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Death of a Hard Drive

Shortly after my last blog post last Wednesday, the hard drive on my laptop began showing signs of distress. I ran Disk Utility on it and found that it was in the early stages of failing. The utility told me to get the hard drive replaced. I made sure that my backups were up to date and then took it in to the Apple store.

The Apple folks were great. They made their own backup of the entire machine, replaced the hard drive, and restored all my data. No charge, because the machine is still under warranty. I got my machine back late on Friday, and am thankful that everything is back to normal.

If you don’t have a good system of backups, the best time to do so is before things start going kablooey. You can buy a huge external hard drive for under $100. Apple’s Time Machine software (on either Leopard or Snow Leopard) is fast and brain-dead easy to use. I’m not a Windows guy, but undoubtedly Windows has excellent backup faciilities built-in (I don’t know the name of the Windows tool, or I’d name it here). Use these tools. Don’t leave your data at risk.

I missed a couple of days of blogging because my normal blog time was spent driving. Today is my day to write my Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, so I’ll be back to normal blogging mode tomorrow.

In the meantime, I thought I’d point you to a new blog I just discovered: Slushpile Hell. This is the work of an anonymous “grumpy literary agent” who regularly posts quotations from query letters he or she receives from clueless writers, along with a snide comment from the agent. This blog is short — sometimes fewer than 30 words — and it’s hilarious. If you read it every day, you’ll learn hundreds of stupid things NOT to say to an agent. And that can be gold.

The other blog I’ll point you to is freelance editor Meredith Efken’s blog at Fiction Fixit Shop. I have a serious backlog of questions asked by my Loyal Blog Readers. My commitment is to answer all questions in the order they come in, but I’m now about 10 weeks behind. So I asked Meredith to help out.

Today, Meredith tackles the gnarly question of how much a novelist can expect to earn. The answer to this question is so long that she’s breaking it into two parts.

I’m Xtremely pleased with the terrific job Meredith is doing in answering questions. She explains things thoroughly and well. (That’s why I pay her to review my own fiction before I send it to my editor or agent.)

On Those Pesky One-Sentence Storylines

Davalynn posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:

What happened to the tagline workshop we were all working on a few months ago? I’ve been super busy – like you and others – so I may have just missed it after the first two or three. If so, my apologies. However, I learn a great deal from your critiques and from comments of other reader/writers.

Randy sez: Critiquing one-sentence Storylines has been an immensely popular exercise that we do on my blog from time to time. I’ve found that it’s hard to keep track of the posted Storylines. When I put out a call for Storylines, I’ll typically see several dozen loyal blog readers post their Storylines as comments all in one day. Then we’ll start working through them one by one, and within a couple of weeks, the original set of Storylines becomes older and older on the list of blog entries and harder and harder to find. So I don’t think a blog is the right tool to use for running this kind of an ongoing clinic.

I really enjoy critiquing these Storylines. I think that a great one-sentence Storyline is critical to the success of a novel. However, I’m still looking for a solution to the administrative problem.

I think that the best solution may be to create an online forum just for doing critiques like that. There could be a different section in the forum for one-sentence Storylines, another for Three Act Structures, and others for dealing with other aspects of the craft.

I will be looking into this once I finish finalizing the next upgrade of Snowflake Pro. (I’m almost done with version 1.1. It’ll have some new features that are the most-requested features by my current set of users. Today, I’ll be finishing revisions to the Help files. The only other task on the list is to make sure the audio files are still up to date and then to do a final round of internal testing. I hope to send the new upgrade to my team of alpha testers for external testing next week.)

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.

Got a Question? Get an Answer

I’ve been feeling lately like I’ve blogged about everything on the subject of writing. However, I still get lots of e-mail all the time on all sorts of questions, many of which I think would be of interest to my loyal blog readers. But I’m too busy answering e-mail to have time to blog, and I’ve been hesitant to answer e-mail on a public blog without asking permission.

So it struck me today that maybe I should ask you all for your questions on writing. What’s a burning issue for you? What do you need to know in order to move forward in your writing?

Post your question on my “Ask a Question For My Blog” page and I’ll answer you right here on this blog. That way, I’ll know for sure that I’m blogging about things that matter to you, and you’ll be asking a question that will benefit all my blog readers. Everybody wins that way. You’ll just need to check the little check-box that gives me permission to answer you in public.

If you include a link to your web site or blog, I’ll even include your link in my answer, which will give you a bit of link glory.

Of course, you can always ask me private questions on my Contact page on this web site. But if it’s a question that can possibly be answered in public, then please do so and I’ll give you a bit of fame to go along with my answer.

What Shall We Talk About Next?

We have been critiquing first paragraphs of novels that my loyal blog readers have submitted over the last couple of weeks. Are you getting tired of this, or shall we continue a bit longer? If you want to switch, what topic is burning in you right now? What shall we talk about next?

I am coming up on a major deadline and have had to skip blogging the last couple of days, but hope to get time to blog tonight.