Let the December 2009 Writing Marathon Begin!

Dec09WM1Are you ready for a marathon? I am!

My goal this month is to work on my revisions for my urban fantasy novel, which is loosely entitled ARGENTUM, a little bit each day, regardless of what else I have going on. This year has been a good year for me, because it’s helped me understand where my limits are and just how difficult it is to balance paid work with speculative work. However, knowing where my boundaries are isn’t the same thing as exercising within them. I’m hoping December will be “that” month that helps me get back into a routine, which is why I’m hoping to get through a chapter every other day.

So my December word count goal is focused on my speculative work. I hope to achieve a minimum of 20,000 words of non-contract, original fiction while I’m working on other projects. If I don’t work on my original fiction even a little bit during a particular day, then I’ll suck it up and do…FILING. *gasp*

Hopefully I’ll be off to a good start this week. For me, it’s about re-establishing a balanced-yet-productive schedule one day at a time.

From reading your goals and those “things you don’t want to do,” I see that we could all use a little bit of balance in our lives. While this is a marathon, don’t forget to enjoy yourselves, too. Okay? Even though the words need to get down on paper or through your keyboard, sometimes the quality and the love of what you’re doing matter more than how many words you’re burning through. Still, it can’t hurt to practice writing faster. After all, you can’t revise if you have nothing written!

So get ready, get set…and let the words start flowing!

Read Other Goals by These Marathoners

We had a few people opt to fill out the form I created to help decide your writing goals; you can read the results there, too.

Here are a few goals that people sent to me to link in this post. If I missed you, don’t worry! You can still participate anonymously.

Good luck!

Puking Content, Plagiarism and Too Much Free

I’m sure many of you have thought something along the lines of, “My gosh, there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet.” And you would be right.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s too easy to get sucked into providing editorial on bad information to set the record straight. Of course, I’m speaking in generic terms here, but this is one of the reasons why a lot of people “puke content.” The more content that gets written about a particular subject, the more saturated the topic gets, the harder it is to discover the truth. Ultimately, this results in “louder” or “more forceful” content and angry emotions.

And that’s how internet trolls are born.

Sometimes I feel that professionals are “too” scared to set the record straight partially because they know the trap exists, but also because internet content is “stored.” Not every piece of internet content has a date stamp, so even if you provide content that corrects an error, there’s no way to keep track of “when” something was said. (Also, a lot of internet rumors start based on outdated content. So just because something has a date — even in the URL — it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone reads that content.) Unfortunately, silence isn’t always golden.

If you look at the trend of “too much content,” the reason why that’s a problem is not because of what you, yourself, are doing. It’s an aggregate trend that occurs because many professionals or amateurs like yourself are all doing the same thing at the same time.

There are a two other “trends” that concern me right now, too. I feel these are getting lost in the shuffle.

1. Too Much “Free” – My blog is a free, watered-down sample of some of my knowledge. I often cover extremely generic topics that are related to what I do, but I save the more “crunchy” bits for paid work or my day job. Why? Because this knowledge is what I get paid for. The free sample entices people to see what I’m about, without ramming self-promotion down someone’s throat.

I made the mistake of believing that my experiences were a good conversation starter to talk about my own fiction writing. Oh sure, I’d having interesting discussions with people about what I do – but in every case, no one offered to pay me or talk about my fiction writing. When they did, it was an “afterthought.” No one cared about my work, they cared about getting my knowledge for free.

Think about it this way: If everyone has a contest for a free book give-a-way, then that contest becomes the norm. It becomes “expected” for an author to provide that contest for a free book. If piracy and free content is left unchecked, then the reader (or consumer) expects things that normally have value to be “free.” Same goes for accessibility, which in a way, is “free” access; if you’re always online, people “expect” you to be there and answer your email immediately. For me, it was something along the lines of, “Well, Monica is always there to answer my questions. So I can ask her more questions, can’t I?”

Too much free devalues what a work or experience is worth; not enough free doesn’t allow readers (or consumers) to try before they buy. I believe that not enough people are concerned with giving things away for free (or taking them) as a whole. Just like the trend of puking content is a problem, so is “too much free.”

2. Plagiarizing “Free” Content – I have heard of several cases where writers are taking both non-fiction content (from Wikipedia and related sources) or fiction published online and offering it as paid work. One “author” took online published stories, published them as their own, and offered recommendations for themselves using fake sock puppet or alias accounts. Another, all-too-common practice is to copy/paste reference material from Wikipedia or other sources online and use it in articles, non-fiction or other published works. Recently, I heard of a fan offering free material under Creative Commons and a publisher picked it up, re-tooled it and offered it as a paid product.

While I believe that this is heinous for several reasons, this type of behavior originates from “too much free.” After all, if content is posted online, who really owns it? The person that created the content in the first place? The website that it’s located on?

