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Thread: Uncle Jim, undiluted

  1. #26
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    James D. Macdonald
    Learn Writing With Uncle Jim
    January 2005

    03Jan05
    I note that this phenomenon isn't restricted to fanfic authors; some beginning authors in general make the same mistake. They see the scene in their head clearly, but then forget to transfer any of that clarity onto the paper.


    That's what we call a "head story." Your beta readers will become invaluable here (as will putting the manuscript into your desk drawer for a month or three before re-reading it).

    Analysing openings may teach you how to write good openings. Analysing endings will teach you how to write good books.


    05Jan05
    Re: revising a novel: how to proceed?
    My guess is that next I need to read through the whole thing, making notes, looking for gaps, making sure that things promised early on come to fruition before the end, and that the way is properly prepared for things that happen later.


    That's what I call doing agricultural work. You go through and make sure that everything that happens at the end was planted in the beginning, and that everything that happened in the beginning sprouted.

    The things that didn't sprout you prune back. The things that did sprout, you make sure have plenty of fertilizer spread on 'em and are watered frequently.

    A technique that works for some people when they're making sure the whole novel is there on the page, not just in your head, is to write it as a flow chart. That will also show you branches that don't come to a conclusion.

    It's perfectly okay to leave some loose ends. Nothing is ever fully tied up. (That's what makes sequels possible.)

    You will, at some point, have to get the whole novel into your head at one time. That means just reading it straight through, fast. Where that comes in the revision process is probably going to be when you're pretty happy with the parts. May I suggest at that time that you print it out in some format that you've not been using -- single space double column justified Times New Roman, for example -- so that the memory of what was there before doesn't get in front of the text you're seeing now.

    I do small text-twiddles as I notice things, every time I look at the manuscript. The final polish comes after the whole plot is put together.

    (The technique of writing one-parapgraph summaries of each chapter is a good one. Lots of people use it.)

    Onward. When you find yourself adding a comma in the morning and taking it out in the afternoon -- that's when it's time to send off this manuscript and start the next one.

    Three more amusing links
    First novel advances; writers' careers

    FAQ for Beginning Writers

    The Economics of Publishing

    06Jan05
    Re: The First Two Pages
    Sometimes it doesn't matter whether the scene in the writer's head matches the scene in the reader's head.

    If the writer is imagining Russell Crowe and the reader is imagining Johnny Depp -- it doesn't matter so long as the plot isn't affected.

    That elevator at the beginning of The Street Lawyer ... were the doors brass? Brushed chrome? Natural walnut? It doesn't matter. Each reader made a picture that made sense to them.

    The biggest, blackest crow a character has ever seen will be interpreted by the readers in terms of the biggest, blackest crows they personally have ever seen. What of it? They'll supply the crow they need, in terms they understand.

    (For that matter, I'd seriously consider whether the bigness of the crow or the blackness of the crow was the most important part of the description, and cut the other adjective.)

    Only add detail if it enhances the story.

    Remember the mantra:

    The words belong that

    Advance the plot,
    Support the theme, or
    Reveal character.

    07Jan05
    Public Service Announcment
    I'm told that this entire bulletin board will migrate to another place sometime in the next two weeks.

    We're assured that all posts and forums will remain intact. That this move will be transparent to the users.

    Helicopter rotor blades are also transparent to the users. This doesn't help when you walk into one.

    If (and I flatter myself to say so) you've found posts in this group worthwhile, now might be a good time to make your local copies.

    09Jan05


    Re: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim
    Are you finished when you can't possibly do anything more to a story?

    There, my friend, is where the art comes in. How does a cook know the soup is ready to serve? There's always something else you can do -- the question is whether there's something else you ought to do.

    I can't give a real answer, not having read your story, but ... if it isn't in publishable range after nine to twelve drafts, it probably won't get there.

    What kind of changes are you making each time around?

    Is there any sort of guideline regarding when to use background description, and when you do, how much?

    This is the guideline: The appropriate level of detail is a function of pace.

    That is: No one can count the rivets on a moving train. If you want to show that the train isn't moving, start counting rivets.

    Story ideas
    Lessee -- origins of novels vary. I've used dreams and news stories, mostly. After that it's been playing "what if?" and "if this goes on" and "that's neat" and "who gets hurt?"

    Take interesting characters, put them in interesting places, and see what they do.

    One specific story idea started with a photo of Soviet troops in full chemical warfare rig. The question came to my mind: How would a 19th century farmer describe those men?

    Another one was, suppose Harold Godwinson hadn't gone north to Stamford Bridge, but instead had stayed in the south and defeated William the Bastard? And, incidentally, suppose dragons, ogres, mermaids, unicorns, and giants were all literally real?

    After that, it's watching the characters interact.

    Usually, I don't start with the beginning. I start with an ending, see what characters are there, then back off, put those characters into a situation and see if they can get to the ending I was thinking of.



    11Jan05
    Re: Beginnings
    Does your protagonist have no problems at all? Not even what to have for supper?



    14Jan05




    Re: Long form to short
    Are there open market contests or places to get published for novella and long stories?

    Well, I wouldn't enter contests at all. As to stories -- what's your genre? You'll find that there are some magazines that specialize in one genre or another. Some of them take quite long stories. Keep your eye open for original anthologies.

    If you're a novella kinda person, you have to recognize that you've picked a very tough length to sell.

    The reason I talk mostly about novels here is this is the novel board.

    Re: Beginnings
    With a short story, you ought to keep the ending in mind. It should be a satisfying one, and tie up the loose ends. (You have more room to leave unresolved threads in a novel.)

    Think of a short story as a joke, a novel as a comedy routine.

    Okay, markets:

    Where do you find the short stories you read right now? (I trust you're reading short stories -- a lot of them.) Submit your stories to the same places you find the stories you like. Follow their guidelines to the letter.

    If you're finding short stories in an anthology, write to the anthology's editor, and ask if he or she is planning another. Editors are friendly. If you enclose a SASE you'll probably hear back.

    Analyse the heck out of the stories you like the best. Why do you like them? What's the author doing? Why? Read the stories like a writer, not like a reader.

    And write. And send what you write off to people likely to buy it.

    14Jan05


    Re: Short story books...
    James, please check out my post about apostrophes.


    Looked to me like your post was about comas, not apostrophes, but (as someone else around here likes to say) what do I know?

    If your grammar and punctuation are workmanlike or better, you're fine.

    If you aren't confident, get a school review text and work your way through it.

    When you're reading published prose, see how the punctuation works.

    Other than that, concentrate on your story. Have a beta-reader who's a fiend for nitpicking the sentences.


    15Jan05

    Re: sending in the "package"
    Okay, first, take a deep breath. Relax. Formats are not anywhere as important as they are in the world of screenplays.

    First question: What do the publishers (and/or agent's) guidelines say? They should mention whether they want three-and-an-outline, or a full manuscript, or a query, or what. Guidelines from a specific market always trump every other consideration for that market.

    Next:

    Formatting the manuscript:

    Single side of the paper, double spaced, one-inch margins.

    Courier ten or courier twelve, unjustified.

    Running head with your name, the title, the page number, on each page.

    Manuscripts are sent loose, no binding of any kind.
    ========

    Cover letters are no more than one page. The important parts are your name, address, and phone number. Genre and wordcount are next most important.

    Spell the editor's name right.

    ========

    For an outline or summary, be sure you include the surprising twist climax.

    For submissions I keep outlines to ten pages single-spaced, and summaries to three or less.

    ========

    If you do nothing else, always include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).

    17Jan05
    Re: Writing Novels
    Me, I don't bother with presentation folders, but I suppose it's harmless.

    Yet Another Article
    Yet another article you ought to read: Displaced Advice.

    Re: Writing Novels
    Does it have to be The Main Problem?


    No -- just enough of a problem for the readers to want to turn the page to find out What Happens Next.
    _________________

    (Commercial announcement -- our next booksigning will be at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, MA, 3pm to 4pm Saturday, 29 January 05.)

    18Jan05
    Re: Writing Novels
    Thanks, indeed. My heart's cockles (not to mention my heart's mussels) are definitely warmed.

    For reasons that we need not go into here, I too stopped writing for a while when I was 19.

    Write, finish what you start, send it out. Repeat. That's the whole of the Magic Secret to Getting Published.

    19Jan05
    Royalties
    Do the smaller publishing companies pay the same?


    Yes, they pay the same royalty rates. The difference is they have smaller press runs, and show up on fewer shelves. Expect smaller advances, since they'll most likely be selling fewer copies.



    Re: AGENT vs PUBLISHER
    All agents (who are worth having) are looking for new authors (in a general sense). As other authors drop off their lists, or they increase the size of their agencies, or they feel they can take on more work. It's always in a state of flux.


    But it's in a state of slow flux. The lists may not change for years.

    So ... yeah, Ripper's summary is pretty good.

    There's also approaching agents directly. Some people manage that route.

    You can go two pronged: Publishers and agents at the same time.

    But... it's a long process. You have to find someone who loves your book, and it has to arrive when that person (whether editor or agent) has an opening.

    While you're waiting, write another book. Use everything you've learned while writing the first one to make the second one better.

    20Jan05


    Re: AGENT vs PUBLISHER
    Exactly so. As that Writer's Digest bit went on to say, "During that time Grisham wrote The Firm."

    It's a common item of folklore that Grisham self-published his first book. He didn't -- A Time to Kill was published in hardcover by a traditional advance-and-royalty paying New York publisher (albeit a small one).

    Yes, he did do a lot of self-promotion. No, that isn't what made him a best seller.

    What catapulted him into the ranks of bestsellerdom was when his second book (The Firm) sold to Hollywood before it was published, thanks to his agent. Nothing like a Tom Cruise movie (along with having a strong plot and solid prose) to notch you up a bit.

    Re: So far.
    It doesn't help that (I confess) I don't really like to /read/ short stories. I'm a brick-of-a-novel sort of reader, and really, that's what I want to write. On the other hand, doesn't popular wisdom advise one to work out the kinks in a shorter medium?


    It doesn't make much sense to me to write a form that you don't enjoy reading.

    And many fine novelists have never published a short story in their lives.

    I have 68 pages right now, but half of that is not story. When I'm stuck, which is all the time, to get myself writing I write whatever I have to. I go over the scenes but don't list dialogue, or I write about what I think the next scene should be. Whatever I have to do to keep my hands moving.


    Hey, that's nothing. In some of my outlines I have myself as a character, talking about what I want to have happen in a scene, discussing it with the characters.

    Whatever it takes to get words on the page. You can work with words on the page. It's a lot harder to work on ideas that are only in your head.


    26Jan05
    Re: double-space within a line?
    All that double-spacing after a period means is that you learned how to type on a real typewriter. Folks who learned how on a computer tend to use one space.

    Be consistent, otherwise don't worry about it.

    Meanwhile, a charming story.

    27Jan05

    Re: Chess and writing
    So, here are the questions what can you tell from a person's chess game about his/her writing style?


    Nothing.

    It's all symbolic; a way of thinking about novels.

    I've been trying to explain in several ways how I think about novels -- they're like a chess game, they're like a model house, they're like a knot -- but really, only a novel is a novel.

    The chess thing still and more: Put your pieces in strong positions, and combinations will arise = put your characters in interesting situations, and story will arise.

    And again: studying openings will teach you openings; studying endgames will teach you chess = analysing first chapters will teach you first chapters; analysing climaxes will teach you plot.

    If something I say makes no sense, leave it be. Maybe it means something to someone else. Maybe the next thing I say will mean something to you.


    Take what's useful to you. Leave the rest.


    Re: chess and writing
    It isn't even chess in general that I'm recommending, it's one particular chess book: Logical Chess Move by Move.

