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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #9901
    Absolute sagebrush Ken Schneider's Avatar
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    If there's one thing I've learned here on this thread, it's the importance of finding the right word.
    The great part of letting an ms rest is that the right word usually pops up when you do the rewrite/edits.

    After ten thousand words into my current WIP, I'm feeling the need to do some plotting. A new course of action for me.
    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."

  2. #9902
    practical experience, FTW Blue Sky's Avatar
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    Although I've been a lifelong non-thesaurus user, as I mentioned upthread, I bought Roget's on Jim's recommendation. It's proven invaluable while divining lively verbs to replace the verb "to be" and prepositional phrases. Yum. Not to mention lots of fun.

    Dictionary usage became standard practice years ago. Familiar words may paint images contrary to our purpose, as with Jim's cervix example. Ha! With me it started when I checked a word in a title that gave me a funny feeling. I was so glad to have checked. The dam broke and that was that. I've learned to trust those funny feelings!

  3. #9903
    Revisions, revisions, revisions SilverPhoenix's Avatar
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    I never use a thesaurus or a dictionary. I know I already use words my friends don't know sometimes so, especially when writing YA, I always want to stick to words I'm familiar with and that come to me like -snap-.

    The only bad thing about Perdido Street Station (awesome book) was that I ended up reading with a dictionary kept close on my bedside table.

  4. #9904
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Speaking of writing-avoidance behavior...

    I have 1,500 words to go on a short story. So what am I doing right now? Defragging the hard drive on my working computer!

    (I'm posting this from the laptop. Yeah, I could write it over here, but ... oh, okay....)

  5. #9905
    I'm back! ccarver30's Avatar
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    I use the right click synonyms option in Word allll the time.

  6. #9906
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hello Uncle Jim and everybody!
    (I apologize for any grammar and spelling mistakes, English isn't my mother tongue and I write in another language, but there isn't anything as educating and great as this thread in my language)
    I haven't read all the posts in this thread yet (not even nearly) so if this has been discussed tell me and I'll keep on reading. So what books would you suggest to read? I mean recent contemporary novels. Very little part of British or American books are translated and published over here so I try to read good stuff in original language as much as I can, but then it is quite hard to judge the book if you buy it online, and Iíve been disappointed too many times buying anything only because itís a bestseller. And I prefer learning from good books. I know that writers are more critical of the fellow writers than any reader or editor, so if you say itís good, it must be brilliant
    Thanks!

  7. #9907
    Vagrant Story
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    As long as we're on the thesaurus:

    Quote Originally Posted by W
    The lacerates ran down my face.
    What's a good synonym for "tears"?
    But as one bright star shines through the clouds at night
    And as one song rings clear above the roar of beasts
    We hold to one hope in these darkest of times.
    That star is you, and the song is yours.


  8. #9908
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    "Tears" is perfectly acceptable, I think. Why would you need a synonym?

    ---------------

    Welcome, ziedinc.

    I've recommended a number of books over the course of this thread. Here's a collection of some of them. (I haven't updated it lately but this does cover the first half of the thread.)

  9. #9909
    Grateful for the day cooeedownunder's Avatar
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    Ah yes, tears are good. So is cried...just make sure the narrative surrounding it makes it logical for the tears or the crying.
    SR

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  10. #9910
    New kid, be as you like! ricmic's Avatar
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    Wow, that was a long thread! I kept a text document open to save posts that I found particularly useful. Of course, lots of the advice given here has been covered elsewhere, but, Jim, I've rarely seen it so to the point.

    About openings: you need a person, a place and a problem. That's it. Not seventeen different techniques on how to place a good hook. All the major characters should be there by page 100. Now, that's a number I can work with.

    I loved the chess analogy. When you start a novel, open up the game and put the characters in strategically chosen places. When they move on (the pieces or characters, not the places) and crisscross the board, see that their a$$ is covered. Keep in mind that every move should support the goal of a checkmate. You can't afford to have a knight take a break at the rim of the board, or you'll lose against a competent player.

    I didn't click on links before 2006, so I missed the link on Celtic Knotwork. I found the page with the books you recommended, and there's a book on Celtic Knotwork. If that's the only link, I'm cool. But I think I remember an illustration somewhere. If somebody remembers another link, could you post it? The only knots I encounter in plots are Gordic ones.

    I'm going to retype and analyze chapters from my favorite novels. I found that particularly enlightening. Again, I've done that before, but not as methodically, not sentence by sentence.

    Oh, and the permission slips, not only pdfs, allowing aforementioned writer to Write Badly, but your descriptions on how you outline. I keep kind of a journal where I keep thoughts and snippets. All the time, it goes like this: Well, okay, the Hero is in this restaurant, no, too quiet, a bar, a club, an AA meeting, a Star Trek convention. No. Okay the Hero is in Public Place. There he...

    I always felt there was something wrong with me. It works for me, and your experience shows me I don't need my head examined. Not necessarily, that is.

    So, thank you. The thread is great.

    ricmic

    Okay, BIC time.

  11. #9911
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    thanks! I had seen you recommending the chess book and some others but haven't got to the posts where you comment most if those books. That's a nice collection of nooks and some great links as well.

