“Writing Fiction Gives You Freedom,” Says Etgar Keret

Photographic portrait of Israeli author, Etgar...

Photographic portrait of Israeli author, Etgar Keret (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer the same age as my daughter Shir. I have read a few of his short stories, that are whimsical, loving, and often really strange. Today I heard him being interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” one of my very favorite programs. Among many other fascinating details, he told about his father’s storytelling, and his own relationship with fiction and non-fiction.

Here is a link to the podcast; it is worth a listen.

Software Discounts for Writers

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 11.40.21 AMOnce again, some of my favorite software companies have gotten together for a summer discount campaign: SummerFest 2015: Discounted Artisanal Software. The products:

  • Aeon Timeline
    The timeline tool for creative thinking. If you write anything that happens over time, you need this.
  • Bookends
    The reference manager you’ve been looking for.
  • DEVONthink Pro Office
    Your paperless office. A lot to learn, but so much power!
  • Nisus Writer Pro
    Word processing that’s fast, clean, and powerful. And wonderfully multilingual.
  • Scrivener
    Your complete writing studio when you’re serious about creating. It’s a bit complex, but very powerful.
  • Take Control Books
    Polish your already great Mac and iOS tech skills.
  • Tinderbox
    Visualize and organize your notes, plans and ideas. Steep learning curve, but amazing power.

I own and use DEVONTHINK Pro, Nisus Writer Pro, and Scrivener. I own and occasionally use Tinderbox. And I just bought Aeon Timeline. (None of these are affiliate links, btw.)

Let me know what you think of these!

Writing is thinking

Stringing words together is not hard. You do it all the time. But without thought, you may find that the words don’t make a lot of sense, are boring, or silly.

You look at what you wrote, and think, “That’s not at all what I meant. I need to explain the context. But with just a few words, so that I don’t lose the reader.”

You erase what you wrote, and write something else. You look at it, read it. Add a word or two.

You keep at it until you think, “OK. That is what I wanted to say.”

Writing is thinking. And rewriting.

Writer: For Instruction and Encouragement, Read Brainpickings.org

Here’s an example. If you read the piece at the other end of that link, you will receive several blessings:

  • You will meet Ann Patchett, whose wisdom about writing is exquisitely life-giving
  • You will be introduced in passing to Maria Popova, mother of Brainpickings.org, and her contagious love of writing, writers, and you
  • You will learn the awful journey of the butterfly
  • You will learn how to embrace that journey through love and forgiveness
  • You will find out how to get more of these incredible riches every week, and have another opportunity to develop the writer that you are

Let’s not bother with more stuff here. Go, read, absorb, forgive, grow. I love you.

5 Reasons You Should Write a Book Now

I’ve probably told you this before, but so what? When did I ever learn anything from hearing it just once? Listen up, and absorb what resonates with you–and act on it:

  1. Credential. If you become an author, you become an authority. Notice “author” in the word “authority”? If you are an author, you are automagically an authority on your topic. So then whether or not you have a PhD, whether or not you have a knock-’em-dead resumé, whether or not you are skinny and beautiful–you are now an author, almost a law unto yourself. If you are service professional–a coach, a consultant, an attorney, a health professional–you are now a (coach, consultant, attorney, massage therapist, chiropractor) with a book.
  2. Effective. It’s a good use of your time and money–and it uses much less of either than you imagine. Most people think that writing a book takes a long time, and publishing it is expensive. But actually, if you follow just a few simple rules, it’s fast. And inexpensive. Much less expensive than building a fancy website or printing an impressive brochure.
  3. Growth. There is nothing like writing a book to teach you your strengths, to inform you about your gifts, and to confirm to you what you really know. When you think through your professional approach, you will be able to speak about it with confidence, and you will have a renewed and profound sense of your destiny. (Really!)
  4. It’s a product. Your book is not only a “big business card,” it is something you can sell. When a big company invites you to speak to their 100 sales professionals for your speaking fee, you can say, “Would you like to buy a copy of my book for each of the attendees? For an audience this size, it will only be $10 a copy, instead of the $15 it costs on Amazon.” An additional $1000 for you, for $200 in costs.
  5. Fulfillment. You’ve always wanted to write a book, and with good reason. And now’s the right time.

I am testing my course on how to write a good book quickly. For the next few days, it is free. No cost. If you want to check it out, click here.

It’s time. Write your book now!

An embarrassment of riches for readers

For $10/month or less, you can get access to a library of hundreds of thousands of books. There are at least three such libraries: Kindle Unlimited (Amazon); Oysterbooks.com; and Scribd.com. All three let you try their service for a free month.

I tried all three. There is lots of overlap among them, in terms of titles. But just recently, Scribd leaped out in front of the pack by adding a collection of 30,000 audio books. I listen to audio books all the time, and have a $24/month subscription to Audible.com that I’d like to drop. If the Scribd library can satisfy my exploratory hankerings, that will be a significant monthly saving for me.