    It shows a way of analysing the game that I find useful also in analysing novels. Go through, line by line (move by move) and see what the author is doing. Go through your own works line by line, and see what the story is doing. Is it moving? Is it supporting future action? Are you boxing yourself in or building a strong structure?

    That's another part of what I'm saying.




    28Jan05



    How to fatten
    Try this: Remember way back when, I suggested that you retype the first chapter of a novel you admire?

    How's this: Take that novel you admire, and count the paragraphs in a chapter. Count the sentences in the paragraphs. Count the words in the sentences.

    Now:

    Take your over-brief chapter. Fit it to the outline of the other, admired book. Use the same number of paragraphs with the same number of sentences and words.

    Treat this like a word game. A puzzle. See what comes out the far side. Have fun doing it.







    Last edited by MacAllister; 04-09-2005 at 11:09 PM.

  2. #27
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    February 2005

    James D. Macdonald
    Learn Writing With Uncle Jim

    February 2005
    01Feb05

    Re: Hello
    Hi, Tasha --

    First, you make do with what time you have. Just don't let thinking about writing substitute for writing.

    Next -- the character with the relative who has the mental disorder: Write the book. Finish it. In the second draft, draw a red pencil line through all the references to that relative. Problem solved.

    (Though the other two solutions you propose, writing a novel about that disorder or seeking therapy yourself, both have something to be said for them.)

    Other than that .... don't worry about rambling in the first draft. (While other writers work in other ways) I find that rambling in the first draft is a happy and healthy thing. It gives you room to play and material to play with in the second, third, and fourth drafts.

    Write, finish what you're writing. Revise. If you can do that, and be happy with what you've done, you've done what writers do.
    __________________________________________________

    02Feb05
    The Worst Book Ever
    This is it, kids: The worst book ever.

    Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea.

    Read the Press release.
    See what the fans are saying.

    "Fascinating. A total subversion of the most fundamental dichotomies of Western literature, in particular good/bad; an autodeconstructing textual engine that poses but never answers the unposable (but in today's world, far too answerable) questions. A full on assault on the centricity of such dominating ideas as quality, consistency, coherence, and that dirty books ought to give me a stiffy."
    -- John Barnes
    "The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts."
    -- T. Nielsen Hayden
    "Don't fail to miss it if you can!"
    -- Jerry Pournelle


    Re: The Worst Book Ever
    Uncle Jim, how would you craft a query letter for this literary gem?

    Very, very earnestly.

    In point of fact, Travis didn't have to worry about a query letter. Like poetry.com, PublishAmerica will accept anything you send them, while Lulu.com is just a printer and will take anything you send them.

    In other news, Atlanta Nights has sold 75 copies. That's equal to what the average PublishAmerica book will sell over its entire life.
    _____________________________________________

    03Feb05
    Re: The Worst Book Ever
    I tend to find, though, that I generally do the exact opposite of what everyone else here does, so my chances of ever writing anything publishable look slim!

    Is what you're doing working for you?

    And is what comes out the far end something that other folks want to read?

    Those are the only two real questions in writing. The rest is all commentary.

    Re: The Worst Book Ever
    Welcome, Lenora.

    I hope this thread has encouraged you to log off and start scribbling at least once....
    __________________________________________________

    04Feb05
    Re: The Worst Book Ever
    "We like the story, but it needs more work" sounds very much like you need to play more on the noun-and-verb level.

    So, study grammar, check your style, and get on with it. Analyse published stories to see what they are and aren't doing.

    I'm afraid I don't have a magic bullet here other than "Do The Hard Work."
    _________________________________________

    05Feb05

    Re: The Worst Book Ever



    There's a low-carb version of that Lime Pie out there....

    I gave the recipe to my friend April Fields, and she converted it.

    So, onward!
    ______________________________

    06Feb05

    Article
    Your story-fu is strong, young Jedi!

    Not how I'd planned to gain fame, but hey, I'll take it: LA Times sting story.
    ________________________________________________

    07Feb05
    Read this


    A great article.

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

    08Feb05

    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.

    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.

    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.)
    ______________________________

    11Feb05

    Catch up
    The posts from the old board, ported over:

    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.)


    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.
    ___________
    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.



    ____________________

    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.)
    _________________________

    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!
    ___________________________

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

    I hope.

    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....)
    __________________




    A week with working writers and acquiring editors
    ____________________________________________







    Learning Curve

    It'll take all of us a while to learn how to use the new board.
    _____________________

    13Feb05
    Copyright
    The discussion happened in the old board.

    The reasons are:

    a) It's unnecessary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is fixed in tangible form
    b) It's unnecessary. No one is going to steal an unpublished book. (Several reasons for this, the chiefest one being that anyone who thinks it's publishable not only wants this work but wants your next one too.) If it's good enough to steal it's good enough to buy.
    c) It will tell folks that your manuscript has been in your desk drawer or in the slushpile for the last ten years.
    d) The pros don't do it.
    e) Who wants to waste thirty bucks on something that's going to get rejected anyway?

    To go along with this -- only submit your manuscript to legitimate publishers. You and they have similar interests: You both want to sell books to readers. Legitimate publishers have the practical ability to do it; and they need you.

    Collection

    By all means, collect my posts. Just a few requests:

    First, leave my name on them.
    Second, don't publish them elsewhere.
    Third, remember that I can't give permission for any other person. I only own my own words. Other people's posts belong to them.

    14Feb05

    Monday Morning Weirdness

    For those who aren't getting enough Weird in their diet: Read or Die.

    Next -- by "don't publish them elsewhere" I mean, don't put the posts themselves on other forums, or print 'em in a book to peddle at fairs, or anything like that. An index (here or elsewhere) would be a good thing.

    Welcome to Savannah.

    And hi to Denis -- yeah, it works, doesn't it? If you're a writer, put yourself in a situation where you can write. The rest follows.


    Advice?
    I've got nothing but advice for you, Tim....

    First bit being that I haven't read your book, so I can't tell.

    Here's what you do: Try. Rewrite as you've outlined, put it aside for a month, then reread. Make any changes you think are necessary. Then try it on your beta-readers.

    Call it Draft #whatever. If it doesn't work, try something else in the next draft. (And at the same time, during that month it's in your desk drawer, start your next book.)

    All I can say is try. If it works, then it's right.

    Formatting

    Oh yeah, formatting.

    Every chapter starts on a new page.

    Drop half-way down the page, put your chapter title or chapter number, then doublespace and start your chapter.

    All that room is for two purposes: to allow room for the editor to make notes, and to get the page turned faster.

    Sticky
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by detante
    Hey mods, any chance we could make this thread a sticky note?



    I'd prefer not ... if it ever loses steam and falls down and off the first page due to lack of posts, it deserves to sink. Keeping it on the first page will give me incentive to post more.
    ___________________________________________

    15Feb05

    Consider rather

    I don't know as editors consider the length of first chapters ... but they do consider the pace.

    This is mostly because the readers in the bookstore, scanning your book, are considering the pace.

    Your beta-readers may have given you the benefit of the doubt when they went on despite a slow beginning. The random reader won't.

    (In a second-or-subsequent book, the people who read and enjoyed your first book will give you the opportunity to start more slowly. For a first book ... move fast out of the gate.)

    So ... rather than cutting the first chapter in two, try speeding it up by cutting out the parts that are just there to build the relationship and set the scene. The relationship and the scene should develop by themselves over the course of the following hundred plus pages.

    For every word, ask yourself, "Is this here to move the plot along, or to horse the reader up on the situation?" If it's the latter, cut that word.
    _________
    ______________________

    16Feb05

    Contests
    Why not contests?

    Because unless it's something major, like the Pulitzer or the Nobel Prize, who's heard of them? The East Amberg Community College Literature Award isn't going to impress anyone.

    Next, if your writing is good enough to win a contest, it's good enough for someone to buy. Actually being published does give you a worthwhile credit.

    Third, writing contests that cost money violate Yog's Law.

    Fourth, writing contests may blow your First Rights if the winning entries are printed somewhere.

    ==============

    Every publisher in the world has a contest every day. The cost of entry is postage, and the prize is paid publication.
    __________________

    A week with working writers and acquiring editors

    Writers of the Future
    They can call it a contest if they like, but it's really an open anthology series.

    (Some people don't like WOTF's connection with Scientology -- let your conscience be your guide.)

    Worthwhile "contests" have a) no entry fee, b) don't pay in publication alone, and c) books that show up on bookstore shelves.
    ______________________________________________

    17Feb05

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gp101
    Are both acceptable, or is the manner you described the ONE that is expected?





    The one I mentioned is the usual one. No one is going to reject a manuscript just based on the position of the chapter title on the page.

    What you're doing is giving the editor room to put notes, instructions to the typesetter, and so on. (Lots of editing is done by hand, with pencil.) It also clearly marks The Is The Start Of A New Chapter.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lenora Rose
    In the instance of a novella already rejected by all pro-paying magazines that took novella length, at a time when no open anthologies seemed to want a 20k story.



    We aren't talking about novellas or short stories (much) in this area. Novellas in particular are very tough to place. It's not a popular length. (It works out to one story taking too great a percentage of a given magazine or anthology.

    Still, I'd exhaust every possible market before trying a contest, and even then I'd only pick ones that paid with more than mere publication, and I'd avoid paying an entry fee.

    "Anything is better than unpublished" isn't a good motto. (Among other things, being badly published is worse than remaining unpublished.)

    In the end you know your own situation, and your own goals, best.
    __________________________________________


    18Feb05

    Contests
    Since the subject of contests has been raised, here's a page of scam contests.


    ___________________________________

    22Feb05

    Update
    Today I'll be in Connecticut, at UConn, talking to a couple of classes who are taking "Publishing."

    Heaven help me. And them.

    23Feb05

    Printing isn't publishing
    I kept waiting for some student to leap to his feet and say "Thanks to the Xerox® DocuTech™ machine, everyone can be published!" just so I could laugh at him cruelly and say "Printing isn't publishing."

    First Posted Elsewhere
    One way to improve almost any manuscript is to go through and remove any poetry you find, regardless of its source.

    Leaving the copyright/permissions question entirely aside, most poetry is bad. Even if no lyrics are used, most references to popular music only serve to date the story more quickly.

    Assuming that your readers are a) familiar with a particular song, and b) will have the same emotional reaction to that song that you do, is probably a bad assumption.
    __________________


    24Feb05

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Galoot
    I'm 80% there!



    Welcome, Galoot! We kinda have fun here, messing around with writing.

    Too many people don't burn their first novels (Hemingway dropped his over the side of a ship in mid-Atlantic, which also counts). That's an excellent first step.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lenora Rose
    Have you found particular pros and cons to this? Do you have specific advice for collaborating successfully, and is your usual way of collaborating (Which you suggest at in things like the intro to The Stars Asunder) much like the methods of other collaborators you know?



    There are as many different ways of collaborating as there are different collaborators. All of them, however, depend on one thing: the collaborators bring different strengths to the mix, and work in their area of strength.

    Some alternate chapters, each one trying with a cliffhanger ending to put the partner in a "what do I do now?" situation. It's a goad to getting the work finished, and turns the project into a game. (Eventual publication is a happy benefit.) Others hash out what will happen verbally; the writing either could do as a mechanical process afterward. I've heard of another set of collaborators wherein one person lay on a couch sending thought-waves to the other, who sat in a different room transcribing them. It may seem wacky, but they thought of themselves as collaborators, and who's to say they were wrong?

    All of thes have one thing in common: They involve getting the words on paper.


    Quote:
    How much input do you think another person should have on the final product before they stop being a first reader/draft editor/copyeditor and start counting as an actual partner? Do they have to be involved from the zero draft, or can they come in later if they end up changing the plot enough?

