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I found a blog a while ago that focused on the craft of writing. Most of the posts were entertaining and useful, but one irritated me. The subject of the post was dead giveaways that something is written by a novice writer. The most significant "giveaway" was that new writers use some words way too much. This particular poster's belief was that their limited writing talents led to limited use of words.


I disagree. I'm not saying you should use the same word for a certain action or description ad nauseam, but good writing relies on the rhythm of the prose. Once you establish a certain rhythm, the reader is more likely to make a connection with the story. Breaking out the thesaurus to find a different way to say a word you've used before is a good way to lose that rhythm and lose the reader in the process.


I decided to "look" up some of the words on the poster's list that are overused by novice writers and "see" how successful writers like Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, and Anne Lamott used them, or "overused" them, as the case may be. I chose one book by each author at random and came up with an average among the four for each word. Here's what I found:


  • See - Occurred an average 163 times. This does not include the word seeing.
  • Look - Occurred an average 134 times. This does not include the word in all its forms (i.e. looked, looking, looks)
  • Turn - Occurred an average 38 times. This does not include the word in all its forms (i.e. turns, turning, turned)
  • Breath - Occurred an average 18 times. This does not include the word in all its forms (i.e. breathes, breathed, breathe)


The bottom line of my unscientific experiment is that sometimes it's necessary to use the same word repeatedly. Don't beat yourself up trying to find an alternative. Your story has a rhythm, and you shouldn't let someone else's rules of writing destroy that rhythm. Your talent as a writer isn't dictated by the variety of words you use. It's the way you use words to tell your story that matters. So, take a deep breath, turn to a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and say, "I'll only use the words that I need to use to tell my story. No more. No less."


See, don't you feel better?



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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When Writing, Don't Outsmart Yourself

Making Up Words: How Much is Too Much?

2,955 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, writers, writing, craft, words

Welcome to Tuesday's blog roundup. This is the day we shine the spotlight on bloggers and artists in the publishing, film and music industries.




The Evolution of How I Use Twitter - There Are No Rules

Writer's Digest's Jane Friedman gives her best tips for authors on how to use Twitter to build their brands.


You Should Self-Publish - A Newbie's Guide to Publishing

Author Joe Konrath makes a compelling argument for self-publishing. He's on board, and he thinks you should be, too.




I'll Work for the Promise You'll Pay Me Eventually - Joke and Biagio

In the film industry, it's not uncommon for you to do the work with just the promise of pay.


Briefcase of Prop Money: BFX: DIY - Indy Mogul

How to make fake money for that briefcase full of ransom or any other scene where you need stacks of realistic looking currency.




In Social Media, the Best PR Person is Yourself - Mr. Tunes

No one is better at being you than you. Why give your social media channels to a PR person?


MySpace Dying as Facebook Grows - dmusic

Reports of MySpace's resurgence may have been premature. Even Tila Tequila has left the once-thriving social media site.



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Tuesday's Blog Roundup - January 11, 2011 Edition

Tuesday's Blog Roundup - January 4, 2011 Edition

1,472 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: self_publishing, self_publishing, books, books, authors, authors, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, self-publishing, self-publishing, films, films, twitter, twitter, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers, social_media, social_media

Is This the Year of the E-book?

The day that many have predicted may be here. E-books outsold print books the week after the holidays on USA Today's top-50 list. Sure it was only a week, but it's a pretty significant development. Like it or not, e-books are growing in popularity and the trend does not appear to be stalling anytime soon.

USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, to be published Thursday, will show digital's new popularity: E-book versions of the top six books outsold the print versions last week. And of the top 50, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. It's the first time the top-50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print. "Lots of consumers woke up Christmas morning with new e-reading devices ready to load them up with e-books," says Paul Bogaards of Knopf, American publisher for Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which holds three of the top four spots on the list.

You can read the entire article on USA Today's website: Week after holidays, e-book sales outdo print

Did Lucas Unnecessarily Air His Back Story?

There is no doubt that George Lucas is a filmmaking genius, and I get a little uncomfortable being overly critical of his choice to create the three prequel movies to his Star Wars empire (that's empire with a lowercase "e"). But let's face it: the first three films were groundbreaking in scope and structure. They changed film. The prequels did not. So, what was different? Why didn't they have the same impact? The Moon brothers' assessment is that the prequels were just a bunch of unnecessary back story.   

