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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 2

  1. #1526
    Currently buried in schoolwork. SJp's Avatar
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    Uncle Jim,

    I've been reading through the Volume 1 stickied at the top. It is an invaluable source, and thank you. You may have mentioned this downstream from me (I'm only on page 40 - post 1197), but I did notice you discussed heroes several times up to this point. Your definition lines up with Joseph Campbell's, but there's no mention of that. What's your opinion on The Hero with a Thousand Faces?

  2. #1527
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    The Hero With a Thousand Faces is a good and useful work on folklore, and it contains signposts for what's worked in the past for storytelling, but use of it as a Procrustean Bed, or as a stamping-mill for STORY, is to use it badly.

    It's perfectly okay to have a hero with normal, every-day parents and a run-of-the-mill birth.

  3. #1528
    Currently buried in schoolwork. SJp's Avatar
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    Regardless of the hero's origins (assuming the story involves a hero), does following the hero's journey run the risk of sounding formulaic?

    Now that I've read my own question I wonder if what I'm suggesting is the definition of formulaic writing. I will think of a better way to approach the subject tomorrow.
    Last edited by SJp; 03-23-2011 at 11:47 AM.

  4. #1529
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I've seen entirely too many books where the heroes run around collecting plot coupons as if they were on a scavenger hunt until, having collected enough, they can turn them in for a climax.

  5. #1530
    The Childlike Empress ArcticFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    At novel length, write The Stepsister's Tale, being the story of Cinderella from the POV of one of the wicked stepsisters. Only with the stepsister as the heroine of the story, and that smarmy, simpering, psychotic Cinderella as the villain. Think of what Wicked did for the Wicked Witch of the West. Go thou and do likewise.
    Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister?

    Same guy who wrote Wicked.

  6. #1531
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArcticFox View Post
    Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister?

    Same guy who wrote Wicked.

    Reckon so.

    Okay, Red Riding Hood from the POV of the Wolf. Jack and the Beanstalk from the POV of the giant.

    On the importance of giving and getting feedback from your beta readers: Agent Scully and the Dirty Story.

    Re-imaginings go back a long way: The Death of the Seven Dwarfs (1856)

    A rather more modern re-imagining: Rammstein's Sonne (music video)
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 03-31-2011 at 09:15 PM.

  7. #1532
    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    I list fairy tales up there with the Bible and classic mythology as primary source material. My WIP main characters borrow heavily from Slavic fairy tales, particularly stories about Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless.
    Hell is other people. -- Jean Paul Sartre

    Rule of thumb: Mura is not subtle.

    The Grand Navigators, collaborative fantasy adventure party.
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  8. #1533
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Fairy tales are great. Distilled crystallized story. As I keep saying, the oldest engines pull the heaviest freight.

    Speaking of fairy stories and children's fantasy, here's a look inside bookselling. This is a place that most authors never see:
    A Lament for Diana Wynne Jones by Joe Monti: Now a star agent, once an outstanding editor, but before that a buyer for a book chain. Here he explains how he sold 7,000 copies each of three books that, combined, were selling only 1,300 copies a year. Purely because he loved those books.

  9. #1534
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Picked this up in one of the other threads here at AW, and thought it needed wider dissemination: The Kindle Swindle



    Hat tip to TheBigEasy

  10. #1535
    Researching History's Mysteries HistorySleuth's Avatar
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    Wow...thanks Uncle Jim. That never even occurred to me, but considering the ways of the internet itself, it really should have. The next logical step for spammers. Sigh ....
    Blog Twitter @HistorySleuth1
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    A History of Native American Land Rights in Upstate New York
    On Amazon.

  11. #1536
    In debt to AW Raphee's Avatar
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    Uncle Jim, I'm sure you would have discussed this in your threads, still, here goes:

    What is your writing process for the first draft, and I mean from handwritten notes, onwards?
    If you write longhand, how and when do you transfer to the PC. Does it still remain Draft 1?

    How has your process changed over the years, assuming it has.?

  12. #1537
    Whore for genre HConn's Avatar
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    UJ, have you seen this?

    Author can't interest an agent in his work so he releases it to the internet for free. A third party copies it off his website and starts selling it through Amazon.com. The original author can't get a response from Amazon.com.
    Look for CHILD OF FIRE from Del Rey! Read a sample chapter. Hey! it's been named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2009 list!

    Book 2 in the Twenty Palaces series: GAME OF CAGES. or check out these sample chapters.

  13. #1538
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    'Uncle Yog's Gears and Wrenches 2.0'. Great thread-title change to celebrate the day!
    Changing Gears (available now) -- Winning the race doesn’t equal winning at life.

