Beyond the ‘Net

A Chrome search for the phrase, “Glabelhammies trend higher,” on Google returns the notice that, “Your search – Glabelhammies trend higher – did not match any documents.” The same search on Internet Explorer’s Bing returns 15,200,000 results, none of which has anything whatsoever to do with Glabelhammies. Billions of web pages without a single mention of Glabelhammies and Google knows it – that’s impressive. When researching a story element, Chrome & Google do a good job of focusing on the element being researched.

For scenics, nothing beats Google Earth’s ability to show you the scene being described. This is important for writers who haven’t been there and for readers who have. Especially if you want the reader to remain immersed in the story when your character stands somewhere famous and looks around. Millions of book readers have been in Times Square, so, better Google it with Street View before you describe it. Nevertheless, Google Earth will not show where the Glabelhammies trend.

The basic limit to Internet research is exactly what makes it so useful. The ‘Net contains existing knowledge. To go beyond existing knowledge, try good old fashioned primary research. Primary Research means collecting information that does not yet exist. There are three basic approaches.

Observation is the key to seeing real life. Details caught by your eye the way you see things can help your writing show what no other writer has and make your story original.

Explore anything new that pops into your head. Accept your creativity and mentally walk into the unknown to develop an idea.

Construct new story elements. Give the reader something they’ve never read by first researching all the old ways that a part of the story has already been told. (Use the Internet) Then get imaginative.

Of course, we already know all of this. The useful question here is “how.” How do we observe real life, how do we explore creative ideas and how do we construct new story elements?

How do you, yourself, collect information that does not yet exist? Anything you can share in the comments below may help others. I know I benefit by learning from other writers. Thank you!

About Writers, reading, writing technique

The bestseller recipe


If you want to write a bestseller, what will you choose as your main ingredient? Sex? Murder? Action? Suspense? They probably won’t do your chances any harm, but according to Jodie Archer, a former publisher, and Matthew Lockers of Stanford University, you’d be better off choosing ‘human closeness’. They stress that ‘this doesn’t mean romance – it could be talking with someone you are intimate with or shopping with a parent.’ In other words (as I see it) the depth and believability of relationships: antagonism mixing it with affection, tension alternating with tranquillity.

How do they know? They scanned 20,000 books, built an algorithm, and were able to predict with 80% accuracy those that made the bestseller lists. Of course, there’s a precondition, which their algorithm took for granted: the book first has to be published and noticed. But once that little obstacle is cleared, you’re all set.

Don’t overdo it, though. Human closeness for 30% of the book is enough. Then 30% on a different topic (technology, climate change, whatever) and the rest a sprinkling of miscellaneous details. There you go. Easy, eh?

That’s my simplified summary of an article in the Guardian, The secret DNA behind bestsellers. Hardly secret, I thought when I read it. Human closeness arouses our emotions. Aristotle wrote about that a while ago. But still, it’s worth thinking about when we create our characters. And getting it right, as always, is easier said than done.

Uncategorized, writing technique

Me and Hemingway

The other day, this blog post appeared in my Facebook feed with the title:  “This Surprising Reading Level Analysis Will Change the Way You Write.”

Once you get past the clickbait title, it’s a pretty good post. The reading level analysis the post is talking about is called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, a method developed in the 1970s for evaluating the difficulty of a text. Basically, it analyses a text for complexity and assigns it a reading level.

Just for kicks, I fed a brief, randomly-selected chapter from my newest book, Whisper Blue into the analyzer over at and clicked analyze. My score?  A whopping 4.1. Fourth grade reading level. Ha! Shows what an erudite elitist I am! The analysis of Text Quality said I had:

—5 sentences with 30 or more syllables
—20 with 20 or more syllables
—3 words with 4 or more syllables, and
—no words exceeding 12 letters.

