There’s a clever app called Cleartext that forces you to use only the top 1,000 most used words in the English language. This means you can’t write in florid prose full of adjectives and odd verbs. Instead, you have to write as simply as possible. I tried it today and loved it.
Here’s something I’m working on right now. Thoughts?
The smoke came at night and left by morning. Sectors of the city were covered by it and the people that lived there and who did not escape as soon as the first licks of smoke snuffled at their doors, those too sick to move or too old or those who had given up, stayed in it. Lights flashed in there, people said, and under the fog horns people said they heard a crunching like a dog at a bone. By morning that sector had been changed. Sometimes they were crowded with new buildings, sometimes the previous buildings were destroyed and the ground left flat and shiny as ice. Some days all that was left was a white marble temple to a forgotten god. The people that stayed were gone.
If you needed a hammer or a saw or a roll of red caps or a broken broom handle or a nest of telephone wire or a anti-seize paste or anything you could ever imagine you could find it out in Dad’s garage. The core of the garage was a beautiful old work bench, so dark and scarred that it looked medieval. There was an iron vise bolted to it and jar after jar of screws, nails, and nuts arrayed along the back edge. An old radio, tuned forever to the local NPR station, would crackle on and and stay on while you worked out there. If you needed a tire iron or a jack or a bucket for used motor oil or a length of tubing to start work you’d dig around that bench and risk jostling that radio until you pulled it out, a prize that came at just the beginning of the race.
I was talking with my buddy John Sundman about email and social media and email. He, like me, found that Facebook was useless as a sales medium and Twitter was worse than useless. I’ve had plenty of retweets from folks with more than a million followers and the sales results have been abysmal. In fact, the only surefire way of selling a book is via email. End of story.
John asked me a few questions: “How many people get it? What kind of response do you get when you send out a blast? What mailer tool do you use? How did you build up your mailing list? How long did that take?”
An excerpt from my book, Bloggers Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog. It’s my 1,000 Word Rule and it is what drives me as a writer even though I have plenty of other responsibilities.
You must write a minimum of 1,000 words a day.
Every new endeavor requires a period of ascetic dedication. This is yours. Some writers make this their ceiling, but many make it their floor. Either way, you must produce on a daily basis. How do you do this? You can crank out, perhaps, three posts of a few hundred words each in the morning and three in the evening. Or you can write one big post. Either way, do the word count. Why is this important? Because if you have a goal, you can meet it. After his heart attack, blogging great Om Malik set this number for himself to ensure he produced quality content in a timely manner and did not kill himself in the process. Sadly, Om’s heart attack was brought on by the blogging lifestyle, as well as too much booze, cigars, family history, and bad luck. It took a massive change in his everyday life to reorient him toward a saner blogging schedule, and he found this 1,000-word limit invaluable.
The inimitable Hugh Howey has a great video up about how to paginate your manuscript into a PDF for printing. He’s also including two templates for InDesign (you can download them here if they disappear on his site). Don’t have InDesign? Pick up a copy. It’s worth it. Word is useless for desktop publishing and having a version of InDesign can help you make really nice manuscripts.
I’ve been posting chapters from my new book, More Gods Than Men, on Amazon’s WriteOn. This invitation-only service is a sort of fiction workshop that allows folks to comment and edit books on the fly. The best thing is that I can give you guys access to the service now using the code V6BBECGE. Simply cut and paste that code into the box!
Read on to get a taste of the new book.
I was amazingly lucky to be able to talk to William Gibson, author of The Peripheral and a personal writing hero of mine. I’ve always loved his work and it was a real treat to be able to sit down with him. I love my job.
This is a true story. A few summers ago we bought an old house in Brooklyn from the estate of a woman who had passed. She had a Polish caretaker who was in the house when we visited a few times and she noticed that my wife was Polish and so they struck up a few conversations. One morning, as we were getting ready to sign the contract, the told us, adamantly and in Polish, that “No one ever died in this house.”
“[When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.”
Interview by David Brancaccio, NOW (PBS) (7 October 2005).