The word “entitlement” comes into play here for two reasons: one, people expect content to be free for them and two, once they receive that content, they can simply do whatever they want with it and not expect some sort of recourse. They don’t seem to see the “aggregate” of thousands of other people believing the same way they do; they see it as “Well, it’s just me…what’s the harm?”

Note that popularity has more to do with the expectations of what should be free than the quality. YouTube! is a great example of this, because it continues to lose millions of dollars. (1) The moral to this story is that conventional wisdom still holds: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

One person plagiarizes and it effects the original author, publisher and the writer. A million people plagiarize and all of a sudden multiple businesses start going under because they can’t afford the lawsuits, damage to their reputation, etc. not to mention the loss of sales.

Same thing with piracy. One person “takes” an image from an artist that’s normally offered on commission, and that artist is out the amount they charge. Add several people to that equation and now the artist is out more than just money lost from those taken images; he’s unable to “sell” artwork to new, more viable customers because people just simply take from him.

These questions are currently being explored more in depth through changes in copyright and internet law. I believe that these changes won’t be received well because it’s a little like putting a genie back into the bottle, which is why education about the negative effects is really important. Just like piracy and plagiarism is “achieved” on a one-on-one basis, people need to remove their blinders about the negative effects this type of behavior causes. After all, you wouldn’t expect a doctor to provide care for you for free — why would you demand an artist or writer do the same?

Regardless, these trends are affecting not only what I read and write online, but how I pursue my career objectives and what I recommend other people to write as well.

[Form] Goal for December Writing Marathon 2009

If you’re interested, I’ve created a form to collect your goals for the December Writing Marathon 2009. This form is anonymous and once you fill out the form, you can see the results.

Remember, if you want to be a part of the December 1st goal round-up on my blog, I will need a link to your blog post by Monday, November 30th. You can submit a link to your blog post to me via my Contact Form.

To fill out the form, please click on the “more” link below or submit your December Writing Marathon 2009 goals via this web page link.

Read More…

Guidelines and Rules for the December Writing Marathon

Calendar Writing MarathonIn my previous post entitled Who’s Up for a December Writing Marathon? Some Proposed Rules, I offered some generic guidelines to see what you might think. Because December is a little over a week away, I’d like to share with you the specifics of this marathon. First? Some guidelines to help keep this marathon honest and fair.

What Is or Isn’t Included?

Many of my fellow authors and game designers are under what’s known as a non-disclosure agreement for our projects. For those of you who haven’t sold a particular story, you’re working on something that is speculative, so what you share is up to you.

Because our projects and the amount of detail that we reveal may vary from person to person, it’s easier to explain what’s eligible for this marathon by sharing with you what I feel is not eligible.

Words Not Included Toward Goal

    1. Blogging and other internet-related content on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
    2. Outlines and related planning materials
    3. Research, including works copied/pasted from Wikipedia and other sources
    4. Editorials, reviews or lit crit about other people’s works
    5. Business correspondence (e.g. queries, pitches, emails, etc.)

The goal here is to spend the month writing on a particular project, one that is either brand new or existing. In order to do that, we all need to do a little leg work to ensure that we’re working towards a completed story or project. Some of the things I mentioned above, like the research or the outlines, are things all writers do. Of course, if a project comes up that needs to be revised, that may throw a kink in the works. (I have four out there that I’m waiting to hear back on.) However, this is very similar to what happens in real life. For myself, if a revision comes up? I still have to keep going.

How Do I Get Started?

All you need to do to get started, is to figure out what it is you want to write and what your goals for the month are. For beginning writers, maybe your goal is simply to finish writing 20,000 words in a month. If you’re an experienced writer, perhaps you may want to add a layer of difficulty in like an extra revision or a higher word count goal.

Is That It? How Do I Keep Going?

Here’s the fun part. When you submit your goal (see below), tell me what you’ll do if you miss a day. Do you hate sit-ups? If you miss a day, you could do twenty-five of those. Do you loathe laundry? Promise yourself that you’ll do laundry instead.

To help motivate you, I’ve already started working on drafts talking about the marathon in December. You can subscribe to my RSS feed if you wish or you can stop back once-a-week to check in. It’s up to you. For your convenience, I did create a December Writing Marathon on MLVWrites.com category specifically for this activity.

What Do I Need From You?

If you wish, please blog your goals for the December Writing Marathon by midnight, November 30, 2009. Then, please send me your link using my contact form to your blog post so I can add them to a post about our writing goals. Please include what activity you will do if you miss a day.

If you send me a post at the end of the week, I will be happy to include that in my weekly wrap-up as well. It is not required for you to blog, though, since that word count is over-and-above what you’re working on.

