MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Charles Darwin & Charles Dickens’ Four-Hour Work Day: The Case for Why Less Work Can Mean More Productivity


We all operate at different levels of ambition: some just want to get by and enjoy themselves, while others strive to make achievements with as long-lasting an impact on humanity as possible. If we think of candidates for the latter category, Charles Darwin may well come to mind, at least in the sense that the work he did as a naturalist, and more so the theory of evolution that came out of it, has ensured that we remember his name well over a century after his death and will surely continue to do so centuries hence. But research into Darwin's working life suggests something less than workaholism — and indeed, that he put in a fraction of the number of hours we associate with serious ambition.

"After his morning walk and breakfast, Darwin was in his study by 8 and worked a steady hour and a half," writes Nautilus' Alex Soojung-kim Pang. "At 9:30 he would read the morning mail and write letters. At 10:30, Darwin returned to more serious work, sometimes moving to his aviary, greenhouse, or one of several other buildings where he conducted his experiments. By noon, he would declare, 'I’ve done a good day’s work,' and set out on a long walk." After this walk he would answer letters, take a nap, take another walk, go back to his study, and then have dinner with the family. Darwin typically got to bed, according to a daily schedule drawn from his son Francis' reminiscences of his father, by 10:30.
"On this schedule he wrote 19 books, including technical volumes on climbing plants, barnacles, and other subjects," writes Pang, and of course not failing to mention "The Origin of Species, probably the single most famous book in the history of science, and a book that still affects the way we think about nature and ourselves." Another textually prolific Victorian Englishman named Charles, adhering to a similarly non-life-consuming work routine, managed to produce — in addition to tireless letter-writing and campaigning for social reform — hundreds of short stories and articles, five novellas, and fifteen novels including Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations

"After an early life burning the midnight oil," writes Pang, Charles Dickens "settled into a schedule as 'methodical or orderly' as a 'city clerk,' his son Charley said. Dickens shut himself in his study from 9 until 2, with a break for lunch. Most of his novels were serialized in magazines, and Dickens was rarely more than a chapter or two ahead of the illustrators and printer. Nonetheless, after five hours, Dickens was done for the day." Pang finds that may other successful writers have kept similarly restrained work schedules, from Anthony Trollope to Alice Munro, Somerset Maugham to Gabriel García Márquez, Saul Bellow to Stephen King. He notes similar habits in science and mathematics as well, including Henri Poincaré and G.H. Hardy.

Research by Pang and others into work habits and productivity have recently drawn a great deal of attention, pointing as it does to the question of whether we might all consider working less in order to work better. "Even if you enjoy your job and work long hours voluntarily, you’re simply more likely to make mistakes when you’re tired," writes the Harvard Business Review's Sarah Green Carmichael. What's more, "work too hard and you also lose sight of the bigger picture. Research has suggested that as we burn out, we have a greater tendency to get lost in the weeds." This discovery actually dates back to Darwin and Dickens' 19th century: "When organized labor first compelled factory owners to limit workdays to 10 (and then eight) hours, management was surprised to discover that output actually increased – and that expensive mistakes and accidents decreased."

This goes just as much for academics, whose workweeks, "as long as they are, are not nearly as lengthy as those on Wall Street (yet)," writes Times Higher Education's David Matthews in a piece on the research of University of Pennsylvania professor (and ex-Goldman Sachs banker) Alexandra Michel. "Four hours a day is probably the limit for those looking to do genuinely original research, she says. In her experience, the only people who have avoided burnout and achieved some sort of balance in their lives are those sticking to this kind of schedule." Michel finds that "because academics do not have their hours strictly defined and regulated (as manual workers do), 'other controls take over. These controls are peer pressure.'" So at least we know the first step on the journey toward viable work habits: regarding the likes of Darwin and Dickens as your peers.

via Nautilus

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

More Story Merchant July Amazon eBook Deals

FREE July 16 - July 20!
Tom Stern's KING PIRATE

A modern-day privateer seeks revenge on the rogue King Pirate terrorizing the Malacca Strait.



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FREE July 19 -July 23! 
Tom Bown’s LOST OASIS

A dark, fast-paced adventure thriller that takes the reader on two unique safaris 2,500 years apart!


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FREE July 22 - July 26! Nancy Freedman's double biography of Charles and Mary Lamb

The story of two brilliant artists, cut off from a normal life by a single day of madness.

