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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #2926
    pencilone
    Guest

    Re: The Worst Book Ever

    I love it! Well done! If you guys plan another one, please let me know as I'd like to help too. :rollin

  2. #2927
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: The Worst Book Ever

    No matter. You guys are famous now. And I predict Atlanta Nights will top the LA Times and NYT best selling list soon! Way to go.

  3. #2928
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Read this

    <a href="http://writingcraft.deep-magic.net/article.php?id=54" target="_new">A great article</a>.

    In the words of the Nihilistic Kid: "If publicity worked any less well or less often no one would do it at all."

  4. #2929
    pianoman5
    Guest

    What's in a name?

    Interesting, UJ. The article emphasises once again the value of being an established name among the reading populace, and how it's the single most important factor in book selection. It also reiterates the point that 'conventional' marketing, using the methods used by other types of business, doesn't really work in publishing. News of books worth reading is promulgated more by word of mouth - viral marketing, as web marketeers used to call it in their ultra-hype days.

    But then, all professional marketers will tell you, 'I know that half of my marketing budget is wasted, I just don't know which half.'

    I think book buyers are somehow resistant to advertising or cynical pressure of any kind and respond better to publicity. (Actually, that's true for most products, but the advertising industry has successfully buried that inconvenient truth and is still doing quite nicely, thank you.) It may have something to do with the fact that reading is a deeply personal experience, so recommendation is very much a matter of trust and we don't like people 'selling' books to us.

    There was an article in the New York Times the other day about the Chairman of Harper Collins, Jane Friedman, and how she wants to establish some imprints as brands that can be trusted even if you don't know the authors.

  5. #2930
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: What's in a name?

    All imprints should be trusted, even if you don't know the author. That's the point of imprints.

    Let me give you an example, from my youth.

    Long ago, my income was $100/month. (I was a college student at the time.)

    That left me enough room to buy one phonograph record every now and then, if I skipped eating for a week.

    I liked (and still do like) folk music. Many of my favorites were on Elektra records.

    So one day, after I'd saved my money, there I was in a record store. And golly! Here's a new record by a group I'd never heard of, on the Elektra label. I bought it.

    I got it home -- and discovered it was unlistenable. Really wretched stuff. Not folk at all. Garbage.

    I never bought another Elektra record.

    Years later, I read an interview with some guy who had taken over the Elektra label. When he found it it was, so he said, "Old folkies at home." So he shook 'em up! Showed 'em something different! Changed everything!

    Bastard.

  6. #2931
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: The Worst Book Ever

    Branding is very important in any business. When you have something working, you don't want to rock the boat too much. Look at Amazon -- they're expanding their business slowly, making sure that the brand Amazon still means something to their customers. It's still about books, even though now you can buy electronics and music and other stuff.

    You go to Google and you expect certain things. As Google expands their business model, they're very cautious about their strategies...

    And that's why publishers have imprints. It's part of the branding strategy. You know what to expect from certain imprints, even though they're all part of Random House. It's built in "word of mouth" -- a new book from Riverhead? You know it's going to be good...

  7. #2932
    Writing Again
    Guest

    Re: Foreshadowing vs Set Piece

    In screenwriting a set piece is any short scene that sums up the entire movie -- The kind you would use for a trailer that would give the audience to know instantly what kind of movie they will be watching.

    Most screen writers try for at least three set pieces per script.

    I don't know that you need them in a novel, but it is not a bad idea.

  8. #2933
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: What's in a name?

    In the plotting book I read, the author also refers to set pieces. In movies, a set piece is a climax, or mini-climaxes that lead to the final climax (he uses Star Wars as an example: think "Death Star" or the lightsabre duel or the "Luke, I'm your father" scene). In novels, you don't necessarily have to have set pieces, but it's not a bad idea, especially with popular fiction.

  9. #2934
    pianoman5
    Guest

    Re: What's in a name?

    BTW, speaking of known names, Jim, I checked the catalogue at my local library (Mosman, in Sydney) to see if your august name turned up.

    I was pleased to find that they have six of your books.
    (The catalogue entries were actually in the name of Debra Doyle, with James Macdonald as the added author - cool being Eve's rib, eh?)

    Now, if every library in the English-speaking world bought six of your books, you could go and order that red Ferrari.

  10. #2935
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: What's in a name?

    When Doyle and I started writing together, we decided to use our real names rather than some joint pseudonym.

    So the next question was, whose name goes first? Doyle is way ahead of Macdonald in the alphabet, and so would be shelved higher (closer to eye-level, near the start of the section) in the bookstores.

