Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why You Should be an Extroverted Writer

Writing is not a solo sport. As much as we would like to crawl into our writer's cave and hibernate in there until our book is complete, that just isn't possible or a good idea. Trust me I'd love more than anything to hide in my introverted self. Writer plus engineer does not equal extrovert, but I've forced myself to step outside my comfort zone and its been to my benefit in many ways. 

It takes an army....
... to publish a book. There's typically an agent, editors and many others that are involved in the process. But it also takes an army to write a book. You can't do it 100% alone. Even if you can find the motivation, time, and drive to complete a book start to finish on your own, you can't be a one writer show. You need feedback and lots of it. As writers we are too close to our work and its impossible to single handedly catch every mistake, pov change, awkward phrase, pattern, abused word, etc. The list goes on an on. Not to mention, you personally can't find the points that don't make sense or need more detail by yourself. You don't know how others will view the story and you need that input. To get that kind of feedback you need to interact with others.

The power of critique partners/groups
I've already discussed why you should have critique partners and get feedback, but there is a lot of other things a group of critiquers can do for you. First on the give aspect, I've learned a wealth of things just by critiquing others. In seeing things that other writers need to improve upon, I often am able to notice similar faults in myself and correct them. The more I critique the more my writing improves because of it. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Not only do critique partners help me tighten up my writing but they provide me with a drive to keep going. There is nothing like an angry critique group waving their flaming pitch forks at you asking for more to you story to keep you writing. Okay maybe I exaggerated a bit about the flaming pitch forks but having someone say they love your story and they can't wait to read more is great motivation to keep you writing. If you aren't extroverted enough to go find a critique partner or group you are missing out. Not to mention they are great sounding boards for working through writer's block, plot issues and the general stuck in the process feeling. They are a great shoulder to "cry" on because they've been there too, they get it. In addition, there has been many occasions where I've helped other writers work through trouble spots and its sparked an idea for myself, or helped me realize a change required in my own manuscript.

Write ins
This is something that I'm new to, but if I hadn't stepped out of my introverted box I never would have tried it. In meeting other writers, I've made some new friends. And there are times where we all say to each other, I need to write. So what better motivation than to group up at a coffee shop or library and write together. In most cases write ins were not times I normally would have been writing but because I knew other people were expecting me to show up, I came and got stuff done. It's also great for sticky points. There are times when you are writing and you get stuck on some wording or plot point and have to stop. But if you are writing in a room full of writers you have the potential for a quick instant brainstorming session. In the short time I've spent doing write ins I've already increased my productivity because I'm being held accountable for my work and I'm scheduling in time, that I may not have typically planned.

Twitter is a huge wonderful resource for writers. I know some people roll their eyes, and I used to be one of them, but there is a great writing community on Twitter. There are writers, authors, agents, publishers, and editors all out there sharing great publishing (#pubtip), editing (#editortips) and writing tips(#writetip, #writingtips), as well as keeping you up to date on the latest trends and happenings. And its all free! There is also a whole slew of writing contests you can find via twitter where you can win critiques, edits or even possibly get signed by an agent. However if you hide behind your word document you are losing out to all of this. Not to mention there are great hash tags such as #askagent where real agents will answer your questions. 

Long and short of it, don't be afraid to interact with with these hash tags or even the people behind the accounts. They are people too, they don't bite and you'll find a lot of them share similar interests as you. Do however be professional. Don't twitter pitch to them unless there's a specific contest or they ask for it, and do not spam, either your stream, anyone's account or the hash tags. Doing these things will put you on a crazy insane bad list that you don't want to be on. You will find the more you interact, the more resources you will find, the more fun you will have, the more you will learn, and if all that wasn't great enough, you'll find you are starting to build your brand as a writer. If you are being respectful and sharing good insight and things you like, you will find that you will start to gather a following. Whether published or not, its great to have this kind of reach. None of which would be possible if you didn't embrace your extroverted side.

So there's a few great reasons to step out of your box and be an extrovert. What are somethings you do to be more outgoing that have in turn have benefited your craft? I find that the more extroverted I become in the writing realm the more my skill improves and the more work I get done. So don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Get out there and get to know your fellow writers. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dealing with Plagiarism

This morning I learned that one of the worst things that can happen to a writer happened to me. I was plagiarized. My hard work was taken without permission from me or the site I wrote for. It was posted on another site and passed off as being written by someone else. However, before I continue I want to take a moment to define plagiarism:
Plagiarism - an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author.*
*definition from

See what I did there with the *? That’s called crediting the source. If you are going to use word for word, paraphrase or slightly rework something some one else wrote, then it is imperative that you give a source. It’s even better if you check with that source and get permission before using it, but always credit the source. It’s as simple as that. This however is not how things happened for me.

As many of you know, over the past few months I’ve been writing for an online news site that posts articles and editorials on the latest movies and TV shows. In the recent weeks, the site I write for discovered that another online TV and movie site took not one, but dozens of articles, slightly reworked them, posted them on their site without permission or citation and passed them off as their own work. When I initially heard this, I was extremely angry and it wasn’t even my articles that had been stolen. Without ever experiencing it prior, I knew having your work stolen is heartbreaking.

After today I can now say I know exactly how it feels and heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to cover it. This morning I woke up to a tweet that said (and out of respect for the person that runs the site I work for and the site that has been stealing I will not cite names.) “By the way XXX site ripped off one of your articles too. I thought you should know.”  After reading that comment I was a bit taken back, one because I just woke up and two because I was completely shocked that it happened to me. I couldn’t even spell plagiarism and I haven’t even had the “pleasure” of being rejected by editors or agents, so how was my work being stolen? The site stealing the work is a much larger site than the one I write for, so why would they need to steal from someone else? Maybe they were looking for fresh ideas or one of the writers really didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. Whatever the reason, what they did was stealing and I was crushed.

