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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #5176
    Chaos Warrior Nexusman's Avatar
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    Is he getting goosebumps because he's walked into a cold room, or because he walked into a room and looked down the barrel of a .357? I'd consider it kind of cheating if you intended the reader to perceive goosebumps as the product of being cold if it instead were nerves.

    Perhaps a qualifier similar to "Goosebumps rose on my skin and I could see my breath rising in front of me."

    -Nick
    I recognize no man's right to any minute of my life or any part of my energy, no matter how great his need. - Howard Roark

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  2. #5177
    rich
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    You're doing a show when the show isn't focussed, Bob.

  3. #5178
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    I entered the room, a rush of cold air brushed past me and goosebumps filled my skin.

    "The place was so cold goosebumps filled my skin."
    This is not showing. It is telling with an appendage like, "oops, I am supposed to 'show' you how old it is."

    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.
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  4. #5179
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    His breath steamed and he stamped his feet.

  5. #5180
    practical experience, FTW janetbellinger's Avatar
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    Why not let us imagine the goosebumps? Are they central to the plot?
    Janet


    Originality is nothing by judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.
    Author:
    Voltaire


  6. #5181
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    There are a million ways to say "it's cold." The idea is to let the readers know, clearly, it's cold without you saying, "it's cold."

    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

  7. #5182
    Benja
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    Hi all,

    I'm new here. It has taken me a few months to get through the five thousand posts, so I don't feel that new, but you get the point. :-)

    DamaNegra, I find it difficult to discuss concepts like "show, don't tell" in the abstract, but with regard to your example, in my opinion it depends on the situation which of these is appropriate.

    To me, "The place was so cold goosebumps filled my skin" conveys that the narrator (and the reader) knew that the place would be cold, or at least cool, but is surprised by how cold it is. "As I entered, goosebumps filled my skin" (assuming that the reader understand they are from the cold) conveys to me that it is cold, uncomfortably so, but the narrator (and the reader) knew that it would be. I would find the first variant inappropriate if the narrator knew it would be this cold, and I would find the second one inappropriate if they are surprised by it.

    If the narrator didn't know it would be cold at all, I would find both versions inappropriate. In that case, I might consider, for example, "The place was ice cold. Goose bumps filled my skin."

    maestrowork's "I entered the room, a rush of cold air brushed past me and goosebumps filled my skin" and Uncle Jim's "His breath steamed and he stamped his feet" seem appropriate in the same situation as "As I entered, goosebumps filled my skin", for me, (except that they fix the problem that the reader might not now whether the goosebumps are from the cold or from the narrator's nerves).

    Of course there's also the possibility that the narrator knew it would be cold, but the reader doesn't. "Like always, the place was so cold that goosebumps filled my skin" might serve you here. "The place was so cold that goosebumps filled my skin" is inappropriate because it conveys (to me) that the narrator didn't know it would be. "As I entered, goosebumps filled my skin" isn't appropriate because the reader doesn't know why that would happen; the same is true for "His breath steamed and he stamped his feet" and "I entered the room, a rush of cold air brushed past me and goosebumps filled my skin." These could be made to work by following them up by an explanation, though: "Grandmother always kept her windows open, even in Winter."

    Hmm:

    1) "I entered my grandmother's appartment. The windows were wide open, as always. It was so cold that goosebumps filled my skin."

    2) "I entered my grandmother's appartment. The windows were wide open, as always. A rush of cold air brushed past me, and goosebumps filled my skin."

    3) "I entered my grandmother's appartment. The windows were wide open, as always. Goosebumps filled my skin."

    4) "I entered my grandmother's appartment. The windows were wide open, as always. My breath steamed, and I stamped my feet."

    (3) and (4) don't work for me in this context -- seems to me that we need the word "cold" somewhere in here, or something similar to fill the reader in on what is going on. I like (2) better than (1), in this context, though.

    - Benja

  8. #5183
    Mexican on the loose! DamaNegra's Avatar
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    Yeah, well, let's consider that my piece is written in spanish, where the word for goosebumps is used mainly for cold, so the message would get across and no one would get confused.
    Ac in topehuaz in itlaxillo in ihuicatlan?


