Tag Archives: advice

Dirty Publishing (…No, Not THAT Dirty)

When was the last time you got your hands not just inky or pencil-smudged but dirty in publishing? It’s viewed as one of the more office- and brainiac-friendly pursuits of both happiness and monetary wherewithal for the food, the rent, the “miracle” moisturizer the cute girl at the mall sells. You may have other priorities. By any account, publishing is broadly seen as a career which it is and a noble industry that cracks into the realms of philosophy, science, and literature which it certainly can be. For those who want to make a demonstrable living walking the noble career path, though, there’s another aspect that deserves its share of attention: the trade.

If you were putting yourself through night school and apprenticing during the day to earn your certification in publishing, how would you handle it? If you and society all around viewed the creation, editing, proofing, promotion, commission, and digital distribution of the written word as practical in the same way refrigerator repair is practical, would your approach be any different? In other words, if Mike Rowe wanted to get into publishing, what would he do?

I can’t say for sure. But here are some tactics I, daughter of a refrigerator repairperson, adhered to to go from unenthusiastically selling cell phones at the mall (how differently might my life have gone if I’d had something fun, like Dead-Sea-Salt/dark-side-of-the-magic-moon moisturizer, to sell instead?) to making a living full-time in publishing:

1. Apprentice.

Depending on the area of publishing you’re in, an MFA, MBA, or maybe even a PhD is probably viewed as one of the surest routes to success in a somewhat unsure industry. And sometimes that works. Sometimes you study under seasoned professionals who know firsthand of what they preach and have fingers on the pulse of publishing as it happens in the here and now.

If studying writing, you may study under professors who manage to convey the techniques and history of the craft without poo-pooing either your enthusiasm or your personal perspective on writing. Enough disclaimers, though. Sometimes you get none a’ that and no bag of chips either. Not even a bag of those weird cappuccino-flavored chips.

In trades the world over, learning at the feet of someone who’s been there and preferably still IS there, doin’ it and doin’ it well is viewed as a critical step on your way to making it solo. That could mean applying for internships in your last year of college, and those can be highly useful but they’re not the only way.

The most important aspect of apprenticing, to my way of thinking, is the opportunity to truly observe the inner workings of your chosen field up close, and to try your hand at it while there’s still someone there—a knowledgeable someone; someone you have handpicked to lead and guide you as your own personal McGonagall to say “For shame! That won’t do at all.” Your dream guide/tutor may speak differently. The upshot: apprenticing doesn’t mean fetching people coffee or being the publishing house gossip girl. It means absorbing and acting.


Avoid These Common Fallacies in Your Writing

Fallacies, or flaws in logic, are common. We hear them every day from people in our families to coworkers to teachers to fellow students. They are broadcasted on television and written in books. Now, if you call people out constantly on their flawed logic, you may get slapped. But fallacies make your arguments, or your character’s arguments, or heck, even your text itself weak. Being able to recognize fallacies gives you, as a writer, the power to avoid them and the power to use those fallacies to develop your text properly. If you have a character that you want to portray as being in the wrong, bam, give them fallacious logic. Do you want to create a world that exploits one terrible idea and play it out to its inevitable destruction? Boom. Introduce that terrible idea as being founded on a fallacy and rip it apart.

Arrested Development reference for the win!

Here are a few common fallacies you should know in order to recognize them, avoid them, or use them to your advantage.

Ad Hominem

Latin for “to the man,” this logical fallacy involves attacking the person instead of the argument.


Alison: “I don’t know. If I do the same amount of work, I should get the same amount of pay, right? What does my gender have to do with how much money I make?”

Harry: “Of course you’d think that, you’re a girl.”

Harry isn’t focusing on Alison’s argument, in fact, he’s being a sexist jerk by focusing on Alison’s gender instead of her logic. Ad Hominem fallacies are used when there is no easily logical flaw to find in an argument, so the tactic of the person using the fallacy is to take issue with the speaker rather than the logic.

Appeal to Ignorance

This fallacy usually follows a formula: “Just because BLANK, doesn’t mean BLANK.” The speaker tries to use the lack of knowledge or ignorance on a subject as justification for a belief.


