Spam – Not Just a Processed Meat

I love that WordPress is generally very good at filtering out spam comments.  It makes my life a lot easier.  Of all the spam comments I’ve received since starting this blog, only one has ever slipped by the filter.  It was a tricky one too, short and sweet, but obviously computer generated due to its referencing something that had nothing whatsoever to do with the post.  Because I’m paranoid though, I always skim through my spam pile to make sure someone who wrote a real comment didn’t accidentally get filtered out as spam.  It could happen, you never know. There are times I write things that look like such a garbled mess, I wonder if I didn’t momentarily channel a bot.

The interesting thing is, sometimes I enjoy reading spam.  It makes me laugh, makes me cry (when it’s the only comment I get for a post, that is…), and sometimes, the spam bot throws together a combination of words that’s just so profound, I find myself wishing I’d written it.  Only to Google the phrase and find out spam bot just lifted the entire paragraph from a comment someone actually did write in an obscure forum post.  Plagiarism, not just for desperate college students.

In a way, spam makes me think of Descartes’ mind-body dualism theory, what would later be referred to as his “Ghost in the Machine”, which is another story for another day.  My actual point being, as with any human writer, if you let a machine generate enough sentences, eventually it will create something meaningful.  Of course, I like to think human writers have a higher success rate than machines.  Though some days, I’m not so sure.

Anyhow, here are a few recent spam comments I’ve received that really made me smile.

“My buddy encouraged I’d quite possibly this way web page. He or she seemed to be completely perfect. This publish truly made this morning. A person cann’t believe that purely precisely how so much time frame I had put together invested because of this details! Thank you!” [sic].   — I especially liked the line “This publish truly made this morning”.  You’re welcome, spam bot.

“These are in fact enormous ideas in about blogging.
You have touched some good factors here. Any way keep up wrinting” [sic] — I will keep wrinting.  Thank you.

“It’s as you master my head! You peer to grasp lots relating to this, such as you submitted the ebook there something like that. I’m sure that you choose to is capable of doing with just a few per-cent to help electricity what it’s all about residence a bit, but instead of that, which is amazing blog site. An incredible examine. I’m going to easily be rear.” [sic] — I am a master of heads, as it so happens.  Though I don’t recall submitting an ebook.  This spam comment must have been meant for someone else.

“You could surely view your capabilities from the art you are submitting. The sector desires for much more passionate writers just like you that aren’t frightened post where did they consider. Everyday stick to your coronary heart.” [sic] — well, if we’re going to be getting anatomical up in here, you struck my humeral medial epicondyle, spam bot, and tickled my ulnar nerve.

“If any one wishes to be a successful blogger,subsequently he/she must learn this chip of writing,for it contains al} strategies related to that.” [sic] — this one was posted to my short story “Comedy of Fables”.  It’s entertaining, but I’m not sure it’ll help you become a successful blogger.  Hasn’t helped me none.

And that’s all folks.  Read spam, it’s as bad for your health as the stuff in the can, but if prepared right, sometimes it’s just so gosh darn good, you can’t help yourself.

Writing to Live

Lately I’d been searching for a new job.  Yet it didn’t strike me until I saw a job posting for a social media person listed and hit apply that I could sell my services as a writer.  Maybe it’s still a bit of that fear I’ve felt since starting this blog with the aim of overcoming it, or perhaps it’s just a lack of imagination on my part, in so far, as the writing job market goes.

I’d heard of people working as “professional bloggers”.  I thought at the time it was people who’d built up their blogs enough they had paid advertising on their site.  I also knew that people freelanced as blog content writers.  I need a steady income, and am not as confident in my writing as I’d like to be yet, so this route was never a possibility for me.  However, there appears to be a growing trend in the business industry now towards hiring on dedicated staff members that manage social media content.

It kind of makes sense.

There are a lot of benefits to having an in-house social media expert.  Unless a company is using the same freelance writer consistently, and the way past (and some current) means of obtaining freelance blog articles from writers worked this wasn’t necessarily a possibility, then the company is not getting consistent work.  Writers have different styles and voices.  Some may write casual narrative, others may maintain a cool demeanor throughout, some may be brief and concise, whereas others may be verbose and dramatic.  Using the same writer or small team of writers allows for a consistency of style.  The company and its blog readers will always know what to expect, which helps build up an audience, and broaden the potential consumer base.

