Apr 302015
 

 

Future book writers... this.

Aug 272013
 

Last week I talked about an overview of  the registration process and the different phases for the Avaya IP Phone registration process. This week my contribution to the company blog covers the essential information needed to deploy any IP phone. Understanding IP Phone deployment, essential information needed for all deployment scenarios. Part two of a six part series.

Getting started

I start with the assumption that you already know a little bit about the CS1000 architecture and programming– I tried to keep this article to 600-800 words, and even discounting some of the captures I put in the article it still came out to almost double the size. To do a really in depth review of this topic you need a lot more than just a six part series. But, I have plenty of other topics that need attention and while IP Phone deployment is an interesting topic (to me, because of the number of features available compared to those that are implemented in most sites) as a topic, it’s just one of many. Writing white papers is best left to people who have that as a job– amiright?

Unlike completely creative writing, the technical writing comes very easily. The problem with creative writing is always figuring out the answers that you don’t even really understand the questions to– if X happens, how does Y feel about it, how do they react, etc. When a writer gets stuck, often the problem is that either they’re not able to answer the question, or they may not even realize what question they need to answer. But, with technical writing, all you have to be is knowledgeable about your topic and have time to flip through the documentation.

Trimming the fat

But, I removed a lot of in depth detail that I started to slide into the original blog article and instead referenced the documentation. I figure I trimmed at least another 800 words from the article that gave a lot more detail on the use of the Nortel-i2004-A string, as well as a few other B-string mnemonic that I really like when I’m in charge of IP Phone deployment (or tasked with consulting with a customer.)

Trimming takes at least two passes.

Fact checking

Speaking of documentation, it was a challenge getting some of this history straight. I was around during the UNIStim 1.x days (we’re at 5.4 now), but the documentation doesn’t really talk about when features were implemented, changed or removed.

For instance, it wasn’t until 2.2-2.3 that the new Nortel-i2004-B string was introduced, but the latest UNIStim 5.4 documentation doesn’t say when it was introduced. This is important because if you’re on firmware prior to 2.3, you might not be able to support the B string format (I know this is unlikely– but I know of customers that are still on Meridian-1 software that was released before I got into Telecom in 1999.)

In addition to filling in the facts that I could validate through documentation, I also had to make sure that I hadn’t introduced any errors through typos or omissions. Being thorough takes a couple of passes.

Formatting

Selecting images to fill out a blog is tough for me– I struggle with the artistic creativity required for selecting images that work with the blog post. And, when I cannot find what I’m looking for (and when a google search fails me), I whip something up in Photoshop. You might think that’s creative, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Then, it’s on to getting the text formatting right. Another couple of passes there. Headers are properly coded with the correct H1,H2,H3 tag, words and phrases get the correct bold/underline/italics emphasis. Colored text, when used, can convey information subtly. (e.g., On my company blog articles, I use a dark green bolded text format to represent terms which are universal and not specific to the subject of my blog.)

Approval

Then I submit the blog post to the company approval process and if it gets approved, we schedule it for posting.

 

And thus, Part 2, IP Phone deployment, essential information goes live.

 

The full series will be:

  • Part 1, IP Phone registration process overviewA review of the basic registration process, the phases, a couple of tips and some hints of topics to come.
  • Part 2, Manual IP deployment, Partial and Full DCHP deployment – the essential information needed for all phone deployment scenarios.
  • Part 3, Full DHCP in more detail – the power of DHCP and auto configuration.
  • Part 4, integrating switch level registration – creating efficiencies in phone registration using LLDP/ADAC.
  • Part 5, Using TFTP provisioning for security and redundancy – advanced IP phone deployment techniques using TFTP provisioning.
  • Part 6, remote worker scenarios, NAT, VPN, Firewalls – advanced networking scenarios.

 

Feb 272012
 

Word Choice

In most modern writing, the character will be a viewpoint character who’s actually part in the scene. However, the principle still applies in stories told from a viewpoint outside the story (e.g. the famed third-person omniscient narrator). Even a disembodied anonymous narrator has a persona, revealed by what details are presented. You get a sense of the narrator by where (s)he “aims the camera” and what words the narrator chooses to use.

Wordspace

Let me point out something else important about the descriptions I’ve quoted. Effie gets two sentences; Miss Wonderly gets two paragraphs. That’s an example of what I call wordspace. Here’s my rule of thumb: The more important something is, the more words it should be given so that it registers in the reader’s mind with appropriate strength.

Pacing, Not Padding

Devoting more words to something important isn’t padding, it’s pacing: building up something so that it doesn’t go by too quickly. Readers need time to absorb and appreciate what’s going on; otherwise, they don’t have a sense of the relative importance of your story’s elements (e.g. Miss Wonderly is much more important than Effie).

