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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #3326
    Absolutely Fazed
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    Quote Originally Posted by katee
    I've also starting taking notice of how I write in other aspects of my life - my blog, emails, reports for work (and, yes, posts on this forum too). I've noticed that I usually have an idea I want to get out, but I spend a decent amount of time playing around with work choices, sentence structure, paragraphing etc. If I do it for measly 50 word emails, I should probably expect to write my novel the same way!
    I have to take care with my posts and emails, because I'm a succinct and curt writer. My posts can come across as incredibly rude if I don't take the time to pay attention to how I word them.

  2. #3327
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeadlyAccurate
    I have to take care with my posts and emails, because I'm a succinct and curt writer. My posts can come across as incredibly rude if I don't take the time to pay attention to how I word them.
    Oh, I wouldn't say that. Say rather: painfully straightforward. <grin>
    --Roger J. Carlson

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  3. #3328
    Absolutely Fazed
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    *snort* Most people aren't as nice as you are, Roger.

    In the discussion of music and BIC, does anyone else find that certain types of music help with writing certain scenes? I have a subscription to launch.com, so I often listen to commercial-free radio at my desk when I'm writing. I've found that fast-paced, harder stuff really helps me with action scenes (Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Korn, Linkin Park, etc.). For other scenes, the alternative rock or dirty south stations work just fine.

  4. #3329
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeadlyAccurate
    *snort* Most people aren't as nice as you are, Roger.
    Others would disagree with you about how nice I am. *sigh*

    Quote Originally Posted by DeadlyAccurate
    In the discussion of music and BIC, does anyone else find that certain types of music help with writing certain scenes? I have a subscription to launch.com, so I often listen to commercial-free radio at my desk when I'm writing. I've found that fast-paced, harder stuff really helps me with action scenes (Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Korn, Linkin Park, etc.). For other scenes, the alternative rock or dirty south stations work just fine.
    I'm more of a classical music fan myself. Long before I started writing, I discovered that if I had a particularly thorny programming problem (I'm a database developer), I could crank up "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff, close my eyes, and after a while, the problem would resolve itself.

    Interestingly, Orff doesn't work for fiction. For fiction, I use one of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CDs. I know. It's weird, but it works.

    My theory is that at some point, I was particularly creative while listening to a particular album. Listening again to that music helps to recapture the creativity. If that is true, then almost any music could do it.
    Last edited by Roger J Carlson; 04-06-2005 at 07:43 PM.
    --Roger J. Carlson

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  5. #3330
    Ursula
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    I go by genre and scene for music. If it's hard core action, I go rock and roll all the way, the heavier the better. If it's something else, I can range from abient new age to a theta wave cd that I use for meditation. I stay away from radio, though, because the commercials are too disruptive.

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  6. #3331
    practical experience, FTW alaskamatt17's Avatar
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    I'm an odd one I guess. It doesn't matter what I listen to. Sometimes it works well to blast one of my punk rock CDs, other times I'll just sit there in silence. The silence doesn't work so well when there's a whole lot of noise from other people, at which point I'll turn on the punk or maybe some slow-paced techno. The repetition in most techno songs lets me just forget they're playing and go into the world I'm writing about.

  7. #3332
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Well, instead of getting up early and writing, I chose to go to bed later. I allowed my self to write whatever came to mind (in fact started off describing what I was doing and the basic story I was toying with. I had a few false starts, but I kept my fingers moving. I ran about 20 minutes short of two hours, but I got in 2500 words. Basically, wrote the first draft of a new shortstory in that time. It'll need some major changes (only about half of those words are needed, if that), but it's on paper now, so I can work with it later.

    Next I need to get back to my novel.

  8. #3333
    American Aquarium Drinker pepperlandgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeadlyAccurate
    *snort* Most people aren't as nice as you are, Roger.

    In the discussion of music and BIC, does anyone else find that certain types of music help with writing certain scenes? I have a subscription to launch.com, so I often listen to commercial-free radio at my desk when I'm writing. I've found that fast-paced, harder stuff really helps me with action scenes (Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Korn, Linkin Park, etc.). For other scenes, the alternative rock or dirty south stations work just fine.
    I listen to my Wilco cds. Fighting/action/angst is A Ghost is Born. Happier themes get Summerteeth or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Sometimes I just "play all" on my MP3 player and put it on shuffle. But at this point, I pretty much have to have music on to write. And I must be wearing earphones. I guess it's a way to block out the rest of the world.

  9. #3334
    Banned zizban's Avatar
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    I tend to fire up my mp3 player and put it on shuffle,

  10. #3335
    practical experience, FTW Rambling's Avatar
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    [The customary intro:]

    Wow! I can't believe I've finally read the whole thread. Nice feeling of accomplishment. Thank you to everyone wh has contributed - I've learnt an amazing amount.

    [And the questions...]

    Actually, most of my questions can be answered by either 'practice' or 'find a good author and see how they do it', so I'll limit myself to one.

    Uncle Jim, you mention a few times that short stories are a very different beast to novels. What do you think about the advice that a new writer should practice short stories before starting a novel?

  11. #3336
    practical experience, FTW mudflat_marsh_hawk's Avatar
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    Wink music to write by

    Classical music works well for me when I'm writing. But, I agree with the others here, there's nothing like alternative/rock to help fire up the action scenes.
    I tend to lean toward aerosmith, myself. I have an obscure cassette tape by the artist Mayumi that works wonderfully for brain clearing soulful bouts. I also keep a water fountain going -- to sooth the writer's soul.

