Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Bloody Blogs

pen bloodAnd this is how I find myself on a weekend when I’d sworn not to even turn on the computer.

But my dear friends, it is NO COINCIDENCE that blog and blood begin with the same three letters!

Daily you will rise and go to your keyboard. You will blog. And you will read what people write in response to your blog. And you will write responses to what they have written. And then you will visit the blogs of those who have responded to you. And you will write pleasant and cheery comments there. And then you will go back to your own blog, to see if anyone has responded to your responses. And then you will go back to the blogs of others, to see if anyone has responded to your responses to them.

~Robin Hobb

via lizardek’s obiter dictum


Male or Female – Just Can’t Win

Based on my last ramblings about the books I’m reading, Gender Guesser tells me that I’m a “Weak MALE” if the 425 words I submitted for gender analysis is in the informal style. I’m a “Weak FEMALE” if what I wrote was meant to be formal. What the @#!

gender guesser writing

via Jezebel


Sorry About the Underlining

punctuationIn the process of looking up punctuation for headlines (no periods at the end, please!), I learned that you’re not supposed to use underline for web publications because it makes it look like a clickable link.

Oops. I was doing it all the time for the questions I like asking people at the end of posts.

When I told Christina, she said:

Christina Jones says : i hate underlined stuff :)
Christina Jones says : i always think it’s a link ;)
Hsien Lei says : lol
Hsien Lei says : i was doing it for the questions i ask at the end of a post because i saw another blogger do it
Hsien Lei says : dammit
Christina Jones says : or i have a compulsion to at least check
Christina Jones says : it’s personal preference – whatever makes you happy – if we all did the same thing, life would be mighty dull
Hsien Lei says : oh shut up
Hsien Lei says : i don’t care about happy. i care about doing things right.

Today I pledge to italicize instead of underline. Profound apologies for my previous transgressions.


Books of Lists

Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tricks to Turbocharge Your DayHave you noticed lately how many “books” are on display in the bookstore that are really nothing more than short little bloggy-like posts thrown together between two covers? At this rate, I could be an author too. What kinds of books of lists could I market?

  • 20 Reasons to Have Children and 80 Reasons Not
  • 80 Reasons Not to Have Children and 20 Reasons To
  • 23,693 DNA Bases to Know
  • 82 Ways to Avoid Heart Disease
  • 286 Things to Eat That Will Kill you
  • 145 Toy Flops
  • 60 Tricks to Surviving an Expat Life
  • 87 Tips for Surviving Your Freshman Year at College
  • 92 Tips for Surviving Your First Year at Grad School
  • 33 Signs of a Spoiled Dilettante

What books of lists could you write?


A Mother’s Short Story

Mama! MAMA! I’m hungry! Eat something!


What would your six-word story be?

via Thought Experiments


Constantly Being Interrupted

Do Not Disturb - Occupant is already disturbed! bumper sticker

Thank you, Dawn Colclasure, for making all the interruptions of today, yesterday, and the whole four years before seem worth it.

The Gifts of Being a Writing Parent

As a writing parent, you can count on going through many ups and downs. You can count on constantly being interrupted, faced with little time to write or having to learn how to type with one hand while you tend to a child with the other. But what you can also count on are the gifts which being a writing parent offers: You have the gift of never-ending support, instant feedback, a source of inspiration and ideas, and a shoulder to lean on for those days when nothing seems to be going right.

My new mantra:

I will not lose my temper when I’m interrupted again for the bajillionth time.

No Comments »

A Writing Life

MarchOn the back of the UK version of the incredible historical fiction March by Geraldine Brooks, there’s a P.S. section featuring a Q&A on her writing life. I’ve co-opted the questions and answered them myself.

When do you write?

All the time; sometimes just in my head.

Where do you write?

Usually at my dining room table but I’d like to find a way to move to the other side of house where we have a view of the River Thames.

Pen or computer?

