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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #9601
    practical experience, FTW Berry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    ... while Times New Roman may be acceptable, Courier is acceptable.
    Also, while you are writing, you can use anything you like. Do 18 point Comic Sans pink on turquoise B3 pages if that helps, as long as whatever you print out or save to submit meets market requirements, usually black on white 12 pt Courier or TNR double spaced with 1 inch margins.

    And remember, if you have a terrific story no one is going to reject it because your bottom margin is 3/4 inch or you used "###" instead of "#" for section breaks; likewise absolutely perfect formatting won't save a crappy story.

  2. #9602
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    I promise you faithfully, there isn't a publisher anywhere whose rejection slips read, "Sorry! Too well-written and original for us!"
    Although there is the legend of the Chinese magazine that said:

    “We have read your manuscript with boundless delight, and if we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of a lower standard. And, as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition and beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.”

  3. #9603
    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smsarber View Post
    Here's a question that really doesn't have to do with writing novels, but it does in a sideways kind of way. Does being a writer, and studying books as you read them, ever take some of the enjoyment out of reading? When I read a book for the first time I try to turn off the writer in me, and just focus on the pleasure of reading. But sometimes I find myself analyzing the prose so much that I have to go back and re-read sections because I don't remember the actual plot, point, dialogue, etc...

    Maybe it's just me.
    It happens to me too, but with practice I've learned to make the writer/editor portion of me shut up. However, if you consistently find that you can't help ripping apart the prose...maybe it really is that bad. Or at least, not the kind of book you enjoy reading.
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  4. #9604
    Coming soon to a nightmare near you Requiescat In Pace
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    Oh, no... it's not that I rip it apart. I just focus on it too much, trying to learn from it, that I sometimes lose sight of the sheer enjoyment. Then I have to go back and re-read. Not really a bad thing, all in all. Sometimes I find I get a lot more out of the book than I would have three years ago. And it really is better the second, third, and fourth times, case-in-point, The Stand. Everytime I read that one now I'm amazed at the intricity Stephen King keeps up throughout the very long and complex novel. I think we can all learn a lot about super-complex plots and keeping numerous characters in play by reading The Stand over-and-over.
    [FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=black]~Steven Michael Sarber[/COLOR]:cool:[/FONT]
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    [CENTER][FONT=Book Antiqua]"When we write we begin to taste the textures of our own mind."~Natalie Goldberg[/FONT][/CENTER]
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    [CENTER][FONT=Book Antiqua]"I'm alone here, with emptiness, eagles and snow, unfriendliness chilling my body, and taunting with pictures of home."~Deep Purple [I]Pictures of Home[/I][/FONT][/CENTER]

  5. #9605
    Reinventing Myself Scribhneoir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smsarber View Post
    Oh, no... it's not that I rip it apart. I just focus on it too much, trying to learn from it, that I sometimes lose sight of the sheer enjoyment.
    When you read a book the first time, read it for pleasure. Then go back and read it for craft.

    I majored in film studies and we always had to watch each film twice in class for just that reason. The first time was to enjoy the film (or not -- my Nazi Cinema class was fascinating, but not because of the actual films we were forced to endure); the second time was to study it.

  6. #9606
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    Somehow my point was missed. Oh well, it happens.
    [FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=black]~Steven Michael Sarber[/COLOR]:cool:[/FONT]
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    [URL="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Steven-Michael-Sarber-Writer/153188004712049?v=wall"]Fan Page[/URL]

    [CENTER][FONT=Book Antiqua]"When we write we begin to taste the textures of our own mind."~Natalie Goldberg[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][FONT=Book Antiqua][/FONT] [/CENTER]
    [CENTER][FONT=Book Antiqua]"I'm alone here, with emptiness, eagles and snow, unfriendliness chilling my body, and taunting with pictures of home."~Deep Purple [I]Pictures of Home[/I][/FONT][/CENTER]

  7. #9607
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    I'm reading a debut novel: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Has anybody else read this book? I have serious editorial problems with it. Maybe it's just my poor understanding of everything literature.
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  8. #9608
    is way off topic Dale Emery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euclid View Post
    I'm reading a debut novel: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Has anybody else read this book? I have serious editorial problems with it.
    My non-writer wife loved it. I recently bought the audio version, but haven't listened yet.

    Dale

  9. #9609
    Absolute sagebrush Ken Schneider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Being a writer means that you will read differently than you did before.
    Does for me.

    I find myself looking at and breaking down setences for the real meaning of the content, as in UJ's line by line.