How You Can Keep Track of Your Goals

Many word processing programs have a word count feature. If you want to post your word count on your own website, I recommend using one of these word count tools from this post entitled 6 Word Meters and Trackers for the Word Count Obsessed.

Any Advice On What I Should Avoid?

Recommend avoiding any discussions that cause you to second-and-triple guess either your career or what you’re working on and add to your fears. Be brave. Be BOLD. Write, write, write! The publishing industry will still publish books, with or without you writing them. Also? Recommend identifying your time-wasters up front.

What Happens If You Fall Behind?

If you need a pep talk, give a shout-out to a fellow marathon member or read more for motivation. If you don’t finish by December 31, 2009 – keep going until you do! This marathon is not about speed, it’s about endurance and getting in the habit of writing every day.

What Should I Do When I’m Done?

Since I’d like to do a wrap-up of our goals, I’d like to ask you to write a post describing what you’ve learned from the experience and if there is something “new” that you want. For example, did you learn that it’s really hard for you to write as much as you did? Do you want to find people to collaborate with? Regardless of what your experience was, it’s a good idea to wrap-up what you’ve learned so you can also figure out your 2010 writing goals.

Please send me your link using my contact form by Wednesday, January 3, 2010. From there, I’ll put everyone’s wrap-up together in a post on my blog.

Can You Help Me Write My Goals?

I will offer an optional form tomorrow that you can fill out to help you formulate your goals for this project. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on my own to get ready for this too!

Who’s Up for a December Writing Marathon? Some Proposed Rules.

Running Shoes | By Photo.Bugz on FlickrI know that many of you might be writing for National Novel Writing Month, and if you are – I hope that it’s going really well for you. Writing 50,000 words in a month is not an easy task, and it can be very exhausting. I knew that my schedule for November wasn’t going to allow for NaNoWriMo, so I wasn’t able to participate. Admittedly, I feel a little guilty about not making a concerted effort on my writing this month, even though I’m waiting to hear back on several projects.

So, in the interest of “getting back into it” I propose a December Writing Marathon for 20,000 words minimum. The reason why I’m suggesting a smaller word count, is because I know that that “goal” is achievable, even during one of my busier months. Before I invite you to participate, I’d like to propose some rules for this Marathon, in the hopes that you’ll be inspired to get some writing done, too! Remember, if you want to chase the rainbow, you need to put your running shoes on first!

    1. Determine What Your Personal Goal Is – Do you know what it is you want to write? Whether you’re writing for a game, a novel or four short stories of 5,000 words each, before any of us starts writing for this Marathon, we should probably figure out what we want to write.
    2. Post Your Personal Goal On Your Blog – Once you have your writing goal figured out, why not add some content to your blog and write about what you’d like to work on? After you do, feel free to shoot me the link by posting a comment and I’ll collect everyone’s goals.
    3. You Must Write Every Day Or You’ll… – In order for this to be a true “marathon,” I propose that we sit down once-a-day and write something, even if we’re blowing past the 20,000 word count goal. If we don’t sit down and write, we think of a personal activity that we’ll have to do instead. For example, if I don’t sit down and write each day, I’ll have to spend a half an hour going through paperwork or I’ll have to tack on an extra workout.
    4. At the End of Every Week, We’ll Revisit our Writing Goals – Instead of summing up where we are every day, I recommend concentrating on the writing and then revisiting the word count on a weekly basis. Like we did with our writing goals, we could simply sum up where we’re at with the marathon by writing up a short blog post.
    5. If Some of Us Don’t Hit Goal by December 31st, We Keep Going Until We Do – The key with a marathon, for me, is not to worry about the best time but to focus on finishing. Yes, I believe 20,000 words in a month is very achievable, but for some of you it may still seem pretty daunting.
    6. We Avoid Talking “About” Writing, Game Design or Publishing – This is a tough one, but this rule comes from something I’ve noticed. Talking about writing or editing doesn’t help you get the words down on the page. In fact, it can be a huge distraction. December is one of those months where there will be enough distractions, especially if you’re celebrating the holidays. I propose we try to minimize talking about writing while we’re on the Marathon.
    7. At the End of the Marathon, We Write our 2010 Writing Goals – If you’ve never written this many words in a month before, this exercise can help you understand whether or not you’re interested in writing professionally. For me, I plan on focusing on a couple of speculative projects, and I hope that the marathon will help me shape my fiction writing goals. By the time the Marathon concludes, I believe we should all have a pretty good idea of what we want to do next.

So those are some simple rules that I’d like to offer for the Marathon. If you’re interested on providing feedback, feel free to take a look at these rules for the December Writing Marathon and tell me what you think. After I get some feedback from you, I can post more “official” rules before December begins along with some helpful tools.

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