And this, really, is ALL that Flesch-Kincaid analyzes. Long sentences and long words get you a higher grade level score; short words and short sentences get you grammar school scores. A reductive metric if ever I saw one, but Flesch-Kincaid was never meant to be more than a very rough guide. There’s really no judgment involved. It’s simply a crude measure of complexity. And you know who else wrote at a fourth grade level? Ernest Hemingway. How about Cormac McCarthy? Fifth grade. Likewise Jane Austen. Tolstoy? Fitzgerald? Stephen King? Yup. They all, apparently, wrote for middle schoolers.

Obviously, these sorts of grades tell us a lot more about the test then they do about the texts. And the whole thing points out some of the difficulties involved in using any kind of standardized approach to evaluating creative work. For example, the analyzer at also includes a tally of three of the best known No-Nos all writers should avoid: use of the passive voice, adverbs, and clichés. My score was 7 passives, 1 cliché, and a whopping 68 adverbs!

Yoiks! I suck! Only, I don’t really. In the first place, a large amount of the text I selected is dialogue. And normal human speech is riddled with adverbs and passive constructions, not to mention clichés. And in the second place, most of these adverbs weren’t bad adverbs, and most of the passive constructions weren’t even passive.

Example—the site flagged the following phrases as passive:

“maybe I shouldn’t be encouraging him.”

“Everything was going to be all right.”

“One minute I was dismissing the whole thing as mumbo jumbo, the next I was withdrawing a hundred dollars from the ATM, just in case.”

These aren’t passive. Apparently, when the search algorithm sees a construction like “was going” or “was dismissing” or “be encouraging,” it mistakes auxiliary verb constructions (such as continuing action) for a passive constructions.

As far as my copious use of adverbs, here are a few examples (the underlined words were flagged as adverbs):

There you go.”

“That’s probably exactly what happened.”

“That old fake had us jumping around like a couple of citified rubes, but it was all just a show!”

“You are not going anywhere three nights from now!”

Adverbs are not evil. Yes, it’s awful when writers overuse those dreaded -ly constructions, especially in dialogue tags. But adverbs expressing place (there) or time (now) really don’t get my critical dander up. I suppose probably is modifying exactly, (adverbs can modify other adverbs) but then why didn’t they flag exactly, which is an adverb of manner? And I’m not at all sure which verb, adjective or adverb just is supposed to be modifying in the third example.

Needless to say, this isn’t very useful as a writing tool, but there are a lot of sites like out there. Usually they let you try it out for free—paste some text and have them identify the alleged problems. Then, after you’ve used your share of free samples, you can sign up and pay for membership. I’m not sure what charges for membership, but even as a free service, it seems slightly overpriced. And it isn’t simply that it misidentifies the passive voice—I’ve seen human editors do the same.

0The problem is more one of attitude. Grammar and syntax have rules, but there are endless subtleties. Even if the website correctly spotted adverbs and passive constructions, the suggestion that adverbs are always wrong, or that the passive voice is always a weak choice, is simplistic at best. You should be aware of what your are doing, at all times,, and make good choices but following boilerplate suggestions for improving your prose is only going to produce boilerplate prose.  Good writing is clear, evocative, and surprising—and no algorithm is going to make that happen for you.

(By the way, If you’d like to check it out for yourself, my paranormal thriller about voodoo and cyber-ghosts and the mass hysteria of the crowds is available at Amazon, Kobo, and other places. I think you’ll like it. No matter what your reading level is.)


The Book a Break short story competition


There are competitions and competitions. There’s the Man Booker and the Book A Break. As I have no inside knowledge of the former, let me tell you about the latter. A short story competition I ran this year from my website.

All you need to run a competition is a prize, a judge and some entrants. The prize could be £30,000 (The Sunday Times Short Story Award) or publication in an anthology. If the prize is cash, you’ll no doubt want to charge a fee for entering. Since I neither wanted to charge a fee nor dip into my pension pot, I made the prize four days at our home in Provence (excluding travel costs). Casting about for a judge, I hit upon a certain Atthys Gage – you may have heard of him – whom I knew from Book Country. He kindly agreed. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I should think there’ll be a dozen entries at the most.’

