September 22, 2011

Paralysis

Seems like the writer's life is plagued by paralysis. At least, mine is. It took me a lot longer than expected to finish the first complete draft of my current WIP, and I'm pretty sure I could only do it because I gave myself permission, nay, ordered myself to suck.

After I finished this draft I took a little break. Did some TV-watching, book-reading. But my WIP was always in the back of my mind. I just got a new computer, and to celebrate, I got myself a copy of Scrivener. There are hundreds of cool features. I've probably used four of them. Even so, I'm already finding Scrivener helpful in terms of organizing the whole project and switching back and forth between layouts to get a better view of the story as a whole. I've taken a lot of notes, and I've marked a lot of scenes as extraneous. But here's the part where it gets tricky.

You see, I'm pretty sure I've done what I can in the re-reading and note-taking department. It's time to dive headfirst into a sea of revision, and I'm coming up against a wall: paralysis.

Paralysis is a common writerly affliction, mostly (in my experience) brought on by thoughts of the "This sucks!" "How can I possibly make this better?!??" "I don't know what I'm doing!" variety. I overcame paralysis in my last draft by allowing myself to be crappy. But how can I do that this time around, where the point is to be improving the writing?

My particular issue (currently) is first lines. I'm convinced that nothing I come up with is anything more than mediocre, and my brain is insisting we not move on to meatier parts of the book until I have the perfect first line, darn it! How can I possibly induce agents and editors to pick up the book if my first line isn't all shiny and eye-catching?

Argh, it's not going so well. I probably should have expected it, but it's disappointing nonetheless. I thought it would be easier to improve something that already existed, but I'm having trouble getting started now that there's a bar: my first draft. (Low, admittedly, but still there.)

How do you get over paralysis when you can't simply allow yourself to suck any more?

September 20, 2011

The Canon

I've decided to create The Canon (according to Rebecca). Briefly, it's a list of books that I would purchase for my (hypothetical, future) child. Books I think are worthwhile for one reason or another. Books that make me laugh and make me cry. Books that changed (or will change) the world. And I need your help!

I've read too many books in my life to remember them all, even some of the good ones, so I'm enlisting you all, my fellow readers and book lovers. What book(s) would you purchase for your children, and why? All books are welcome, from picture books to classic literature to young adult. They just need to have one thing in common: They need to be worthy.

If you nominate a book that makes it into The Canon, you will be recognized for your contribution.

September 19, 2011

Netflix, you are stupid. (One consumer's perspective)

In case you haven't heard, Netflix is at it again. First they raised prices (a de facto 60% price increase for subscribers of both streaming and DVD-by-mail service). Now, they're "apologizing" for messing up... while making it worse. Not better.

For the record, I can see the sense in raising prices of the DVD-by-mail service. Before the switch, I was paying $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming, + $2.00 flat for 1 DVD out at a time. I don't know about you, but I can go through those DVDs like nobody's business. Let's assume that I have 2 DVDs out a week (reasonable if I watch each DVD the night I receive it and mail it back the next morning). That adds up to about 8 DVDs per month. $2 doesn't even cover the shipping fees for that service. We can quibble about the exact price charged, but $7.99 for this plan makes sense if Netflix wants to, say, make money off of it. And I'm assuming for the moment that they do.

I disagree with the implementation of the price change in two ways. First, I disagree with the way it was presented. Seriously Netflix, you need a whole new PR department, because selling a price increase by saying that you want to satisfy your customers? SUCH a bad idea. How about going with the honesty approach? Tell us that charging $2 for a DVD service isn't sustainable, that you're losing money. Tell us that you are paying more for renewals of streaming licenses, and to keep the quality content, you need a price increase. Netflix, your subscribers aren't stupid. The way you handled that first price increase, PR-wise, was a nightmare.

The second (and perhaps more important) problem I have with the price increase was that it doesn't have a bundled price for people who want both the streaming AND DVD services. I understand that the whole point was the separate out the streaming and DVD services, but bundling really is everywhere. The whole pill would have been easier to swallow if Netflix had provided that option. Want streaming only, or DVDs only? Pay $7.99. Want both? How about a low price of $12? The price would have gone up, but it would have been a smaller leap, and it would have been a recognition of the large segment of customers (like me) who use both services. Netflix has great content in both the streaming and DVD libraries. But until there is a significant increase in the amount of overlap, it's not realistic to expect that customers will be satisfied with the offerings from only one option.