The problem that the prequels had, especially for those who were around when the original trilogy came out, is this: Our imagination is so strong, usually it's hard to top. We put together the clues to form the full backstory in our minds. Put the two trilogies back-to-back, and you'll find that there are little inconsistencies. Backstory and story don't quite match, especially regarding the reasons and circumstances surrounding the turn of Anakin Skywalker to the dark side.

You can read the entire article on the Moon Brothers website: The Backstory of Star Wars

Is Simple the Key to Success in Songwriting?

It is human nature to lament the state of popular music. My generation does it. The generation before me does it. Cavemen did it when a three syllable grunt was something you could dance to. Someone is always unhappy about the current crop of songs getting the most attention. Jon Pareles of the New York Times is the latest to hate the string of songs played over and over again in various venues. 

The pressures on musicians to keep things simple are obvious. What have become all-too-familiar 21st-century refrains - too much information, too little time and the diminished attention spans that result from trying to cope - have only grown more insistent through the decade. The recording technology of loops and samples encourages unimaginative producers to repeat something merely adequate for the length of a song rather than developing or enriching it. 

You can read the entire article on the New York Times' website: Want a Hit? Keep It Simple


Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - January 7, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - December 31, 2010

1,772 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, movies, movies, ebooks, ebooks, songwriting, songwriting

I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to speak to a group of kids, parents, and teachers a few weeks ago. It's an invitation that would have sent me into a panic-induced coma less than a decade ago, but not anymore. You see, I had a problem with public speaking that almost prevented me from putting together a coherent sentence if I was speaking to more than three people at a time. But I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone in 1999 by taking a sales job that I had no aptitude for, and I slowly learned how to talk to people. The groups grew larger and larger over time until I was comfortable speaking to a room full of people. It became easier to do, especially when I realized that the audience wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to succeed. It's as uncomfortable for them when a speaker bombs as it is for the speaker.

I'm not a professional speaker, and the audience knows it. I enter the room with as little pressure on me as possible. I don't memorize anything, I don't write a word-for-word speech, and I prefer not to use slideshows. I like when it's just me and an outline of topics I want to cover. Here's a list of ways I prepared for my latest personal appearance that you may want to apply next time you're planning your own:

  • I asked the organizer why the audience would be attending the presentation. If they were coming to hear me, then I knew I could focus more on my books and my journey as a writer. If they were coming to find out more about publishing and writing, then I would focus more on the business of writing as a whole. Turns out on this occasion it was going to be a mixture, so I created an outline that broke the presentation into three sections: the current state of the publishing industry, my place in it, and my writing process.
  • I prepared a few pages of what I'm currently writing to read to the audience at the end of the hour-long presentation.
  • I gathered copies of my books to give away after the presentation.
  • I gave myself plenty to do on the day of the presentation so I wouldn't harp on what I was going to say that night. The more I think about a speaking engagement, the more nervous I make myself, so keeping busy lets me effectively block it from my mind and go into the event feeling loose.

As cliché as it sounds, open with a joke. I like to refer to the person who introduces me because he or she usually says something overly glowing and totally undeserved about me. It's easy to come up with a self-effacing line when you follow such an introduction.

I considered the appearance a rousing success. I spoke for an hour and fifteen minutes, signed copies of my books until I ran out, and then promised those remaining that I would return when I had more books and finish the signing. They were thrilled, and I'm scheduled to return next month.

Look for opportunities to do some public speaking. The interaction you have with a group of people is invaluable. You get a real feel for the people you're trying to reach with your writing, and you build a special relationship with the people who are ultimately going to be your word-of-mouth campaign. Remember, your audience is pulling for you to succeed - they are on your side!

I'd love to hear about any experiences you may have had addressing a group about your books or writing. Any tips or advice you'd like to share?