I set up a page on my website and waited. Three or four people got in touch. Then I thought it might be a good idea to advertise it a bit, so I sent the details to Almond Press, who added it to their list of competitions. Lo and behold! The number of views and visitors soared off the scale: in the first two months of this year, 8000 views and 3500 visitors. And the entries started to come in. A couple a week at first, then half a dozen, then more and more as the deadline approached. I removed the names, gave them a number, and every so often sent off a batch to Atthys, accompanied by ever more apologetic emails. Fortunately, he took it all in good humour. You won’t be surprised to hear that he was as good a judge as I could have hoped for.

The final count of entries was 75. The winner, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, duly took up her prize in July; all in all, her stay was a fitting conclusion to a highly successful competition. Not quite the conclusion, actually – reading the entries, many of which were excellent, I had the idea of publishing an anthology. All being well, Cat Tales will be released on December 15th. But that’s another story in itself.

But why, you might ask, did I run the competition in the first place? What did I stand to gain? Well, obviously, nothing as direct as a spike in sales of my book. On the other hand, it did no harm to have all those visitors to the website, even if the numbers have now returned to normal. Looking back, though, I’d say the greatest benefit lay in getting to know other writers. No doubt that’s more through the anthology than the competition itself, but the two go together. And overall, there’s another, slightly unexpected aspect – you may think it’s corny, but I found that providing the impetus for writers to create stories is quite enchanting. Some of them, perhaps, were already there in people’s minds, and might have found expression anyway; others came into being for the occasion. Either way, I find it almost as satisfying to have nurtured that whole process as if I’d written them myself.

All of which leads to the simple conclusion: coming soon – the second Book A Break Competition. I look forward to reading your entries!

book promotion

Writing DaysZ 7

Yesterday was “National No Texting Day.” In what bubble in whose mind did that make sense? Makes me wonder how many people yesterday texted the info to their friends. That’s the thing about mind bubbles. They hold ideas that make sense when you think about them but burst when exposed to the real world.