    That's a real "let your conscience be your guide" kind of question. In my own case, all that Dr. Doyle added to one story was three linebreaks... and she got co-author credit. In another, entire chapters were hers alone, and I got co-author credit. We long ago decided that the way our partnership worked, the amount of "writing" wasn't what counted. I get final say on what happens, she gets final say on how it's said, and we continue.

    I will say this: Collaboration on fiction is the closest relationship two people can have. Perhaps that will help you decide the difference between a beta reader and a collaborator. Or -- if whether to make a particular change is your decision alone, and you can make it or not without caring how the other person feels about your decision, you aren't collaborating.

    __________________




    A week with working writers and acquiring editors



    ______________________________


    28Feb05

    Originally Posted by black winged fighter
    This has been bothering me for a long time, and now I finally have a community to ask:
    How hard is it to get published by a USA publisher/UK publisher if you live in Saudi Arabia or Dubai? Or anywhere else, for that matter.
    Insight would be incredibly welcome.


    Sold my first short story and two novels while active duty deployed in the Republic of Panama. All you need for this business is a mailbox.

    (Oh, yes, and a story that grabs on and won't let go.)
    __________________

    Outside Links
    Two of 'em! This one's funny.

    This one not so much.

    All I can say is that's a stupid law, and should be treated with contempt. I will refrain from commenting on the intelligence of those who proposed the law, passed it, and are presently enforcing it.

    After what he did in Carrie I sure hope Stephen King doesn't try to visit Kentucky.....
    __________________
    Last edited by MacAllister; 04-29-2005 at 01:32 PM.

  3. #28
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    March 2005

    James D. Macdonald
    Learn Writing With Uncle Jim
    Absolute Write Water Cooler

    March 1, 2005


    Originally Posted by Eowen
    Given all that, I was wondering if Uncle Jim would be willing to answer some questions about some very specific instances where he has used song lyrics in some of his novels.
    Okay.

    First, how did you come up with the lyrics used in the Mageworlds novels?
    Wrote 'em.

    Are they in any way inspired by specific real folk songs, or are they wholy original?
    In one case, a WWI aviator's song ("Beside a Belgian Staminet"), which was itself a parody of a 19th c. dying hobo song ("Beside a Western Water Tank"). In the other, a song from the Klondike gold rush ("The Young Britsh Rancher"), which was a parody of Kipling's "Young British Soldier."

    Second, do any of the songs have verses that were not used in the novels?
    In those cases, no. In the cases of other songs, for other books, there are entire songs that aren't used at all.

    And for the non-musically inclined, do you have a better explanation than mine for why the song lyrics were more appropriate than a section of prose in the places where they were used? (My explanation is something along the lines of, It Just Fits.)
    It was something that was going on at the time (a drunken wake, for example), not the point of the scene. And it was brief. And funny all on its own. And -- if I were writing those books today I might not have used them.

    Finally, did you have any particular melodies in mind for any of the lyrics you used? I ask because I can half hear certain folk songs in the back of my mind when I read the lyrics.
    I always have melodies in mind; that's what keeps the rhyme and meter working.

    One book, (Horror High #7, Pep Rally, by "Nicholas Adams" was based entirely on a song -- but that was special circumstances. The series editor had gone on maternity leave without comissioning the last two books of the series, but without telling anyone, either. So ... one day at the publisher's, they noticed when the printing date was coming up, that they didn't have a text to send to the printer. "Ooops!" they said, and called Known Fast Writers. We landed that one.

    The song ...

    We decided on a heroine who would be menaced. Her name was Rachel Atmore (changed to Cathy in the finished book, for reasons that ... well, it was stupid, but global search-and-replace fixed it). Story would have worked better with the original name. Y'see, as Rachel, her nickname would have been Rache, which is German for Revenge (Study in Scarlet, anyone?) which was her function in the plot. So, who was going to be dead for her to avenge? Her buddy, Jennie. Who became Jenny Buddy, thence Jenny Brody. Which led to the song, (to the tune of John Brown's Body)

    Jennie Brody's bloody body's bundled in a body bag,
    Jennie Brody's bloody body's bundled in a body bag,
    Jennie Brody's bloody body's bundled in a body bag,
    But her legs go marching on.

    Gory, gory, Jenny Brody....


    Which gave enough plot to drive the story.

    ________________________________

    As slush goes, Atlanta Nights is actually pretty good. It's got punctuation and most of the sentences have verbs.

    Atlanta Nights falls into the category of So Bad It's Good. Most of your basic slush falls into the categories of Bad, Just Plain Bad, and So Bad It's Bad.

    You want the Slushreading Experience? Go over to fanfiction.net, start anywhere, and read story after story for four straight hours.

    For far more on this, check out Slushkiller.


    I promise you: If you can write two consecutive pages of grammatical English with standard spelling you are already in the top ten percent of the slush heap. (This shouldn't give you too much hope, because the sales come from the top one percent, but still....)
    __________________

    To the tune of Okie from Muskogee

    We don't write 'bout zombies in Kentucky
    We don't write 'bout vamps or boogiemen
    We don't set our stories in the high schools
    Or cops will come and take us to the pen.
    __________________

    The usual response to reading slush is to suddenly discover that you're a much better writer than you thought you were.
    __________________

    Nevertheless, I promise you that some of the stories at fanfiction.net are good, because these are stories that can't be legally published (copyright and trademark violations if anyone tries).

    With the general run of on-line fiction, there's a ceiling to how good it is -- by the time someone is writing mysteries that are of publishable quality, they go off and get published. Not so of fanfic: No matter how good your Star Trek story is, if you weren't commissioned by Paramount, it's never going to be printed.

    Can you imagine going through all the stories there trying to find the good one? That's the slush heap.

    Okay, how many of you have seen the movie All That Jazz? Go see it, okay?

    Look at the opening scenes, with all the dancers on the bare stage. Think of those dancers as stories in the slush heap. See that guy in the boots, telling some of them to leave and asking some of them to stay? Think of him as the editor. See those guys sitting in the audience? They're the editor-in-chief and the publisher.
    __________________

    Hi, Andreas!

    My father lived and worked in Brasil for many years (for Eucatex, near Sao Paulo). Lessee about your questions:
    Originally Posted by aplath

    1) If I can get my act straight in english as far as grammar and spelling goes and assuming that my stories are worth translating from portuguese, do you think the fact that I'm a foreign writer would be a hindrance in any way when submiting my stories?
    No, where you live won't make any difference to US publications. The quality of the story really is what counts.

    2) Even though I believe my english is quite decent, having a few native english speakers beta readers is probably a good idea. Is it possible to find people willing to do that through the net (here for instance)?
    Yes, definitely get a native speaker or two among your beta-readers. Check out some of the on-line workshops, if you don't happen to have a native English speaker who lives nearby (and who would be interested).
    3) Although I realize that there are several paying markets for short stories in the US (and perhaps UK), I am not aware of them since I live abroad. Where can I find reliable information on those including genre and submission guidelines (and perhaps examples of what kind of stories they publish).
    How about the on-line version of Writer's Market?

    For Fantasy/Science Fiction, you could try ralan.com
    For mystery, try ClueLass
    For romance, try Gila Queen

    Many magazines have their own web pages with their guidelines listed. Once you know the name of the 'zine, start searching. (And, really, read an issue or two of any market you're planning to submit to. See if what you've written would fit there, and see if they've got a 'zine you'd want your work to appear in.)

    If you can lay your hands on any "Year's Best" anthologies, see where the stories first appeared. Those will be your top markets.
    __________________



    Originally Posted by reph
    Can someone whose chief identified strength is wit "learn" to produce commercially acceptable fiction pieces longer than one sentence?



    Yes, I believe so (else I'm wasting my time and everyone else's time here).

    Here's something for you to try. Take an old, bad joke.

    Write it out at short-story length, with description, dialog, scene, and so on.

    Here you go: Write this one at 5,000-7,500 words. Modern, realistic. Then send it out to paying markets 'til Hell won't have it:

    There are these two guys going on a skiing vacation. They drive way up into Vermont, and they get lost. It's late, it's snowing, the roads are narrow and all look alike ... when they see a light on in a farmhouse. They pull up the drive and knock on the door.

    A beautiful young lady answers the door. They explain their predicament, and ask if they can stay the night.

    She says, "Yes, I suppose so, but it wouldn't be right for you to stay in the house, since I've recently become a widow and I'm alone here." They agree to stay in the barn.

    The next morning comes, the guys get up, the lady gives them breakfast and directions to the highway, and they're off. They have a great vacation.

    Nine months later...

    One of the guys is sitting in his office when he gets a long-distance phone call. He listens for a while, very quiet. Then he dials his buddy.

    He says, "Do you remember when we went on that vacation last year?"

    "Sure do," his buddy says.

    "And you remember getting lost?"

    "Yep, sure do."

    "And do you remember sleeping in the barn there?"

    "Yeah. The straw sure was scratchy."

    "Well, did you happen to wake up durning the night?"

    "Yeah, I did. I had to go to the bathroom."

    "And did you happen go up to the house?"

    "Well, there wasn't a toilet in the barn...."

    "And while you were up there, did you maybe make mad, passionate love with that nice young lady?"

    "Yeah, I guess I did...."

    "And did you happen to accidentally tell her you were me?"

    "I meant to tell you, honest!"

    "Well, I just got a call from her lawyer ... and she's died and left me fourteen million dollars in her will."

    -=--

    Note: The story you write doesn't have to be funny, or even have the same punchline. It can continue past that point. Other things can happen.

    Now, go write the story.
    __________________

    Maestrowork said: Ooo, Jim, that's good. Can I post that in "Exercise and Prompts"?
    Sure, Maestro. Just point back to here.

    Refinement on the exercise: take two old, bad, unrelated jokes, and combine them into a single story. Same requirements.
    __________________

    March 3, 2005



    Originally Posted by Mistook
    There's a lot of levels of bad, and amateur web fiction is down there, but I don't know if I like the whole karmic aspect of mocking these writers.




    These writers aren't being mocked, at least by me.

    First, when you've published something (and posting it on the web is publishing), that opens it up to comment.

    Second, if you want to see what typical slush looks like, that's what it looks like. (With the exception of the use of trademarked and/or copyrighted characters -- just global search-and-replace "Legolas" with "Busreail" and you've got it.)
    __________________

    A general observation
    Writers, on their web pages, should not include music. And they should especially not include the Floating Butterfly java script.
    __________________

    Welcome, Susan. Pipe up any time.

    There's nothing wrong with fanfic (and I've mentioned using it to learn some parts of storytelling waaaay upthread). And some of it is excellent. But (like the slush heap in general) most of it is less-excellent.

    Zane -- if you use the numbers/letters/roman numerals thing to outline, and you make it work -- more power to you.
    __________________


    Originally Posted by JohnLynch
    I also later found out that I use to enjoy reading your books way back in 1997 when I was just starting high-school. The library had the first three or so Circle of Magic books (no, don't ask me how I remembered that )




    Way back in '97 ... oh, dear. You make me feel old. But I'm glad you liked the books. (Pick up the last three and find out how it all turned out....)

    Nothing wrong with not wanting to be a pro writer, but still wanting to write as well as possible. For Your Own Enjoyment is the best possible reason to write. (But... if you're writing you are a writer. You can't escape.) __________________


    In case you haven't got enough things to waste your time, here's a page to help you check the popularity of your web page.

    Wax that cat!
    __________________

    Taken from Elsewhere
    I'm going to copy in a fairly long post of mine from the old board, from another thread there. While it's mostly about another publisher (one that I hope no one here is contemplating), I've got some general stuff about publishing that I think might be useful, and I don't think it should be buried elsewhere.