  11. #2936
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: Foreshadowing vs Set Piece

    What if you have a name like Bob Zoolander? Do you need a pen name so your book doesn't get stuck at the bottom shelf?

  12. #2937
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Foreshadowing vs Set Piece

    If my name were Bob Zoolander, I'd use it.

    (Being near the end of the alphabet doesn't hurt Jane Yolen.)

    Having a memorable name doesn't hurt either.

    (Actually, it's all probably folklore and superstition. So few things are under our control that when something comes along that is under our control -- the name on the cover -- we grab it with both hands.)

  13. #2938
    Scott Janssens
    Guest

    Re: Foreshadowing vs Set Piece

    What's important is having all your friends face your book outward in the bookstores.

  14. #2939
    JimMorcombe
    Guest

    Re: What's in a name?

    When I was a kid, I used to go to the library. After I'd tied up the horse, I'd look through the shelves for SF books. I quickly learned that the books were clustered alphabetically, so I could concentrate on just a couple of shelves.

    Perhaps a publisher noticed the way I selected my books and mostly printed authors with names or pen-names within certain ranges. I think the trend has continued, although its less pronounced.

    I'd go to the A's and grab my Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, etc. Then I'd rush to get my Robert Heinlein. Then I'd check out around Andre Norton and finally I'd check out the W's.

    Sure enough, the new authors were all coming out right next to these established authors so I'd also take them home and read them.

  15. #2940
    mr mistook
    Guest

    Re: Foreshadowing vs Set Piece

    I worked as a library page for four years, shelving books. It don't think there was a single section of the library that didn't have Asimov on the first shelf.

    Apparently, Asimov knew everything!

    He must have also done nothing but write from dawn to dusk for 30 years. He was all over the library.

  16. #2941
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Catch up

    The posts from the old board, ported over:

    James D Macdonald

    I live here
    Posts: 3185
    (2/10/05 7:18 pm)
    Reply | Edit
    Work In Progress

    For reasons that seemed good to us, we've set up a LiveJournal to discuss our latest Work In Progress, a novel called (working title) Mist And Snow due later this year to Avon/Eos.

    www.livejournal.com/users/mist_and_snow/

    See y'all there. (And here.)



    maestrowork
    Resident Bug Chef
    Posts: 6240
    (2/10/05 8:50 pm)
    Reply
    ezSupporter


    Re: Foreshadowing vs Set Piece

    Yeah, I remember grabbing an Asimov book at libraries as well...

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. -- MLK

    Read my reviews at:Ray's Reel Reviews or Actors Ink Movie Reviews


    HConn
    Board legend
    Posts: 931
    (2/11/05 12:40 am)
    Reply
    Re: What's in a name?

    Here's a fun example of the ABM:

    pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2005/02/opinions.html "I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."
    -- Jerome K. Jerome


    JimMorcombe
    New friend
    Posts: 43
    (2/11/05 1:02 am)
    Reply Asimov

    Asimov wrote so many books that some people didn't believe he was a real person. I read an "authorative" article somewhere twenty years ago that said he didn't exist and the name was used as a corportate front for a number of different writers.

    I checked it out thoroughly. Just one guy. And he worked as a professor somewhere so perhaps writing was just his second job

    When (if) I grow up, I want to be just like him.
    Jim Morcombe
    Bored Elder


    mr mistook
    Board fanatic
    Posts: 410
    (2/11/05 2:17 am)
    Reply

    Re: Work In Progress
    Quote:I read an "authorative" article somewhere twenty years ago that said he didn't exist
    They say the same things about Shakespeare. Ridiculous how the world works.

    NTM61921


    ()))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))# ~ ~ ~




    cactuswendy
    New friend
    Posts: 15
    (2/11/05 2:47 am)
    Reply
    Re: Foreshadowing vs Set Piece


    HCONN....wow ...what a site...thanks for sharing that....

    Makes me want to pull up my spine...get my act together

    and write like a writer........thanks again.




    Jules Hall
    One of the
    locals
    Posts: 164
    (2/11/05 7:32 am)
    Reply
    Re: What's in a name?
    Quote:Here's a fun example of the ABM:
    ABM?
    Quote:pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2005/02/opinions.html
    Wow. Remind me never to get on her bad side.
    James D Macdonald

    I live here
    Posts: 3188
    (2/11/05 8:04 am)
    Reply | Edit

    Re: What's in a name?

    ABM = Author's Big Mistake. The ABM is replying in any way to an unfavorable review.

    I don't think that particular writer was committing the ABM. An ABM is more on the line of "I read your review and here's why it's wrong and, incidentally, you're a poop" not "I refuse to read reviews and think reviewers in general are poops."



    Asimov was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University.