Bob vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-6, go to

Mind Bubbles

+++They slipped out of the homeless camp before dawn. Piper left a note thanking Andy, “And all the good folk of New Haven,” for their hospitality. “That was nice of you, Piper.” Bob offered her a hand up onto the rail car, admiring her form as it filled his vision. Spice was already aboard. He had removed a floor plate and sat quietly working on something attached to the undercarriage. “You can see in the dark?” he asked him.
+++“OKAY if we get moving?” The answer was a laconic Western drawl. “Yup.” The little Alien had been withdrawn since yesterday when the two humans had goaded him into revealing some painful personal background.
+++Piper patted his head on her way to the hand pump. She faced forward and looking over Bob’s shoulder, apologized to the Alien, “Spice, I’m sorry that we pried. Your personal life is your own business. Isn’t it Bob?”
+++“Sure. Any creature could anger their father’s mistress and get stuck on a solo mission to a backward planet.”
+++Bob! Spice, don’t let him sour you into giving Earth a negative report. We should not be prevented from leaving our solar system because one human is like Bob.” She frowned fiercely at him and stuck out her tongue.
+++He winked at Piper’s tongue as they started pumping the little rail car westward through the Alabama countryside. “Humans will surprise you, Spice, we’re more than we seem.”
+++“Oh, yes, Spice. Our better side doesn’t always show but really, we’re full of good ideas and intentions.”
+++“Ideas and intentions?” Spice looked up at her with an expression somewhere between dismissive and amused. “Like that prison you made just to keep the accused away from your criminal justice system?”
+++“What prison?”
+++“It’s on an island.”
+++“Gitmo?” Bob guessed.
+++It was one of those moments with more to see than Bob could process in the moment. He glanced over his shoulder to see the Alien returning his attention to the mysterious darkness below the floor and then at Piper who looked at him from across the hand pump with dismay. Behind her, the sun rose above the horizon and silhouetted her body. He watched her pump up and down in the rising sun to the rhythm of the handle, flexing towards him, then away, then towards-.
+++“Well,” Piper said hastily, “We make mistakes but the government is trying to move those prisoners out of Guantanamo. And I just read an article about turning the whole place into a peace park and ecological research center. See what I mean?”
+++“Is that an idea or intention?”
+++“It’s a mind bubble,” Bob said. “It’ll never survive reality.” Piper’s dismay turned to a glare as they rounded a curve and then she exclaimed at something ahead, “I’m famished!” He looked to see a small diner with a sign as big as the building on its roof that said, “EAT!”
+++“I’ve been on planets where I’d never put that sign on my building,” the Alien noted.
+++They braked to a stop where the tracks passed the rear of the diner. Stepping around discarded pallets and a garbage dumpster, Bob sniffed the fresh morning air. He thought it odd that the dumpster didn’t stink. In front, a two lane country road wound through open fields covered in weeds. A sign pointed to an Interstate ramp a mile away.
+++“I’m famished,” Piper repeated. “I hope this place is open.”
+++It wasn’t and it was. The sign on the door said “CLOSED” but as Piper peered through the front window around the name, “Tiny’s Diner,” a buzzer sounded and the door opened to them. “Come in, come in,” yelled a squeaky voice.
+++There were no tables or booths, just a sparkling clean counter. On the wall behind the counter were two hand written signs. One, tacked along its bottom and starting to curl over said, “Welcome! State your order.” Below that, another sign with an arrow pointing down to the floor read, “Don’t Stare!” They sat at the counter and pointedly did not look down behind the counter at the bald head.
+++“I’m Tiny,” squeaked the bald head. “Breakfast is bread with the moldy parts torn off, cheese with some mold but that’s normal for cheese, you can bite around it. And coffee. Gotta have coffee, so ignore the smoke coming from the kitchen. I had to burn the menus to heat the coffee. It’s safe. I built the fire in the sink and the sprinklers never did work. I’ll be right back with your coffee.” The head scooted through an opening in the wall behind the counter.
+++“Nice place,” Piper said, deliberately looking around. Bob followed her gaze. Pastel earth colors with splashes of brighter greens and yellows gave the room a warm and cheery feel, from the height of the two signs and down. Above the signs, the walls and ceiling were unpainted and dusty. “We each have our view,” came the squeaky voice from the kitchen.