    The DragonSpawn Cycle: AutumnQuest | WinterMaejic | SpringFire | SummerDanse available for Kindle

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  14. #1539
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HConn View Post
    UJ, have you seen this?

    Author can't interest an agent in his work so he releases it to the internet for free. A third party copies it off his website and starts selling it through Amazon.com. The original author can't get a response from Amazon.com.
    Wow. The cheek of some folks.

    I wonder if the folks at Amazon failed to anticipate copyright infringement. This sort of thing might end up opening them up to some expensive litigation, which would in turn force them to act more like a real publisher instead of being a self-e-pubbing clearinghouse.

    I'd think a DMCA notice ought to get the book off their server, at any rate.
    Changing Gears (available now) -- Winning the race doesn’t equal winning at life.

    The DragonSpawn Cycle: AutumnQuest | WinterMaejic | SpringFire | SummerDanse available for Kindle

    Author website | Author blog

  15. #1540
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie View Post
    This sort of thing might end up opening them up to some expensive litigation,
    They're pretty safe. Authors in general don't have a lot of money, and lawsuits are expensive.

  16. #1541
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Posted elsewhere:

    Some of your academic theorists have minor subdivisions of third person to describe the difference between thoughts in italics, thoughts in roman set off by "he thought," and thoughts in roman that aren't set off at all.

    Ignore all of those distinctions.

    The rules are these:

    Don't confuse the readers.
    Choose the one that sounds right to you.
    Be consistent.

  17. #1542
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raphee View Post
    What is your writing process for the first draft, and I mean from handwritten notes, onwards?
    If you write longhand, how and when do you transfer to the PC. Does it still remain Draft 1?
    I write long-hand when I can't get to a computer, for example in the back of a moving vehicle.

    When I transcribe stuff, I don't re-type it exactly.

    My first-first draft? Often enough it's a flowchart on the back of a cheap paper placemat, made while discussing the book with Doyle. After that, I just write scenes, which may or may not be in order. Doyle arranges them into order (in a process she calls "stringing beads"), while I keep writing scenes that seem to me belong in the book. Meanwhile, Doyle writes other scenes that might be missing. Then I take the thing, and re-write it. Then Doyle takes the thing and re-writes it. Then I take the thing and re-writes it.

    And so on.

  18. #1543
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    How d'you know when it's finished?
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  19. #1544
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euclid View Post
    How d'you know when it's finished?
    The deadline arrives, and the editor gets cranky if you don't send something.

  20. #1545
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    Uncle Jim, have you considered buying a Smart Pen and some dot paper tablets for those times you write longhand? I've got the Pulse (2GB) and the conversion from handwriting to text when you download the (automatically) saved copy to your computer is pretty impressive. They're a little pricey at somewhere around $99-150 for the 2 different models (the 2GB Pulse ran me $99 at Best Buy), but the dot paper is relatively inexpensive (actually only slightly more expensive than regular paper notebooks) and you can even make your own with a decent enough printer.

    Battery life on the pen is amazing and it can even act as a recorder. There are also all kinds of widgets you can download for it.

    It's pretty cool overall.

    Find my books on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/fotsgreg
    Find my books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/G.W.-Ellis/e/B...805&sr=1-2-ent
    WIPs: Dark Horizons, Hivers, The Bar, Gated

  21. #1546
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I'm not certain that I write longhand often enough to make buying a piece of electronics worthwhile.

    And the chance to re-write while re-typing isn't a bad thing.

    I know of some writers who, despite working on a computer, re-type their entire novels from draft to draft, just to force each word to justify its existence. If a paragraph isn't worth retyping, it probably isn't worth keeping in the book. (And you can add stuff too.)

  22. #1547
    Just this guy, y'know?
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    Rest assured, you'd still have the chance to re-write while re-typing, if my experience with the handwriting recognition is indicative

    I actually had one of those pens at VP. It's very handy for going back through your lecture -- I just touch the pen to my notes, and I can hear that specific part of your theory of art! The nice thing about it is that it frees you to listen more carefully to someone instead of making sure you're getting all the good bits down on paper, which I think would make it more useful when collaborating with someone than when writing solo.
    Just a former roboticist who spends most of his time thinking about dinner.
    johnmurphy.wordpress.com for stuff related to my writing (mystery and science fiction).
    Graduate of Viable Paradise XIV

  23. #1548
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I see the headline,
    E-book sales top paperbacks for first time

    That's interesting, but what does it mean to us, as writers?

    Not a blessed thing.

