Going Paperless this Semester

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

Barnes & Noble nook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Sunday! Hope it’s been relaxing for you all. I am preparing to go back to school and back to work tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited for a couple reasons. First, I am a huge dork and love school, and my job at the library is totally boss.

But secondly, I’m going paperless this semester and have purchased all my textbooks in eBook formats!

I can’t say this was a conscious decision from the start. As a grad student still in WAY over my head in debt from my undergrad, I’m always looking to get away on the cheap. And actually, the eBook versions of my textbooks were WAY cheaper than the physical printed books, something that’s not always the case with fiction titles. According to my math, I probably saved myself about $50 on the four books I needed this semester.

I also went with whoever had the version of the book cheaper – and I have to say that although I love my Nook and Barnes & Noble has a special place in my heart, Amazon’s Kindle book prices were better for three out of the four. So I’ll be learning to use the Kindle for Mac software too this semester!

I’m excited to see how this goes. I’ve never bought an e-textbook before. In the cases where I did purchase my books for class, I always had physical pages to write on, highlight, dog-ear, and in some cases, resell at the end of the class. But it makes sense. I’m studying instructional technology and integration of digital media in education, so eBooks for my textbooks make sense in a way.

I’ll keep you updated on how this goes. I’m nervous that the eBooks will be difficult for me to actually complete my readings. Whenever I work on the computer, I tend to also be surfing the internet, reading Twitter feeds, checking Facebook, etc. I also occasionally get headaches from staring at the screen too long if it’s too bright.

But hey, at least I’m saving a couple bucks and it’ll be a great experience to talk about in seminar! Anyone else ever gone totally print-book-less for school or work? Any tips or suggestions?

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Make Readers Care About Your Characters

Popular Pixar protagonists we all care deeply about!

This is something I’ve struggled with in my current work in progress. In On The Surface (my working title!) my main character‘s inner conflict is the central driving force of the plot. The tough thing is that she’s supposed to go from grief-stricken and guilty/sad/depressed, have a perspective-altering experience, overcome her grief/make peace with her demons and come out being okay in the end.

But it turns out that people don’t inherently like depressed characters in their mid twenties just moping around all “Woe is me!” all the time, so my challenge is how to write this character in a better way to make readers actually feel kind of bad for her WITHOUT giving away the plot right from the start.

I’ve solicited advice from a variety of sources, including my new pals at Scribophile, and compiled some of the best tips that I found most useful.

From Ruv Draba, one of the awesome moderators at Sribophile:

Three common ways [to make them care about your MC] are:

  • To make the main character admirable;
  • To have it need something the reader needs too; or
  • To make it suffer beyond what the reader condones.

So I think for my case, I can apply at least two of the three to my MC. She’s definitely going to suffer, and perhaps some of my readers will be able to connect with her need to overcome grief. She might become memorable, but not until the end of the novel.

Another set of questions I found to ask myself about my MC comes from Janice Hardy’s blog, The Other Side of the Story. (That’s a link to the actual post, by the way.) Basically, Hardy says you yourself must up the stakes for your character so that even you as the author worry about them and their well-being. Her four questions are:

1. If the protagonist walked away, what would change?

2. If you put the second-most important character in the protagonist’s slot, what would change?

3. What does your protagonist lose if they walk away from this problem?

4. What sacrifice does your protagonist have to make for everything to turn out okay?

These questions were especially helpful for me to develop my MC’s outer conflict,

Another popular protagonist that millions care about!

which has now become another major point in the story, and at least gives the audience something to root for if they haven’t had similar experiences to my MC’s.

Hopefully these little tidbits help all you writers develop your own characters. Please feel free to throw me some bones in the comments with any other advice on how to make my main character a little more likeable!

Thanks Cover Junction for the Pixar collage!

Why Printed Books Will Never Die

I came across this article, courtesy of Dina Ciccarelli’s blog, Keep Calm and Read a Book Blog.

It’s from Mashable, and it’s about the physical beauty of a printed book as opposed to an eBook, and points out many other reasons why printed books will withstand the storm of technology in publishing. I thought it was a timely piece to include here since I just wrote about the BiblioTech “eLibrary” in Texas the other day.

Here’s a link to Dina’s original post: http://keepcalmandreadabookblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/why-printed-books-will-never-die/

Book-less libraries?

BiblioTech

A drawing of what BiblioTech might look like.

This article is about a library in San Antonio, TX that won’t have any books.

What? A library without books? Blasphemy!!