+++“Been here long?” She asked conversationally.
+++“Since I retired from the ventriloquist dummy factory,” came the answer. “I always wanted my own diner.” He returned with a tray bearing three cups of coffee. “Lizbeth and I saved up our money so we could convert our home. Lizbeth is English and a real sweetheart. She supports me in everything.”
+++“That’s wonderful, Tiny.” Piper smiled at the hand handing her coffee.
+++“Where did you say you worked?” Bob asked.
+++“Bergen Manufacturing. We made the best ventriloquist dummies. And I know because I tested every single one before it shipped.” He shook his head. “It wasn’t easy, not being a ventriloquist myself, but someone had to do it.”
+++“What do you mean,” Spice wondered. “How did you test a ventriloquist dummy?”
+++“Well, you could see my mouth move, I know that. But every dummy had to say the test phrase, ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,’ just to be sure they could and I made sure they did.”
+++Spice looked baffled.
+++“Did you run out of food?” Bob raised his voice to follow Tiny into the kitchen.
+++“Out of food, out of gas, out of hope. I’m going to shoot myself after you leave.”
+++His matter of fact tone carried an edge that startled Piper. “No!” She said to the kitchen opening as the bald head, flanked by two serving trays, came back out. Hairy arms stretched up to place the trays on the counter. “Be right back with the Alien’s order.”
+++“Alien?” Spice puzzled. “How did you know?”
+++“I’ve developed a keen sense of smell. Saves on neck strain. You don’t smell like any human or animal I’ve known. You must be one of those Aliens. I thought you all left. What are you still doing here?” He slid a tray under Spice’s nose.
+++“It’s a long story. That, and the food situation, makes me want to stay and shoot myself with you.”
+++He smiled at Piper. “But I can’t. We’re on a mission. Tiny, will you be OKAY, dying here today?”
+++“Stop that!” She told them. “There is no reason for that kind of talk!”
+++Spice said quietly, “Did you hear what the man said? There is no food. There is no gas. There is no hope of food being delivered.”
+++“He’s right,” squeaked the head. “All those people with no gas up there on the Interstate, they’re getting out of their cars this morning. Most will walk up and down the highway because that’s directions they’re used to going but some will wander in all directions. They’ll see my sign. I don’t want to be stuck here watching families starve to death.”
+++“Bob?” Piper implored.
+++He stood, pocketing his bread and cheese. “Stop eating.” He told her. “Save what food you have left. You’ll need it before we find more.”
+++“I’m afraid they’re right, Piper. The size of your population is sustained by cheap and plentiful oil that is no longer plentiful or cheap. Your civilization is collapsing, fast.”
+++“This is so horrible!
+++The Alien clasped his hands firmly around hers, “Brace yourself. How you feel now is nothing compared to how you will feel about the experience. We will see dead families between here and Colorado. We must scavenge for any food we can get and the living, some at least, will try to kill us for it. The worst is yet to come.”
+++“The good news,” piped up Tiny, “Is fewer people will mean a better earth.” He tossed a book up onto the counter. “Killing off some might even save the planet.”
+++Half-Earth,” Bob read aloud from the cover, “By Edward O. Wilson, Harvard professor. He wants to commit half the world’s surface to conservation to stave off biological apocalypse.”
+++“No need now,” said Tiny.
+++“Good thing. It’d never happen. It’s like that idea to turn Guantanamo into a park. It only makes sense when you think about it.” With a distressed smile, Bob added, “Goodbye Tiny. Make it quick.”
+++“Got it covered,” Tiny replied over the jarring sound of a handgun slide being racked back and released.
+++At the door, Spice turned to ask, “Would you have any extra food at all that you won’t be needing?”
+++For the first time, anguish over what he was about to do crept into Tiny’s voice. “One favor. Will you take Lizbeth with you?”
+++“Of course!” Piper quickly answered. “Where is she, Tiny?”
+++A set of keys sailed over the counter to land on the floor at their feet. “She’s tending the pantry. The delivery door is outside. Help yourself.”
+++Lizbeth was there, a thirty-inch-tall ventriloquist dummy in full regal dress on a shelf with canned beans, soups and condiments. She had the face of a young Queen Elizabeth, as seen on British coins. They took her and everything eatable from the pantry. Quickly, because there was not much and because no one spoke of it but no one wanted to be around to hear the gunshot.