    Our talent lies in telling stories that people want to read. We've been doing it since papyrus and river reeds; we'll be doing it in the age of direct neural implants.

    Means of distribution? That's someone else's problem; what we have is rare enough that the distributors will pay us to get it.

    I've started to put up my backlist of short stories on Smashwords, mostly because it's easier than finding reprint markets, but doesn't compete with reprint markets. The most recent reprint sale I made was of a story that's been available for free on my web page for years.

    Our big problem still remains: Obscurity.

    The solution is still the same: Gatekeepers. Sources that will place their imprimatur on our works so the reading public will be assured, "This story is worth my time." Even a free story still costs the reader time and imagination.

  24. #1549
    Your friendly neighborhood Chat Op AW Moderator JMC2009's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    I see the headline,
    E-book sales top paperbacks for first time

    That's interesting, but what does it mean to us, as writers?

    Not a blessed thing.

    ...

    Our big problem still remains: Obscurity.

    The solution is still the same: Gatekeepers. Sources that will place their imprimatur on our works so the reading public will be assured, "This story is worth my time." Even a free story still costs the reader time and imagination.

    That obscurity problem can also be linked to the question of paper vs. electronic.


    When I look at my hard copy books vs. the books that I have on my e-reader, it's quite different. My E-Reader is filled with my favorite series, then authors that I enjoy single titles from, and, yes, free e-books that are offered here and there (and most every week).

    With my hard copy books, however, have much more of a variety of genres and many more instances of there just being one or two of any given author.

    The difference is that my e-reader is an impulse purchase machine. A, "Hey, I'm bored, I don't feel like writing, I wonder if the latest <insert author here> is out." or "Hey, I want to read this book, I don't own it, don't want to go to the library, I'll just get it on my e-reader."

    When I go to a bookstore, however, it's a different story. A bookstore is "I'm looking for something different." I find the e-reader "shelves" lack appeal in simple browsing, whereas with the bookstore I'll roam through it until a name or title pops out or a cover catches my eye (yes, I judge a book by its cover, initially). Or maybe an endorsement by a favorite author on its cover, but that's admittedly rare.

    So, assuming I am representative of the general populace (quite the assumption! But hey, I've seen statistical models based off less), how are the new authors to break into the market when interesting cover designs, or someone randomly picking your book off the shelf because they know someone with the same last name, first name, middle initial, whatever is no longer an avenue of publicity?
    <Shuemais|Busy> "She's a no-frills author who has a problem with authority. She writes what she wants and plays by her own rules. This summer ... she is ... 'J.M.C.: Doing it Her Way.'"
    <Shuemais|Busy> "Watch out, editors everywhere... You mess with her <edit>, and she'll edit you out!"


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    QUEEN JMC!

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    Have you chatted lately? Come join the fun! http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=178738

  25. #1550
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    That's a real problem. How is "browsing the bookstore" going to work?

    The "people who bought this also bought that" displays that some on-line stores use are an attempt at a solution, but not a really good one.

    The "here's thirty feet of mystery novels," the new releases beside the classics, that you find over at a physical bookstore (or even an entire story-full of mystery novels, the specialty bookstore) is a climax technology grown over the past 150 years.

    At one time, back when you bought the book block, then took it over to a bindery to put a cover on it (when the phrase "you can't tell a book by its cover" came from), the printers would hang the broadsheets in their windows, so people could look and read the first few pages. (That's also where the elaborate engraved frontispieces came from--attracting the eyes of strollers.)

    Something will develop, I know this. What it will be? That I can't tell you.

    Back in the early days of movies, before directors' names were put on movies, you'd find rampant piracy. (The movie industry developed in California because California was a long way from New Jersey, and they were abusing Thomas Edison's patents.) Folks would take movies, strip out the title cards, add their own title cards, and distribute it as their own.

    One studio, to combat this, put the "Biograph B" in every shot of the film, somewhere in the background. Folks started to notice that movies with those B's in them were lots of fun to watch, and started to look for them. What biograph had, was a secret weapon: They had D. W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer.

    E-publishers will develop. Some already have.

    The mainstream publishers will dominate the market. They have the money, they have the backlist, they have the authors, they have the marketing experience.

    But how will readers find new authors? That's the puzzle. I expect that the Book of the Month Club will re-emerge. If I were going to play this game, I'd set up a subscription-based distributorship, that every month/week/day/whatever sent a New Book to folks.

    Maybe I'd call my thing "Jim Likes It," and people who shared my taste would get books that I liked. That would be a mix of mystery, science fiction, horror, true crime, and history.

    Maybe it would work. Who knows?

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