Furthermore, having an in-house writer means that the company can have an ongoing relationship with that writer, and allows the writer to better specialize in the type of writing the company needs and desires. For example, writing for a book store will be vastly different than writing for a yarn store.  The products are very different, and the customers are different with some potential overlap (not many people do yarn craft, but most people, including some of those who do yarn craft, read).  A company can easily speak to a writer about any concerns they have with the writer’s services, and determine a solution.  In freelance, this isn’t always possible either.

Which segues nicely into the next point, that an in-house writer allows the writer to develop a relationship with the audience.  They learn the product better the more they write about it, and they learn better what interests the audience and what doesn’t, and can adapt their writing appropriately to keep the audience coming back for more.  Many readers like to feel a connection to the writer behind an article, to get a feel for the person “speaking” to them through the blog.  Having a different writer every time is not necessarily a bad thing, but the company misses out on developing a loyal fanbase.

The company I applied for is going to “try” me out for a short stint, see how effective I am in the position and how well I get along with the company. The person they had in the position originally didn’t work out as they hoped and has made them more careful about who they bring on.  I’m excited, and a little nervous.  Using social media as an advertising tool is a relatively new concept, but there are already people out there who’ve mastered the technique, and shared their “tried and true” methods via…social media.  I know I have a few resources I can turn to for help and tips on the topic.

Mainly, I’m anxious because this is the sink or swim moment.  Can I live off my writing?  I’m looking forward to finding out.  Meantime, I may look at doing some freelance work too.  Hey, I never said it was obsolete.

Anyhow, wish me luck!  And if anyone has any experience, either in social media advertising or freelance writing, consider sharing your stories with me in the comments below.

NaNoWriMo 2014: Diary Entry 1

Day 3, and I’m already behind on my word count.  Why does this always happen to me every year?!

Oh, right.  Because my attention is divided between school, work, and other stories i’m obligated to finish, before I can work on my own NaNoWriMo project.  My word count so far: a woeful 916.

Augh.

Okay, well, I can catch up on that 4000 some odd words that I should have written by now.  Sure.  Totally.  In between homework, homework, homework, and a handful of chores.  I don’t know why I do this to myself every year.  On a positive note, the friend I convinced to participate in NaNoWriMo with me has been chugging right along with her word count.  Which makes me super excited, because she’s a beginner writer, that’s been wanting to get into it for a month or so now, and she was scared to do NaNoWriMo, she didn’t think anything she turned out would be very good.  Which I told her, point of NaNoWriMo is not quality but quantity. It’s a first draft, after all, you go back and edit after the month is over.

So, as I contemplate how to make up for this limp of mine right out the starting gate, here’s a short list of Things Not To Do When You Fall Behind in NaNoWriMo!

1) Post to your blog – seriously, why am I wasting words on a blog post that could be going right into that pile of 4000 I need to catch up on?

2) Check in on Twitter – which I did first thing this morning, and all last night.  For what possible purpose?  To avoid the hell out of that daunting word count goal.

3) Volunteer to run out and get tacos for dinner – did that last night, and there went an hour or so of my writing time.  Tacos were delicious though.

4) Complain – because you’ve done this to yourself.  There’s no one to blame but you and you just sound like a self-pitying sad sack when you bitch and moan about how much you suck.

5) Debate about what you should work on, homework or NaNoWriMo, then hate yourself for choosing homework – honestly, homework trumps NaNoWriMo.  The only thing I should hate myself for is setting myself up for this failure every year.  Between school and writing, I know I have to choose school (at the moment), yet I always feel like a failure when I do.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that spirals me down into a depression only egregious amounts of chocolate can fix.  I’m off to do homework and eat chocolate.  And hopefully, during short breaks, I can manage squeezing a productive amount of writing time in.

Best of luck to the rest of you on your NaNoWriMo!  Feel free to let me know how it’s going, especially if it’s going well and you want to rub it in my face.