  9. #5184
    Now departed. Rest in peace, Scott, from all of us at AW Popeyesays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D Macdonald
    So, where does your story begin?

    One way to find your beginning is this: first, write your book. Now go through it to find its start.

    Here's how to recognize the start: it's the point where you can no longer summarize everything that went before in a single sentence:

    Nothing that Ceclia had seen at the Academy could have prepared her for the first sight of Crymble Manor.

    "The appropriations bill is dead on arrival," Senator O'Connor said.

    The day after the world ended, Bill got into his pickup truck and drove into town.

    Another way to say this is: it's the point where the characters can't decide, To heck with this and order out for pizza. The one-way door has blown shut and they can't get back into the theatre.

    Later on, as you gain experience, you can get better at avoiding false starts ("Hesitation marks," we call 'em).

    Here's how I figure out where to start my story: I figure out the climax -- something that's really big, cinematic, satisfying, full of action and movement. I take the characters who are there, and back 'em off to some point before that climax, then try to get them to it.

    Sometimes -- a lot of the time -- those characters never get to the climax I started with. (There's one climax I've been using for years as a starting point. One day I will get there.)

    So here's another way to figure out where to start your story: Put interesting characters in an interesting place, then let them do interesting things. (What's interesting? That's the art, isn't it. Your readers will tell you what's interesting by the sound of rapidly turning pages.)

    If the first two chapters of your book are backstory and exposition, and the movement of the plot starts in chapter three, the opening of your book is chapter three. Delete the first two chapters.

    ====

    Plots start when movement starts. This movement can be physical, or it can be psychological, but it is movement. The human eye instinctivly follows a moving object. It will follow the fastest moving object if several are present. So ... make your plot move, and eyes will follow it.

    A chess game doesn't start until the first piece or pawn moves.
    I am about 35-40,000 words into a novel at the moment - gritty science fiction/technothriller kind of thing. I was waist deep in the book, when I started worrying about the first chapter - it took place in a naval academylecture hall, even though the professor was speaking of a battle he had been in it just didn't grab anything.

    First I re-wrote the chapter including the battle largely as flashbacks, which helped, but the reader would know it was memory and in the past. So it still didn't really work. About 5,000 words after this I had written a scene where an unsuspecting man riding in an ambassadorial limousine is the victim of an assassination meant for the ambassador himself. I figured here's something of reasonable length to start with and THEN do the lecture scene as re-written as something going on at the same time parsecs away.

    I think I solve my first thousand words problem at last. You just introduce a perfectly likeable character and then machine gun him to death in the space of one thousand words.

    I plan to send it to two or three publishers over the next year while I work on another project, and if it won't sell, I'll check into e-book publishers and personal publication.

    Regards,
    Scott

  10. #5185
    Now departed. Rest in peace, Scott, from all of us at AW Popeyesays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nexusman
    Is he getting goosebumps because he's walked into a cold room, or because he walked into a room and looked down the barrel of a .357? I'd consider it kind of cheating if you intended the reader to perceive goosebumps as the product of being cold if it instead were nerves.

    Perhaps a qualifier similar to "Goosebumps rose on my skin and I could see my breath rising in front of me."

    -Nick
    "I entered the door of my grandmother's apartment, as usual all the windows were open and January air filled the room. Cold as it might be, I reserved my gooseflesh for the black muzzle of the .357 pointed at me."

    Regards,
    Scott

  11. #5186
    Rep Point Whore Nangleator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Popeyesays
    I plan to send it to two or three publishers over the next year while I work on another project, and if it won't sell...
    Whoa there! If this is a first novel, I think the consensus is that you should finish it, and finish polishing it before you send it out.

    And just three publishers is not really "sending it out." Be a bit more persistent than that.

  12. #5187
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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  13. #5188
    Benja
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    Atlanta Nights author appearance

    Jim, it is so good of you to pass along those invitations.

    What would aspiring writers all over the world do if they couldn't meet somebody traditionally published at their local SF convention?