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


    Let us look at Denison "Denny" Hatch, PA author and apologist. In his article, About U.S. Book Publishing and PublishAmerica I believe we have the ur-source for a great deal of the nonsense that PA's Infocenter regularly spouts.

    Hatch is a real writer, with serious publishing experience (mostly in the 1960s-1980s).

    In the late '90s he wrote a book about Priceline.com:
    The priceline.com book is a business how-to title, but more a case study than anything else. My regular publishers were not interested; it did not fit their list.

    I sent it to Bloomberg and Wiley who turned me down. Suggested it to a Norton senior editor who said, "This is not my kind of book."
    By its looks, he's got a specialized non-fiction book with a defined niche. He's gotten some rejections. So he goes with the fast acceptance from PublishAmerica. So far, he says, he's satisfied.

    Fair enough, he's a big boy and can make his own decisions.

    As the author of a specialized non-fiction niche book, he's in one of the few places where a self-published author can make significant sales. Mr. Hatch is an expert in direct-mail marketing -- he's written several books on the subject -- so he knows something about marketing. If anyone is going to succeed at PublishAmerica, he's the guy. And if he'd left his comments at that, I wouldn't have a thing to say about his article.

    But now he's generalizing his experience to areas where it isn't applicable, and his comments are likely to mislead new authors who are considering PublishAmerica.
    Am I happy with PublishAmerica as opposed to a traditional publisher? So far, the answer is an emphatic YES.
    I note that he made that remark before his first PA royalties would have come in. Interesting that he said "as opposed to a traditional publisher," when PA spends so much time and makes such efforts to call themselves a "traditional publisher." But more on this anon.
    "Traditional book publishing is very efficient at one thing and one thing only: creating landfill. Otherwise, it is the most screwed-up, wasteful, and depressing business model ever cobbled together by people who should have known better and done something to change it."
    Mr. Hatch is doing an elaborate version of "all these people are just stupid."

    Come, come. Traditional book publishing is very efficient at one other thing: Getting books into the hands of the reading public. What this statement clearly establishes is that Denny Hatch doesn't understand how publishing works. He's looked at a set of complex interlocking non-intuitive systems, and decided that the only reason publishers do things the way they do is because it's never occurred to them to try anything else.

    Part of what's going on in publishing is that publishers are running their advertising and product distribution through the same channel. Books are self-advertising. There's no such thing as a 100% success rate on any advertising message.

    In the case of mass market publishing, they're also piggybacking on existing distribution systems. There are associated costs, most notably stripped books, but piggybacking is cheaper than putting together a dedicated system to reach non-bookstore outlets.

    "The one-word profit killer-Returns" Denny says, noting that returns have been around since the 1930s, but not noting that publishing has apparently been conducted profitably every year since, and not noticing that even today bookstores have tiny profit margins. If you want to put a bunch of bookstores out of business, end the return system. That won't increase book sales. The returns system means there are lots more bookstores, and lots more books get shipped to them. Remember: A book on a shelf isn't just a product for sale. It's also an advertisement for itself.

    Denny then gives an example of how returns work -- but it's an extreme and untypical example:
    * A bookstore orders 20 copies of ABC by Sample A. Sample on a 60-day net payment arrangement.
    * Of those 20 copies, 4 sell within 40 days, leaving 16 in inventory.
    * Bookseller pays for the 4 copies it sold (at a discount of somewhere between 40% and 55%), and returns the unsold 16 copies.
    * Bookseller then orders 4 copies to keep in inventory.
    * Over the next 40 days bookseller sells 1 copy, leaving 3 in inventory.
    * Bookseller pays publisher for the one sold copy and returns the 3 unsold copies.
    * Bookseller orders 1 copy for inventory.
    Under this cockamamie business model, the publisher has shipped to the bookseller 25 copies in three shipments; the bookseller has returned 20 copies two shipments; the publisher has been paid for five copies that were sold and has 15 copies sitting in the warehouse gathering dust. Yes, the bookseller pays for return shipping. But the publisher has printed books and paid for all the handling and warehousing. Profitability is impossible.
    Of the twenty books printed in the example he gives, five have sold. That's a 25% sell-through he's showing. Under that cockamamie example, author "Sample A. Sample" would be well-advised to change his name and his agent, grow a beard, and move to another state before he tries to publish anything else. More typically, paperbacks see a 60% sell-through. Hardcovers get a 70% sell-through. Everyone makes money, everyone's happy.

    Sell-through can dip to 50%, and people won't be as happy, but they'll still be making money.

    Publishers know there are costs associated with publishing a book. Distribution and shipping are among those costs. They plan for them, budget for them, and set prices to cover them.

    If profitability is impossible, how is it that publishers demonstrably make profits?

    As the Author's Guild reports, "returns have never been important enough to cause fundamental economic trouble."

    Here's what the returns policy really gets you: More bookstores can open in more towns. More writers can write more books, and more marginal books can be published. Readers can find a wider selection on the shelves.

    A realistic example? The bookstore orders five, sells three, returns two. Those two hang around the warehouse. They may be shipped to another bookstore, or they may be remaindered.

    Denny worked in publishing, he's been an author, he must know that the story he's presenting is bogus. Why is he putting out bad information? Perhaps one reason he's slagging off the returns system is because PA doesn't do returns. He's trying to present this as a good thing.

    In the real world, what a no-returns policy does is kill any chance PA authors might have had of getting real bookstore distribution.
    So how do publishers make money?

    * One way is to sign up guaranteed best sellers by Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Bob Woodward, Andrew Weil, J.K. Rowling, or Princess Di's butler.
    If there really is a "guaranteed" best seller it's the best-kept secret in publishing.

    Before he sold his first novel, Carrie, Stephen King was a guy living in a trailer in Maine, working nights in an industrial laundry and selling short stories to men's skin mags. Rowling was a single mother living on the dole in Edinburgh. Crichton was a newly graduated MD, unknown by anyone outside of his family and friends. How did the publishers who bought those authors' first novels know they were "guaranteed best sellers"?

    By the time you know some author is a bestseller, they'll have top-gun agents who will have raised their asking price to right around the maximum the publisher is willing to pay. Not only that, but their current publisher will have their next several books signed up already. Suppose I ran a publishing house, and I wanted to guarantee a best seller. Could I say, "Well, I'll just publish the next Harry Potter novel"? No, I couldn't. It isn't for sale to me at any price.

    As to the celebrity books -- they're a tiny part of the market. Three to seven percent. When they do well, they provide cash to pay for smaller works by less-well-known authors.
    * Or they shoot craps and get very, very lucky, as they did with Hillary Clinton and Laura (Seabiscuit) Hillenbrand.
    Why didn't Denny put Hillary in the "guaranteed best seller" category? To Laura (Seabiscuit) Hillenbrand you can add Charles (Cold Mountain) Frazier, Nicholas (The Notebook) Sparks, Jennifer (Good in Bed) Weiner, and every other published novelist with two books in your favorite bookstore.

    Spotting likely books is why editors get salaries and have job titles. When one is shooting craps, the man who understands the odds and knows when to fade the shooter has an edge over the man who doesn't. An even better analogy for publishing would be professional card-counters playing blackjack.

    As one major poker player puts it: "Your job is not to win hands. It's to make good bets." That's what real editors and publishers are doing. They're trying to make good bets. Not every bet succeeds. Not every hand they stay with to the end will win. But if they do it right, they'll make money.
    * Or they come out with a hot subject, such as Soctt Berg's biography of Katherine Hepburn that made it onto bookstore shelves less than two weeks after she died.
    Berg's biography of Hepburn had been written (and sold) years before. It wasn't released until after Ms. Hepburn's death, at her request.

    Denny should have put Princess Di's Butler and Bob Woodward in this category.
    * Or they have a series, such as Norton's Aubrey-Maturin nautical adventures by Patrick O'Brien that keep attracting new readers and continue sell year after year (with serious help from Peter Weir's film version of Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe).
    The Jack Aubrey series was popular long before there was a movie. Russell Crowe was only five years old in 1969 when the first book came out. In fact, O'Brien died in 2000; the film was released in 2003. That series isn't popular because there was a movie; the movie was made because the series was popular. So add to that "crap shoot" above, Patrick ( Master and Commander) O'Brien.

    Who made the Jack Aubrey books sell? The readers, that's who. Readers who found the books in bookstores. Fully returnable books. Readers who recommended the books to one another. That's what really did it. Readers buy books for the same reasons you do.
    * Or they build up a critical mass of special-interest titles that appeal to specific markets (e.g., titles on cooking, automobiles, boats, gardening, health and fitness, crafts, music, etc.)
    Specialized non-fiction will sell to those who want that specialized information. People don't buy nonfiction books by publisher. They buy them by interest, by recommendations from knowledgeable sources, or they can recognize the sound of expertise. Publishers can specialize too. That means that their editors know What the Foo about the subject, and will know if an author is talking rot, or providing information that isn't readily available elsewhere. It's always about the reader.

    And wait one red-hot minute here. All the books Denny has been mentioning are sold under the same returns system that he just got done saying made profits impossible. If the returns system alone is the problem, you don't address it by running different content through it. The only way his examples can be profitable is if their sales patterns are significantly different from the example he gave at the beginning.

    How do publishers actually make money? They know books and they know readers. They know them as well as they possibly can. That's why they can publish some very odd books by unknowns and still keep the lights on. This isn't just a game of chance, it's a game of skill.
    My first job was in book publishing-writing press releases and getting authors on radio and television-for the trade book division of Prentice-Hall. The year was 1960, during which 15,000 new titles were published. Today, 150,000 new titles are published every year, so you will quickly realize that all across the country, book warehouses have walls bulging and floors sagging with unsold books (a.k.a. future landfill).
    What Hatch fails to mention is that book sales have gone up as the number of new titles have gone up. Books are no longer selling in 1960 quantities. The number of bookstores has increased by an order of magnitude. More people are buying more books than ever before.
    My first boss in the business, children's book publisher Franklin Watts, was a hard living, hard drinking ex-traveling book salesman who used to storm into the office every year on his birthday and announce loudly, "Do not wish me many happy returns! There is no such thing as a happy return!"
    Mr. Watts was just making a publishing joke about "many happy returns." He wasn't formally denouncing the returns system, and it's absurd to read him as though he were.

    PublishAmerica doesn't have any traveling book salesmen, hard living, hard drinking, or not.
    For a bookstore to stock just one copy of every new book published would require an additional 3-1/2 miles of shelving every year-and that is spine out.

    For the full cover to be displayed would require 14 miles of shelving. Stacked on top of each other, these 150,000 books would be the equivalent of 14 Sears Towers. Bookstores have access to this avalanche of titles and they can be special ordered and delivered in as little as a day or two.
    Ah ha! The origin of PublishAmerica Infocenter's infamous "15 feet of new bookshelf each and every day" meaningless statistic! Many books are published, and yet it's observable that books find space on shelves. Remember that in the example that Hatch himself gave at the start of his article, the net change in bookstore shelving required was zero, and five books were sold.

    Bookstores don't try to stock one copy of every new book published. A good number of those books aren't meant for bookstore sales in the first place -- law books, book club editions, encyclopedias, textbooks, catalogs, reference books, etc.

    For the rest of the titles, bookstore managers and chain store buyers choose how many of which ones they want to stock in their stores, then keep a close eye on which ones are selling. Chain buyers live and die by their weekly sales figures.

    What you should remember is that taken as a whole, all trade books are intended for bookstore display. If you take the set of all trade books and all bookstores, most of them get that display. (And not just in dribs and drabs, one here, two there, if the author comes in and begs.)

    Books with longer print runs have more copies on more bookstore shelves. Books with shorter print runs have fewer copies on fewer bookstore shelves. About the same percentage of each run is shelved.

    Reality check: Hatch is saying that it's impossible to achieve what we can observe for ourselves is happening every day.