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Do I Really Have to Self-promote?
Four Tips for Real-Life Networking

8,311 Views 3 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, marketing, marketing, book, book, networking, networking, author, author, promotions, promotions, public_speaking, public_speaking, speaking, speaking

People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions. (Source: Power to Change)

So, how are those New Year's resolutions coming along? Me? I'm still fat, but I'm working on it. But that's a discussion for another day. Today, I'm more interested in your writing goals. Last year, I gave you a strategy on how to keep your resolutions in my post titled Keeping That New Year's Resolution. Back then, I suggested that your resolutions be broken down into four parts: a list, a plan, an action item, and a tracking method. Here's the example I gave from my own list of resolutions:

  • List Item: Finish new book
    • Plan: Develop one-sentence elevator pitch for book with target total word count of 65,000 words.
    • Action: Write book using "one word a day" strategy.
    • Tracking: Tweet daily word count of book to keep myself motivated.

I'm happy to tell you the strategy worked. I did indeed finish and publish the book. Here's why I think this strategy works: it is specific. It's "chunked" down into small, doable tasks. And, most importantly, it was designed so I focused on the goal every day.

Resolutions fail when they are grand general statements with no thought into how you're going to accomplish them. In order to accomplish a goal, a lot of times you have to create new habits, and that is not easy. You have to break old patterns and create new ones. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics, determined through his research that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Given that information, I suggest adding one more part to my resolution strategy: assess your progress every 21 days. I mean that literally. Get out your calendar and set an appointment for yourself to review what you've accomplished on your resolutions every 21 days. I'm referring specifically to your writing, publishing and marketing resolutions, but you could apply this strategy to all your resolutions.

Obviously, this is not a passive resolution approach. It requires you to be extremely engaged in the process and that's the point. The only way you're going to make your resolutions work for you is if you work your resolutions. Finally, when you accomplish one of your goals, celebrate! Pat yourself on the back. You've done something a lot people don't do, which is follow through. Good luck and happy New Year!

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Keeping That New Year's Resolution
How to Set SMART Writing Goals

1,618 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, writers, writing, resolutions, goals

When Good Young Adult Fiction Gets Bleak
It seems that things are trending toward the dark side in today's young adult fiction. Authors are filling their YA tomes with stories of oppressive governments gone awry and opening up the door to apocalyptic themes. And the young readers seem to be lapping it up. Books with a bent toward bleak futures are hitting the bestseller lists. The question is, why? Author Paolo Bacigalupi shares his theories with The New York Times.

As a teen, I remember that I craved truth-telling as well, and devoured it wherever I could find it. Unfortunately, the truth of the world around us is changing, and so the literature is morphing to reflect it. Teens want to read something that isn't a lie; we adults wish we could put our heads under the blankets and hide from the scary story we're writing for our kids.

You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction

Getting the Facts Straight in Films Based on True Events
The fallback for most filmmakers when changing the facts in films based on true stories is that they are using creative license to make the film more entertaining. But is that crossing an ethical line, or could they actually be crossing a legal line? The Los Angeles Times examined the question recently, and here's part of what they found.

When director Danny Boyle began making "127 Hours," the real-life tale of hiker Aron Ralston, who amputated his arm after five days pinned under a rock, he knew he had a compelling story to tell and an even better resource. After all, who better to steer the director through difficult dramatic terrain than the outdoorsman himself? But for Boyle, an in-the-flesh, on-set guide like Aron Ralston also came with a liability: Aron Ralston. The hiker insisted, for example, that his character (played by James Franco) let out a big laugh at the moment he cut off his arm, just as he says he did in real life. The director objected, saying a laugh felt out of place. Boyle eventually gave in.

You can read the entire article on The Los Angeles Times' website: From real to reel: In fact-based films, reality and storytelling collide

Is 2011 Filled with Hope for Musicians?
It's a new year, but does that mean change is in the cards for the music industry? Music industry professional Bruce Houghton hopes so. He's put together a wish list of changes he'd like to see in the industry, and he's keeping his fingers crossed that Father Time will deliver the goods in 2011. What is he wishing for? Here's one item on his list.

New School Execs Takeover The Major Labels - Will 2011 be the year when a new era of music executives finally dominate the top executive positions at the major labels? I don't mean SVP of Digital; I mean seats on the Board Of Directors. It's long overdue and it may be the only thing that can save the big four labels from themselves.

