Coffee heat rising

Ars Bloggiendi: The Art of Blogging

Almost a day late and certainly a dollar shortfinally got this week’s installment of The Complete Writer online. It was easy (for a change)…but the whole day was occupied with finishing a long, fully researched chapter for the new book on overprescription.

This, I hope to have ready to send to the first of several proposed editors within another week or ten days. Unfortunately, reaching goals entails (ugh!) actual working. The horror of it!

Today’s TCW chapter begins a new section on blogging, from the writer’s point of view. Why do writers blog? Do they make any money at it? And what are the ethics involved?

So get thee over to Plain & Simple Press and enjoy that amazing *FREE* squib. Meanwhile, yrs truly and the dawgs are, at last, going to bed.


The Complete Writer…Completely Crazy-Making Writer?

This week’s serial installment of The Complete Writer — chapter 17 — is online at Plain & Simple Press. In today’s suspense-filled story, we navigate the perils of libel, defamation, and slander as we cling to the tight-rope of fact-checking.

Hand-over-hand across the Gorge of Electronic Peril…

This week, too, Ella finally gets it on with Lohkeh and a twit whines about his coworker injecting himself with insulin.

Friday is always Hell Central in the serialization department. For some reason, WordPress hates…just HATES…that writing book. Every. Single. TIME I go to post a chapter of The Complete Writer, some effing snafu keeps me sitting there for-freaking-ever wrestling and banging and whacking with the damned computer.

Honest to God I do not know why this happens, but it has happened every goddamned Friday since Week 1. Every time I try to post a chapter in the accruing “book,” WordPress just doesn’t wanna do it. And every time it has some new, unique, unheard-of, clever way to not wanna do it. No two snafus have been exactly the same.

Often it will have something to do with building an internal link from the table of contents to the chapter of the week.

Understand: there’s nothing very difficult about an internal link. Let’s say you want your reader to be able to click on the title to chapter 10 and be taken down the page to lovely chapter 10. Let’s say, for simple lunacy’s sake, that we have titled said passage in the magnum opus “Chapter 10.”

So you type the passage’s title, in the “text” mode, embraced and resting within a wee bit of code:

<h2 id=”chap10″><span style=”color: #0000ff;”>Chapter 10</span></h2>

This should cause your chapter title to look approximately like this:

Chapter 10

Dramatic, eh?

Well, “id=chap10” tells WordPress that the squib “chapt10” can be linked to. So back at your table of contents, you highlight Chapter 10, go ⌘k (or, if you prefer, point and click on the link icon), and enter…


This link will then take the inquiring reader to the coded copy that reads Chapter 10.

How hard is this?

Extremely, if you believe WordPress’s antic of the day.

Among many evasive tactics, when you hit “update” on the page to publish the new data, it deletes the code around the chapter title. So the link in the TofC goes dead.

After 90 minutes of fucking with this, I finally gave up and sent it off to Grayson (guru par excellence) to figure out. No doubt he’ll have an explanation for why it can’t be done. Possibly I’ve maxed the number of internal links you can put in a single WP page? Who knows…

WhatEVER…I damn near lost my mind trying to make WP perform this very simple trick. It has done it before (true: unhappily) in the TCW page. It does it without arguing in the pages for Ella’s Story and If You’d Asked. But it just ain’t a-gonna do it today.

So I’ve gotten virtually nothing else done today.

Well. That’s not entirely true. Inventory:

Walked dogs 1 mile
Watered desert willow tree in front that Luis says is suffering from drought (a trick, what with the stupid springy hose I bought, which has to be secured to a tree limb so it doesn’t rewind itself back to the damn faucet)
Pulled out dead flowers in front courtyard; planted new flowers
Fertilized the paloverde tree and three citrus
Presently pouring the state’s entire allotment of Colorado River water to those, to soak fertilizer in
Cooked a package of pork; ground that with precooked chicken and veggies and mixed up a week’s worth of dog food
Watered potted plants in back
Swam in pool; ascertained that (thank god) it doesn’t need to be cleaned today, or at least not this minute
Inspected workman activity down the street
Soaked toes in tea tree oil
Posted two links to articles in The Economist for homeowners at NextDoor, re: ongoing discussion of homeless drug addicts
And miscellaneous stuff

And do I feel like working now? Hell, no!