    I also say, that sentence doesn't sound right, or is too discriptive, or flowery.

    I remember years ago just reading and enjoying books, not questioning what was written or even seeing any problems.

    I guess, as writers, we should be encouraged to know that a good story goes further with the reader than it does with us. If we could just get past the editor.
    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."

  10. #9610
    persuasion by equation sleepsheep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Schneider View Post
    Does for me.

    I find myself looking at and breaking down setences for the real meaning of the content, as in UJ's line by line.

    I also say, that sentence doesn't sound right, or is too discriptive, or flowery.

    I remember years ago just reading and enjoying books, not questioning what was written or even seeing any problems.

    I guess, as writers, we should be encouraged to know that a good story goes further with the reader than it does with us. If we could just get past the editor.
    While I read a lot of genre fiction, especially sci-fi, I write anything but that. Still, I find that the more I write, the slower I read. I pay more attention to sentence structure than I ever did before. Also, my reading is noticeably slower when I'm in the midst of intensive writing, although that's not at all conscious.
    "As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?"

  11. #9611
    Inarticulate Herb MumblingSage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smsarber View Post
    Oh, no... it's not that I rip it apart. I just focus on it too much, trying to learn from it, that I sometimes lose sight of the sheer enjoyment. Then I have to go back and re-read. Not really a bad thing, all in all. Sometimes I find I get a lot more out of the book than I would have three years ago. And it really is better the second, third, and fourth times, case-in-point, The Stand. Everytime I read that one now I'm amazed at the intricity Stephen King keeps up throughout the very long and complex novel. I think we can all learn a lot about super-complex plots and keeping numerous characters in play by reading The Stand over-and-over.
    Pardon the hyperbole in my post, then--I myself tend to 'rip apart' prose when I read. I guess I'm just indelicate that way.

    I guess it might come down to the question of what you would value most: enjoying the book, or learning something from it? If you'd rather learn, at least at the time, don't worry about whether or not you're overthinking things.

    For the record, I think I both enjoyed and learned from The Stand. I know some people really dislike Stephen King, but I loved how authentic the characters were. I kept trying to analyze how on Earth he did such a frickin' awesome job--but I kept having to give up and just enjoy reading it.
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  12. #9612
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    Bumping this thread back to the 1st page.

    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

  13. #9613
    Absolute sagebrush Ken Schneider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FOTSGreg View Post
    Bumping this thread back to the 1st page.
    Don't bump. If there aren't any good questions it should sink away.

    That's UJ's take on it, not mine.

    But since you did.

    I just finished my current whip, and am itching to start the next.

    I know what the next book is about and how to get it started.

    But, I feel like I should take some time off, a week or so to think it over while I do some trail hiking.

    Any thoughts about plowing through to the next work, versus taking a short break?
    Last edited by Ken Schneider; 07-21-2009 at 04:55 AM.
    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. #9614
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    I vote for sitting at the computer, and staring at a blank screen until 250 words come out.
    [FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=black]~Steven Michael Sarber[/COLOR]:cool:[/FONT]
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    [CENTER][FONT=Book Antiqua][/FONT] [/CENTER]
    [CENTER][FONT=Book Antiqua]"I'm alone here, with emptiness, eagles and snow, unfriendliness chilling my body, and taunting with pictures of home."~Deep Purple [I]Pictures of Home[/I][/FONT][/CENTER]

  15. #9615
    Esteemed thinker Calliopenjo's Avatar
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    Hi Ken,

    The first thing I tell anybody is to do what you think you should do. If you think taking a break is best go for it. It works for a lot of people especially after spending umpteen hours at the computer taking this out, putting this in, transfer this, transfer that, need more here.

    If you think you can sit at the computer and write a quality piece right after finishing you current go for it. Sometimes ideas come and you think it's good until. . . So much for that idea. Delete and try again. Plus and minus sides for both.

    My two cents.

    Wounded I sing, tormented I indite. — Victor Herbert (1859-1924)

  16. #9616
    Player of the Letters Alphabeter's Avatar
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    I always try and take some kind of rest between WiPs, even if its just a nap and a snack. I need to let go of the previous project and all its detritus. A fresh slate gives me the focus to start ... on a new set of problems.

    I found that rushing into a new (even if its old revisited) piece without the "clearing" tended to recreate the same issues and I sometimes couldn't finish because multiple projects became blurred. I then got too frustrated to sort each all out.
    Joy

    Writing is a lot like sex.
    At first you do it because you like it.
    Then you find yourself doing it for a few close friends and people you like.
    But if you're any good at all...you end up doing it for money.