You can read the entire article on Bruce Houghton: 8 Things I Hope For The New Music Industry In 2011

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - December 31, 2010
Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - December 24, 2010

1,472 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, film, film, movies, movies, writers, writers, musicians, musicians, screenwriting, screenwriting, filmmakers, filmmakers

I included a prologue in one of my books, and I can't honestly tell you if it was completely necessary. As a reader, I actually get annoyed at times when I crack open a book and see the word "Prologue" at the top of the page. I think it sometimes feels like reading expository or even spoiler-laden content when you just want to jump into a book at page one. Conversely, prologues can act as teasers to introduce unique elements or twists to grab the reader's interest right from the start. In my case, I included the prologue because the book was part of a series, and I wanted to expose the readers to a little twist in the ongoing story. I felt like I needed to lay some groundwork before I threw the reader into the fray.

But, as is usually the case, I often second-guess that decision. Did I need to approach it that way? In some cases, a prologue seems to remove the reader from the story before the story even begins. In basic terms, the prologue is an introductory device that gives readers information they will need in order to understand the story, but it isn't always necessary or appropriate.

I definitely think there is a right time to use a prologue. Historical novels are generally a good fit for a prologue to help give the readers perspective on setting and significant players. In a memoir where you're writing about a specific event in your life, you might include a prologue that gives background information on your life before or after the event. Some fantasy novels may require a prologue to provide a brief description for your made-up, fantastical world. Or maybe you've written a mystery or thriller and want your prologue to provide intrigue and set the tone of the book right from the start.

There are many other books where prologues may be particularly useful. My overall feeling about the prologue remains: that it can set up the novel, but the substance should really lie within the body of the story.

Do you feel you've mastered the prologue? What do you think is the best way to use this literary device?

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Your First Line Can Help You Sell Books
The Importance of Endings

4,066 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, writers, writing, craft

Even back when blogs were called "online journals" people used their own private little chunk of Internet real estate to showcase their fiction. "Flash fiction" found a forum in which it flourished, and with the advent of sites like Twitter, shorter forms of fiction called "micro-fiction" also took hold. Some writers simply seem to enjoy the challenge of writing an entire story in as few words as possible.


But blogs, both the micro and macro variety, also gave birth to an entirely new way for writers to build audiences for their long-form work. Writers, new and established, began to serialize novel-length fiction on their blogs and social networking sites. The premise for serializing is simple: you regularly post a segment of your book on your blog or wall or account until the entire book is posted. Those who have utilized the practice have found benefits besides just attracting readers. Many of the readers they've attracted have provided invaluable input and constructive criticism. These new readers have become the first leg in the word-of-mouth campaign for the print or e-book version of the novel. In short, readers of serialized novels online tend to take ownership of the story because they've been there since the beginning.


With that being said, serializing a novel on a blog or social network isn't for everyone. Some writers worry that giving books away for free in such a forum is a mistake that will deter book sales. They reason that readers will not buy a book when they can read it for free online. My own personal belief is that a reader is more valuable than a sale in the long run. Readers, no matter how they came to read the book, will spread the word for you. Over time, readers will help generate the sales you desire.


Here are few tips on how to serialize your long-form work on a blog or social network:


  • Keep your posts brief. I personally think 500 words is a good word count to shoot for. Any longer and you risk scaring the reader away before he or she starts reading.

  • I recommend ending each post with a hook or cliffhanger. Give your online readers a reason to return for the next post.

  • Give yourself a posting schedule for your story. At least once a week is ideal. The same day of the week each week works best. If you can post it at the same time of day, that would be even better.

Serializing a novel takes a certain degree of patience from the author. You're not always likely to get feedback, or you may be deterred from posting a segment that you feel isn't as interesting as previous posts or upcoming posts. You have to proceed with an almost noble sense of faith that you're creating both a compelling story and a loyal following.


What are your thoughts on serializing work? Would you ever try it?



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Need to Blog, but Short on Time?

Authors' Four Structural Essentials for Blogs

2,890 Views 1 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, blog, blog, blogging, blogging, branding, branding

I have a confession: I can't stand the book As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. I know it's a big faux pas for a writer (especially a writer who hails from the southern states) to not like a signature work form one of the literary masters, but I can't help it. I like what I like, and what I like, most of all, are stories told from very few points of view. As I Lay Dying is told from the perspective of fifteen different characters.


To me, reading is an intimate affair. When I read, I hear the voice of the narrator in my mind. I make a connection with that narrator. It doesn't matter if it's told through first person or third person omniscient point of view; I find the consistency of tone and perspective soothing. I can handle a switch here and there, but when too many voices tell the story I start to feel like I'm losing the intimacy of the moment.