...And that's what they seem to be doing with this newest snafu. Please refer to the article I linked to above, but the gist of it is: Netflix is dumping its DVD program. From here on out if you're a Netflix DVD subscriber -- oh wait, you're not. You're a Qwikster customer. Netflix, that was stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. There may be good business reasons for doing what you're doing, but there are NO good consumer reasons. So if you want your consumers to stay happy, you'd better provide one hell of an explanation, or just stop this nonsense before you sink the whole ship. Let me tell you about what I care about as a consumer:

1. Content. Netflix, you seem to be under the impression that I care about whether I get my media via streaming or DVD. The truth is, I don't. If your entire library was available on streaming, I would probably be a streaming-only customer. But since it's not, I use the DVD service. Consumers don't care about DVDs vs. streaming issue nearly as much as they care about the content. Lesson #1: Keep the CONTENT together. If you make me log into two different websites just to search the same company's database to see if a particular movie available, I'm going to want to strangle you. And I will most likely be canceling my DVD service. Same thing with the ratings. Do you really think that I'm going to rate things twice just to get the same suggestions in two different places? Your suggestion algorithm has shown me some gems, but splitting it down the middle like this seems like a horrible idea.

2. Convenience. Two websites? Two lists? Two bills? Need I say more? People don't want to log on to two sites to search for one movie. It seems likely that many will let go of one or another, in favor of one of the other services (Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Blockbuster Express, etc.) currently on the rise. And if anyone comes up with a site where you can do both, I imagine we're going to be seeing a much faster drain as current Netflix subscribers jump ship to a new site that will be (effectively) what Netflix just abandoned.

3. Affordability. Truthfully, I don't think there's an issue here at the moment. If you use both services actively, $7.99 per is actually pretty reasonable. But again, it would be so much more convenient if you'd just kept them together in the first place.

The bottom line, Netflix, is that from a consumer's perspective this makes no sense whatsoever. You are taking away convenience. You are taking away content. You are annoying people, period. See the following for more coherent (and knowledgeable) opinions of this mess: here and here.

For the moment I'm staying with you. Even with the increase, it's still a reasonable price for the amount of content I watch through Netflix each month. But if you keep making decisions like this, it might not be that long before I'm saying goodbye.

September 15, 2011

MacBook. No, really.

So it's official. I type this post from my brand spanking new computer, which has now taken over the coveted position of "on the desk." (In its transitional phase it was perched semi-precariously on top of a plastic set of drawers from Target while I toggled back and forth between the old PC, the external hard drive (doing all of the heavy lifting), and the new MacBook Pro).

I've downloaded all the programs I need. I reset all of my bookmarks and saved passwords on Firefox. I even (after about 2 hours of wrangling) figured out my iTunes problems and finally managed to get all my music from the old computer to the new (thankfully!). I even had some fun looking through all the Word documents I've lugged around throughout the years. I had story snippets in my files that hadn't been modified since 2001! (Yeah... those were the awkward middle school years, and you can totally tell.)

Most of those ones are now gone (I finally made an executive decision to trash everything dated earlier than 2005), but there are actually some things that are surprisingly not-horrible. Which is not saying they're examples of stellar (or even good) writing. Not at all. But some of those did make it through into this computer.

Anyway, now that all the moving in is done, it's time to start living here. And it begins with... revisions? Eep!

(And I think Time Machine is done backing up now... I had no idea when I started it for the first time that there would be over 1,000,000 items! Egads.)

September 10, 2011

Giveaway of Triumph Winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who spread the word and entered my giveaway! I'm especially looking forward to following the bits of advice you gave, both for revision and relaxing. I'm pleased to announce that the winner is:

Tiffany at Books For Bears!

Congratulations! (PS: I just checked out Tiffany's blog and it is adorable. Really, really adorable. Seriously, who couldn't love bears with books?)

September 9, 2011

I can has Macbook? Pro?


So I've been in the market for a new computer for a while. My current computer (an HP) has been fuzzy for a long time. The big problem (among several smaller ones) is that it overheats very easily, and the fan is super super noisy. So in order to get anything done I have to accept the fan running in the background, take out the battery, and prop the whole thing up on top of some books to facilitate air flow.

Anyway, after many months of hemming and hawing, I finally have a 13" Macbook Pro. The problem now is that I don't quite know what to do with it. I work on Macs at the office, so I know my Mac basics. But this thing is so... shiny. And thin. And I seem to have been hit by a sudden attack of HP nostalgia, missing (in advance) my 15" screen and the current setup (cozy, if occasionally aggravating). I am entrenched in the familiar. This Macbook Pro, which is currently sitting innocuously on a set of drawers, happily charging away, is an imposter. I'm almost scared to touch it.

I suppose part of my reluctance to get it all set up is that I'm afraid of losing data on the transfer (not least my novel draft, but also my other WIPs, music, etc. etc. etc.). I have an external hard drive so it shouldn't be a problem. It's just the getting started that's the hard part.

Do any of you have tips for getting through all this transferring nonsense and setting up the new computer? I'm sure that once I actually start using it I'll be zoinks!amazed, but right now it's hard to fathom resigning my current trusty (if LOUD and ANNOYING) PC to the backup closet.