After the swirling questions and emotions, I decided I wanted to see for myself. Not that I don’t trust the person who told me, because I do 100%, but because I needed to confirm with my own eyes. So I logged on to the offending site and began to scour their lists of articles. Nothing recognizable for pages until….. oh wow that title, and supporting image looks awfully familiar. I clicked on the article and my heart sank into my feet. It probably would have fallen into my downstairs neighbor’s apartment if there wasn’t solid flooring below me. Right there before my eyes was my article down to some of the exact pictures and formatting with a slight twist of words. And the stake to the heart was seeing that the author’s name, picture and bio at the bottom of the article did not belong to me. This was an article that I spent weeks toiling and agonizing over and finally perfecting until it was just right. One of the most difficult articles I ever compiled and wrote was stolen, badly rewritten and said to be authored by someone else. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

After I picked up my jaw off my desk, I wanted to start hurling things and write nasty comments like This is a great article but I liked it even better when I wrote it. But I stopped and took a deep breath before I burst into tears or spontaneously self combusted.

When I finally wrapped my head around what happened, I started to wonder what one does when this sort of thing happens. And after some careful consideration, I came up with the following list:
  1. Take a deep breath: It’s first important to realize that although this is a horrible thing that happened to you, you are not alone. There are some things you can do about it even if you feel powerless and broken.
  2. Do not act out of anger: Acting on extreme emotion will only make the situation worse and could mean that you lose all chance of remedying the situation. So think long and hard before you submit that nasty comment, email, or even facebook, twitter, or blog post trying to defame the offender. Professionalism is key.
  3. Document: Take screen shots or copies of every instance of plagiarism. If it is a website, don’t rely on the link of a site in case the site is later taken down but do make sure the link is visible in your screen shots. Then gather your work that was plagiarized and if possible show proof of dates your work was written. You will want evidence of every instance of plagiarism and copies of your work to compare, to ultimately prove that your work was stolen.
  4. If you are working with an agent, editor, company, or site owner, contact them and send your evidence. Unless they ask for more information or ask you to do something specific, let them handle it.
  5. If you are independent, try contacting the author of the offending article, with a professionally written email informing them that they have copied content that does not belong to them and ask that they either remove the content or credit you as the source. Do not get angry, it’s possible that it was just a case that they forgot or didn’t know. If you receive a reply back saying they will comply and they do, then your work is done, but if not see the next step.
  6. If you are ignored or the person does not act appropriately, try contacting the manager, site owner, or person in charge of the overall content with a similar professionally written email informing them of the copied content. Provide your proof, and information about your correspondence with the author of the article. Again be calm and polite, the owner or manager may not even be aware of the issue and if that is the case they may not be at fault. They can however take action and if they do deal with the issue then you are done. 
  7. But if you are again ignored or met with any other response than compliance, then it’s time to make a decision. Do you let it go or continue on with this? If this is something you decide you want to pursue further, you will probably want to seek out legal representation. Although expensive, they will have more advice and know the laws. They can help draft a formal cease and desist letter or seek further action.

While plagiarism is a horrible thing, in a weird sort of way, I am a little bit flattered. If someone stole my work it is probably because they liked it enough to try and pass it off as their own. While that doesn't make it right and I’m still very angry about the whole situation, I’ve learned a lot from this experience. You are not immune to the horrible things that can happen to a writer, even if you are new to writing, and/or unpublished. But you are not powerless to the situation either. You can choose to let the anger and sadness of the situation overtake you or choose to rise above it and be the bigger person, by dealing with the situation in a professional manner. Although my case is not fully resolved, I know that this is not going to destroy me as a writer. I am merely choosing to take the backhanded compliment and keep writing in the future, working even harder than before.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Katana Review + Giveaway

Rileigh Martin is a sarcastic skater girl. When she and her best friend Quentin get mugged she is mysteriously able to take matters into her own hands and fend off the attackers with amazing fighting skills she never knew she had. She wants to believe it was an extreme adrenaline rush, but that doesn't explain the strange dreams she has about a 15th Samurai, and the voice inside her head that warns her about danger. When a good looking martial arts instructor named Kim visits Rileigh and tells her she's been possessed by a 15th century samurai, she is afraid she's losing her mind. Kim tries to convince Rileigh to train as a fighter and embrace her inner samurai. And as if being possibly possessed by a samurai isn't enough, she's starting to develop feelings for Kim and another boy from school. Rileigh must decide whether or not to embrace the warrior within at the risk of losing herself.

Katana is an amazing, fabulous book. It's sarcastic in all the right places and is action packed. Each of the characters is intriguing and fun to follow. Cole Gibsen is the master of metaphors and wields them as well as Rileigh manipulates her katana. I can't sing enough praise for this book, I had a very hard time putting it down, finding myself lost in Rilegh's world and hanging on tightly waiting to read what happened next. I am anxiously awaiting the second installment.

Now for the giveaway, one person will win a signed copy of Katana plus a signed Katana bookmark. Two people will win signed Katana bookmarks + other Katana swag. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter and be sure to follow the blog and leave a comment answering the following question: If you could be possessed by anyone (profession wise or person) who would you choose and why?

*Giveaway open internationally, closes on 6-17-12