In my early writings, I switched points of view fairly liberally. It was an easy way to transition from one scene to the next. In other words, I used it because I was being lazy. Now, I'm not saying other authors who use this device are lazy, because many are probably using it for creative purposes. However, I can definitely say that I wasn't. I was using it because it saved me from thinking too much, and that's never a good reason to do something, especially if you're a writer.


Oddly enough, I feel like limiting myself to writing from one or two points of view helps me develop all of my characters better. You would think the opposite would be true - that writing from several characters' points of view would give me the opportunity to get to know those characters better - but that's not the case. I think it all goes back to the intimacy element. I become so familiar with a single voice that it gives me the ability to become totally immersed in the character's world. I see the character interact with other characters. I extrapolate their feelings and intentions from limited points of view.


This isn't to say that my way is the "right" way, since it has a lot to do with preference. Some authors can make multiple points of view work quite well. I know I can't, but what about you? How do you approach a story - from one, two, or many points of view?



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The Point Where a Bestselling Book Lost Me

When Writing, Don't Outsmart Yourself

1,851 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, writers, writing, characters, craft

Welcome to Tuesday's blog roundup. This is the day we shine the spotlight on bloggers and artists in the publishing, film and music industries.




How to Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Publishing Project - GalleyCat

Thinking of using crowd-sourcing to fund your next book? GalleyCat has some advice for you.


Top Tweeters for Writers to Follow on Twitter - My Name Is Not Bob

Twitter can be confusing if you don't follow the right people. Here is one blogger's list of top Tweeters for writers to get you on the right track.




PREVISUALIZATION: The Film BEFORE "The Film" - Microfilmmaker

Do you know what your film looks like before it's a film?


Ten Ways to Stand Out In This Crazy "Film" Biz - Truly Free Film

Indie filmmaker Ted Hope maps out the steps you can take to get noticed in the film industry.




2011 Music Marketing Trends You Need to Know About - Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

It's never too early to get started on those New Year's resolutions. Baker gives you the marketing trends to look for in the coming year in a two-part video series.


Break Down Song Elements to Isolate Playing Problems - Music After 50

Sometimes you just have to take it one note at a time.



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Tuesday's Blog Roundup - December 14, 2010

Tuesday's Blog Roundup - December 7, 2010

1,674 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, twitter, twitter, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers

LinkedIn is known as the social networking site for professionals. It was started in 2002 by Reid Hoffman as a business-to-business communication tool. Today, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon that is utilized both large and small companies to find talented employees, conduct market research, create effective business-to-business collaborations, and network with others in any number of business fields. It is a highly active community of business professionals. Here are some of the latest statistics:


  • LinkedIn currently has an estimated 50,000,000 unique monthly visitors.
  • The most current numbers reveal that the age group with the biggest presence is 35-49.
  • Men make up 52% of the members.
  • LinkedIn has the most affluent members - 38% earn $100,000 and over.
  • 41% of people using LinkedIn for marketing have generated business with it.
  • 27% of users have graduate degrees (by comparison, 21% of all Internet users possess a graduate degree).


Now, obviously since LinkedIn caters to a professional audience, it's not the best social network for most children's books and fiction authors. However, if you've written a nonfiction book covering any aspect of business, or a particular industry or skill, then it is the perfect place for you to build your word-of-mouth campaign. You can be slightly more aggressive with your marketing tactics in this environment than a network like Twitter and Facebook, since this site is more about building contacts than it is about finding friends. The social aspect is a little more formal here, and you should gear your communications with that in mind. Communicate with others on LinkedIn with the same respect you'd show a coworker in an office environment.


A few tips for using LinkedIn to build your brand and promote your title: Fill out your profile completely, leaving no stone unturned, when you're trying to establish your professional credentials. Create a fan page or group for your book or brand. Become a fountain of useful information by posting links to helpful articles pertaining to your subject and interests. Create and share poll results. Include a link to your blog from your account. Join industry and alumni groups related to your area of expertise, and participate in the discussions there. Use the site to find other experts in your field and build a cooperative network. You may even be able to find vendors and contractors that can act as a referral network for you.


Some have said they prefer LinkedIn as their social network of choice because there's less "noise" in this channel. It's a businesslike atmosphere where members are serious about growing their industry contacts. If you're the author of a business-related book, LinkedIn is probably one of the best ways to utilize your online time.



