I’ve been following this interesting product called the FreeWrite since they put it up on Kickstarter. In a nutshell, the FreeWrite is a distraction-free writing tool. Astrohaus, the company that makes the FreeWrite, ran a sweepstakes over the holidays. And I actually won the sweepstakes. No really. Out of over 12,000 entries, they selected my name. So needless to say, I was excited to try out this innovative piece of hardware.
They managed to ship the machine to me in under a week. I received it just after Christmas. The FreeWrite looks a bit like those old word processors that were on the market just before personal computers became popular. I had a Smith Corona version in college for a few years. But it’s so much more (and less).
This machine uses an eInk screen to show your content. It uses pleasing mechanical-style keys for input and has very little in the way of interface other than the basic keyboard layout. While it does connect to wireless Internet, it’s only purpose for doing so is to upload what you’re writing to a file folder in the cloud (such as DropBox). This tool is only for writing. No editing. You can’t even cursor backward in your text. You just write. You don’t check Facebook, or your stocks, or watch YouTube. You just write.
I’ve already knocked out half a short story on the FreeWrite, and I have to say, I enjoyed the experience. It’s a little strange not being able to go back in your text, so that will take a little getting used to. But I’ve developed a notation, as such when I think of something to add, I just put it in brackets. Later, when editing, I’ll know to grab those added bits and re-insert them elsewhere.
But seriously, I think the power of free-flowing writing with no real distractions, writing that is miraculously saved elsewhere the instant you type it – I don’t think that magic can be underestimated.
Wired calls it “a blank piece of e-paper.” And that’s exactly it. Such an elegant description, so apt, and there is great power in that simple idea.
I’ve read a few reviews of the FreeWrite online that don’t seem to get what it is. Look, if you have no need for a “distraction-free writing tool,” that’s fine. It’s a niche need. But just because I still have both legs doesn’t mean I’m going to start writing scathing reviews of every prosthetic leg product I can find.
In all fairness to struggling writers out there, the current price tag might be considered high. And I was oh-so-fortunate enough to get mine for free (so grateful, this is me being grateful). Clearly, the cost per machine is driven by the FreeWrite’s high-quality materials (aluminum body, eInk screen and Cherry MX keyboard), which I definitely appreciate. But that aside, I wholly recommend the FreeWrite, and I think there’s hope that if the FreeWrite catches on within the writer community – and why wouldn’t it – that price could come down some in the future.
On its website, Astrohaus claims the FreeWrite will double your hourly word count. I can’t help but believe it.
Consciously, I knew I wanted to be a writer since the 11th grade. I had a wonderful English teacher, Connie Nokes, who made literary elements like symbolism, allegories and foreshadowing come alive for me. I had already written a few (horrible) short stories at that point, and I remember something clicked. I wanted to be a creative writer when I grew up. I just knew it. A switch had been flipped that would never flip back.
But looking back, maybe it wasn’t a switch at all. Maybe it was more of a snowball that had already been pushed down the hill at a much earlier age. My mother has a big file with all the “books” I wrote as a kid. I would write, and my brother would illustrate. One was a Beetle Bailey comic story of all things.
I have fond memories of both my parents when it comes to storytelling. My mother’s reading voice still evokes strong emotions from me that are connected to her reading books to me as a child. And my father loved to tell stories to us, accented with a host of unique and colorful voices.
I believe that everyone is connected to story in powerful and subconscious ways. But for me, it goes even deeper. I am caught in that giant snowball now, rolling uncontrolled down the hill, arms flailing.
Today, I release Spit Mechs – a science adventure chapter book for kids 3rd to 6th grade.
When fourth-grade friends Newton, Jorge and Jane are the accidental recipients of a trio of alien super suits, it’s up to them to face their fears and save the world. Homework can wait! (Until Tuesday.)
Pick it up on Amazon today.
I hope you love it. (And please leave a review if you!) Spit Mechs 2 is coming this fall.
For many years now, I have been a solitary writer. Recently, a more focused desire to get published has brought me out of my literary cave in search of other creative writer types, not only with which to network but also with which to compare notes, collaborate, get feedback. For a long time, I hadn’t realized I needed this interaction. I was content to hammer out my texts in the bowels and darkness of my cave, torch light flickering and throwing up the shadows of my fancy along the rough-hewn walls.