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FREE July 24 - July 28!


My Funeral, My Way by Angela Den Simone

A Journal for Those Who Would Like to Assist in Planning Their Own Funeral

An easy-to-follow guide to journaling your wishes succeeding death. Warm, welcoming this could serve as a great initial conversation piece among mourning family members.

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FREE July 27 - July 31!

Rat Pack Party Girl: From Prostitute to Women’s Advocate by Jane McCormick

From her 1960s sexcapades with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Vic Damone, to sex-trade survivor and women's advocate the former Rat Pack high-roller tells a wrenching story of endurance!



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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Guest Post: The time to write by Jerry Amernic

The first thing of any length that I wrote was a play in university. It was performed by drama students before an audience and one of my friends asked if I had written it the night before. The night before? Well no, it took longer than that.

Any writer will tell you the key to writing is rewriting and the hours, days, weeks, what have you, add up. But I’m amazed at how quickly some writers work.

There is a graphic that shows how long it took to write popular books. John Boyne claims to have written the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – which was made into a film – in two and a half days! The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Robert Louis Stevenson did that in only six days.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens required six weeks, which to me still sounds like a sprint, while the same Mr. Dickens spent eight months writing Great Expectations. Mary Shelley worked for a year on Frankenstein and Harper Lee devoted two and a half years to To Kill a Mockingbird.

Then we have the marathons. Lord of the Flies by William Golding? Five years. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell? Ten years. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger? Ten years again.

It took Victor Hugo twelve years to get Les Miserables the way he wanted and sixteen years for J. R. R. Tolkien to pen the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that was three books.

Writing a novel is many things. It is a mission, a work of love, the greatest satisfaction, and the most dire form of punishment – sometimes all of the above.

When I wrote my first novel more than 400 pages poured out – like water – over nine months. Then it was more work under the watchful eye of a good editor to cut the manuscript. In half!

My favorite novel, The Source by James A. Michener, is almost 1,000 pages of historical epic and every time I read it I am immersed. Michener would spend three years on a book, and I think three years to write The Source is productive time well spent. But if we’re talking time and productivity, the master is Ernest Hemingway.

He wrote The Old Man and the Sea in eight weeks. It’s not a big book, but not a single word is wasted and every phrase paints an image. It garnered Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize and later, the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Indeed, a book like that should be mandatory reading for every iPhone-tablet-mobile-device-carrying young person and Millennial out there. But read it in print. There is this thing about stories and time and paper that no screen can deliver.
 

Jerry Amernic is a Canadian writer of fiction and non-fiction books. He is the author of the  Holocaust-related novel 'The Last Witness' and the biblical-historical thriller 'QUMRAN'

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guest Post: Write, Read, Repeat by Sandra Beckwith



A Ray Bradbury comment about writing got me thinking about the many
Sandra Beckwith
successful writers and authors I know.

I discovered that they have three things in common – and those things are reflected in the Bradbury quote I’m sharing 

The best writers I know do two things daily: They write and they read.

They also get feedback on their writing from people who can evaluate it objectively and provide honest input — “This part confused me,” or “I found the unusual character names distracting.”

Growing and improving as a writer involves soliciting and incorporating feedback you can trust.

But it also takes practice. That comes from writing daily.
Read!

It also requires reading — lots of it.

I’m always surprised when I see an author-to-be comment, “I don’t read” or “I’m not much of a reader.”

How can that be? How do you know what good writing looks like if you don’t see it regularly by reading what others write?

Can you really find your way through a writing problem without studying how others have resolved that dilemma?

What about creative inspiration? How can you be creative or innovative when you don’t know how others structure their stories?

How do you know whether your writing meets conventional standards if you don’t read what others write?

You don’t need to look far to validate this theory that good writers are big readers — just turn to Facebook.

If your connections on that social network are like mine, you’ll see that the posts with correct spelling and grammar are probably from people who also comment about what they’re reading, whether it’s articles or books. Reading teaches you — in the most pleasant way possible — correct spelling, sentence structure, and grammar.

You absorb what’s “right” without instruction or lectures.
Repeat!

It’s important to repeat both steps continually. It’s like anything else — the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

When you learned how to ride a bike as a kid, you weren’t very good at it at first, were you? As you got feedback — “Keep pedaling!” or “Look straight ahead!” — you improved. The more you practiced, the better you got.