    While titles come and titles go, bookshelves remain.
    In the immortal words of publishing guru Dan Poynter, "Bookstores are a lousy place to sell books."
    And if, like Dan Poynter, you're self-published and self-promoting, it's probably true. Here perhaps we see the origin of Miranda Prather's astounding comment, "It's a common myth that bookstore placement equals sales."

    Publishers distribute their books to bookstores because that's where they sell best.

    Bookstore placement is great for sales -- really, the best starting point known. Lack of bookstore placement kills sales for commercial trade books, particularly novels.

    If bookstores aren't a good place to sell books, name me another venue that will sell twenty thousand copies of your book in a year.
    Authors are a publisher's major asset. Without authors, the publishing industry would not exist.

    So how do publishers treat aspiring authors?

    Quite simply, we are treated like dirt.

    The odds are that an unknown author sending in a query to a book publisher by mail or e-mail will get no response. Or a brush-off answer such as, "We do not accept unsolicited material" or "We only accept manuscripts from recognized agents."
    Remember that "We do not accept unsolicited material" means "Send a query first," and "We only accept manuscripts from recognized agents" means "Get an agent." If you're hearing either of those lines, it means you didn't follow that publisher's guidelines.

    Worth noting is that 80% of books sold to major publishers come through agents. The other 20% of the titles that major publishers print the authors sell on their own.

    While we're at it, having a publisher tell you that they don't want to publish your book isn't the same thing as treating you like dirt.

    Oh -- and authors aren't a publisher's major asset. Publishable manuscripts are.
    Those publishers that do encourage authors to send in manuscripts throw them into a "slush pile" where they sit for weeks or months until some supercilious twenty-something who could not write his or her way out of a paper bag gives it the once-over and sends a rejection slip. For example, my manuscript languished in the Wiley slush pile for over a month.

    In fact, the idea that a writer's work is confined to a "slush pile"-as if all unpublished manuscripts were "slush"-is, to me, truly offensive. Another offensive term book publishers use to describe an marked-up manuscript proofs: "foul matter."
    I'm sorry for his sensibilities. (Though I find it amusing that he described what he was doing from 1976 to the late '90s as "writing junk mail." Isn't the term "junk mail" offensive to direct mail advertisers?) All unpublished manuscripts aren't slush. Only unsolicited ones are.

    But back, for a moment, to that "supercilious twenty-something who could not write his or her way out of a paper bag." Remember who your readers are. They'll include supercilious twenty-somethings who can't write their way out of paper bags, standing in front of a bookshelf at Barnes&Noble trying to decide on a book to read during their lunch hour. Feel fortunate if they give your book the "once over." Be respectful of your audience, my friend. They're paying your bills.

    More on those first-pass slush readers: Regardless of their age, their sympathy, or their writing ability, they're sorting out the books that are obviously unsuitable (the epic poem submitted to the non-fiction house, the hard-core porn to the Christian inspirational publisher, the book by a schizophrenic who is unable to form complete sentences, etc.) and handing the remainder off to experienced editors.
    In short, traditional publishers are snotty and patronizing to authors unless your name is Ken Follet, or Tom Clancy.
    I can just see the scene at the Naval Institute Press when the manuscript for Tom Clancy's first novel arrived:
    Editor One: "Ha ha! I have given this book, The Hunt for Red October, the once-over. Quick, fetch the snotty rejection slip!"

    Editor Two: "Be respectful! That's Tom Clancy! Soon he will be a best seller!"
    Or over at Everest Books:
    Editor One: "Look at this book! The Big Needle by Simon Myles! A tawdry crime thriller. Doesn't he know that I am a supercilious twenty-something who can't write? Let me reject it in a patronizing manner, then brew up a cup of tea!"

    Editor Two: "Be respectful! That's Ken Follett writing under a pseudonym!"
    In sober fact, when new slush readers first come in contact with slush, after their eyes get back to normal size and they catch their breaths, they realize that they're much better writers than they thought they were.

    Denny's argument isn't with publishing, it's with the English language. He doesn't like the word "slush"? My heart bleeds. He doesn't like the term "foul matter"? That's production-speak for pages with pencil marks on 'em; it has nothing to do with the quality of the words on those pages.

    What he's doing is playing with word associations in an attempt to create a false impression. While he may not be ignorant of the real meanings of those words, he's betting that his readers are.

    If you're taking the word "slush" as an affront, and failing to read the submission guidelines, and can't tell "we don't want to buy your book" from "we think you're dirt," perhaps you shouldn't be giving advice to new writers.

    The overall impression that Mr. Hatch gives is that he thinks a publisher's editorial department doesn't exist. That there can't possibly be people who can judge a book's saleability, so it must be pure chance that Bloomsbury spotted both J. K. Rowling and Susannah Clarke.

    Editors work, day in and day out, year after year, on books: Editing and packaging and selling thereof; and yet (according to Denny) they can't possibly calculate the probable sales of a new author's book.

    Why are publishers forever wanting to know what other books this new book is like? It's not because they think all books should be alike. It's because there are sales figures on those other books. They want to be able to tell the printing plant to print 5,000 copies, or 50,000, or 500,000.


    We move on to a section called "About Agents," where we learn that agents are horrible, except for his agent, who was a prince among people. (This is much like folks' attitudes toward lawyers: Lawyers are money-grubbing land sharks, except for their lawyer, who stands one notch below Superman in his defense of truth, justice, and the American way.)

    What's wrong with agents according to Denny? They try to get their authors the best deals they can. Wooooo! And what's wrong with that?

    According to Hatch again:
    ...many a deal has been queered by an avaricious agent trying to hold a publisher up for a big advance. And my guess is that 90 percent of all books never earn out their advance.
    A deal queered by an avaricious agent? No. Not unless the agent gets huffy and walks away. Otherwise, the agent asks for the sun, moon, and stars, the publisher replies with a small non-metallic asteroid, and after that it's all dickering.

    The agents who queer "many a deal" don't stay in business too long. Minor quibble -- it isn't 90% of all books that never earn out their advances, it's 70%. This would seem bad enough, but you must understand that its entirely possible for a publisher to make a profit on a book that doesn't earn out. All that "Didn't earn out" means is that the publisher paid a higher-than-contracted-for royalty rate. If I can be allowed to make my own guess, the books that didn't earn out by twenty bucks far outnumber the ones that didn't earn out by twenty thousand. Best sellers cover a lot of shortfalls.

    This, though, may well be the origin of PA's claim that most books don't pay royalties. It's because the separate royalty checks only come after the book earns out -- that is, earns royalties in excess of the advance already paid to the author. What you need to remember is that the advance itself is a royalty payment -- paid in advance. Publishers like to set the advance equal to what they think the author's final earnings will be. The higher the advance, the more they expect to sell. This should make you wonder exactly how many copies a publisher expects to sell if they set the advance at $1.00.

    There's another reason Denny may be trying to poison new writers' minds against agents: Legitimate agents won't touch PublishAmerica.
    However, publishers and authors must beware of agents. They make money only when they sell something and get a commission. If an agent represents an author to a publisher, his aim is to get as fat an advance as possible-money paid up front against future royalties.
    Yes, that's how it works. But a good agent isn't always going to aim for the biggest advance, period. There are lots of other considerations. An agent will try to get the best deal with a publisher who will publish the book well. That isn't always the highest advance.

    Now on to page two.

    Denny gives a pretty good description of offset. Then he immediately gets himself in trouble when he moves on to POD.

    First off, what he's describing isn't Print On Demand -- it's digital printing technology. Keeping the terms equivalent is one of the basic requirements of comparisons.
    A radical new printing process has been devised whereby books can be printed economically one at a time on a giant photocopy machine that requires little or no set-up time.
    The word you need to watch out for there is "economically." Mr. Hatch wants you to think it means that digital printing technology can print books as or more economically than offset presses. They don't. The current generation of digital printing technology prints books more economically than last-generation digital printing technology, and it prints them more economically than an offset press would if you used it to print five copies. When you're printing books in any kind of quantity, offset printing only costs a fraction as much as digital printing technology.

    Print on Demand has been around since the days of monks hand copying manuscripts. Digital printing is faster and more economical than those monks. Digital printing isn't faster and more economical for printing commercial quantities of commercial trade books than an offset press. By a weird coincidence your competition for trade books, the books that wind up in bookstores, is using offset presses.
    A great many forces are at work trying to stop this extraordinary development (e.g., book printers, binders, paper companies-all of whom stand to lose a lot of business if the book publishing industry goes to POD (Print On Demand). What is more, the book trade stands to be turned on its ear if POD is widely accepted.
    This paragraph is ... deeply mistaken ... from start to finish. Papermakers don't care how ink gets transferred to paper. Their interest stops the moment the paper leaves the mill. Printers and binders aren't worried; they know they're in a different line of work and digital technology isn't their competition. If readers suddenly decided to buy books sight unseen and wait days or weeks to get them, that would certainly turn the book trade on its ear. There's no reason to believe that's going to happen.
    Yet in terms of inventory management, this is efficient. It saves money, saves trees, saves gasoline (books being transported to and from warehouses). Without question, this is the future of book publishing.
    Without question? Doesn't take me two seconds to question it. Print on demand doesn't save any of those things; it probably costs more. It's a business model based on a technology that has no economies of scale. It was designed to do a few copies at a time. There's a real use for that. But digital print technology as we know it now is not going to supplant offset printing and a distribution system that sends millions of books to thousands of stores.

    All the digital printing equipment in the country right now couldn't keep up with one week's demand for one current bestseller -- and there are a lot of bestsellers hitting the bookstores every week. There are a lot more books hitting the stores that aren't bestsellers, but will sell just fine and turn a small profit just the same. Digital printing technology is not the wave of the future. At the moment, it's like e-books: a small but interesting component of the future.
    As Dan Poynter says, "Print on Demand is not a way of printing; it's a way of doing business."
    You don't need to quote Dan Poynter: You can quote me. Print on Demand is a business model. You could conceivably Print On Demand with linoleum blocks. Digital printing is a technology.

    Do traditional publishers use the Print on Demand business model? Depends on how you look at it, but ... if they figure a particular title will sell 5,000 copies, they'll tell their printers to run off 7,000. If they figure the title will sell 50,000 they'll tell their printers to print 70,000. If the publisher is wrong, and there's more demand, they'll tell the printer to run off more. (That's what the terms "second printing" and "back to press" mean.)

    Do they use digital printing technology? Sure, when it's faster and cheaper than doing some job on an offset press. Otherwise, no. Remember that Print on Demand isn't the same thing as digital printing.
    Until recently, the entire publishing industry looked down its collective nose at authors who published their own works. Self-publishing was given the pejorative sobriquet of "vanity publishing."
    What's this "until recently" thing? As of this morning the entire publishing industry (right the way down to individual bookstore owners and readers in the street) continues to look down its nose at vanity publishing.
    Never mind that Rogers & Hammerstein and the Gershwins used to produce their own musicals, that a many actors and directors formed their own production companies to create their own films, or that politicians spend quantities of their own money to get themselves elected.
    And isn't that startlingly irrelevant? Shall we mention plumbers who are expected to bring their own tools to the job too?
    For some reason a vanity author was (and is) considered slime.
    No, not slime. Just a vanity author.
    Further, vanity publishers-who operated under the old offset printing model-tended to be terrible shysters. They would charge an author for the setup, for printing, for binding, and for storage-often with a 500-book minimum. A year later there might be 400 copies left in the warehouse, whereupon the publisher would write the author and say that unless the author wanted to buy these 400 copies, they would be turned into landfill. But the author had already bought and paid for the 400 copies! The publisher was going to charge double. Most authors did not know the difference, could not bear the thought of their work being trashed, and paid up.
    So? No one has said that going with a vanity press was a good idea. (I note, in passing, that Mr. Hatch knows one vanity publisher very well: Before he founded PublishAmerica, Willem Meiners ran a straight-up vanity press, Erica House. Is Mr. Hatch describing Mr. Meiners' business practices?)