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Social Networking Tour - MySpace

Social Networking Tour - Twitter

2,441 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, marketing, networking, promotion, promotions, branding, social_media

Literature's Version of the Shell Game


Let me see if I can explain this without my head exploding. ABC has a television show called Castle. It's a story of a mystery writer who uses his connections with the mayor to get placed with the city's homicide division to help break writers block. It seems the fictional author from the show, Rick Castle, has been very busy in the real world. He has two bestselling books centered on the story of a mystery writer named Jameson Rook who uses his connection with the mayor to get embedded with the city's homicide division to break writers block. Confused? Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story on the topic.


The hitch is that Jameson Rook is real, at least in the sense that a character with that name exists in two tangible, best-selling books - "Heat Wave" and "Naked Heat" - that are attributed to the author Richard Castle. In a bit of old-media marketing ingenuity, ABC had its corporate sister Hyperion publish the made-up novels its fictional character was fake-writing. The actual author has not been disclosed, though suspicion has alighted on the show's executive producer, Andrew W. Marlowe. Given the secrecy, the body dispatched to show up for book-promotion events belongs to Mr. (Nathan) Fillion (the actor who plays Richard Castle on the television series).


You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: Fake Writer, Real Books? That's 'Castle'


The Coen Brothers Get Gritty


How do you tackle the remake of a classic western featuring a Hollywood icon? If you're the Coen brothers and the movie you want to remake is True Grit, you turn to the book to do your own adaptation of Charles Portis' novel, ignoring the 1969 film altogether. At the time, many felt the early film was a reflection of the old Hollywood, and it was used as a political football during the Oscars to push an underlying political agenda by both sides to bolster their opposing Vietnam War-era views.


At its release on Dec. 22, "True Grit" becomes the last major entry in a crowded Oscar race that already includes contenders like "The Social Network," "The King's Speech" and "127 Hours." But that is counting chickens. There is an old Rooster to fry. The Coen brothers' film is bound to rouse memories of an earlier picture, another Oscar race. John Wayne, well past his prime, won his only Academy Award for portraying Rooster Cogburn. His selection fiercely split those who felt justice was thus served from those who viewed this original "True Grit," released in June 1969, as the last gasp of a Hollywood stuck in its own past.


You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: Coen Brothers Saddle Up a Revenge Story (or Two)


Holiday Cheer is Here!


It's that time of year where we watch the temperatures drop, the malls fill up and the music in all public places turned to anything with a holiday theme. We humans are nothing if not musical about our holidays, and Billboard has done a rundown of the top 100 songs with the most holiday cheer. Is your favorite on the list?


December is here, and 'tis the season to turn up those winter-, Christmas-, Chanukah-, and other holiday-themed tunes. With that in mind, Billboard's chart team has figured out the 100 hottest holiday songs (based on a formula that blends sales and airplay data for the period of Oct. 5, 2009 through Jan. 3, 2010, as measured by Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS, respectively).


You can see the entire list on Billboard's website: 100 Hot Holiday Songs



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - December 10, 2010

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - December 3, 2010

1,528 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, books, authors, authors, authors, book, book, book, music, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, filmmaking, writers, writers, writers, films, films, films, musicians, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers, filmmakers

As a storyteller, one of the best compliments I get from readers is that they found something I wrote clever. It makes it seem like everything I write is well thought out and carefully conceived. And, it is partly true. At some point while I am writing, I will take the time to assess the story to see if it makes sense. After all, it's easy to lose track when you're writing tens of thousands of words that are supposed to form a coherent story.

The dirty little secret, however, is that my outlines are just skeletons of the story, and not even full skeletons. There are plenty of bones missing. When somebody points out something clever in one of my stories, I can almost guarantee I didn't plan it that way. It just unfolded in the moment. Finding those moments is the key.

You know how I find those moments? I keep it simple. It's that easy. I am amazed every time I sit down and write and the dots start coming together. Some seemingly insignificant character trait turns out to be a very pivotal tool to further the plot, or a childhood memory that I used to set the mood turns out to be the twist I needed to move into the conclusion. In my opinion, orchestrating elaborate plot schemes can sometimes lead to a writer outsmarting himself to the point where "clever" becomes "confusing."