Footnote: For the record, the two works cited herein are a Science magazine article, (March 2016) proposing that we “Transform Gitmo into a peace park & ecological research center,” and Edward O. Wilson’s book, Half-Earth, (Liveright 2016) in which he seriously argues that we commit half the world’s surface to conservation to stave off the coming biological apocalypse. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Ever wonder why billions of dollars have been spent to help Haitians and they still live in three-sided hovels? It’s because the Haitians never got the billions of dollars. And no, their president didn’t siphon it all off. It was mostly kept by the companies, charities, NGOs and international agencies that provide disaster relief. The people they help are helped at a high cost. That’s some scam, that disaster relief.

The Haiti Scam
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-6, go to


book promotion, reading

What’s Your Plan?

I am riled by (the info in) Atthys’ latest post: readership is down (we knew that), and self publishing is way up. A lot of folks who would formerly have been reading are too busy, having been inspired by Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking to try their hand at it.

He’s right about writers, to a certain extent. I have many books I want to dig into. I nibble, here, there. It takes something really special to lock me in. It doesn’t mean I don’t admire a piece, but I have things I feel I need (as opposed to want) to read. Much of this is research. I confess, I am one of the recalcitrant readers.

But there are still plenty of not-booked-up book lovers around. How do we reach them? How do we convince them that our book, in the vast array of choices, is the one they want to read? How do we get ourselves noticed in the first place?

We need a marketing plan. A robust marketing plan. Putting your thing up on Amazon, doing an interview on someone’s blog, planting an announcement here or there, buying an ad on Google, we see from testimony given here, this doesn’t begin to suffice.

Number one, you need a website. I’m working on one, as most of you know. Curtis wonders why it has to be so elaborate. Why can’t I just post my novella, hand out my bumper stickers, and get back writing?

I consider graphic style to be a hook as important as a dynamite first paragraph. (Well, natch. I’m a designer.) Everyone I manage to herd to my site who doesn’t have his/her socks knocked off one way or another, I’ve had my shot with them and blown it. I aim to tantalize with fun graphics and patter, holding their interest long enough to get them to read a bit of story, hoping they decide that my squirrely thing is for them.

Only days ago I inserted Mr. Peabody into the mix. The Mr. Peabody. He performs a specific mechanical function for me, but I’m sure I’ll find other use for him. He is, you’ll recall, a history buff, possessed of a rare breadth and depth of information. (How can I pass up this astonishing opportunity?) He’s spent the past forty years earning his Ph.D. Like my ex-sister-in-law did, changing schools and/or fields multiple times, because she could. She ran through a large inheritance in the process. She’s now forced to sell land that’s been in her family for generations. Dr. P has depleted his own money (from his hit show) and, broke, the poor guy lacking a considerable remnant of once massive farmland to surrender, he’s coming to work for me. I believe I’ll give him an advice column on my site, poor baby.

I may call it Ask Dr. P. Will people think I’ve got Dr. Phil on board? Phil-style babble, references to a TV show, they may. Should I exploit that somehow? Something to think about. I’m beginning to wonder if Peabody wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Dr. Phil show, and they accepted it to get him out the damn door.

When I’m all tuned up, ready to roll, I’ll promote my web presence aggressively:

This is a bit out-there, but I may try it: In a bookstore, poke your business card into books in your genre, way in the middle. Readers will most likely not find the Rogue plug for some time. If they’ve bought used, they’ll think it was left behind by the previous owner.

We have several small second hand bookstores in our area, and one rather renowned independent, the Hickory Stick in Washington Depot, CT. Might they let a local author put up a poster? The area is full of weekenders up from Manhattan. Who knows what eye I might catch.

Kent is a movers-and-shakers summer haven. I will set up on the main street on a big summer weekend. (In summer, all weekends are big, but some are extra big.) I’ll grab a prime parking spot early in the day and publicize Sly out of my car.

That’s for someday. Back to now: I pick up valuable information in the several writer/web design groups on Facebook. Here’s a tip I found just today: Google has a new search algorithm that gives priority to mobile-ready sites. I have debated making my .com site a pared down mobile-friendly portal to a full site. (As opposed to a supplemental thing.) After reading this, I am convinced a simplified feeder to the big bass drum (Booth led boldly with his big bass drum, that line sticks with me from tenth grade, fifty-five years ago) seems to be the better way.

More street level shenanigans: Can you get yourself profiled in your local paper? My cousin Jim Meirose has had several pieces done on him. He’s made himself a name, at least in Central Jersey. Have you thought about posting a flyer in laundromats? I’ve perused many a bulletin board, waiting for my duds to dry.

I’m wondering, seeing all the political frou-frou on my way to work, how about yard signs? I’m considering knocking on doors, offering twenty-five bucks a month for permission to spear a placard into someone’s turf. Near a stop sign, where drivers sit in line.