    No one reads slush for fun. No one reads slush twice without getting paid to do it. Why not? Because most times those books suck. Even if vanity-printed books don't suck, the fact that they look like other sucky vanity books the reader has seen means the reader won't go near them.

    Vanity presses cheat their authors, play with their ignorance, and prey on their dreams. Granted.
    However POD now has two meanings: (1) Print on Demand and (2) Publish on Demand. Print on Demand has been previously discussed. "Publish on Demand" means an author is paying to have a book published. POD (Print on Demand) is good; most traditional publishers are using it for back titles-printing as needed. POD (Publish on Demand) is held by many in the same low esteem that vanity publishing was years ago.
    It looks like we've found the original source for this particular piece of PublishAmerica Infocenter twaddle. PublishAmerica is the only operation that uses these definitions and makes this distinction between Print on Demand and Publish on Demand.

    Print On Demand and Publish On Demand are actually interchangeable terms. The only purpose for promulgating this nonexistent distinction is so that PublishAmerica can claim that whatever bad things you've heard about POD publishing operations apply only to the other kind of POD.

    Now the article moves in for the kill:
    Enter Publish America
    PublishAmerica is the brainchild of two disaffected entrepreneurs. One of the partners is Larry Clopper, a laid-back, bearded American who unsuccessfully tried to get two books published and became roundly disgusted with the publishing world. The second partner is an enormous, larger-than-life Dutchman named Willem Meiners who can speak with passion about books and publishing at one moment and can turn around and rip off a Bach fugue on a church organ or cocktail music on an old upright piano. Both Clopper and Meiners had a vision that they wanted to do something would enable unpublished authors to see their books in print.
    Nothing that Denny's said about Willem and Larry is pertinent to their publishing expertise.

    What we have here seems to be two guys who couldn't get their books published, so they founded their own vanity press. That's been a pretty common pattern since digital printing technology has lowered the startup cost.

    The problem has never been that unpublished authors can't get their books into print. The problem is that some authors write books with insufficient appeal to the reading public for them to be economically viable. PublishAmerica can put those books in print. What it can't do, and doesn't try to do, is get them read.
    Founded in 1999, PublishAmerica takes no money from authors with the exception that we can buy from them our books at a discount.
    And that's the real kicker, isn't it? That's one heck of an exception. Breezed over in that one line is the heart and soul of PublishAmerica's operation.

    Authors love their own books and will tell everyone they know about them. They plus their friends and relations will, on average, buy around 75 copies of their book if there's no other way to get it. PublishAmerica knows that if they do a cheapjack job on production, use modern digital printing technology with its super-low setup costs, and price the books high enough (considerably higher than other comparable books printed on the same digital presses), they can make a profit off those 75 copies.

    That's the beauty of it: No matter how good or how bad their books are, PA is bound to make money. The authors plus friends and relations are always going to buy enough copies for PA to make a tidy profit. Under those circumstances, it's not necessary for PublishAmerica to get reviews, bookstore distribution, and library placement -- and, in fact, they don't. They don't even try.

    When the author buys his own books, the business model is pure vanity press. Old-style vanity presses needed the author to buy 500 copies to make their profit? PA's figured out how to make a profit on fifty.
    Otherwise, the principals are pathologically averse to taking cash from their authors-even to the point of refusing to sell or recommend publicity and promotion services-for fear of being labeled a Publish On Demand company.
    Odd that Mr. Hatch should use the word "pathologically." But listing publicity and promotion services isn't what makes a press a vanity press. It's selling books primarily to their own authors that makes a press a vanity press. They refuse to offer or recommend publicity and promotion services because they don't care about sales. Sales are a bother and a distraction. They don't even care about being labeled a "Publish on Demand" company (a term they made up themselves). The thing they want to avoid being called is a vanity press, although that's what they are.

    ===========
    Update: PublishAmerica currently links to publicity and promotion services from their web page.
    ===========

    PublishAmerica has no aversion to taking cash from their authors. They put excessively high cover prices on their books -- effectively, a surcharge -- and wait for the authors to pay it. They routinely send mail to their authors urging them to buy their own books. That's where they get their income. It certainly doesn't come from retail book purchases.
    So when Publish America told me the book had been accepted, I went to the Website to see who they were and what they did. The featured book that day was 1001 Ways to Market Your Book by John Kremer. I knew Kremer to be a first rate book promotion guy and figured it PublishAmerica was okay for Kremer it was okay by me. I signed with PublishAmerica.
    Mr. Hatch submitted a book to a publisher that he hadn't checked out? He only looked at their website after his book was accepted? Since PublishAmerica isn't listed in Writer's Market, how did he find PA if not from their web site?

    Denny somehow failed to notice that John Kremer didn't publish with PublishAmerica. 1001 Ways to Market Your Book came out from Open Horizons. All that PublishAmerica had done was link to Kremer's book.

    You wouldn't think a man who'd worked in junk mail all those years would make a mistake like that. For one thing, the business he was in doesn't attract naive do-gooders. For another, direct mail specialists are all about paying attention to the tiny fine details of their advertisements, because they can chart the effectiveness of one detail vs. another by tracking the response percentages of each variant of the same mailing. These are the guys who know exactly which shade of blue used to print the "signature" on a letter will bring in the most responses.

    So, here we have a published author shopping for a new publisher, who uncritically buys into that publisher's misleading ad, and fails to notice that John Kremer, whom he professes to admire, is not published by them.

    If he's being disingenuous he's dishonest, and you shouldn't take his advice. If he's being honest then he's not too bright, and you still shouldn't take his advice.
    The contract I signed: I receive a $1 good faith advance. Standard royalties. Split 50-50 extra rights (books clubs, mass-market paperback, film, TV, etc.). PublishAmerica arranges for the ISBN# (the standard book identification number registered with the Library of Congress) and gets it listed on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and all the other online book selling services.
    The ISBN comes from Bowker. The copyright is registered (at the author's expense) with the Library of Congress.

    What's *not* registered with the Library of Congress is the book's CIP (Cataloging-in-Publication) data. This is the coded information the Library of Congress assigns to other publishers' books, to be printed on their copyright pages for the use of librarians. It's extremely difficult to make any library sales without one. PA lies about this, but the reason they have no CIP data is that the Library of Congress won't issue it to books published by vanity presses. Not only will PA authors not see their books in bookstores; they won't see them in libraries, either. (Standard exception: Author goes in person, gets down on his knees, begs.)

    PA's royalties aren't standard. Standard royalties are calculated on the book's cover price. PA calculates royalties on the book's net price. There's no way that Denny Hatch, a published author, wouldn't know that.

    PA's 50-50 subrights split is illusory. Their books sell in negligible quantities, and they make no effort to market their subrights. There'll be no book club or mass-market editions. How often have you seen movies or TV shows based on a PublishAmerica book? They might as well write in subrights splits for sales to alien planets, or serialization on cupcake wrappers. Doesn't matter. They're not going to happen.

    What do PA books really get? Same thing every other vanity press book gets: Listings at Amazon and BN.com, on the publisher's website, and on other online bookselling services. And when you're talking about an unedited unreviewed unheard-of book by an unknown author, sales from online stores are as close to nothing as you can get.
    The company will also send the author two finished copies of his book. And that is basically that. All books are first published as trade paperbacks. If the title has legs, it might get hardcover treatment. The contract promises that book orders will be fulfilled-either by them or by the central book printing and fulfillment company, Ingram. Books that are ordered can be delivered within a week. And, oh yes, PublishAmerica will not take returns.
    And that basically is that. The word "published" slides in under its very minimum definition.

    "If the title has legs"? I assume he's talking about the Independence Books imprint. As of this morning, PA has 7,674 books listed at Amazon. Of those, exactly six have those "legs." That's a terrible record. That's eight one-hundredths of one percent of all PublishAmerica books.

    In the autumn after Denny wrote his article, Ingram, which is the largest book distributor in the country, stopped stocking POD books -- including PublishAmerica's. If success was desperately hard for PA's authors to achieve before, it was now something close to impossible. Months later, PA has still not acknowledged that Ingram's change of policy was a disaster for their authors.
    The author pays nothing to get published. However, the process of editing, copy editing and legal vetting (if necessary) are up to the author.
    That doesn't sound too bad, unless you know how much a good edit costs. A very clean manuscript with no structural problems might get edited for a three-figure sum, but four figures is what most PA authors are going to be looking at -- unless they skip over all the editing, copyediting, proofreading, and other pre-press production work.

    One interesting thing about Denny Hatch's remarks here is that on its website, PublishAmerica says it edits its authors' books, and you'll find a huge number of PublishAmerica authors who believe that their books will be, or have been, edited.

    PA doesn't actually edit. Hatch is quite right in saying that if you want your PA title properly edited you'll have to pay extra to have someone do it; but that unhappy fact is not known to the general run of PA authors.
    In addition, publicity and promotion are up to the author, which sounds at first like a huge disadvantage compared to being published with a traditional publishing house.
    That sounds like a huge disadvantage ... because it is.

    The most an author can do in the way of publicity and promotion is less effective than the least you can expect a conventional publisher to do for your modest first novel. If a conventional publisher puts out a novel that sells 2,500 copies, everyone nods sympathetically, says well, it is a first novel after all, and prepares to do better with the author's second novel. If a PA title sold 2,500 copies, they'd declare a national day of rejoicing.

    The other difference is that the author who's being published by the conventional house will spend the next year writing another book. The PA author will have spent it doing promotion, and is out of pocket for all the associated expenses.

    For those PublishAmerica authors, the path is always a steep uphill climb. PA doesn't take returns. They don't offer the full standard bookseller's discount. The cover prices are higher than comparable books. The book's packaging -- its cover design, cover copy, all those little fine points that help a book insinuate itself into a reader's hands -- is perfunctory. And among people who know bookselling and publishing, the publisher's reputation is terrible. They know PA stands for "Publish Anything."

    It would literally be easier for these authors to get bookstores to take their books if they'd had them run up by a local printer with no pretensions to being called a publisher.
    However, a publisher with 600 titles a year is able to give each title about half a day's worth of publicity. In actuality, each title gets much, much less, since the "big books" by the "star authors" (those in which the company has invested the most money) get the major attention by the publicity department. Any non-best-selling author gets back-of-the-hand, perfunctory treatment by publicity departments and had better figure on doing his or her own promotion or the book will die.
    First, he's skewed the figures, the same trick he tried earlier with his example of returns. His numbers here only work if you assume the publisher only has one publicist. 600 titles in a year is a large publisher, not a small one. I find it hard to believe that a large publisher would only have one person doing publicity. At a real publisher about half the staff is in the publicity and marketing departments. Second, a good publicist handles multiple books every day -- writing a press release for one, sending out galleys for another, excerpting quotes for a third, setting up a signing for a fourth. The concept of a half-day of publicity per title is nonsensical. Nobody calculates publicity in those terms. Third, publishers put their resources where they'll do the most good. This doesn't usually include lavishing huge amounts of hype on a nice modest little first novel. However, it doesn't mean no effort is made to promote them. Every best-selling author once published a first novel. Describing the efforts made on behalf of such books as "back-of-the-hand perfunctory treatment" implies a degree of callousness publishers don't feel. Fourth, publicity is only one aspect of the book's promotion. A real publisher has a real catalog, and a real sales force to sell the books in it. No PA title ever gets that.

    Remember, what the conventional publishing industry would consider a very modest sales record for a very modest book, PublishAmerica would regard as a complete miracle. And in their case, it would be.