It Starts

Happy November people!

The first day of NaNoWriMo is here.  Pens and papers (aka. Word Docs) at the ready?

I’m nervous, but excited.  About to get started, I think.  I was thinking about doing homework, changed my mind two seconds ago.  Homework can wait until tonight.  I need to write my first 1666 words of NaNoWriMo.

Good luck and happy writing.

 

NaNoWriMo: Round 2

Last year, for the first time ever, I attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo.

Sort of.

I had planned on turning that 50,000 words in one month challenge into a series of short stories.  I wrote a few decent ones, I think.  Maybe I’m biased.  Okay, yes, I’m biased.  But I wrote a few, is the important part.  I didn’t get anywhere near the 50,000 word mark, though, and utterly failed (rage quit) by the end.  I blame school.  Whoever thought November was the perfect month for National Novel Writing is a total jerk.

That being said, I’m going to try my hand at it again.  Why?  Because quitters never prosper.  Or something like that.  This year, I actually plan on writing a novel.  I’m going to work on a story I’ve been wanting to write and been developing for the past decade or so.  I’m nervous and excited, because this is one of those stories that I’ve been too scared to write.  It matters more to me than I could ever say.  It’s my “masterpiece”, in a sense.

Anyhow, I’m not starting this without a plan .  As I already said, I’ve been developing this story for the past ten years, so I know the characters, the world, and the plot fairly well.  Because of my fear for this story, however, I’ve never set anything in stone, made solid the vision in my head, so there are still a lot of kinks I need to work out before the month starts.  I have to draw up an outline, which may see a lot of the ideas I attached to this project get tossed out the window, and other ones will need to be brainstormed.

I’ll try to post status updates on the story as I work.  Maybe that’ll keep me on track.  I’m also looking to get together NaNoWriMo buddies to help stay motivated, and maybe people I can trade work with, so we can give each other feedback and encouragement.  If you’re at all interested, let me know in comments, or contact me via private message on twitter.

Otherwise, wish me luck!  And if you’re doing the NaNoWriMo thing next month, best of luck on meeting your goal!

Have you ever known something, though you didn’t really know, because no one had told you, you had no proof or evidence, but deep inside you knew?  

Then you’re given that confirmation, and suddenly you really know, and you’re taken a bit aback?  And in that emotion that comes from suddenly really knowing, you realize, maybe you didn’t want to know.  Which is silly, because you did know, you always knew, but maybe, a part of you just didn’t want to believe it was true.  You wanted a little hope, which you never had to begin with, so you really just wanted someone, anyone, to tell you that you were wrong, that you didn’t know, and that you were allowed to hope.

But now that you know, really know, you’re left with this odd kind of heartache.  It’s silly to be sad to now know something you always knew?  And how can you mourn a hope lost that you never had, you were only hoping someone would give you?

Angry Little Pixels

I haven’t quite figured out yet why people feel the need to lash out or abuse others through the internet.

You see it everywhere you go, anywhere people can interact on the internet, be it forums, comment sections, chat rooms (do chat rooms still exist?), discussion boards, whatever title these arenas for public discourse might be given.  Now, I don’t mean specifically trolls, they’re a different brand of beast.  Trolls are emotional molesters, they only make the comments they do to rile up other people for their own amusement, kind of like dropping a bomb from a safe distance then watching the destruction ensue.  I’m talking about those people who are emotionally invested in the conversations, fervently argue, cast insults at people they do not know beyond the little pixels on their screen, and actually intend for their words to hurt the other person/people reading.  And yes, that includes those who valiantly(?) rise to the occasional troll.

When has it ever been acceptable in an argument to disagree by simply calling the other person an idiot or something in that ilk?  To make personal comments about the other person, “oh you’re just saying this because you’re…(insert unfounded accusation about another person’s lifestyle or ideologies here)”, or just flat out responding “fuck you”?  I guess if I verbally eviscerate you sans name calling and you’re left with no ground to stand on,  that last one might be a little justified, but otherwise, why can’t people peacefully agree to disagree without stooping to that low level of playground name-calling and shit-slinging?