Marty: “Hey, just because you haven’t seen Big Foot doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy foot long subs.”

There is no proof that Big Foot exists, and if something doesn’t exist, it can’t enjoy sandwiches with foot in the name. Just because there isn’t proof that something DOES NOT exist, doesn’t mean it does exist, merely that there is a possibility of its existence.


How One Man Successfully Funded His Book With Kickstarter

I’ve always been curious about Kickstarter projects when it comes to literature. I think new approaches to literature in general, particularly ones spurred by the digital age, like online fundraising, self-publishing, and e-readers are all worthy of exploration. Books may be hundreds of years old, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to change things up.

Not all bookish fundraisers thrive on Kickstarter. That Globe to Globe Hamlet Tour you may have heard about? The fundraiser was cancelled due to lack of backers. To be fair, that particular fundraiser was for a hefty amount for a tour that had never been done before. It was risky to begin with. But other fundraisers are quite successful. Doodler and poet Alan J. Hart created a Kickstarter fundraiser back in April for a children’s book called Everything’s Better With Monkeys. Here’s a video about the project:


Alan wrote the first poem in the book back in 2006, but he has expanded on it since with the encouragement of others. The poems come with illustrations depicting famous paintings, like Grant Wood’s American Gothic or Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory—with monkeys, of course. Here’s example of the type of poetry in the book:

Whistler’s Mother looks so bored
Just sitting in her chair
I think that a baboon or two
Would add the needed flair

That old couple with the pitchfork
Looks quite unhappy too
Adding an orangutan
Is just the thing to do”

I reached out to Alan to conduct an interview about Everything’s Better With Monkeys, which you can read below:


The Poetics Project: First off, I watched the video you posted on your Kickstarter page and thought it was hilarious. Why did you choose to create a video for the project? Do you think the effect of the video would have been different had it been less comedic?

Alan J. Hart: Thanks! Kickstarter offers a really good tutorial for people that want to use the site, and they highly recommend including a video. Projects with videos have a much higher success rate than those without (50% vs. 30%), so I definitely wanted to include one. I think the concept of the video made it more effective. I wanted it to be something that people would not just notice, but get a kick out of and want to show to other people. I heard from a couple of people specifically that they backed the project because they enjoyed the video.

TPP: Were there any other methods you employed to get the word out there?

AJH: Facebook was my main marketing tool. I gave the book it’s own facebook page, and I put up new posts every day on the book’s page, which I also shared on my personal page. I started with a simple announcement of the project, then tried to have a new gimmick every day, teasing some of the art from the book or posting pictures of the monkeys featured in the book. I always included a link to the kickstarter page and encouraged people to share it on their own walls.

I also put all of the relevant information into an e-mail and sent it to everyone I knew who isn’t on facebook or doesn’t use it very often, and encouraged them to back the project and to spread the word to their friends.


How to Become a Better Speller

Even the best writers and editors can be less-than-perfect spellers, myself included (although I am by no means the best of anything). In elementary school, my classmates and I would be asked to study a set of words and then be tested on those words at the end of each week. The words increased with difficulty throughout the year, and being an avid reader even then, I seemed to ace those tests with flying colors.

But over time, our brains become less pliable. We rely on tools like Microsoft Word’s spellchecker instead of testing ourselves, and when we don’t have access to the tool, it’s easy to be unsure of words with tricky spellings. While Microsoft’s spellchecker is an essential tool for any writer or editor, it shouldn’t be relied on entirely. According to The Copyeditor’s Handbook, “spellcheckers do not distinguish between homophones (principal and principle), do not account for spellings determined by usage (resume and résumé), and may allow variant spellings (catalog and catalogue) in the same document. And, of course, spellcheckers do not highlight a misspelled word if the misspelling is itself a word (from and form).”

As an adult, being a good speller means more than getting an “A” on a spelling test. Or being a human dictionary. Good spellers acknowledge their faults. They know their weaknesses—those words that often trip them up. They understand the difference between American and English usage (like dialog and dialogue or color and colour), and then in turn understand that to interchange the two is acceptable in some cases, like with dialog and dialogue—where the British spelling is often preferable.