    Medievalist
    Board regular
    Posts: 85
    (2/11/05 8:55 am)
    Reply
    Re: Asimov

    Asimov was quite real--scores of people met him at science fiction conferences.

    --
    Lisa L. Spangenberg | Digital Medievalist
    Celtic Studies Resources | www.digitalmedievalist.com
    My opinions are my own. | Who else would want them?

    maestrowork
    Resident Bug Chef
    Posts: 6247
    (2/11/05 9:37 am)
    Reply
    ezSupporter
    Review

    I think the writer of that blog was just venting. Many writers don't read reviews of their work either. I guess that prevents them from doing the ABM.

    (Unless you have a nasty review on Amazon that is totally untrue and done visciously by anyone with an Internet access... then you should probably ask Amazon to take it off... as Jenna did some time ago)

    Jules Hall
    One of the
    locals
    Posts: 165
    (2/11/05 10:15 am)
    Reply

    Re: What's in a name?

    I suspect she'd got a bit of negative correspondence from reviewers after posting this earlier article: pbackwriter.blogspot.com/.../pass.html

    Sailor Kenshin
    Board regular
    Posts: 95
    (2/11/05 1:36 pm)
    Reply
    ezSupporter


    Re: fonts

    I haven't read the whole enormous thread yet, but this is a great topic.
    Quote:The point of this exercise is this: Have you ever gone to an art museum and seen the art students sitting there with their easels and oils, copying the great masters? The point isn't to turn them into plagairists, or to make them expert forgers. The point is to get the feeling into their hands and arms of how to make the brush strokes that create a particular illusion on canvas. Writing is no less a physical skill than painting.
    I've said this often enough. When I was painting, I'd go and do that. Now that I'm writing I copy at will to discover how a favorite author does things.
    Quote:I except your word usage notes accept they do not apply to me. In effect, these rules do not affect my writings at all. Allot of other people, though, will learn alot from this. A lot wonít.

    I would rather have someone write incorrectly and to censor them than to censure them. After all we have freedom of speech.
    James illicits good thought on this so we learn and wonít write elicitly.
    I write as that so donít look at me like Iím wrong.
    Yikes. "Hiten mitsurugi style, Do-Ryuu-Sen!"

    Edited by: Sailor Kenshin at: 2/11/05 2:32 pm
    Diviner
    New friend
    Posts: 16
    (2/11/05 2:20 pm)
    Reply
    Re: What's in a name?

    I have a great fondness for St Martins Press. They publish several different genres as well as literary fiction. For years I would look on the shelf of the library and grab up any published by St Martins. Rarely was I disappointed.

    Now that I have moved from mere reader to wannabe writer, I am wondering if they have imprints or are an imprint and if they should be the publisher I should approach first with my historical fiction. Of course, my book is not yet finished, nor do I have and agent, but I am thinking ahead.

    What is the best way to find out about publishers? If you add in the small presses, there seem to be overwhelming numbers of them.

    James D Macdonald

    I live here
    Posts: 3194
    (2/11/05 2:27 pm)
    Reply | Edit

    Re: What's in a name?

    What is the best way to find out about publishers? If you add in the small presses, there seem to be overwhelming numbers of them.

    To know the artist, study the art.

    There are around twenty thousand publishers -- but by the time you get to the end of the list you're looking at historical societies that put out an annual Old Home Days Cookbook.

    So ... read books. See who published the ones you admire. See who published the ones that resemble your book.

    Get their guidelines. Follow their guidelines. To the letter.

    (Books like Writers Market and Literary Market Place are good starting points, but your own research is necessary. No one source is error-free or foolproof.)


    There are only two things under your control as a writer:

    How well you write, and
    Where you submit.

    Both should be the best possible.


    Edited by: James D Macdonald at: 2/11/05 2:32 pm

    Lenora Rose
    New friend
    Posts: 4
    (2/11/05 3:04 pm)
    Reply

    Re: What's in a name?

    NB - Most of this was written before I read The second set of comments on that blog. To the second set, I will only say, yes, some reviewers are crud or will disagree with you. Some fiction writers are crud and will disagree with you.

    but my comments to the first part stand:


    Now, some ditz with internet access and a hair up an orifice for whatever reason wants to come and tell the world how he or she would write my book? Oh, be my guest. Only when you write that review, imagine how you'd feel if I came into your place of business, knowing little to nothing about how to do your job, and commenced to decide how well you did it.

    Not just this one, but everyone who talks about why they don't read reviews or why reviewers have no right to dare touch their books brings out the "And what are your credentials?" Even if no reviewers had fiction qualifications, this is a false question, implying the credentials for writing reviews are exactly the same as those for writing fiction. If anything, I find writing reviews sometimes harder than writing fiction. It's certainly not something I do because it's easier than "real" writing.