It works that way with writing, too.

It works the same way with reading. The more you read, the more you learn about how to present your information, whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

Take Ray Bradbury’s word for it: The “write, read, repeat” formula will improve your writing.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Beautiful Miniature Books

Good things come in (very) small packages.

Popular in the early 20th century as souvenir books, these tiny books of travel photos (Maine, in this case) had tags attached so they could be dropped in the mail.
 
Popular in the early 20th century as souvenir books, these tiny books of travel photos (Maine, in this case) had tags attached so they could be dropped in the mail. Laura Hampton/University of Iowa Special Collections
In 1896, the Salmin Brothers, a Padua-based publishing company, produced Galileo a Madama Cristina de Lorena (Galileo’s Letter to Christina). It had an embossed cover and slipcase, but it had another, exceptional feature: It was sized at just 0.7 by 0.4 inches. Within, the text is printed in “fly’s eye type,” which is so small that when the Salmin Brothers first used it, for Dante’s Divine Comedy, it reportedly damaged the eyesight of the typesetter. This time, it was used in a title about one-third the size of the previous example—the smallest book ever printed with hand-set, movable type.

Galileo’s tiny tome is just one of some 4,000 miniature books held at the University of Iowa, most of which were gifted to the institution from a single collection. The donor, Charlotte M. Smith, was an avid collector of rare books, but as volumes began to overwhelm her bookshelves, she turned to miniatures. Her first purchase was a 3.75-inch-tall edition of Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit From St. Nicholas (more commonly known by its opening line, “‘Twas the the night before Christmas … ”).

The "fly's eye" typeface inside <em>Galileo a Madama Cristina de Lorena</em>, 1896.
The “fly’s eye” typeface inside Galileo a Madama Cristina de Lorena, 1896. Colleen Theisen/University of Iowa Special Collections
Admittedly, this title would not now be classified as a true miniature, which must be three inches or smaller. And it seems positively gargantuan compared with the books on the tinier end of the scale. The University of Iowa holds a collection of what are known as “ultra-microminiatures” (measuring less than 0.25 inches), including a Book of Genesis that can be worn as a pendant and read only with a magnifying glass. (The world’s absolute smallestTeeny Ted From Turnip Town—was etched using an ion beam at Simon Fraser University and requires a scanning electron microscope to read.)

If there are challenges to reading some miniature books, just consider the process for creating them. “Working with the type, creating it and cutting it, setting it, and proofing it, seems be one of the biggest challenges,” says University of Iowa special collections librarian Colleen Theisen. “Remember, you set type backwards and upside down. Now add on the challenge of trying to do that when it’s a two-point font and still ‘mind your p’s and q’s!’”
The University of Iowa's "ultraminiature" Book of Genesis.
The University of Iowa’s “ultraminiature” Book of Genesis. Colleen Theisen/University of Iowa Special Collections
Given these functional constraints, what is the point of books so small? For starters, says Theisen, “They’re darned cute. We humans seem to be obsessed with cute things.” From cuneiform tablets to tiny medieval texts to the intricate little books produced today, small manuscripts have an enduring popularity.

But miniature books also have practical uses. It’s convenient to have a pocked-sized almanac of key dates, for example, or religious texts for devotional reading. “Just like an e-reader, small books have always been better for reducing weight while traveling,” says Theisen. “Napoleon famously had a traveling library that fit in a small box.”
<em>Up! Horsie! An Original Fairy Tale</em>, by Clara de Chatelaine, London, 1850.
Up! Horsie! An Original Fairy Tale, by Clara de Chatelaine, London, 1850. Colleen Theisen/University of Iowa Special Collections
Small books have also lent themselves to use as contraband. In 1832, American’s first book on contraception, The Fruit of Philosophy, or The Private Companion of Young Married People, was published in miniature for easy concealment. Despite these efforts, its author, Charles Knowlton, was prosecuted for obscenity, fined, and sentenced to hard labor.