  12. #9912
    practical experience, FTW Krintar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricmic View Post
    I always felt there was something wrong with me.
    I can't imagine how trite and boring life would be if there were nothing wrong with me

  13. #9913
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccarver30 View Post
    I use the right click synonyms option in Word allll the time.
    Never knew about that. Could be useful. Thanks for that.
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
    I'm on Twitter @jjtoner_YA



  14. #9914
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krintar View Post
    I can't imagine how trite and boring life would be if there were nothing wrong with me
    That would make me the most interesting person on the planet !
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
    I'm on Twitter @jjtoner_YA



  15. #9915
    practical experience, FTW
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    Jim, do you have a working link to your comments on "that silly Salon article" (the tragedy of the midlist author one)?

    I just read a ton of blogs and blog comments about it. Much food for thought.

  16. #9916
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SoloArtist View Post
    Jim, do you have a working link to your comments on "that silly Salon article" (the tragedy of the midlist author one)?
    Page 32 and following in this thread. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...t=6710&page=32

    You can use Google better than the (poor, broken) search function that comes with this site. Use site:absolutewrite.com "Uncle Jim" then whatever term you're looking for.

  17. #9917
    practical experience, FTW
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    Good hunting, thanks. Man, that article really stirred up a lot of anger (your comments seemed quite sensible to me). I find that interesting, since the whiner did at least have an interesting tale to tell and there were some lessons in it--even if many of those were "this is how not to approach a writing career."

    This guy was quite funny about it all, although I'm not sure how I feel about the unanimous chorus of "Burn her!" from his blog readers. Maybe I'm too nice.

  18. #9918
    Part of the Scenery Neversage's Avatar
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    Book 1 is off to beta readers, time to start book 2. I know nothing.

    One of the reasons Never writes is because reality often bores him.

  19. #9919
    Bah Humbug K. Taylor's Avatar
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    How would you format a section that's on TV, that your characters are watching?
    Putting the TV scene in italics works for short bursts, but a lot of people don't want to read a full page in that. And yes, they need to review what's on the screen, so it can't be left out. I want to make it clear it's not a "real" scene without hitting the readers over the head with obviousness....

  20. #9920
    Coming soon to a nightmare near you Requiescat In Pace
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by K. Taylor View Post
    How would you format a section that's on TV, that your characters are watching?
    Putting the TV scene in italics works for short bursts, but a lot of people don't want to read a full page in that. And yes, they need to review what's on the screen, so it can't be left out. I want to make it clear it's not a "real" scene without hitting the readers over the head with obviousness....

    Italics are probably fine... just remember Uncle Jim's BIG RULE: Don't confuse the readers.
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  21. #9921
    Part of the Scenery Neversage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K. Taylor View Post
    How would you format a section that's on TV, that your characters are watching?
    Putting the TV scene in italics works for short bursts, but a lot of people don't want to read a full page in that. And yes, they need to review what's on the screen, so it can't be left out. I want to make it clear it's not a "real" scene without hitting the readers over the head with obviousness....
    I reckon you could do it many ways providing, as Sarber said, you don't confuse the reader. You could just add the TV like another speaker with its own dialogue tags, but that may not work for your scene.

    I've seen some books just do a line breaks before and after the TV or newspaper bit. I hope some of this helps.

    One of the reasons Never writes is because reality often bores him.

  22. #9922
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Do you pause for breath when you verbalize in your mind? Does unconscious alliteration leap out at you? Does the repetition of certain words and phrases become obvious to you?
    I've been reading this ms out loud. I came across one of my characters smoking a pipe (while there's a thunderstorm going on outside). "His pipe glowed in the gathering gloom." This is unintentional alliteration. Is this something I should change?

    Also, the thunderstorm has no real purpose or relevance. It's there to slow the pace at the start of the scene and to give the reader a mental picture of the scene. Do thunderstorms have to be significant, or to pressage bad or significant events?
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  23. #9923
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Yes, that's alliteration. Yes, you should consider changing it.

    Why doesn't your thunderstorm serve a function? Every word needs to either support the theme, reveal character, or advance the plot.

    If your subconscious is trying to support the theme with this storm, look to see where else that theme might trying to break through.

  24. #9924
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Yes, that's alliteration. Yes, you should consider changing it.

    Why doesn't your thunderstorm serve a function? Every word needs to either support the theme, reveal character, or advance the plot.

    If your subconscious is trying to support the theme with this storm, look to see where else that theme might trying to break through.
    The theme of the book revolves around the excesses of the Nazi regime, so I suppose there's a gloomy, stormy feel to the whole thing. Not sure what you mean about the theme trying to break through... Or what I should do about it if I did locate these occurrences.

    Why should I change the unintentional alliteration? What harm is it doing?
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  25. #9925
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euclid View Post
    The theme of the book revolves around the excesses of the Nazi regime, so I suppose there's a gloomy, stormy feel to the whole thing. Not sure what you mean about the theme trying to break through... Or what I should do about it if I did locate these occurrences.
    Sharpen, focus, and unify them.

    Why should I change the unintentional alliteration? What harm is it doing?
    Why should you make your prose the best and most polished that you can? Why should you remove or change clumsy bits? I dunno. You tell me.

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