It’s petty and silly.  Furthermore, it reflects more on you than me.  Unless I respond in kind, and then we’re both three year olds in a pissing contest as far as the rest of the digital world is concerned.

I’d heard the advice some time back, that if you start to read a response/comment/post that sounds negative (or anything in your life comes at you negative, like a voicemail or letter/email, etc), stop reading/listening to it and delete it.  Life is too short, and there are too many other stresses, to ever have to deal with someone else’s negativity.  I’ve been trying to follow this advice, but it is difficult.  Sometimes you can’t help but want to read what the other person wrote.  That sick, twisted part of you that just needs to know how the “story” ends.  And then, of course, once you’ve read you need to reply, because otherwise they have the last word, and gosh darn it, if they have the last word you’ll never be able to sleep at night.

But I’m getting better at it.  Recently someone sent me something that started out “fuck you” and I deleted it without reading any further.  Now I’m a tad tormented by what the rest may have said, but I’ll get over it.   I just don’t understand.

Moments of Doubt

I wish I had the time, or sense of mind, to give everything else up and focus on the one thing that has always mattered to me.  I haven’t the guts.  Or maybe I’m just too caught up in reality.  I want to hold on to this thing, this one hope I have, that I could create something worthwhile, but I can’t shake the notion that it’s only a fantasy and a poorly constructed one at that.  I don’t have the skill, the imagination, the perseverance, the courage, the voice, and the brains to pull it off.

I’m looking over a ravine.  I could jump off or stay put, but either way, I’m still stuck.

Said Is Dead

In my early childhood, I had a teacher with a poster of various “Writing Rules” posted on the wall.  At the top of the list was this: “Said is Dead”.  I don’t remember which teacher, school, class, year, how old I was, or what the other rules were, only this one rule, which could be an indication of a poor teacher or maybe just the impact this rule made in my life.  I’d go with the latter, except I’m also leaning towards the fact it was the only rule that rhymed and there was a pretty picture of a tombstone that accompanied it, the epitaph read: RIP Said.

Flare for the dramatic much, teach?

Regardless, this particular rule did greatly impact my writing from then on.  The message in its macabre image was simple: don’t use “said”.  Afterall, the poster assured us bright-eyed, impressionable young children, there are a plethora of words near synonymous with “said” that you can use.  Ever since that class, that teacher, in that time otherwise long forgot, I was overly conscious of the word “said”, oft times avoiding it like the plague, though on rare occasion, resolve crumbling, I would give in because no other dialogue tag really fit and feel incredibly guilty about it.  It was awful, I’d bawl on the couch and eat buckets of ice cream for weeks on end.

Okay, maybe that’s just a typical after-writing event.

Anyhow, last month, the 20th to be exact, Elmore Leonard passed away.  I’m not sure about you, but I was utterly devastated when I got the news.  Leonard gave us such greats as Get Shorty, Be Cool, 3:10 to Yuma, and my personal favorite, the good Marshall Raylan Givens, of Justified fame (ie. my favorite show ever, period).

Leonard wrote for the New York Times his now infamous “10 Rules of Writing”, which are very straight forward and an excellent read for any aspiring writer (or even better, aspiring editors).  It’s apparently become the essential guide for spotting good writing, as I’ve seen the rules mentioned here and there by others, apparently pilfering Leonard’s work.  Rules such as: 1) Never open a book with weather and 2) Avoid prologues.  Rule number 3 on this handy-dandy list reads: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

Imagine me reading this, traumatized in childhood by the death of this incredibly useful word “said”.  Murdered, it would seem from that teacher’s depiction, by erstwhile writers that beat it into an early grave.  Yet, according to Leonard, said was, in fact, alive and well, living in the Florida Keys most likely, wearing old Hawaiian patterned shirts, sipping Mai Tais, and still the only go to guy for appropriate dialogue tagging.

Paradigm totally shifted.

