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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

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Friday, June 09, 2006

DEVONthink & EverNote: Tools for Taking Notes

I've heard a lot about DEVONthink for the Mac. It's being used by notable authors such as Steven Johnson.

Since people can't seem to stop talking about it, I went to investigate what all the hoopla is about, and it appears to have a really nice keyword smart grouping function for notes.

Being a PC/Windows guy, I went in search of something similar. I found EverNote. It allows 'smart grouping' - also known as keyword categorization, and a host of other neat features. The best part? The basic version is free. The retail version supports handwriting features--but if you're like me, you don't really care about that stuff and the free version functions perfectly without the extra features.

Some people might ask, "Why not use Mind Manager or FreeMind?" That's a great question, and I love those apps, but they are better for hierarchical organization and visual mapping. I don't necessarily need all that for making clip files of odd news, or organizing snippets and tidbits of inspiration.

In other words, EverNote makes a good InfoBucket or InfoScoop, for lack of a better term. My notes don't have to be super organized, in fact I prefer them not to be. Notation for me is a very quick and dirty process. All I really need is a way to sort my notes effectively by topic, and EverNote handles all that nicely without much trouble.

It's free. Give it a try if you're looking for some note-taking software, or simply if you like to try new tools.

Anyone using DEVONthink or EverNote?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Doing The Unstuck

"It's a perfect day for doing the Unstuck, for dancing like you can't hear the beat, and you don't give a further thought to things like feet block."

For those in the U.S. or with access to a Barnes & Noble, it's on clearance right now for $4.98 - an awfully cheap price to end your writer's block.

This one has a lot of juicy advice. I don't so much have a problem writing as I do coming up with the right ideas for the right scenes. It doesn't matter, as the book so far is solving both for me.

At the very least, do yourself a favor and flip through it at the bookstore to see if it might help you. My guess is it can.

"It's a perfect day for getting wild, forgetting all your worries, life and everything that makes you cry."

Ok, now that we know one of Eric's favorite bands in high school... get out and get yourself Unstuck.

Novelist Biz Plans

"If you're stuck thinking of authors as 'writers,' you're never going to understand branding."

An apt quote from this Forbes article on successful authors. Which begs the question; What is your business plan for novel-writing? Do you have one?

Thanks to Grumpy Old Bookman for that link.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What's Wrong With Sci-Fi?

Over on The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler there is a decent piece on how the 'fans' themselves are killing science-fiction.

If we're just talking about readers, I agree that the negativity and trolling should be held responsible for some of the 'destruction.'

If we're talking about critical dissection among writers, that's another thing. Getting all nitpicky about a piece of work is one way that writers learn. Until I read Heinlein I had no idea he wrote such bad prose. Not that it matters in the face of the ideas--the ideas are what resonate with people, and why they love the works so much.

Similar can be said for Isaac "The Rambler" Asimov. I found his work to go off too much into the characters' headspace, which in general is a poor storytelling technique--at the very least overused in his case.

But this is relatively 'old' sci-fi, or well-entrenched to say the least. If sci-fi fans are holding back new sci-fi because they simply won't give it a chance, then yes... that is sad.

But as others may have suggested, don't read web forums then. Only misery seems to come from online negativity.

Just to be a thorn, the devil's advocate in me just has to ask... "What if they're right?"

Is there something wrong with sci-fi these days? If so, what is it?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Discussing Intellectual Properties

I should have linked this a while ago. Scott is the co-owner of 3D Realms, where I work.

The interview is all about games, but don't be fooled by that. Many of the topics discussed affect novelists and writers as well. After all, it is the job of fiction writers to create new intellectual property.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Can You Identify Good Ideas?

"I'll know it when I see it."

Maybe you won't? Seth Godin has one of the best blog posts I've read in a long time, for the simple lie it exposes.

We've all said it at one time or another.

You won't know it when you see it, because even people who are exceptionally gifted at picking out good ideas sometimes pass up goldmine opportunities.

Nobody can identify all the good ideas, all the time. Nobody. Like wisdom and the humility of Socrates, the best thing you can do is to admit that you know nothing, and work to constantly improve your knowledge. The same is true for picking out good ideas. We all have to admit that we aren't as great as we think, and our only recourse is to work at becoming better about picking good ideas.

It's the only way to move forward.

And picking ideas is one area where it pays to second-guess yourself. Is your idea really that good? Why? Maybe you've come up with a stinker. But then again, maybe that idea that woke you up in the middle of the night, but seemed stupid the next morning--maybe it's the best idea you've ever had?

What measurements do you use in judging an idea? Are you good at picking them?

Do you know it when you see it?