Week in Links: Brainy Writing

7 Ways to Use Brain Science to Hook Readers and Reel Them In – WritetoDone

In the same way that food tastes good so we’ll eat it, stories are entertaining so we’ll pay attention to them. But for writers the real breakthrough is the discovery of what triggers that delicious sense of enjoyment we feel when a story hooks us.

Lisa Cron, the guest author of the above post, is well on her way to earning an place of honor in this blog. I’ve been seeing really goddamned awesome guests posts from her ever since her book, Wired for Story, was released in July. She’s no doubt trying to promote her book by writing excellent guest posts, but that’s okay because did I mention how goddamned awesome her guest posts have been? They’re so awesome that I actually bought her book the week it was released. You can get a taste of what her book is about by reading the above article, her post titled Why We are Wired for Story at Writer Unboxed, and her blog wiredforstory.com.

HipType Provides Detailed Analytics for eBooks – LitReactor

Levy and Prasad aren’t the first to create a product to give detailed eBook analytics, but others require publishers to go through a specific eBook store, which is limiting. HipType’s only limitation (and it’s a fairly big one but one that should sort itself out over time) is that the plug-in works with any HTML5 device (so iPad, Kindle Fire, etc.) but not with eReaders that use e-ink (standard Kindle).

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love calling out techno-babble tools like this that can help self-published writers. The article mentions this too, but tools like HipType put analytics and data collection into the layman’s hands and allow for testing alternative versions of a book on readers to see what they respond to the most. And that’s an awesome thing. Unless you spend too much time fiddling with data collection and not enough time making solid stories. Then it’s a not awesome thing.

National Geographic‘s Aaron Huey on Digital Collaboration and Community Storytelling – 10,000 Words (Mediabistro)

There is great value in having an outsider tell the story of a people or community, and put the pieces they find into a beautiful, objective narrative. But returning for many years to Pine Ridge meant that I had to look back into the eyes of the same people again and again after they had seen themselves on websites or in the pages of magazines, and they all wanted to know why I couldn’t tell more of the story. They wanted to know why it all had to be about poverty and violence and alcohol. They wanted to know why it couldn’t be about success stories and good students and sober families.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation project that Aaron Huey and Cowbird are partnering on, but this is the first link-worthy piece I’ve found. You’ll find a really dense interview that’s worth your time for Huey’s thoughtful discussion about giving voice to a community and the limitations of traditional journalism.

Every Friday, I highlight links from the week—all related to writing, storytelling, and plain ol’ books. Some of the links I love, some of the links I don’t, but I believe all are worth reading and discussing. If you’re the type to eat dessert before dinner, you can get these and much, much more by following me on Twitter: @messemi.

Week in Links: Stop Being So Damn Nice

Jonah Lehrer continued to commit career suicide, and that dominated most of the linkage and articles this week. Yet I somehow managed to find a few gems tucked under his turd fest. You’re welcome.

Against Enthusiasm: The epidemic of niceness in online book culture – Slate

As if mirroring the surrounding culture, biting criticism has become synonymous with offense; everything is personal—one’s affection for a book is interchangeable with one’s feelings about its author as a person. Critics gush in anticipation for books they haven’t yet read; they <3 so-and-so writer, tagging the author's Twitter handle so that he or she knows it, too; they exhaust themselves with outbursts of all-caps praise, because that's how you boost your follower count and affirm your place in the back-slapping community that is the literary web.

This article tries to make an argument for being more critical of books in online communities (primarily Twitter and Tumblr). I’m all for being critical to sensitive souls like writers. So stop being so damn nice, people. Let’s bring those published literary hussies to tears.

Update 8/13: Pop Culture Happy Hour (an awesome NPR podcast to which you should subscribe) critiques this article and brings up some really solid points about social media and today’s “book culture.” The discussion starts at 19:21 and ends about 34:10, which you can listen to on their blog post Pop Culture Happy Hour: On Fall TV And Whether Criticism Is Too Nice.

The only list that matters – Melville House

A body cannot live each day like it was their last. Our best moments gain their worth, in part, because they are surrounded by dross. But seeing numbers like this, doing the math, makes a person wonder: should that book about feeding your dog the paleo diet be one of those vanishing few?

Melville House dared write a post that combined math with books, but it works. I’m not sure the universe can handle this imbalance.

This dude just wants an eBook – New York Times Blog

I felt like I was in a Monty Python skit. “Hello? Would anyone like some money? Anyone? I’ve got money here—no?”

This exemplary human writes a tech blog for the New York Times (I know, exemplary + technology + New York Times is an unholy union), and decided he needed an eBook version of Bourne Identity for his minion. Problem is, the publisher is too incompetent to provide eBook versions. So this dude did what any other human would—he went to a bit torrent site. But THEN this magical, godly person mailed the publisher a check! Oh holy hell, I don’t think the universe can handle this much strain.

Bonus: Joshua Ferris is my nemesis – Salon

We’ll call my nemesis Josh, since that’s his name. He goes by Joshua now — Joshua Ferris — but calling him that makes me uncomfortable, so for these purposes I’m going with Josh.

Can be summarized succinctly with one word: hilarious. After discussing how inhumane and horrible her MFA program was, and how her nemesis (now a published writer) is a hard worker, the last few paragraphs bring us to the groundbreaking moral that being an unknown writer gives you more freedom and less pressure. Enlightening.

Every Friday, I highlight links from the week—all related to writing, storytelling, and plain ol’ books. Some of the links I love, some of the links I don’t, but I believe all are worth reading and discussing. If you’re the type to eat dessert before dinner, you can get these and much, much more by following me on Twitter: @messemi.