You want to surprise your readers and you want to entertain them, but it doesn't take plot twist upon plot twist to do that. Forcing it can complicate your story and leave you with plot holes. Mostly, it just takes characters with whom your readers can identify. Keep your writing simple as well. Tell the story without the words getting in the way. If you do an internet search for "writing rules,"you will likely get a number of lists of dos and don'ts created by a gaggle of famous and not-so-famous authors. You'll find advice on the use of adverbs, adjectives, character names, etc. If you take all the lists and put them together, you'll discover most are saying what I'm saying here: keep it simple.

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Third on our list of sites we're examining in the social networking blog series is MySpace. Once the top social media site (yes, it was even bigger than Facebook), a few people out there have declared MySpace "dead" on more than one occasion. Well, I'd argue that for now at least, it's a member of the living dead. It has actually had somewhat of a resurgence as of late, and it's trending back up towards the number two spot on the list of top social networking sites. A few of MySpace's vital statistics:

  • MySpace currently has an estimated 90,500,000 unique monthly visitors.
  • The most current numbers reveal that the age group with the biggest presence is 45-54.
  • Women make up 64% of the members.
  • Fastest growing age group is 18-24.
  • The average user spends more than 23 minutes per day on MySpace.
  • Gets 100,000 new users a day (by comparison, that's 1/3 of Twitters current rate of new users).

To many, MySpace is the musicians' social network. They do seem to have a large number of musicians who utilize the site more than any other group. It might be because they developed an easy way for bands, songwriters and musicians to upload and share their music long before any other social network. Now, ironically enough, you can join MySpace by allowing the social network access to your Facebook account. That's right, two competing social networks have teamed up in order to share information back and forth.

There is no magic bullet here on how to market your brand. You handle it like any other site. They have an excellent search function that allows you to find members who share your interests, personal or professional. Just remember the gold rule here: it's built on a "social" platform. If you're too aggressive with the sales pitch, you're likely to turn off all those potential recruits for your word-of-mouth campaign.

You can utilize mass messaging techniques to let your MySpace friends know when and where you're going to be making a personal appearance, or let them know when you've won a competition, or send them the latest review of the book. All you're really doing is keeping your "friends" in the loop about what matters to you: your book. The newest addition to MySpace is a share button that allows you to not only post updates on your MySpace wall, but simultaneously post them to Facebook and Twitter, as well. It's truly a system built on synergy.

It's true that MySpace doesn't have the membership numbers that Facebook has, but I think with the new cooperative relationship they have with both Twitter and Facebook, it's a valuable asset in your social networking strategy.


Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Reading Out Loud

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 8, 2010

Sometimes I get into the middle of a book project, and the words become all jumbled in my head. There doesn't seem to be any real reason for it, but I just can't untangle the words and write anything that is remotely useful - or even coherent. What's my remedy for this frustrating impasse?

I print out the pages I have, find a time and place where no one can hear me, and I read what I have written out loud. It doesn't matter if I have 10 pages or 100 pages; I always start from the beginning and read every word. I'll change the tone and timbre of my voice when reading the dialogue of the different characters. I'll try to meet the intensity of each passage with my voice. It helps me get unstuck. When I read aloud, the story is outside of my head; I see it as a mental 3-D imagining of the story, and it helps me move my writing forward.

I searched the internet recently to find out what other writers thought of this strategy, and found, not surprisingly, that I'm not alone. Reading aloud is a common practice. Here's what James Chartrand of the blog Men with Pens had to say about the strategy:

Reading aloud is a valuable exercise to improve your writing. Your words become crystal clear, and they'll convey a more powerful, effective message that gets you better results. Here's why:

You'll spot paragraphs that end abruptly. You'll notice transitions between ideas aren't as smooth as you thought they were. You'll hear if your introduction sounds weak or choppy, and you'll discover whether your wrap-up encourages conversation or just stops it cold.

The real benefit of reading your work out loud is that it gives you the opportunity to totally immerse yourself in your story. When you're reading aloud, you're engaging more of your brain to relive your story, and you have to work really hard to become distracted.

So the next time you're having trouble cranking out the prose, find your spot, say it out loud, and say it proud. You may laugh at yourself a few times, but I promise, it's a good feeling to know you're jumping into your writing with everything you've got.

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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