    As for her first sentence - all insults to random strangers aside - what she fails to understand is that reviews are not writers telling how they would write the book. Reviews are word of mouth. Word of mouth is one of the biggest ways to sell books. They're word of mouth by someone you don't necessarily know, which is a slight negative, but they're also a word of mouth that reaches far far more people than most avid readers could. And they can become as reliable as imprints for whether or not you, personally, should bother to listen. For instance, I'd been reading Green Man reviews for over two years before I became a staff member, because with the exception of a single reviewer (A brand name within a brand name, I guess), I found reviews from that source as reliable as in person word-of-mouth from my friends (Maybe more so, as some of my friends do not share my tastes in books or music). They were also well-written, and intelligent, and it was clear editors had a hand in the finished product. They were also picked up as blurbs, and read widely outside myself.

    I joined in because I wanted to be able to spread my own word of mouth with a reputation that reliable. I didn't want my opinions to be Jane Anybody with a web site. I didn't want my favourite books to be picked up by a few of my friends and nobody else. I wanted people who would share my tastes to hear about them, and people who would not share my tastes to be able to know clearly to go elsewhere.

    I didn't go into it to tell successful writers what I would have done with their books. If I must be a character in the story writers tell about their own books, they're free to make me a villainess, but they should at least get my motivations right.

    James D Macdonald

    I live here
    Posts: 3197
    (2/11/05 4:25 pm)
    Reply | Edit

    Reviews

    Good point.

    The reviewer isn't the writer's friend. The reviewer works for the reader.

    To that end, there's no need for the writer to read the reviewer's works.

    (And a reviewer who's wrong 100% of the time is more useful to me as a reader than one who's right 50% of the time. With the former, if the reviewer recommends a book I know to stay away while if he trashes it I know to go pick up a copy. With the latter I might as well flip a coin.)

    James D Macdonald

    I live here
    Posts: 3198
    (2/11/05 4:58 pm)
    Reply | Edit


    IMPORTANT NOTICE

    No more posts to this thread, please. We're about to go flying over to the New Board. New posts won't go with us.

    Anyone who wanted to copy this thread, do it now!


    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 02-12-2005 at 10:11 AM. Reason: Reformatting

  17. #2942
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
    Join Date
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    My, how you've grown, Jim!

    Hope you like the new digs.
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  18. #2943
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    New Digs

    It'll take some getting used to, but nothing I can't learn....

    I hope.

  19. #2944
    Around and About SuperModerator Birol's Avatar
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    Jenna? CC? Why does Uncle Jim's page count scroll off the page but the other threads, it condenses itself down?

  20. #2945
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    That's

    That's 'cause it's a Super Thread.

    When is this board going live? Can we tell all our friends? (I have a link off my homepage, for example....)
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 02-12-2005 at 07:27 AM. Reason: Typo

  21. #2946
    Fish Whisperer aka eraser's Avatar
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    I think Jenna's making the board-wide announcement tomorrow Jim but I suspect it's okay to tell a few of your nearest and dearest sooner.
    Recently Thunk Thoughts
    www.frankbaron.com
    My book makes a great gift!

    He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty. - Lao Tzu

  22. #2947
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    Seems like there're still a few rough edges to iron out. The overrun page# thing is annoying. Probably easily fixable?

    I didn't want to work. It was as simple as that. I distrusted work, disliked it. I thought it was a very bad thing that the human race had unfortunately invented for itself.
    -- Agatha Christie





    The Pacific Between ē A Bunch of Stories
    (2006 IPPY Award)

    WIP: Beyond the Banyan Tree - draft 9, 125,000 words

    Home Page | Blog | Reviews

  23. #2948
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    btw

    The livejournal charting the current WIP is completely fascinating, Jim. I'll look forward to following it.
    AW on FaceBook
    AW on Twitter!
    About.Me

    Sofa Monkeys - Pop Culture for the Short Attention Span | Creating Home - Living well, creating a home, and cooking with Mom! | Stones In the Field - Random notes and maunderings

  24. #2949
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Holy poop

    I didn't notice that before.

    Need to go to bed. Someone remind me to figure that one out tomorrow if I forget, OK?
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  25. #2950
    Fish Whisperer aka eraser's Avatar
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    Is there a trick to seeing the page before the last one? The list on the bottom disappears in the mid-20s and I don't know how to get it to, for instance, page 118 (one page back from this one).

    Ideas?
    Recently Thunk Thoughts
    www.frankbaron.com
    My book makes a great gift!

    He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty. - Lao Tzu

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