  12. #3337
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Uncle Jim, you mention a few times that short stories are a very different beast to novels. What do you think about the advice that a new writer should practice short stories before starting a novel?
    I think that some people do it that way.

    I also know that some others start right in on novels.

    I'm going to fall back on one of my standard evasions: Do what works for you.

    I do think it's a mistake to wait around until you've sold X number of short stories before you start your novel -- I believe it's actually easier to sell a novel than a short story. There's less competition for novels and there're more markets.

  13. #3338
    Absolute sagebrush Ken Schneider's Avatar
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    Jim, can you tell me what is the standard acceptable word count for publishers?

    I know if a book is very good they'll pub it,( Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook, 45,000.
    My books seem to come to a conclusion at around 60,000. 200 pages?
    J.D. Salinger told The New York Times in 1974. "Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."

  14. #3339
    Renaissance Vixen Lenora Rose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskamatt17
    On another note, I found the novel I wrote when I was fourteen--and it's terrible. I had a good laugh reading dialogue such as: "How dare you assault a guard such as myself." This is one of those first novels that should be burned or thrown in the Atlantic, but I think instead I'll keep it for a good laugh once I am published.
    I've kept a pile of teenaged drafts, mostly for similar reasons (Also as a morale booster: When my brain starts telling me, "I can't write any better now than I did then. I haven't improved a bit! I'm doing what UJ said and writing the same mistakes over and over..." Then I read what i wrote as a teen, and the feeling goes away.

    However, a friend of mine just told me he found the floppy disc with a story draft I gave to him when we were both 14-15. Now THAT's humiliation. *I* can laugh at me, but knowing someone else out there can still see what a horror I created... (He joked about showing it to my fiance... aargh!)
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  15. #3340
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Wordcounts for publishers?

    Check their guidelines.

    You probably won't be wrong if you hit the 80,000-100,000 word range.

    There's a bell curve. The closer to the edge you get, the more brilliant your manuscript has to be.

    Making the manuscript the right length for the story is part of being brilliant.

  16. #3341
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    My book must be brilliant! (It's at 75000 words).

    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





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  17. #3342
    Banned zizban's Avatar
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    My brilliance is yet to come. My WIP is 10,000 words right now.

  18. #3343
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    Aw, c'mon Maestro, you have more confidence than that! Not 'must be' but 'is'!

    MY book IS brilliant... and it's only 50K. (But it's for 9-12 yo's, so that's ok). :lol

    Ok, it's not brilliant yet, but it has the potential for brilliance. Give me another two drafts and it will be.
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  19. #3344
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    I'm working on it, Christine -- being brilliant, that is. Now, I'm just happy to have "earned the admiration."

    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 • A Bunch of Stories
    (2006 IPPY Award)

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

    Home Page | Blog | Reviews

  20. #3345
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald

    You probably won't be wrong if you hit the 80,000-100,000 word range.

    Exactly right! I queried a publisher, with the opening chapter attached. I like what I see, he said, how long is it? 90 thousand words? Perfect, he’ll read it in two weeks. So I emailed it to him. A day later he replied—he must not have gotten it all, because there’s only 75 thousand words. So I explained that I used the 250 words per page method. What was I talking about, he’d never heard of such a thing.

    Our correspondence deteriorated from there. The last email I got from him was apparently to someone else, saying I was a liar.

    So now I always list both the computer count and the other count, which unfortunately doesn’t have a name.

  21. #3346
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Dare I ask the name of this publisher?

  22. #3347
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Dare I ask the name of this publisher?
    I’d rather not say. Even though he’s a small independent, there’s no point in burning bridges until I make the big time. But then! Oh yes, then I will sneer at all those fools. And I will drag their names through the mud!

  23. #3348
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Please whisper it in my ear.

  24. #3349
    practical experience, FTW kmm8n's Avatar
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    characters

    Hi, I'm new here, and haven't had the chance to read the entire thread, so if my question has already been answered, please forgive me.

    I posted several of my chapters with an on-line critique group and a few comments centered around secondary characters. For example: "Who are these people, why should we care about them, what do they have to do with the story?"

    I write romantic suspense and these characters are important to the overall story and their involvement becomes clear in later chapters.

    How do I avoid the above questions, while still keeping the suspense. It's no fun to give away the answer to the mystery at the beginning of the story.

    Thanks, in advance, for your help.
    Kathleen
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    The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. -Dante

  25. #3350
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmm8n
    "Who are these people, why should we care about them, what do they have to do with the story?"
    Those are excellent questions.

    (I'm assuming you've posted the chapters in order, beginning with the first one, rather than random chapters from the middle of the book.)

    Anyway ...

    The most important of those questions is "why do we care?"

    Recast your story in your mind as if each of those minor characters were the hero of his/her own book. What would their stories be?

    Introduce them in their own plot arcs that have their own beginnings, middles, and ends. Make them three-dimensional. Cherish them. A minor character is just as important as your hero.

    Take your favorite novel. Re-read it, paying special attention to the minor characters. How does the author introduce them? What are they doing when they aren't providing an important clue later on in the story?

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