    Denny Hatch should know all this ... after all, his first job, he says, "was in book publishing-writing press releases and getting authors on radio and television-for the trade book division of Prentice-Hall." Therefore, I conclude, he's deliberately lying.
    A first hand example was the case of my third novel, The Stork which got no reviews. In desperation I surveyed the major reviewers across the country who replied that they had never heard of the book and had never received a copy for review. It turned out that on the day the publicity department was to work on my book, a new publicity director took over. In the transition, none of the labels were generated and sent to the warehouse. I was devastated. Two years of my life were shot.
    No mailing labels were sent to the warehouse? As in, mailing finished copies out to reviewers? What happened to all the advance copies that should have gone out a month or two or three earlier? And why didn't the person responsible for generating the labels take care of it the next day, or the day after? This story does not add up.

    But let's assume it was true. What it tells us is that there was a screwed-up situation that day at Morrow -- and that that wasn't normal. You don't have a publicity department screwup if you don't have a publicity department.

    If true, it's an example of bad things happening to good books. And bad things do happen. But it's also an example of how your worst day at a major publisher will be better than your best day at PublishAmerica.

    I bet that when Denny complained to Morrow about his book not getting sent out for review, that the answer that came back wasn't "don't take that tone with us," and a note than any future correspondence from him would be discarded unread. Furthermore, I'll bet that his book (a hardcover) was distributed to bookstores all over the country. I also notice that it went to mass market paperback a year later, and was optioned for film. And I'll make one more bet that the advance check was substantially more than one dollar.

    I'd really like a look at the front and back covers of the Jove paperback edition. I'd be able to see whether there were any quotes from reviewers. Interesting question, eh?

    But let's say his story is true. He assumed that review copies would be sent out in advance of publication. With real publishers, advance reading copies and review copies are expected. With PublishAmerica we know that won't happen.
    The result is that PublishAmerica is closing in on 5,000 titles in print and legion of proud, enthusiastic authors is running around the countryside busily promoting their books. Where traditional publishers have to sell 5,000, 10,000, and sometimes 15,000 of a title before they break even, PublishAmerica needs sales that are a tiny fraction of that amount.
    Not to be confused with the legion of bitterly disappointed authors running around the countryside complaining to the legal authorities, the press, and anyone else who will listen about the shabby treatment they got from PublishAmerica, the false advertising, the broken promises, and the verbal abuse. The only true part is where he says PublishAmerica only needs sales that are a tiny fraction of conventional publishers' sales. They do indeed. That's why their authors are running all over the countryside trying to sell books, while PA sits on its collective arse and does nothing to help them.
    Instead of making authors feel like dirt, PublishAmerica is in the business of making authors feel good about themselves, their work and their value on this planet.
    This is assuming that publishers make authors feel like dirt. If so, you have to wonder why so many people want to be authors, and why they occasionally dedicate their books to their publishers and editors.

    But does PublishAmerica make their authors feel good? The answer is, it does. Some of them it makes rapturously happy. This lasts right up until the point when the book comes out. Then they discover that bookstores won't stock it, self-promotion won't sell it, reviewers won't touch it, and that all PA will do is sneer at them for not reading their (extremely deceptive) contract closely enough, and for thinking that anyone was going to want to buy their book in the first place.

    PA's most fervent supporters are their authors. Their most fervent detractors are also their authors. The divide between the two is clear cut: the detractors' books have been out for a while.

    PublishAmerica shouldn't be in the business of making authors feel good about themselves. They should be in the business of selling books to the public. As far as making authors feel like dirt, shall I quote one of the typical boilerplate letters PA's "Author Support Team" routinely sends to authors who question any aspect of PublishAmerica's business model?
    Dear XXX:

    Do not address us in such a tone. Your facts are wrong, your accusations are wrong, and your insinuations are wrong. Worst of all, and most unusual of all, you call our integrity into question.

    The content of your statements is so unusual, so far from reality, and so very bizarre, that we will not stoop to even respond to them. The word libelous would be appropriate. Suffice it to say, that everything you say is simply, factually, wrong, and is easily proven to be so. Whomever gave you this misinformation is very pathetically misinformed.

    Your request is denied, and we will expect your apology.

    Thank you,
    Author Support Team
    support@publishamerica.com
    Oh, yes. And unlike traditional book publishers, whose publicity departments schedule book signings and then forget to have books at the venue, all the books were there for us to sign.
    Sound of hollow laughter. If PA couldn't get the books in place for a signing where the company's owners were in attendance, well, that would be beyond lame.

    Actually, in the world of legitimate publishing, one of the biggest causes of signings where there are no books to sign is authors who are doing their own publicity. Manufacturing and shipping the quantities of books America's bookstores require is an industrial process. Inexperienced authors will schedule signings the day the book is scheduled to be released, not realizing that though there are now some copies, there aren't yet cartons and cartons available, or if there are, they may still be in transit.

    This is a different problem from that experienced by PA authors who set up signings. In their case, the company takes the order for the signing copies, has the author pay for them (including shipping) in advance, promises they'll arrive in time for the event, then blows it off. The books may arrive weeks later. This has happened repeatedly.
    The one hang-up to vast distribution of PublishAmerica titles is the no-returns policy.

    There are two other hang-ups: Very high cover prices and short discounts.

    But the royalty statement from my last book from a traditional publisher stated sales of 2,400 copies and returns of 3,000. Not pretty.
    Only 5,400 shipped, 3,000 of them were returned, and none of those went back out on reorders? That's painful.

    When those low orders came in, the publisher didn't cancel its announced pubdate and try to re-sell it in a later season, so they clearly understood it to be a small book. What one has to understand, then, is that having no returns system wouldn't mean those 3,000 copies would have gone out and stayed out. It means the book would never have been published in the first place. Who's going to eat the cost of those extra copies? The bookstores? No way. They have to stay in business. And it's no use saying that in a different system those 3,000 copies would never have been printed, because there's a big per-unit cost difference between printing 2,500 copies and printing 5,000 copies. If the publisher had only printed 2,500 copies, they'd have been obliged to charge more for the book, and it would have sold even worse than it did.

    Somewhere along the line, somebody has to take a chance. Taking returns means the publisher is the one making the bet. And that's only right, because he's the one who picked the book out, and packaged it, and did the advance sales work on it. So now he's out there saying "I'll bet you'll love this book. I bet it'll sell. I'll bet your customers will come back to see if there are any more like this one. I bet it'll do better for you than whatever book would otherwise occupy that piece of real estate. And what will I bet? The author's advance. The editor's salary. Production, art, sales, marketing, publicity, printing, shipping, and all the associated distribution costs. And if I'm wrong, you can send it back free of charge."

    Every book is a risk to somebody. If a publisher refuses to take returns, the risk has to land somewhere else. But on whom? Not the bookstores. If you think you can't get published now, try getting published in a system where every book that comes into a shop is a potential loss for the owner. "Proven sellers" doesn't begin to cover it. Alternately, the risk could be displaced to the authors. That's where PA offloads it. That's what vanity publishing is all about.

    I shake my head when I hear PA authors rhapsodizing about how PublishAmerica has "taken a chance" on them. That's exactly what PA hasn't done. Their model has PA making money no matter how badly your book tanks. They don't have to choose which books to publish; the only customers they count on are the people who'd buy a copy of that title if half its pages were upside-down. They take no risks at all.

    PublishAmerica has a particularly slick line of marketing patter, selling their services to aspiring authors. Denny Hatch is a professional marketer. He knows Willem and Larry personally, and went on a junket to Iceland with them. I wonder if we've just met the guy behind the infamous "Facts and Figures" page, the "Partnership with the New York Times" letter, and all the rest of PublishAmerica's marketing efforts.
    __________________
    The Confessions of Peter Crossman

    ________________________________________
    March 10, 2005

    Well!
    That was a little heavy.

    Here's your reward for fighting your way through it:

    Everything you wanted to know about writing erotica.

    (Remember, kiddies, Sex Sells!)
    __________________

    Not only are more people buying more books than ever before, but they're reading them later in life.

    A part of that, I think, is that it's now socially acceptable to wear corrective lenses in public. (Speaking of movies, you know those movies from the forties and fifties -- "Miss Smithers! Without your glasses you're ... beautiful!") That was the social situation where wearing glasses was, all by itself, enough of a disguise for Clark Kent. Real men didn't wear glasses.

    Now not only isn't there a social stigma on glasses, there are really good contact lenses, and laser surgery.

    Booksales are going up every year.

    Now this is both good and bad. Call it the Mustard Problem.

    Used to be if you went to the store for mustard, you had French's yellow mustard and, if you had a big store in a big city, Gulden's brown mustard.

    They sold a lot of mustard, Gulden's and French's, between the two of them.

    Now ... you go into a grocery store and there's four shelves of mustards. You have your Gulden's and your French's still, and you have your Grey Poupon, and you have your State of Maine Sea Salt Mustard, and your Beer Mustard, and your Whole Seed Garlic Mustard, and your Creamy Dill Mustard ... and a lot more mustards beside.

    More people are buying more mustard ... but no individual mustard is selling particularly well. The whole pie is divided by more slices.

    Used to be you came out with a paperback original and if it sold less thanl 100,000 copies you'd wonder what was wrong. Nowadays, you come out with the same paperback original and if it sells 20,000 copies you're happy.

    Royalty rates are still about the same, but the royalties are on a $8.00 paperback rather than on a $0.35 paperback, so the money is about the same overall. But in 1960 you could buy a house for $20,000, and now you can't. Bigger pie, smaller slices. Same problem as the mustard makers have.

    This is a good thing for the readers, though, just like more choices are good for mustard users.

    More different books published means more chances for quirky, original works to get published and distributed. This is a good thing.

    And this is all oversimplified, but that's another picture of writing.
    __________________

    Trade books (hardcovers and trade paperbacks) are whole-copy returnable.

    Mass market books are the ones that are stripped and discarded, and that's a byproduct of hitching book distribution onto the existing distribution mechanism for newspapers and magazines.

    You don't return yesterday's newspapers and last week's TV Guide to the warehouse and try to sell them to some other news stand -- they're stripped, the cover (or masthead) sent back for credit on the next shipment, and the rest tossed in a dumpster. If you're going to use the distribution system, you take the bad with the good. It's cheaper and faster (and less wasteful in terms of trucks and fuel) than building a whole 'nother distribution system to reach grocery stores, bus stations, and news stands.

    Stripping and discarding paperbacks may seem wasteful, but...

    a) Paper comes from pulpwood, and pulpwood is a cash crop. It's planted, tended, and harvested to make paper. "Use less paper! Save the trees!" makes as much sense as "Eat less bread! Save the wheat!"

    b) It's quite literally cheaper to throw out the copy of a mass market paperback and print a new one than it would be to return it, inspect it, and repack it in a warehouse if it's still in saleable condition. Think Economy of Scale. Publishers could throw out half of a printrun and still make a profit. Prices are set for it, the entire system is geared toward it.

    c) Paper is biodegradable and recycleable.

    Think of mass market books as weird-looking issues of Newsweek, and you'll get the idea.
    __________________

    Yeah, I read the Rats essay a while ago.

    Nothing's perfect, and bad things happen to good books, but the slushpiles aren't full of unrecognized gems.
    __________________


    Welcome, Matt.

    ==================

    Let me expand on my earlier comment about the slushpiles not being full of unrecognized gems.

    We've all heard of publishable manuscripts, including famous best-selling ones, bouncing through a dozen slushpiles before finding a home.

    True, it happens.

    But isn't that a contradiction to my statement about the slushpiles not being full of unrecognized gems? What about the slushpiles they were in?