Of course, there can be exceptions. Sometimes you may want to brush quickly past something important so the reader doesn’t pay much attention. This is common in mystery stories, where crucial clues may be downplayed in order to sneak under the reader’s radar. Sometimes too you may choose to hit the reader with a passage that’s short and brutal rather than drawn out: you smack the reader’s mind with a hard sharp impact.

Still, most of your writing will follow the general principle: more words, more importance; few words, more forgettable. It’s comparable to the use of slow-motion in movies—when the hero finally punches out the villain, you don’t just let the punch fly past at full speed, over and done with in a fraction of a second. You slow it down; you show the impact and the villain being knocked backward; maybe you show it several times from several different angles. You show that this punch is The One that every other punch was leading up to. To do that, you have to give it enough time to happen.

via The Skill List Project: Word Choice and Wordspace at SF Novelists.

Feb 242012
 

My wife asked me to help her understand a question on a questionnaire she had to fill out. The question reads: “Name two methods in which patients are encouraged to communicate concerns about safety.”

I decided to try my hand at sentence diagramming (using the Reed-Kellogg system).

I’ve never diagrammed a sentence before, so I’m going to talk about how I did it. If I’m wrong, hopefully someone will correct me. If I’m right, hopefully it helps one of my readers.

  1. So I started with the sentence:
    “Name two methods in which patients are encouraged to communicate concerns about safety.”
  2. Looking at this sentence, it occurs to me that the instructive verb is “Name” and the object is “methods”. I briefly toyed with the notion that “to communicate” was the verb, but I discarded that when I considered what “Name” would be if “to communicate” became the verb.
  3. Then I tried to evaluate what methods were desired. The crux of the question is whether the methods are ways that patients “are encouraged” or methods “to communicate”. For that determines where “to communicate” hangs from. I went with the interpretation that the “in which patients are encourage” was an unpunctuated commathetical.
    “Name two methods, in which patients are encouraged, to communicate concerns about safety.”
    This makes the sentence:
    “Name two methods to communicate concerns about safety.”
  4. Every verb, noun or pornoun gets a horizontal bar. Every adjective and preposition gets a diagnal bar. (Conjuctions, Subjects aren’t shown here, so we’ll skip over how they’re handled.)

This is what I ended up with.

Needless to say, the sentence drags like a barge.

Feb 202012
 

Just to be cruel, I toted up the word count in your first eight sentences:

33
37
12
21
34
19
42
37

Before you get hot under the collar about this, let me just tell you that I learned about counting words in sentences from a guy who is damn fine writer: T. Jefferson Parker. He’s got a couple of Edgar Awards that show I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Jeff Parker once told me that he counted sentences in paragraphs and words in sentences as a way to increase tension. At the climax, the sentences and the paragraphs got shorter; the words fewer. In other words: short crisp sentences are more energetic and keep the reader moving along at that rapid clip you want to claim.

via Query Shark: #220.

I never understand why providing an education is cruel, especially when the people who submit queries to the Query Shark are looking for just that… but… let’s leave that topic aside.

T. Jefferson Parker’s advice is useful for those who want to evaluate the rules of prose construction: Count the words in your sentence to increase tension. As your story comes closer to the climax, shorten the sentences. Short crisp sentences are energetic and keep the reader moving along at a rapid clip.

Feb 162012
 

via Fiction Writing About.com Signs Your Short Story Wants to Be a Novel.

  1. Is your novel idea truly novel? (self explanatory)
  2. The short story simply is too long : Have you exceeded ten thousand words and it still feels incomplete?
  3. Too many characters are needed to tell the story : Can you not tell the story from a single POV?
  4. The theme, or themes, have not been fully developed.
  5. The story encompasses too long a time frame.
  6. One of your readers has pointed out that this could be a novel.
  7. You don’t want to stop working on it.

 

Feb 052012
 

If you use these words in your poetry or writing, be very careful. They are so charged as an editor I’ve stopped reading because of them. They can of course be used in a way that are not cliché, but many times just the sight of them can send your work into the DO NOT PUBLISH pile. I’m not really saying to avoid these words. It’s really up to you, but they do send editors running. Be aware.

  1. Soul-this word is number 1 for a reason. Many editors simply hate it.
  2. Heart- this word also can get a manuscript rejected quickly!
  3. Love-ugh, so many other ways to say this one.
  4. Warmth-tread lightly here. Nine times out of 10 this one will get you rejected.
  5. Windows-oddly, more times than not this one is used in a cliché way. Windows to the soul…
  6. Forever-don’t use it.
  7. Death-ok to write about, not great to say.
  8. Life-see above
  9. Feeling- talk all you want to about them, just don’t say the word.
  10. Light- do not use.

via Writing Sense – 10 Words Editors Hate.