How Journalists Dig up the Dirt

FINALLY got chapter 16 of The Complete Writer online at Plain & Simple Press: a detailed squib on how to do journalistic research.

This is one of my favorite chapters in the book. It’s based on a chapter in my textbook, The Essential Feature, which appeared in another century (possibly on another world…) through Columbia University Press — much revised and updated for our time and our world. Tracking down facts, following the money trail, getting the dirt: I love this stuff!


Back in the day when I was a working journalist, the thing I used to love the most about the job was that it gave you an excuse to ask people nosy questions. The work is as ill-paid as teaching, but because of the nosy-question factor it’s one hell of a lot more fun.

Dear Reader: Would you please post a link to the P&S Press post on research for nonfiction writers at Facebook, Twitter, and waypoints? Here, explicitly: is the URL:

*FREE READS* Galore! How about some participatory reading?

Got another chapter of The Complete Writer online:Two Kinds of Revising.”

Decided that the book chapters should be posted under their chapter titles, rather than just “Chapter 1…Chapter 2…” and so on. Initially, it seemed to me that for SEO purposes, a shorter title is better. Didn’t take long, though, to see the speciousness of that theory: what does “Chapter 8” mean, anyway?

So I’ve revised the post titles for Complete and also for If You’d Asked Me…. This is a bit of a PITA, because you can’t just change the titles. For each post, you also have to go in and change the URL — WordPress won’t do that automatically. Not that it’s hard. Just more tedium.

For Ella’s Story, I remain undecided. For one thing, works of fiction often have untitled chapters. Here, for example, is a chapter title in Gore Vidal’s Lincoln:


Enticing, isn’t it?

For another: I have no idea what to call these things. Never have I been good at dreaming up titles. Believe it or not, one of the first tasks assigned to me when I went to work at Arizona Highways was to write titles for various department squibs. Didn’t take long for the boss to figure out that my real talent was in writing cutlines. 😀

Or maybe carrying out the trash?

Still…it seems to me that a work of fiction benefits from chapter titles that say something. Especially if you’re going to publish chapters serially, as quasi-freestanding entities.

We have eight chapters online right now. And…well…the eight proposed titles scribbled on a yellow pad here don’t exactly leap off the page and sparkle in the atmosphere.

But…y’know…we do have some people who are following Ella’s Story. You’ve heard of participatory journalism? How would you like to join in a bit of participatory chapter title writing?

At Plain & Simple Press, the individual chapters are posted as entries in the site’s blog. All you have to do is scroll down: about every third post is a piece of Ella’s Story. If a good title comes to mind, either post it as a “comment” to that chapter, or, if you prefer, come here and post a list of as many titles as you cook up.

If you prefer not to sift through chapters from two other books to find Ella, all of her chapters are gathered in one place, at the Ella’s Story page. That being a static web page rather than a blog entry, it may be easier to post a set of proposed titles right here.

Hey! It’s better than workin’!

Speaking of working, it’s time to get down to that… Let me know if you have ideas for Ella’s chapters.


How to Be a Writer: Progress!

Did you know:
At least half the process of writing a publishable story, article, or book is REVISING AND EDITING!

Just posted Chapter 6 of The Complete Writer over at Plain & Simple Press. This follows the intro to a whole section on how to revise and edit your own golden words.

{chortle!} I’ve actually made a strong case, in front of classrooms full of writing students, that two thirds of the writing process is revision and polishing. And IMHO that’s true: the main part of writing is rewriting.

Come on over and check out the first salvo in Part II. The book has six chapters on “Making It Perfect.” I plan to put up a chapter a week — one every Friday. So if you wish to proceed at a stately pace, check in to the Plain & Simple Press blog along about afternoon on any given Friday. Comin’ up, then: Section II, “Making It Perfect:”

Chapter 6. The Importance of Revising and Editing
Chapter 7. Six Steps to Revising and Polishing
Chapter 8. Two Kinds of Revising
Chapter 9. Revising with Reader Feedback
Chapter 10. Working with a Professional Editor
Chapter 11. Getting to Know a Style Manual

And I’m also gathering all the chapters in one place at P&S Press, so if you’ve missed the first five chapters (Section I, “Write Right”), check out The Complete Writer in its growing entirety.