I read on my Android (Samsung Note), iPad, Mac, and Kindle. A lot.

If you are serious about writing, perhaps you too should read a lot.


Endless books

Music to focus by

The Brain Club is a monthly meeting in San Francisco founded by my friend Phil Dixon. Their presentations are video-streamed. Here is yesterday’s, by Will Henshall, on the subject of focus. More precisely, on the types of music that actually help you focus on the task at hand—say, the book you are writing—and the types that do not. Will, a musician and scientist, has founded a science-based company that lets you play the “right kinds” of music via your web-connected devices. Check out his site here.

Video streaming by Ustream

Word Trippers

Barbara McNichol has written Word Trippers, a short book that will help you distinguish between lie and lay, less and fewer, affect and effect, and more. Watch her brief promotional video (below), then head over to her site for more information. I, who am pretty good at such distinctions, get a lot out of Barbara’s book every time I dip into it.

To Write A Good Book, Answer These 3 Questions

1. What is the question my book answers?

2. Who cares? Who is seeking the answer to this question?

3. Where do I find that caring audience?

close up of several non-fiction books

 If you are writing a non-fiction book, it answers some question. “How do I play the guitar?” “How do I find the right midwife?” “What are some low-capital businesses I can start?” Your answer is simple, methodical, and action-oriented. You give some background, some definitions, then lay out the steps the reader needs to take. Then you answer frequently asked questions and list resources for digging further.

Next, you must know who cares about that question. Where is the hungry crowd who is going to be fed by your book? What do you know about them? Are they young? Old? Predominantly male? Female? Young adults? Spanish speakers? What language will they feel comfortable with? You might build a “persona,” a description of your ideal reader that covers age, gender, socio-economic considerations, education, and so on. Give that persona a name. Cut out a magazine picture that represents them, so that you can keep them in mind as you write.

Finally, you have to know how to reach those people who are going to be very interested in the answers you provide to the question you posed. Do they read particular blogs? Do they use particular search terms? Do they belong to professional associations? If you know where they gather, you will be able to let them know about your book.

Answering these questions is not optional, if you want to have a successful book. It is a prerequisite. And if you can’t answer the questions, get help. Discuss them with your friends, your colleagues, your coaches. Post a query on Quora.com; crowdsource your answers.

Do not start writing until you can answer these questions!


Note-taking for the writer

I’m listening to author Amy Tan being interviewed on City Arts and Lectureson NPR. The wonderful interviewer–I missed his name–asked, “Why do you write?” To my surprise, she said she discovered that writing has enabled her to explore her life purpose.

One kind of writing is note-taking–jotting things down as they happen, whether event descriptions or thoughts and ideas. (I wrote this in NotePower, a blog I’ve stopped keeping about notes.) One kind of note-taking is called “journaling,” or keeping a diary. People do this for a variety of reasons–to remember what happened to them; because they want to write; to work out feelings; and more. The International Association of Journal Writers (iajw.org) notes,

At its best, journaling is a fluid cycle where your writing flows and you reap the harvest of self-awareness,clarity, and serenity.
Your writing and life feed each other.
You feel good writing, writing often, and in your own voice.
You enjoy authentically expressing yourself and you learn more as you write more.
You make better sense of your life and how to move forward in the right direction.


The features you want in a journal overlap those of a comprehensive note-taking system, but I find there is a focus on timed entries, on keeping track, on categorizing, on searching, and on prompts for creative writing. I haven’t done a comprehensive survey, but here are a few I’ve tried:

  • 750words.com. The focus is on writing 750 words a day. There are some cute analytical tools to report to you your moods, your focus, and more–and of course, a running word counter. You also get badges for achieving 750 words a day over stretches of time. Very simple interface.
  • Penzu.com. Beautiful skeuomorphic (fancy word that means “looks like the real thing”) design. Nice iPad and iPhone apps. Great feel; limited features–for instance, no search. But good formatting, at least on the Mac. (Formatting limited on iOS devices, due to iOS.)
  • LifeJournal.com. They’ve had a Windows product for years, and recently released a web version–which looks, sadly, very much like a Windows product. But it seems to be the most feature-rich of the journals I’ve looked at. Very rich editing; nice ways to categorize journals; recordings of “wisdom” from experienced journalers; prompts; quotations; and more.

All of these are free or low in cost.

I’ve found the reflection that journaling affords me to be invaluable. When I don’t journal, I feel lost. I record dreams, conversations, discoveries, moments of gratitude, sadness, encouragement, encounters, and more. The stuff of life. And having kept journals fairly regularly for decades, I enjoy reviewing them, remembering what went on in my life over the years. It gives me a sense of continuity. I journaled, therefore I was…

Give it a shot. You might enjoy it.

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