Updated my Writing: Words to watch page.

Jan 312012
 

I’ve seen a lot of articles recently about the self-publishing, e-publishing, e-pub bubble and indie vs traditional. I’m from Team Trad-pub and believe that traditional publishing has a lot of value.

… There’s the Big Names In Trad Publishing who use that name recognition and their financial gains from said recognition to springboard self-pub projects–and that’s another thing, a professional writer with connections to editing and experience with the publishing process and what makes a quality project is NOT going to have “typical” results. They have experience they have invested in it, and it shows. Results. Not. Typical. Okay?

Muddy, uncritical thinking is not your friend when it comes to writing or business, or the business of writing and publishing. And, frankly, these are the kinds of discussions and numbers I’d love to see more of when it comes to talking about self-pub, instead of the usual round of Internet hateration and shaking pitchforks at mythical “gatekeepers”.

Self Publishing Takeaway Game | Lilith Saintcrow

Lilith provides some wonderful and much needed clarity on the Team Self-pub vs Team Trad-pub debate. I’d even go so far as to point out that there are people who have never made it big in traditional publishing who have contacts and experience, and put out a superior self-pub product (compared to every other indie out there). I won’t link to Joe Konrath because he’s a conceited, egotistical asshat who minimizes the contribution that 26 years in the traditional publishing industry has towards his current self-pub success. He’s a perfect example of someone who provides muddy, uncritical arguments in favor of epublishing. What he provides is anecdotal evidence and calls it science.

  • He’s got a lot of stories he’s shopped to traditional publishers over the last 26 years, and after failing to make a success out of them via the traditional publishing route, he decided to self publish.
  • He talks about how he’s playing the market (using the opportunities provided by the recent boom in Amazon Kindle sales), and figuring out how to game the system (lowering the price on his book to zero, then selling many copies at zero so that he can return the book to regular price and reap $100k per month).
  • His numbers are not typical, and he doesn’t present sound advice on how to replicate his experience. It’s great that he’s having success, but he is by no means the typical experience.
  • He’s also got 26 years experience in traditional publishing, networking with editors, artists and readers and he’s spent that 26 years honing his craft. It’s not surprising that his writing would be above-average when compared to the typical self-pub author, or that his covers would be above average– hell that his entire product is above average. But he can hardly claim (with any hope of believability to an unbiased observer) that he’s not where he is now because he went the traditional publishing route.

With that said, I’d have given him the same advice I give to anyone else. If you shop work to all the big name publishers and they don’t take it, but you believe strongly in it (and you do, or you wouldn’t have written it and tried to shop it out), then you should consider self publishing. But, there are reasons why self-publishing isn’t for everyone.

The Big Reasons Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously | Huffington Post

1. Bad editing – Let’s face it, there’s a reason that indie books are stereotyped as trash. Sometimes the indie author won’t murder their darlings, filling their stories with bad puns or cliche. Sometimes they are so caught up in their story they can’t see the continuity errors, they’re simply too close to their own work to self-edit. Sometimes they just write bad prose.

2. Quantity over quality – No author is able to write prose that does not have the occasional mistake. Rapidly written books are going to have errors that need editing. Certainly you may produce fewer errors with more experience, but that’s true in any field. If you’ve spent 10,000 hours on a topic you’re bound to be an expert. Being an expert doesn’t mean you don’t still make mistakes (it just means you get to feel more embarrassed when you do.) This almost (but not quite) is a duplicate of the editing topic– but it extends beyond the topics covered in the Huffington Post article. You also have things like cover art, variety of formats (hardback doesn’t come cheaply or easily to the self-pub.)

3. Lack of gatekeepers – No one credible is reviewing their work. There are places out there to get indie work reviewed, but most people won’t take the time or make the effort. And why should they? Indie authors are frequently temperamental, sensitive and prone to vicious personal attacks when their work is poorly reviewed. Just google search review websites and you’ll see most places have a policy against reviewing self-pubbed work, and they almost always have the same experiences. That’s not to say that all indie authors are the same, but enough are that they spoil the opportunities for mature and respectful indie authors.

4. Crappy Covers – Few indie authors are going to have the artistic connections that a Trad-pub has for generating cover art. Even fewer will consider spending the up-front cost of buying/making good cover art before their book is published and makes enough money. (The goal is, after all, to put money in the author’s pocket, not take money out.)

There’s a theme there, if you didn’t see it. It basically comes down to two factors: words in print, cover on book.

Sometimes starting small is the best strategy.