That thin flexible vinyl bumper stickers are made of? I wonder if I could get an over-the-shoulders front/back billboard, turn myself into a walking advertisement. My husband might want to pretend he’s not with me but I can deal with that.

For all of this, you need an on-line home, where you: Talk up your book(s). Collect email addresses. Offer premiums. Post dates and locales of personal appearances. (Craft shows, etc., especially if you have hard copies to sell. I’m thinking here of my eventual paperdoll.) On Facebook you can place a link in any number of groups. Some percentage of viewers will take you up on it. I investigate sites all the time, to see how others handle them.

A website is your best tool. Create a hybrid, op-ed content in addition to the show-and-tell for your story so that, having coaxed folks on, you might keep them coming back.

Tell me your plan. Could be you have great ideas I’ve overlooked. I would love to hear them.

About Writers, book sales

Study Finds Number of Writers May Soon Exceed Readers

Industry insiders report that the number of downloads from amateur authors now exceeds the number of consumers who are actually interested in reading them.

“Readership has been declining for decades, of course,” said an industry insider who wished to remain anonymous. “What with television and the internet and the proliferation of flash mobs, there are simply too many readily available forms of entertainment out there. Plus, they’re all so much easier than reading. Let’s face it, reading requires a lot more effort than just staring at something.”

Though the trend toward shorter, easier entertainment has been developing for a long time, it is an entirely different trend that now threatens to overwhelm the American book reader: the growth of self publishing. Ever since the advent of ebooks and self-publishing services such as Kindle Direct Press and Smashwords, the number of books being published has ballooned. In 2015, the number of self-published ebooks was anywhere from 600,000 to 8.2 million depending on whose sources you believe. When pressed for an exact number, a representative at Amazon told us, “It’s hard to know for sure. By the time we finish counting, the number’s already obsolete. We can’t keep a handle on it.”

“Writers are usually readers,” our anonymous source added, “and there’s part of your problem. A lot of those folks who would formerly have been reading are now working on their seven-part epic fantasy series or writing Kidnapped by One Direction fan fiction. It’s a real quandary. It’s like with photography, or being a singer-songwriter. Way more people want to produce their own albums than will ever want to buy them.”

Indeed the tsunami of new fiction may well be unstemmable. “In many cases, authors aren’t even asking for money anymore,” according to our anonymous source. “They’re giving the books away for free, just begging people to take them.”

Unfortunately for would-be authors, free may no longer be a sufficient discount.

“Good lord!” one reaimg_5974der told us, “My kindle is stuffed with free books! If I started now, I couldn’t read them all. But there are so many more out there! Everyday, my email gets more mailers with more free stuff, and it’s kind of hard to resist. It’s so frustrating!” She added, shaking her head, “Besides, I’m already hours behind in my Netflix binge-watching. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”

About Writers, Research


OKAY, let’s get the (explanatory) blonde joke out of the way.
“This blonde girl asked me what ‘IDK’ stood for. I said I don’t know. She said, ‘OMG, no one seems to.'”

She was, of course, right about a lot of things. If there were a Medieval map of the Internet, vast areas would be marked “IDK” for voids and “Here There Be Dragons” for misinformation. We don’t know a lot of things.

But don’t blame the Internet. History is riddled with gaps and untruths, eye witnesses get it wrong and experts grind their own axes. We never really knew all the facts. The problem is that now the Internet is widely accepted as the fact-checker. The Encyclopedia Britannica has been replaced by Wikis.

Not that this matters so much to creative writers. We seek truth, not facts. Information changes but truth only varies within the constancies of human behavior. The great themes of literature haven’t changed since Enheduanna wrote about lovers among the reeds along the Euphrates River thousands of years ago. Only the settings change, like the scene in time travel movies where the traveler remains fixed against a background of civilizations changing, falling and rising. Aren’t unchanging human truths what really matter?

We need facts to anchor our fiction. Do our “facts” have to agree with what readers find on the Internet?

I don’t know. I’m a writer. I make stuff up.