Computer for sure. If I have to jot ideas down by pen, I’d as soon try to remember them in my head. If I’m within reach of my laptop and get an idea, I will get up from wherever I am and go type them in.

Silence or music?

Silence. I’ve tried listening to music, but my mind wanders and I can barely form coherent sentences.

How do you start a book?

From the very very first page even if it’s blank. I read all the review blurbs too regardless of how many pages there are.

And finish?

I plod to the end and never skip any pages even if the book is painfully tedious.

Do you have any writing rituals or superstitutions?

“Keep the pencil moving.” Sound advice from my high school math teacher, Duane Fee.

Which living writer do you most admire?

Tom Wolfe because he is tremendously prolific and unbelievably observant.

What or who inspires you?

My family.

If you weren’t a writer, which job would you do?

That’s easy. The one I was trained to do! Genetic epidemiology.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure? Favourite trashy read?

Guilty reading pleasure – action adventure like Tom Clancy.

Favorite trashy read – Hello! or People magazine. Actually, almost any blog would qualify too. :D

Care to answer these questions yourself?


Fifty Writing Tools

50 Essential Strategies for Every WriterRoy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute , a school for “journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists,” has a new book out called Writing Tools : 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Until July 1, the essays are available online.

I’m going to start with Writing Tool #9:

Prefer the simple to the technical: shorter words and paragraphs at the points of greatest complexity.

Critically important for writing about genetics and heart disease. Embarrassingly, I also got called on it last week.

via Writer’s Edge

No Comments »

A Writing Reminder

The word processor made good writers better and bad writers worse. Good writers know that very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time or the fifth time. For them the word processor was a rare gift, enabling them to fuss endlessly with their sentences–cutting and revising and reshaping–without the drudgery of retyping. Bad writers became even more verbose because writing was suddenly so easy and their sentences looked so pretty on the screen. How could such beautiful sentences not be perfect?

E-mail (or discussion boards or blogs) pushed that verbosity to a new extreme: chatter unlimited. ….If the writing is often garrulous or disorganized or not quite clear, no real harm done.

E-mail, the Internet and the fax are all forms of writing, and writing is, finally, a craft, with its own set of tools, which are words. Like all tools, they have to be used right.

From On Writing Well by William Zinsser

No Comments »

Tracking Changes

For over a year in Japan, I earned a decent amount of money editing science manuscripts. Without the “tracking changes” function on Microsoft Word, I wouldn’t have been able to find an Internet-based editing job like that.

I applied for the job by fax and accepted the e-mail offer without speaking to anyone at the publishing company on the phone or going through a face-to-face interview. They e-mailed the manuscripts to me and paid me via bank-to-bank direct transfer. I only spoke to someone at the office when they owed me money.*

This week, I helped edit a manuscript for another former boss. Once again, I relied solely on MS Word. Since my printer is still in the box from our move to Vietnam, I didn’t even print out a hard copy.

Editing directly on the computer requires intense concentration; I had to take a break after every page. All the deletions, insertions, rearrangements, funky lines, and boxes were in blue and covered the manuscript like Pascal lines. On my second time through the manuscript, my brain was frazzled from doing some serious contortions. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the authors to see their manuscript all electronically marked-up.

Despite the many benefits of being able to work online with colleagues around the world, I would still prefer to work together in the same physical environment. Working online is exhausting because it requires more imagination in the absence of spontaneous give-and-take. Also, I believe that moving towards a society where everyone telecommutes from their own home would reduce our humanity.

Of all the things I miss about working, bantering with smart people on a daily basis tops the list. Nowadays, I work in isolation. And I don’t like it.

*One of the drawbacks to this arrangement is having no accountability. By the time I quit, they still owed me several hundred dollars. Because I didn’t live in Tokyo or anywhere near and had never signed a real contract, I had no recourse except to refuse further editing assignments which they had the audacity to continue sending me.

No Comments »