It’s not always about the money | Rachelle Gardner

There’s a lot of emotional luggage associated with publishing. Just as the genre and literary types are often at each other’s throats, its pretty obvious the self-pub and trad-pub types are at each others throats. There’s a lot of change happening in a short amount of time, and epublishing is currently benefiting from it, and benefiting quite a lot. Take, for instance, Joe Konrath (with his $100k per month paycheck spikes due to recent booms in Kindle ereader sales), or Amanda Hocking (who leveraged her self-pub success in to a traditional contract). They’re not the norm, but successes are definitely out there.

Sometimes starting small is the best strategy, whether it be in self-pub or in trad-pub. Sometimes getting a small contract, and building your career as you write (and hone your craft) is the best thing. Sometimes sacrificing the traditional route and putting yourself out there is the best thing. It’s difficult to say what’s best for any one person, because it depends on what you’re doing and where your skills are. If you take the time to put together a professional product, even if you skimp on some things like cover art, and you learn how to play the Amazon marketing game then you might be a huge success. Whether you stay a success is dependent upon a lot of facts– do you have 26 years worth of stories written that you can continue to feed the consumer? If so, staying self-pub is probably best for you. If not, you might find traditional publishing to be educational enough to be worth the journey.

The one thing that Joe Konrath likes to minimize is his 26 years of experience. While I’ve not read a lot from Amanda Hocking, it’s important to note that she had seventeen novels written before she self-published. Seventeen novels represents a significant investment in developing her skills as a writer. She didn’t self-publish her first novel and become a huge success. She’s also not trying to convince everyone that self-publishing is the future (she

Konrath is a huge believer in the future of epublishing, so much so that he’s attempting to debunk the theory that we’re in the middle of an epublishing bubble:

The self-epublishing bubble | Ewan Morrison

Is epublishing the next bubble industry? | LitReactor

The Ewan Morrison article is lengthy and well worth the read. The second link refers to the first and adds a nice summary, in case you don’t want to take the time to read the whole article. The part that really got me about Ewan Morrison’s take on the self-epublishing bubble was the idea that digital self-publishing is nothing more than a ponzi scheme:

The now ex-self-epublished authors decide not to publish again (it was a strain anyway, and it was made harder by the fact that they weren’t paid for their work and had to work after hours while doing another job – and they realised that self-promoting online would have to be a full-time job.) They come to see self-epublishing as a kind of Ponzi scheme – one created by digital companies to prey on the desires of an expanding mass of consumers who also wanted to be believe they could be “creative”. They also become disillusioned with their ereaders, which are now out of date anyway. And so they return to the mainstream publishers to look for culture. Unfortunately, as a result of the ebook market implosion it is impossible for publishers to push their prices back up to pre-bubble levels (from 99p to £12.99), and so their infrastructure continues to decline. And since they have decided to look for new talent in self-epublishing, they are trapped in the very same bubble that everyone else is trying to get out of.

This is the theorized end result of the bubble, but what’s more telling are the guesstimated numbers presented as anecdotal evidence:

… After a long year of trying to sell self-epublished books, attempting to self-promote on all available networking sites, and realising that they have been in competition with hundreds of thousands of newcomers just like them, the vast majority of the newly self-epublished authors discover that they have sold less than 100 books each. They then discover that this was in fact the business model of Amazon and other epub platforms in the first place: a model called “the long tail”. With five million new self-publishing authors selling 100 books each, Amazon has shifted 500m units. While each author – since they had to cut costs to 99p – has made only £99 after a year’s work. Disillusionment sets in as they realise that they were sold an idea of success which could, by definition, not possibly be extended to all who were willing to take part.

Amazon gets 40% of your ebook price when the price is 99c or less. If those numbers are realistic (and they may not be anything more than hyperbole, but let’s use them anyway), then 500 million units moved represents $200,000,000 for Amazon and $99 for the author simply because Amazon moved the volume and took a slice out of every author’s 99c pie.

Franzen says ebooks are the worst | LitReactor

I’m definitely not one of the Luddites (as the epub crusaders like to accuse the detractors of being): I have a Kindle Fire, and the first thing I did was download over 100 free books (the books that are in the public domain, but available from Amazon for free) and bought a half dozen others. I spend a little bit of time every day with my ereader, and when I next go on vacation, I will have that thing in my carry-on luggage. I’m also not a believer in the idea that the ereader will replace printed books. I still love the printed page, and for my home library (books I love), having a physical copy is still a romantic experience.

More to the point, I see a danger in treating literature (i.e., books) as a commodity that should be price-raced to the bottom. I also see a danger in ebook pricing where book buyers are encouraged to become bargain hunters on literature, only buying when the price of the book becomes free.

Amazon’s practices aren’t going unquestioned, B&N will not stock (printed) titles published by Amazon. I hate B&N and frankly I’m applauding right now. I’m applauding so much I’m rethinking my book buying habits.

Of course, I’m also going on a Books & Chocolate crawl later in February. I’m hoping to buy a few books while I’m burning calories (and consuming them).