Should You Pay for a Summer Writing Retreat?

Summer is coming, and that means, for all of us students, teachers, and other lucky SOB’s that get summer free, it’s time to make plans. I plan on writing this summer, and I hope you are too. Now, you can spend hundreds to thousands of dollars improving your writing by heading out to a writing retreat off in some scenic part of the country with professional/published instructors, or, if you’re poor like me, you can write at home and use the internet to find new methods for improving.

A great place to start is right here. We’ve got a ton of writing advice from all around the internet, and we constantly try to inspire you when it comes to your writing. This blog post is just a few past entries I feel will be particularly helpful this summer in getting your writing muscles in shape.

Reading is a great way of improving your writing, but you know, reading alone isn’t always fun. Why not throw a silent reading party with friends? I think this is a great way to socialize, read a good book, and discuss what literary elements you enjoyed and get feedback from others. Knowing what other readers like about books will help you incorporate those elements into whatever you are writing as well.


That Place Where Abandoned Writing Projects Live

Long ago, in a far away galaxy, Amanda Riggle wrote a short post on where abandoned writing projects go, and I liked it so much that I wanted to share it again with our readers today. I, as well as Amanda, believe that you should never toss out any writing projects, no matter how small and no matter how hopeless they may seem. I have folders hidden away on my computer that sometimes, years later, I return to. Some of these weren’t as horrible as I originally thought, and I have turned them into longer pieces, while others—still horrible—had something about them that stuck with me. I used them as jumping off points for other pieces entirely.

Here’s what Amanda had to say about abandoned writing projects:

When my little sister was younger, she watched a TV show called ChalkZone. It was about the land where erased chalk drawings go once they are cleared from the board. It was a creative and cute show, and I’ve always imagined what it would be like if there were a land where abandoned writing projects went.

There would be less chalk, that’s for sure.

I’d like to imagine there’s a world out there where unbelievable plots fight with each other, bad puns run amok, cliche rhymes can roam free, and confused similes and metaphors ruled the land.

This land would be beautiful. I want to go there.

But, in all seriousness, what do people do with their abandoned writing projects?


On Revision

When writing, revision can be both the most gratifying aspect of the process, and the same time, the most paralyzing. On the one hand, you have a chance to polish off your work, to shape it into the magnum opus you imagined one day while daydreaming on the john. It’s undeniably important. But, in my experience, if you entertain the need to revise while writing, you won’t get anywhere. So first, a little on the virtues of revision.

A former professor once told me that when you step back from a piece and return a while later, you effectively have a new set of eyes on your work. You can chalk it up to temperament (maybe you skipped breakfast the day you started writing, or found a parking ticket on your windowshield). Or it may be a matter of perspective; at the risk of sounding like a popcorn psychologist, we grow every day, and the “you” of tomorrow might be more capable of writing that piece than the “you” of today.


On Inspiration and My Writing Process

Inspiration is a little overrated when it comes to writing. My experience is that it might take you a couple of pages before you lose the impetus that got you started. In other words, you should rely on steady, determined, inglorious writing to take you the distance. I don’t mean to say inspiration isn’t important. The problem is, I think, that most people assume good writing comes from an epiphanic moment, which turns the exercise into a waiting game. When lightning doesn’t strike twice, people call it quits. Remember why you started, but never forget that the process of writing is as important, and usually yields more, than the whim that got your fingers typing. That said, here’s a little on where I find inspiration:

Reading other authors. It’s a basic but true ingredient of good writing. But don’t take my word for it:  authors from Raymond Carver to Stephen King praise the value of “research” when writing your own, original work. Ben Franklin copied whole journals to learn writing techniques. Don’t rule out work from fields outside your comfort zone, either: as a Humanities major, I’m not particularly great at math or science, but having recently read (and deeply enjoyed) works by Carl Sagan and Michio Kaku, I’ve found my own framework broadened by their views on astrophysics and the natural world. So read, read, read, until you’re confident in your own voice. Then keep reading.