However, this library is going to be a technological wonder. Yes, check out that picture over there – the Steve Jobs-inspired project will be an “eLibrary.” They’re calling it BiblioTech, a library that will only circulate eBooks. Members can rent eReaders, or bring their own devices to sync up with the library. In addition, there would be computer stations, tablets, and eReaders available for on-site use too.

So what do you think? A library without books. I don’t know about you all, but I loved going to the library in college and just wandering around in the stacks. I still love the library – at the rate I read books, it just doesn’t make financial sense to buy them. And there’s something about a physical book in my hands that I just get when I use my Nook.

But on the other hand, there would be no more waiting lists to check out new releases or books that have become popular. So no more of the disappointment that follows when I run into the library to get the next Gone novel or check out the latest Emily Giffin book!

Share your own thoughts on the BiblioTech in the comments!

Here’s the link one more time! http://news.yahoo.com/library-without-books-bibliotech-open-193118588–abc-news-tech.html

Separating author from story

One of my goals for this year is to finish my work-in-progress by the end of the summer. By finish, I mean publication ready, whether that means marketing to agents or self publishing it.

Exciting, I know!

However, I am finding it difficult to tell my story in a way that will be appealing to all readers, and I think it’s because it’s such a personal story. I don’t want to give away too many details just yet, but the plotline involves my main character overcoming grief and demons regarding her grandmother’s passing which resurface with the failing health of her grandfather. She thought she’d dealt with all her problems and overcome her emotions, but now she realizes that all she did was shut them out. Cue philosophical, life-changing emotional growth!

That’s only one story arc of two or three that I’m currently playing with, but the story is so personal to me that I am getting in my own way of telling it. I plan to make this an homage to my grandparents who have passed, and as a result I have given my MC’s grandparents many of their qualities and sometimes deviate into unnecessary vignettes, etc. that don’t contribute to my plot or move my story ahead. BUT THEY’RE IMPORTANT TO ME! Just not the reader! 🙂 (Side note: See my “Words to Write By” in the upper right — I picked that quote because I feel it’s very fitting to my issue right now!)

So my challenge is finding a way to stay true to what I’ve set out to do in a way that I can live with and still tell a compelling story.

Anyone experienced this or have tips for getting over it? They’d be much appreciated!

Smashwords, anyone?

www.smashwords.com

For all you self-publishers out there (or those looking into it), I’ve heard lovely, wonderful things about Smashwords. It streamlines your manuscript into formats appropriate for Apple iBookstore, nook, kobo, Sony Reader, etc. Basically any eReader that you can think of, Smashwords can help you get there with one simple upload.

I’m not ready to self-publish at this point, so as far as personal testimony on ease of use, pricing, etc., I can’t offer much opinion. I’ve only been hearing good things about it through my new pals on Scribophile (talked about earlier this week here).

Are any of you readers ready to self-publish or have you already? Familiar with Smashwords and care to offer advice? Feel free.

Also, anyone looking to support fellow self-publishers or looking for great reads and low prices, check out Smashwords’s homepage to see what they’ve got going on. There are tons of free eBooks, and while you do have to wade through some slush, there is absolutely something there for everyone.

Great editing, supportive community at Scribophile

The reason for my latest absence from this blog (aside from a huge pickup in freelance work) is that I’ve joined Scribophile. I love it. And you should join if you’re an aspiring writer.

There are two versions, a free and a premium subscription. Due to my lack of funds, I have the free version, but it’s still a great resource for having my work edited and having people who are well-read provide constructive feedback. In fact, I’ve been inspired to take one of my short stories and try to expand it into a full length novel (which isn’t going very well so far, but I digress).

So far, I’ve posted two chapters for critique. The way the site works is that posted work enters a “spotlight” for others to critique for full “karma points.” As more works are critiqued, they leave the spotlight and others enter in.

So what’s the reward for critiquing? Karma points, which users need in order to post their own work. So, the more works you critique, the more karma you earn, and the more of your writing you can post to the site. Plus, critiquing more posted works gets them out of the spotlight faster so that your own stuff can get there.

Overall, it’s a system that works fairly well. Of course, I have a work waiting for the spotlight for over two weeks now, but that’s just because there are TONS of great writers using the website. Many of the users have been published, and it’s a great community with a lot of advice to share among authors.

Groups, forums, and contests are also available for users to interact with each other outside of critiques and exchange information. The site also has an area to announce publications and promote work, too.

Overall, my experience this far has been wonderful. I highly encourage joining!

Again, that’s Scribophile.com