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Thread: Author's Notes in Manuscript?

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    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    Author's Notes in Manuscript?

    If I want to have an author's note (explaining some aspect of the text, acknowledge assistance or research, a dedication, etc) accompanying my story, where should I put it? In the manuscript? Or should I mention it to the editor after the story has been accepted?
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    empty-nester! shadowwalker's Avatar
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    I suppose you could put it in a preface. Definitely not within the manuscript. And personally I'd wait until it was accepted and then discuss putting it in.
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    The moving hand, having writ... AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    I'm asking myself if I've ever seen an author's note explaining some aspect of the text, acknowledge assistance or research, or giving a dedication accompanying a short story in print. I can't say that I have, although sometimes there's a sort-of in the brief author bio which accompanies publication in a few magazines. (Although I, personally, never read those and hate having to write them. The story has to stand all by itself without any authorial explanation propping it up.)

    I would not include it in any submission package.

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    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    I have a few times. I recall seeing a dedication once, a few notes explaining the sources of internal quotes (that they're not violating copyright law, for example, if they come from a song or book), and once a somewhat complicated note explaining that the story was based on a different piece of fiction and was done with the original writer's approval (again, a sort of 'don't sue me'). The actual note I have in mind is a 'this culture may appear to be real but is acutally totally a product of the author's mind, don't hold it as historically accurate' or some such. I remember seeing similar notes in novels, particularily Don Coldsmith's Westerns about a fictional Indian tribe. I'd feel more comfortable stating what I'm doing outright, rather than leaving readers to speculate, since I've had some confusion with betas at this point and it's really not an easy thing to make clear in the story.
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    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MumblingSage View Post
    The actual note I have in mind is a 'this culture may appear to be real but is acutally totally a product of the author's mind, don't hold it as historically accurate' or some such.
    A disclaimer won't change anything.

    Suppose I wrote about Native Americans who have glowing red eyes and eat babies... but say it's okay because I invented the tribe. The disclaimer doesn't stop it being a misrepresentation. It'll still hurt people.

    Or I set a story in Victorian England, but the culture is something else entirely. A disclaimer saying it's not historically accurate won't stop people picking holes. Unless I'm going for an alternate universe, it isn't going to hold water.

    If your story has an issue like that, a disclaimer won't make it better. The issue is in the story. You're either comfortable seeing it in print (criticisms and all) or you're not. If your story doesn't have an issue like that, you're probably worrying unnecessarily.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MumblingSage View Post
    I have a few times. I recall seeing a dedication once...
    The key word here is 'dedication.'

    Sell the story first, then worry later about the dedication.

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    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    As a Don Coldsmith reader, it cleared things up for me, so I'd prefer to go with it. I understand why some people may dislike author's notes, but in this case I'd like to have one, if possible.

    The key word here is 'dedication.'

    Sell the story first, then worry later about the dedication.
    That would work for a novel, but most short stories don't have dedications or addenda, and I've never had an editor ask me to supply one. I assume it's something I'd have to volunteer myself, and I'm not certain when the appropriate time to do it would be.
    Last edited by MumblingSage; 04-17-2010 at 12:53 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MumblingSage View Post
    That would work for a novel, but most short stories don't have dedications or addenda, and I've never had an editor ask me to supply one.
    To unpack things a bit more.

    If they don't ask beforehand, they don't care. And if they don't care, they don't want to hear from you.

    If they ask after, you can provide the explanation, or dedication, or whatever. It does happen, but it depends on the publication.

    If they don't ask after they buy your story, they still don't care, and most likely, the reader won't care either.

    So my answer still stands. Don't bother until you sell the story. Really.

  9. #9
    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    All right. Since I link to my stories from my blog, I can add an explanation there if I still feel I need one. It's certainly simpler just to do nothing.

    Thanks for the advice, Maryn, Polenth, eqb, and shadowwalker.
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    I was going to say go ahead and ask for one once the story is accepted (in the message I just deleted) but then I happened to notice your above paragraph explaining what the dedication was about. (I was thinking it was a personal dedication until I glanced back through the thread). On that subject, I would not ask for one. There are lots and lots of published fiction stories where real history and invented history mingle to the point of being difficult to separate--with no explanations offered. You're selling this under the banner of fiction. Because of that, no explanations are needed. On your website? Sure, why not? You can put whatever you want on your website.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MumblingSage View Post
    I have a few times. I recall seeing a dedication once, a few notes explaining the sources of internal quotes (that they're not violating copyright law, for example, if they come from a song or book), and once a somewhat complicated note explaining that the story was based on a different piece of fiction and was done with the original writer's approval (again, a sort of 'don't sue me'). The actual note I have in mind is a 'this culture may appear to be real but is acutally totally a product of the author's mind, don't hold it as historically accurate' or some such. I remember seeing similar notes in novels, particularily Don Coldsmith's Westerns about a fictional Indian tribe. I'd feel more comfortable stating what I'm doing outright, rather than leaving readers to speculate, since I've had some confusion with betas at this point and it's really not an easy thing to make clear in the story.


    Quite possibly the worst thing you could ever do. And being a product of the author's mind does not mean anything can be inaccurate. Most writers who make up a tribe or a culture are changing names to protect the innocent, which really means changing names so they won't catch so much flak. But the research is still just as real, and Goldsmith got all the details correct.

    I'm not sure why you're using a fictional culture, but if it's to avoid doing research and getting every last aspect of a culture correct, it won't work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    Quite possibly the worst thing you could ever do. And being a product of the author's mind does not mean anything can be inaccurate. Most writers who make up a tribe or a culture are changing names to protect the innocent, which really means changing names so they won't catch so much flak. But the research is still just as real, and Goldsmith got all the details correct.

    I'm not sure why you're using a fictional culture, but if it's to avoid doing research and getting every last aspect of a culture correct, it won't work.
    James,

    I agree that certain elements of fiction should always be accurate, or the writer comes off looking ignorant or even offensive. However, I don't see the harm in inventing a culture, if it's a work of fantasy and the story somehow explains how that culture was overlooked (such as the tribe on the hidden island in King Kong). A writer certainly wouldn't want to write about real tribes, for example, without being very accurate, but if Mumbling Sage wants to write about an invented tribe but use elements based on real tribes, I think that can work just fine.

  13. #13
    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    Quite possibly the worst thing you could ever do. And being a product of the author's mind does not mean anything can be inaccurate. Most writers who make up a tribe or a culture are changing names to protect the innocent, which really means changing names so they won't catch so much flak. But the research is still just as real, and Goldsmith got all the details correct.

    I'm not sure why you're using a fictional culture, but if it's to avoid doing research and getting every last aspect of a culture correct, it won't work.
    It's a fictional culture because the story is fantasy. I should have explained that earlier, sorry (sometimes I forget other genres exist...).
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