writers that will, with any luck, produce work that transcends the current crop of Fifty Shades of Terrible Writing and that Twilight horror.

Like most writers, I have ideas that don’t nest comfortably in a pigeonhole. That is great from a creative standpoint. Unfortunately, those stories generally prove difficult, if not impossible, to place in publications. So, over the next few months, Nonovels is going to be the place where those stories go to live.

I’ve got one short story live already. It’s a shiny, new Contingency Jones story called, “An Afternoon’s Work,” and you can get it over on Amazon. For Prime subscribers, you can borrow it free. I’m also working on a follow-up Contingency Jones story that I’m hoping to get finished and live sometime in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes open.
I’ll keep you all updated as this experiment moves forward and the Nonovels site develops and expands.

Are you on Nonovels? Got some thoughts on this experiment or the Nonovels site? Leave a comment and let me know!

Link Roundup – Tech and Software

photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc

photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc

As a writer in the Age of the Internet, you have two choices. You can either hire/beg someone knowledgeable to handle all of your technical/software/website issues – a perfectly valid and even wise course of action – or you become tech savvy. Of course, as a writer, the lion’s share of your time is probably spent on writing, not picking apart the pros and cons of the latest WordPress update or theme. So, here are some resources that I found helpful in navigating the brave new world of technology and software.

WordPress Hacks – How To: Move Your WordPress Blog to a New Domain

The info in this one is getting a touch dated, but I found it invaluable for getting started when I moved my blog from one domain to another about a year ago.

SiteGround: cPanel Tutorial

If you’re running your own website, there is a good chance you’ve been confronted with cPanel. It’s one of the major interfaces that hosting providers use to simplify website management for customers. cPanel can be daunting at first glance, but the tutorials found at SiteGround walk you through most of the essential functions.

Codecademy

Sometimes your website does weird things and you wish you knew how to fix it. Well, that’s what Codecademy is all about. It offers free training on HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby and PHP. Odds are good that whatever problem you’re dealing with is rooted in one of those languages. Even if you aren’t interested in becoming an expert programmer, understanding the basics of HTML and CSS will let you deal with a lot of the website issues you’re likely to bump up against. Plus, the courses cater to the rank novice.

Copyscape – Plagiarism Checker

Even the most honest writer can trip over the line into plagiarism and never even know it. With so much written content in the world, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up with sufficiently similar phraseology to trigger a plagiarism alert at some point. Copyscape is the go-to plagiarism checker for pretty much anyone buying content from freelance writers with the intention of publishing it online. It is a paid service, but remarkably cost effective at 5-cents per scan. That nickel is some of the cheapest peace of mind I’ve ever bought.

Write or Die

When it’s hardcore, do-or-die, you must get the words on the page this instant and keep at it until you’re done time, there is no substitute for Write or Die. When set to “consequence mode,” this little bit of software will literally start deleting your words, which means you have to get it down on the page (or screen) without stopping for pesky typos or to polish that awkward sentence. This is not for the faint of heart. If you’re ready to step up to kamikaze writing, though, it’s absolutely worth the $20.

There you have it, five of the most useful tech and software resources I’ve run across in my years as a writer.

Is there a tech or software resource you’ve found especially helpful? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

Improve Your Writing Time Management

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Image courtesy of pakorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The title of this post is a bit of misnomer, but you work with language people will recognize. As has been said many times, by many people, time management doesn’t exist. What does exist is self-management. What all time management boils down to is using yourself more efficiently and effectively with the time you have. For writers, especially those writing full-time and from home, this is a particularly challenging task.

Luckily, there are a variety of systems, techniques, tactics, and a plethora of desktop programs and smartphone apps designed to help you out with this problem.

Goal Setting

One of the most basic things you can do to improve your time management is to goal setting. Goal setting isn’t the same thing as wish listing. I may think to myself or put on my bucket list, write a personal essay while sitting at an outdoor café in Paris. This is not a goal in a useful sense. This is a wish. For a writer, a goal is something is something achievable, within a reasonable amount of time, which provides a benefit, and is not cost-prohibitive.

My hypothetical write in Paris wish fails on almost all counts. Write 1000 words a day, submit a query to a magazine, write a chapter on my novel, or pursue new clients are all goals. They are all achievable. Each can be acted on or completed within a reasonable period of time. All provide direct benefits to you and none are cost-prohibitive. A goal gives you something to pursue that will probably result in positive reinforcement, be it more writing done or more money.

Plan for Your First Day Back

All of us take a day off or a weekend off here and there and coming back is often an exercise in stumbling. Among several other excellent pieces of advice about beating freelance writer inefficiency, Carol Tice recommends building a to-do list for when you come back from your day off, vacation, or weekend. In addition to serving as an accountability check and getting you focused on the right things, clearing out your brain of all the things you need to get done lets you stop thinking about them when you take time off. Good self-management also means self-care and disconnecting from your work matters to your mental health.

Software and Apps

There are literally so many apps and pieces of software out there that can help you manage your work life it would take up an entire post just to list the tip of the iceberg. In point of fact, that is exactly what Passive Panda does with it’s list of 50 productivity boosting online tools. The time management tools start at number 20, but the project management and productivity management tools are all worth a look. The thing to remember about programs and apps is that you need to find what works for you, not one that you work for. If a particular app or program feels like it’s more work than it’s worth, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to try out more than one before you commit to using one or several of the options. I do, however, advocate for starting with free programs and apps before dumping money into one.

For more thoughts on productivity boosting, you can check out the post I dedicated to that topic here.

Also, check out Jamie Wallace’s excellent post for a more in-depth look at how to leverage project management software and techniques to your writing life.

Get Your Free Website Assessment Checklist from Agility

As a rule, I don’t send people to places that ask for contact information. Today, I’m making an exception to this to rule. Agility, a media-focused content management solution company, has released a website assessment checklist to help people optimize their sites.

In addition to providing a list of site features to be aware of, the site assessment also links to over 30 resources that provide more in-depth coverage of features, as well as best practices for using them. I think this is a fantastic resource and does a lot of legwork for you in terms tracking down information about good website practices. Not everything on the list will apply to every website, but it’s still a great time saver. The checklist is free and you can get it here.

If you’re concerned about giving over your contact information, there are two reasons you shouldn’t be concerned. First, I contacted the company and the CEO, Michael Assad, got back to me. He assures me that the contact information isn’t being used to build a sales list and you’re not opting-in to an email list either. Second, I downloaded this report myself a few weeks ago and I have not received any spam or sales emails from the company.

(This is an unsolicited recommendation on my part and I am not being compensated for it. I have no professional or financial relationship with Agility.)