Okay, admittedly, I’d started using said a tad more liberally since reading that “said is dead” rule.  I’d seen other writers doing it and caved to peer pressure.  You know how it goes:

“But everyone says using this word is bad…”

“Oh come on, just this once, no one’ll notice, and what could it hurt if just one character in your story ‘said’ something.  It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t know…”

More and more I’ve been seeing this adage popping up all over how-to-write sites and such: never use anything except said.  Maybe I’m just noticing it more, or maybe it’s a new phase in writing.  Not sure.  But it does beg the question: who’s right?  Should said be dead and buried?  Or should said be the only dialogue tag in existence, and grumbled, muttered, whispered, so on and so forth, brutally sacrificed in a  mass killing spree of would be conversational marking verbs?

After much debate, research, and cycling through the evidence, I’ve reached this conclusion: They’re both right.

How could that be?  Writing rules are set in stone aren’t they?  And who knows what makes good writing better than a great writer like Elmore Leonard?

Let’s not forget the real judges of word choice: style, mood, and voice.

Leonard wrote in a very particular style.  Gritty crime novels, that were fast-paced, tongue in cheek, and designed to keep you on the edge of your chair.  He wanted to create a particular mood with every chapter, scene, sentence.  He chose words that kept the story going, and going at a heart pumping pace.  His voice was a matter-of-fact with a slight swagger.  That’s what made his stories so well-liked and so addicting; the style, mood, and voice that his word choices created.  His rules might apply to your writing if you’re looking to mimic that atmosphere, or build a similar one, but not everyone likes that type of story and not every story works with those rules.

As with any purported rules of writing, no matter the source, you must always take them with a grain of salt.  You have to understand all of the elements of writing in order to know which rules to follow when, which rules you can break and why, and how to start making your own writing rules that work for you, but probably won’t for anyone else.

Even in Leonard’s rules, he provides examples here and there, or writers who were able to break the rule effectively.  There is no hard, fast, this is how to write and do it no other way, set of writing rules.  Everything is guideline, and you dictate when to break away and try your own thing.  Writing is as much a practice of experimentation as any other art form.  Throw paint on a canvas and see what sticks.  The worse that happens?  You get a pile of paint goo and need to toss the project.  But if you’re real lucky, and the paint hits the canvas just right, you end up with a masterpiece.

The best rule Leonard provides, the only one you should follow every times without fail, is his “11th” rule: If it sounds like writing, I re-write it.

All that matters with writing is that you draw your readers in to the story with it, and nothing in your writing kicks them out again.

Said isn’t dead, but maybe a bit overworked, so probably give him a vacation once in awhile?

Breathing, for the moment

First week of classes are over and I feel overwhelmed.  I was so eager for classes to start, as evidenced by my last post I suppose, but now I’m eager for classes to end.  Not necessarily because I’m tired of school already, though I am exhausted right now.  Waking up an hour and a half earlier than I’m used to all week will do that.  

Mostly, I just want to get started on my final projects and finish getting all the knowledge crammed into my head.  I have some interesting classes this semester, and i’m looking forward to learning all the things my professors have to teach.  One of my books is only about a couple hundred or so pages long, so I plan on reading that in its entirety this weekend.  I’ve already picked out topics for my two major projects, just got to consult with my professor on one of them.  Not to mention, I’ve already begun my reading for next week.  My goal is to ahead so I don’t fall behind.

Now for the downside of classes and mountains of homework: when the hell do I write?  

Any writer will relate, but writing is like breathing for me, I need to do it to live.  My schedule, however, barely gives me an opportunity to breath.  I rush from school to work, and back home to do schoolwork.   I’m not sure if I’m coming or going at the moment, so how can I find the time to set aside and just write?

I started out the semester planning to write during breaks between schoolwork, but as I’m settling back into school routine, I’m remembering that when I take breaks, my brain just wants to shut down.  It’s too tired and too overwhelmed with thoughts of class and lessons learned to attempt stringing a story together.  Sadly, break-time writing might be out.  Now I’m thinking writing in the morning might be my best option.  Also, I originally wanted to give myself Sunday off, just one full rest day from everything, and thought perhaps I could get a bulk of writing done then, but I’m looking over my schedule panic-attacking, thinking, I might not get to take Sunday off.  

Sigh.  School is hard.  Anyone got advice on finding writing time?

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