  17. #9617
    Out of the cradle endlessly rocking Exir's Avatar
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    Another thing that we writers should always keep in mind is that we are storytellers, not prose stylists, so we shouldn't over-concentrate on prose at the expense of things like plot, character, theme, emotion, setting, imagination, etc. I'm not saying prose isn't important -- even non-writers can instinctively "taste" bland, uninspired, or faulty prose even if they can't put a finger to it. However, writing that is funny and evocative will work even if it contains too much adverbs and adjectives. Take Harry Potter. When I was younger I read through them without feeling anything wrong about the prose. Now that I re-read the earlier books (1-3) I find places that feel a bit clunky to me, but I still enjoy reading them immensely because the writing evokes a very clear image for me. Not that I only read them for pleasure -- it's that even when I'm analysing it, I make sure to concentrate on the overall story, and see how she treats it.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/be...d_passion.html

    The talk is about classical music and piano, but I highly recommend it nonetheless -- it contains important lessons that we can learn for writing as well. Benjamin Zander explains that the most important difference between beginner piano players and advanced piano players is that beginners play each note with an impulse, one note at a time, while advanced piano players play the entire melody as one single impulse (what he humorously calls "one buttock playing" for reasons you will have to watch the video to understand).
    "A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse."

    -- Oscar Wilde


  18. #9618
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    If you really, really feel the need to bump any thread, please do it with an on-topic, thought-provoking question or observation.

    For example:

    Let's look back a few years to some total nonsense that nevertheless got published in Salon: The confessions of a semi-successful author

    I commented about it at the time.

    But I'm going to comment on it more, because it's still ripe for mockery.

    Let me give "Jane Austen Doe" some advice.

    1) Don't kid yourself. You aren't a midlist author. Frontlist money and backlist sales don't average out to midlist.

    2) That first book of yours, the one that's out of print, but people still ask about? I'm sure it's reverted by now. Find a small press that'll put it back into print. Don't expect a six-figure advance. Don't hold out for a five-figure advance. Heck, take a publisher with decent distribution and forget the advance. You aren't getting any money or any readers with it right now, are you?

    3) That ghostwriting gig? That's good money and it's easy work. See if your agent can round up more of those. Do one a year and think of it as your day job.

    4) The single-author collection of short stories? What are you, nuts? Sure, do it if you must, but don't let it keep you from writing books. That's where the money is.

    5) Consider a pseudonym. The DAW Books Witness Protection Program was made for people like you. You can write publishable prose and that's a rare quality. Start over as someone new. Yeah, you'll get first-book advances. No, first-book advances aren't generally $100K. Take anything that's offered and be grateful to get it.

    6) News Flash: Publishing didn't just become a business. It's been a business for centuries.

    7) Don't be an idiot when it comes to money. Treat every check as if it's your last ... because it could be.

    8) Write your damned book. And stop whining. No one loves a whiner.

  19. #9619
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 07-21-2009 at 08:31 AM.

  20. #9620
    Out of the cradle endlessly rocking Exir's Avatar
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    Thanks Uncle Jim! The link doesn't work though.
    "A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse."

    -- Oscar Wilde


  21. #9621
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Fixed

  22. #9622
    Out of the cradle endlessly rocking Exir's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot! You are, as ever, very patient and helpful.
    "A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse."

    -- Oscar Wilde


  23. #9623
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Schneider View Post
    Any thoughts about plowing through to the next work, versus taking a short break?
    I heard of one 19th century chap (was it Trollope?) who would finish a book, draw a heavy line across the page, take a deep breath, and start the next book on the same page.

    Okay, I won't be doing that.

    --Milton

  24. #9624
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I really think you should go with your mood, or muse, or whatever you want to call it. There have been times I've let a piece set for quite awhile, other times when I've let it set for a couple of weeks and done nothing else at all before I go back and look at it. Then there was one instance, that I couldn't continue with what I was writing until I broke away and wrote this short story that kept nudging at me. The short story was taken, so I think following my instincts was the route to take. If you feel like moving forward... GO...if you feel drained...give it a rest. Sometimes you can tear something up by continuing when you haven't let it "cure" a bit. And unless you're highly motivated to start a new work, back off for awhile...the muse doesn't play hide and seek for long

  25. #9625
    Esteemed thinker Calliopenjo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loretta View Post
    And unless you're highly motivated to start a new work, back off for awhile...the muse doesn't play hide and seek for long
    I beg to differ. Mine was on vacation for five years.

    Wounded I sing, tormented I indite. — Victor Herbert (1859-1924)

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