Last night, I sought out the fellowship of a writer’s group in Plano. They are a relaxed, diverse group of writers all in various places along their writer journeys. One woman read her short, breathy poems a few poignant images, another read fan fiction, and one older man read a powerful modern fable.
As for myself, I read a few poems, some old and some new. Afterward, we stood around, doling out compliments and discussing our writing. And I came away utterly refreshed and invigorated. It hadn’t mattered that the writing I read went uncritiqued. I had been a part of something connective, something important.
That night, before I went to bed, a story began in my head. But as I lay in bed, seeking the solace of sleep, the story wrote itself in my head, insisting, insisting. For the next five hours, I tossed in my bed, as this story refused to leave me alone. Specific prose played over and over in my thoughts. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, I got out of bed, realizing if I didn’t write it down, it wouldn’t leave me alone. And so I did.
Being a writer is not always by choice, but it is often an immensely satisfying calling. And sharing that experience with others, when you’ve spent so many years in the cave, is nothing short of revitalizing.
While I continue to write adult science fiction and shop this work to agents, over the last year I have been creating chapter books for my kids. And they’ve loved them. Each time, they can’t wait for the next installment. With a few of these “kid-approved” successes under my belt, I thought why not share them? As the publishing market continues to evolve, I’ve been wanting to try my hand at self-publishing for a while.
My first book to be released is a science-fiction adventure series called Spit Mechs. I will also be releasing another series for kids that is more 1930s-style pulp. And before you ask, yes, there is a zeppelin.
When I made the decision to self-publish, I wanted to get it right. I hope you’ll enjoy the quality of these books from Amazon, from the writing (of course) to the layout and cover illustrations.
This past weekend I attended the DFW Writers Conference in Dallas, Texas. I’ve been writing and submitting for a long while, but I’ve never been to a full-fledged writing conference. One of my high school friends and a successful author told me writing conferences were the place for aspiring authors to be. So I took her advice, and here are three things I took away from the experience.
Writers Are the Best
I met a lot of fellow authors at the conference, and as always, it was wonderful to talk to folks of my own ilk and compare notes on the craft and life of writing. I could do that all day. But it also got me to thinking about why I like writer folk so much. Because by the very nature of crafting story and character, writers are more empathetic people (generalizing here obviously). We have to get into the heads of our characters and understand motivation, and so we tend to do that with other people too. While many writers are introverts who can appreciate solitude, we’re an understanding lot. And many of us even downright tolerant. I didn’t talk to a single author who was standoffish this weekend, and I met a lot interesting writers I hope to talk to again. And again.
Query Letters Need to Be Phenomenal
I knew this already. But I got to watch this event called the Query Letter Gong Show. Anonymous query letters from real authors at the conference were read on stage. Seven agents listened and would strike a gong when they heard something that would stop them reading the query in ordinary circumstances. Three gongs stopped the reading. Of probably fifty letters, two made it all the way through without three gongs. And between the two of those, only one piqued the interest of a few agents. They said that the average agent receives about 10,000 or more queries a year. All agents are different, but they look for a variety of clues to stop reading. I’ve read the query blogs and tips of how to write good query letters, but I was surprised by how quickly agents could be turned off. Some warning signs were obvious ones that I already avoid, but others were less so. Length was a key turn-off. If an author spent too many sentences describing plot that was a turn-off, for example. They loved short queries. They loved great voice too (which should be obvious but something to consider).
Craft & Process
I attended several lectures on the craft of writing and the process of writing. To be honest, I didn’t learn much from these. But it was nice to be reminded of basic craft. And I did take away several golden nuggets that I can’t wait to apply. Agent Alice Speilburg, for example, gave a great talk on holding the proper tension during the rising action of a novel (that period when most readers drop off). And photographer and author Me Ra Koh shared some smart social media insights. I loved listening to Kevin J Anderson talk about World Building and Productivity, even if much of it was aimed at more novice writers.
It was a great experience, and I’m certainly looking forward to my next writing conference.