From religious texts to fairy tales, Shakespeare to flirting guides, there’s a miniature book for every subject, ready to be concealed, collected, or carried. Atlas Obscura delved into the University of Iowa’s Charlotte M. Smith miniature book collection, which is also documented in the library’s “Miniature Mondays” blog posts—to bring you a selection of itty-bitty reading material.
A collection of 12 books, each no bigger than an inch, about Shakespeare, published in Canada, 2000.
A collection of 12 books, each no bigger than an inch, about Shakespeare, published in Canada, 2000. Laura Hampton/University of Iowa Special Collections
<em>The Little Flirt</em>, published in 1871, is a handy guide to deciphering flirtations with handkerchiefs, gloves, fans, and parasols. According to the book, dropping a parasol means "I love you," while carrying it over the left shoulder means "You are too cruel."
The Little Flirt, published in 1871, is a handy guide to deciphering flirtations with handkerchiefs, gloves, fans, and parasols. According to the book, dropping a parasol means “I love you,” while carrying it over the left shoulder means “You are too cruel.” Laura Hampton/University of Iowa Special Collections
 
 
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Stanley Kubrick’s Unbelievable Answer to the Question, “Is Life Worth Living?”

"The very meaninglessness of life forces a man to create his own meaning.”

— Stanley Kubrick

 In 1968, 40-year-old Stanley Kubrick was interviewed by Playboy magazine.




Stanley Kubrick’s Unforgettable Answer


    Playboy: If life is so purposeless, do you feel its worth living?




    Kubrick: Yes, for those who manage somehow to cope with our mortality. The very meaninglessness of life forces a man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre (a keen enjoyment of living), their idealism — and their assumption of immortality.

    As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s élan (enthusiastic and assured vigor and liveliness).

    Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining.

    The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

— Stanley Kubrick, interview with Playboy, Stanley Kubrick: Interviews

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Story Merchant Books July Amazon eBook Deals


FREE July 4 - July 7
Gambino: The Rise – James E. Pierre 

The Rise, A Novel Based on a True Story, unveils the intricate machinations of Gambino’s ascent, from poor, immigrant stowaway, to billionaire boss of America’s most deadly and elite crime family.

Gambino’s story is a rags to riches tail of the bloodiest kind, which explores the dichotomies of family, wealth, and power within the mafia environment.




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Maddy Quinn survived being a fat kid and a fat adolescent, but being fat in her twenties is too much. Maddy is a smart, funny, chunky monkey living in a world of skinnies with only an XXL sweater set to keep her safe.


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Fields of the Holy by Craig J. Tucker

In 1991 the exploits of Alaska's most prolific serial killer surfaced in Anchorage book stores and an abnormal amount of strippers and prostitutes were reported missing.

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FREE July 16 - July 20

Tom Stern's KING PIRATE 
 
A modern-day privateer-a pirate of pirates-seeks revenge on the criminal terrorizing the Malacca Strait known as King Pirate.



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Friday, June 30, 2017

Join Ken for The Author Learning Center Live Webinar on July 6th!!

Selling Your Story to the Hollywood Studio Market

Thursday, July 6, 2017 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM EDT



Though the market for stories among the major Hollywood studios has greatly changed in the past five years, the mechanics of selling to this extremely lucrative market have not. Generally, stories are submitted to buyers by agents, literary managers, attorneys, producers, or stars. This webinar will help you understand (1) what the studio market wants to buy; (2) how to prepare your sales materials for this market; and (3) how to find your way to representation. Dr. Atchity will also cover expectations, contracts, the writer’s role in the business, and how to learn the nuts and bolts of Hollywood.

Topics included:

• Loglines

• Coverages

• Back end

• Treatments

• Attachments

About the Presenter: Dr. Ken Atchity (Ph.D Yale) believes in the power of stories to change the world. He’s produced over 30 films for television and cinema, including Hysteria, The Lost Valentine, Joe Somebody, The Amityville Horror: The Evil Escapes, and Warner Brothers’ forthcoming Meg (starring Jason Statham, directed by Jon Turtletaub). As a literary manager (“The Story Merchant”) he’s made hundreds of book and film deals for his clients, including nearly 20 New York Times bestsellers. He’s written two dozen books of nonfiction (A Writer’s Time, Write Treatments That Sell, and Sell Your Story to Hollywood) and fiction (The Messiah Matrix, Seven Ways to Die). After nearly 20 years as Fulbright professor of comparative literature at Occidental College, he assists writers reach dream career objectives in his five companies that deal with every facet of a writer’s career.

Story Merchant Books