    *giggles*

    - Benja
    Last edited by Benja; 04-24-2006 at 03:23 AM. Reason: formatting

  14. #5189
    Now departed. Rest in peace, Scott, from all of us at AW Popeyesays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    Whoa there! If this is a first novel, I think the consensus is that you should finish it, and finish polishing it before you send it out.

    And just three publishers is not really "sending it out." Be a bit more persistent than that.
    Duly noted. I have been working in a back and forth manner. I try to add to the full text of the novel 2,000-4,000 written, re-written, revised, revised, revised words a day. This means I go back and forth from new to older sections every day.

    I story-boarded the whole thing in advance, and have been refining the storyboard as I go. The end is in sight!

    Regards,
    Scott

  15. #5190
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    A lovely article on written techniques as seen from a game-developer's point of view:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20...noyle_01.shtml

    Those who need to see examples of what we mean by many of these things can see 'em here.

  16. #5191
    Absolute sagebrush Ken Schneider's Avatar
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    Jim,

    What, if any, are the problems with making a book available say through Lulu, and still submitting to publishers?
    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."

  17. #5192
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    I'll take a stab.

    If it's available to the general public through lulu; it's published in the technical sense of the term. Not many publishers will do a reprint, they don't want second rights or whatever they're called; they want first rights.

    Some do - I know my publisher actually has taken previous works from Lulu and self-pubbed and done re-edits and reprints; it will get a small book out to a wider audience.

    If I'm incorrect in this assumption, please enlighten me.
    Christine

    Young Adult Fantasy Author

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  18. #5193
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Like anything else, it varies.

    Some publishers might treat your book as essentially unpublished, because who ever heard of it? (You'd still get a reprint-sized advance, though.)

    Some might treat it as a proven failure and decline on that basis.

    If it sold a whole lotta copies, some might pick it up on that basis (but still pay reprint rates), while others might assume that you've already sold all the copies that it's going to sell.

  19. #5194
    Absolute sagebrush Ken Schneider's Avatar
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    Excellent!. That answers the question. Don't do it.

    I have the locals, a small number 30-40 asking on a regular basis for my second book.

    I think I'll keep pushing for pub, instead of going the other route.

    I've offered a few of them to beta, if they can't wait.

    Thanks.
    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."

  20. #5195
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I'm off to my eldest son's graduation from Vanderbilt. Then from Nashville up to Pittsburgh where he'll be going to grad school (Carnegie Mellon).

    Back in a week.

    Keep writing!

  21. #5196
    SeanDSchaffer
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    Have a safe trip, Uncle Jim.


  22. #5197
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    I'm off to my eldest son's graduation from Vanderbilt. Then from Nashville up to Pittsburgh where he'll be going to grad school (Carnegie Mellon).

    Back in a week.

    Keep writing!
    Hey Uncle Jim... drop by and say hi! CMU is a great school.

    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

  23. #5198
    SeanDSchaffer
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    Thumbs up

    BTW Uncle Jim,

    I thought you would like to know that I've started work on a new WIP using the one-page-a-day method you described to me some time back in this thread. The method works wonders for my writing and for my attitude. Every time that I have sat down to do a single page this week, I've ended up being inspired mid-page and writing at least two or three more pages. So far, in a work that has been going for five days, I've done 26 pages.

    Basically, I just want to let you know that I appreciate the suggestion you gave me, and that it works very well. To have a minimum quota a day of one page doesn't seem like a great stride to my mind, but it's a leap and a bound beyond any method I've ever used before. I don't get depressed so easily as I used to, when I would try to write a chapter a day.

    Thank you kindly, and I will talk to you later.

  24. #5199
    Member - the "Sting Gang."
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    A lovely article on written techniques as seen from a game-developer's point of view:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20...noyle_01.shtml

    Those who need to see examples of what we mean by many of these things can see 'em here.
    I love the side bar "a point-of-view error of omission," comment.

  25. #5200
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Just popping this thread back on to the front page where it belongs.
    Everything yields to treatment.

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