    Well -- first there's the "full" thing. In a pile a hundred manuscripts deep only ten or so will be readable, and only one or two will be publishable. What the slushheap is "full" of is things only generally recognizable as English.

    But take those one or two. They're publishable. But are they publishable here? The publisher only has so many slots a year. If they publish twenty books a year, and the slush pile is 4,000 manuscripts deep ... forty to eighty of those manuscripts are publishable, but twenty to sixty (wonderful, potentially award-winning and best-selling as they may be) will get rejection slips. Or more -- those twenty books the publisher can afford will include books by established authors contracted years before, the latest episode in a series, the novel that the editor solicited, and so forth and so on.

    Or the book may be wonderful, but just two days before they bought a slightly inferior but very similar book from someone else. Or it may not quite fit their line. Or they might love it but not know how to market it.

    When you're close, that's when you start seeing those hopeful little notes, like "Please send us your next," or handwritten "I loved this book, but alas! I can't buy it. I'm sure you'll soon find a home for this wonderful story."

    When you're in the top one or two percent, the game changes.

    All those horrible books you see on the shelves -- those were the best books that publisher could find. You should have seen the others.

    Don't lose faith. Just write another book, and keep sending them around. And learn. Study the craft. Write new things, better things, different things.
    __________________


    Originally Posted by aplath
    I mean, that should give a better idea of the odds of getting published than the rate between books that actually get published against the whole slush pile.




    Looking at it as "odds" gives you a distorted worldview.

    If you've written a good book the odds are good that it'll eventually get published. If you've written a bad one, the odds are terrible.

    But ... the usual guess is that 1-2% of the slushpile is publishable.

    So of those 4,000 books in the slush heap of the publisher that puts out 20 books/year, 40-80 are publishable.

    But... they don't only print books by first timers from the slush pile. Perhaps there are only five slots out of those twenty that aren't already spoken for. 6.25-12.5% of the good, publishable, maybe award caliber books in the slush heap will get picked up by that house that year. But maybe there's only one truly open slot. Maybe there are none. Or maybe there are ten. There are too many variables to make any sort of determination.

    There are many slush piles.

    Editors don't buy books they don't like to keep up their percentages if enough ones they do like fail to arrive in the mail that month. __________________


    It's a balancing act.

    If you really, really need to get a fact across, the rule is you slide it in three times. You're trying to get things across so the deaf old lady in the back row can still follow the story, at the same time keeping from boring the clever buggers in the front row.

    On the other hand, the examples you gave sound a lot like padding.
    __________________

    The Best of HapiSofi
    The Best of HapiSofi:

    This is a repost from upthread, with the links to posts on the Old Board. One of these days I'll find where these posts went on the new board. For right now, these posts contain some Good Writing and Good Advice.


    Lee Shore Literary Agency

    Need Advice

    Agents Charging Fees

    Sex Scenes (...How?) Sex Scenes, version II

    Typesetting

    1st Books was OK

    Prologues

    Midbooks

    Tone

    PA Authors

    ST Comments I Love It!

    All PublishAmerica Titles are in the Library of Congress

    Decent Typesetting
    __________________

    Here's the best I can do for Decent Typesetting archived over here:

    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums...php/t-7121.html

    _________________________

    March 13, 2005

    Originally Posted by paritoshuttam
    In general, is it a good idea to query the same agent again, after some time? Around two years back, one agent did show interest in my work, saying she liked the premise of the novel, but my prose wasn't dazzling enough.
    No problem returning to that agent with a significantly revised manuscript.
    __________________
    Originally Posted by JohnLynch
    Is this virtually an invitation to resubmit the work after reworking it?



    Either that, or submit your next.

    The thing you have to decide is whether you like your work as it currently stands. If you like it, there's no reason to re-write it for the chance that the agent or editor will like it better next time around.

    If you can make it better in your own eyes, and you'll make substantial changes doing so ... then you might re-write (rather than keep sending the first work to other people, while at the same time creating something new.)

    The Bad Books that can be made into Good Books by editing alone are rare. __________________


    Okay, Uncle Jim---I have a question.

    Is it easier to sell a first novel than a collection of short stories? Or is either one dependent on the writer's rep and pedigree?
    These are short stories that have already been published in respectable-to-prestigious venues?

    If not, then the first novel would probably be the easier to sell.
    __________________

    Is there a way to find out where a vanished publisher has gone? If they were purchased by another house, would there be some media site that lists it? Specifically, I'm talking about a small regional non-fiction press.
    Dunno. Publishers Weekly might have mentioned it if they were bought by another press, but more small and regional presses go out of business every year than you can shake a stick at. You know how there are supposed to be 56,000 publishers, or 78,000 publishers, or whatever? There are actually around 20,000. The rest are on long-term hiatus. I'm sure you've heard that 8,000-11,000 new publishers are founded every year. Less well known it that 8,000-11,000 go toes-up every year. (And that, my children, is why it's important to deal with publishers that have been in business for some years, and who have books in bookstores.)

    The Association of American Publishers or Publishers Marketing Association might know what happened to your publisher, if the guys you're looking for were ever members.
    __________________
    Philosophy
    Writing isn't about you, and it isn't about the publishers, and it isn't about the bookstores.

    Writing is about the readers.

    The readers

    a) Want/need to be informed.
    b) Want/need to be entertained.

    If you aren't fulfilling the readers wants and needs, dude, you ain't got diddly.
    __________________
    From Elsewhere
    From elsewhere in these boards:

    Originally Posted by ByGrace
    Say Bantam publishes a romance novel by Lovey Dovey. It's placed in bookstores across the US. Some don't sell. The covers are ripped off. (I don't understand that.) Then the books are sent back to who? Ingram or Bantam? I doubt it would be Bantam.


    A better person to ask would be Hapi -- but Hapi hasn't been back much since we changed to the new board.

    Anyway, this is how it works....

    First, the ones that have their covers ripped off are the mass market paperbacks. The reason they have their covers ripped off is to prove that they didn't sell. This is because, for the purposes of distribution, mass market paperbacks are specialized magazines. Mass market piggybacks on the distribution system developed to get newspapers and magazines into bus stations and drugstores. You wouldn't send back last week's TV Guide (and expect to sell it somewhere else). The system of ripping off magazines' covers and newspapers' mastheads extends to the paperbacks.

    Often times the books that have been on wire-rack spinners aren't in salable condition anyway, even if they are returned. And it is quite literally true that it's cheaper to print a new copy than it is to ship an old copy back, inspect it to see if it's still salable, and restock it into a warehouse somewhere.

    The covers are torn off, and the physical books go into the Dumpster out back. (Sometimes, in major cities, you'll see guys on the sidewalks selling paperbacks arranged on blankets, all face-down. They're selling them for a quarter a copy or something -- current best sellers even. If you look at those books, they all have their covers torn off. Those are from someone Dumpster diving, looking for money for wine.

    That's mass market. Those are the books you see in grocery stores in the wire-rack spinners. (You will, of course, also see them in bookstores -- but this system was developed when bookstores were still rare.)

    Oftentimes these days, the merchant doesn't even physically send back the ripped-off covers. They just sign an affidavit swearing the books were destroyed.

    Next come the trade books. Those are the trade paperbacks and the trace cloth (hardback) books. (They're called "trade" because they're designed for the "book trade" rather than the "mass market.")

    Those are whole-copy returnable. The trade paperbacks are sturdier than the mass market books. They are, in effect, cheaply bound trade cloth.

    Those books, when they don't sell, are put in boxes and sent back to the warehouse they came from. Which is either the publisher's warehouse or the distributor's warehouse. The printer isn't involved. The distributor or the publisher then uses those same books to fill other orders.

    (Note: "Trade" paperbacks aren't determined by size or price. There exist "rack size trade paperbacks" which are visually identical to mass market paperbacks. The difference between trade and mass market is what happens to the copies that don't sell.)

    And where is the money in all this? Except for the money that comes in at the cash register from sold books, there isn't any. All the returns and stripped books become credit for the bookstore's next order. In effect, a returned book magically becomes a different physcial book, a book that might sell where this one didn't.

    Please notice that readers, and what they pick up and pay money for, drive this system.

    ============

    Originally Posted by ByGrace
    Isn't it just a matter that the publisher would not get payment for unsold copies, and that Ingram or Lightning Source would take the loss on printing the book?

    I missed this part of the question.

    The distributor and the printer both get paid, by the publisher. Neither take a loss on an unsold book. The only people who are taking a risk are the publishers. Bookstores aren't taking a risk -- the books are returnable. Printers aren't taking a risk -- publishers pay them directly. Distributors aren't taking a risk -- publishers give them a percentage of the price of the book for each copy that moves through them. The authors aren't taking a risk -- they're paid in advance.

    And that's the way it should be. Publishers take the risk because they selected the book, they edited it, they produced it, they marketed it. And the readers, seeing that book on the shelf know that the publisher is standing behind it. That somewhere there's an editor who's saying "I'm betting the company's money that you'll enjoy this book. If I'm wrong, I'll get fired."

    Readers don't get that feeling with vanity books. There, they hear the author saying "My mom thinks this book is swell. Even if it sucks, she's still my mom."

    ==============

    You keep hearing self-published authors tell one another that they have to believe in their books: That'll make the readers believe in their books too.

    But where is the author who doesn't believe in his own book? The reader is looking for something that will tell him that someone else besides the author believes in this book.

    When a reader enters a bookstore, he's the most selfish guy in the world. He isn't thinking "Today I'll give a new author a chance!" -- he's thinking "What would I enjoy?" It's all about the reader. The reader's motto might as well be, "Yeah, but what's in it for me?"

    ==============

    A minor gripe:

    Guys: "Sale" is a noun. "Sell" is a verb.

    You don't say "I'm going to sale my books." You don't say "How many sells did you get?"

    Nouns. Verbs. This is basic English. If you're shaky on grammar your local bookstore is full of review and study workbooks.
    __________________

    A while back I talked about fanfiction.net, and about fanfiction in general, as representative of the slush pile.

    Other on-line fiction archives are worse -- because when a writer gets good enough to be professionally published, generally they are. The cream gets skimmed off.

    But in fan fiction (and to some extent in erotica), the stories can have no legal existence. No matter how well written, they can't be published. They use trademarked/copyrighted characters without permission.

    Here are two that would be publishable, if not for the legal problems:

    Harry Potter and the Horrid Pain of the Artiste
    Agent Scully and the Dirty Story

    Notice too, these are both meta-fictions about writing. Ironic self-awareness. Y'know.

    Take away such lessons as you can.
    __________________

    I do have to comment that many people besides me have excellent things to say, and the entire context is good to have.
    __________________

    Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    Why don't the publishing houses maintain a POD facility for their back-list or out-of-print books?



    Many regular publishing houses already use digital printing technology for their backlist titles.

    For out of print books they can't -- because the rights have usually reverted to the author.
    __________________


    March 18, 2005


    As amusing as the world of non-fiction may be for the writers, this is the novels board.
    __________________

    All of my comments here, unless explicitly marked as being about something else, should be assumed to be about novels.

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

    So now I'll move on to an area away from novels.

    Y'all know the movie The Incredibles? You know the character "Elastigirl"? She's called Elastigirl in the film -- but in the advertising, in the games, in the Happy Meals, in everywhere other than the film, she's referred to as "Mrs. Incredible."

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

    Back to books.

    Is there any fan fiction based on my own works? I don't know. I have quite deliberately never looked.
    __________________

    Originally Posted by alaskamatt17
    But I have heard of at least one published author who got her start writing fan fiction. I can't remember her name, but I read about her back when TopDeck magazine was still in print. She started writing original fiction after an editor who liked her fan fiction contacted her. That really sounds amazing to me. It must've been some good fan fiction to get an editor to actually contact her.
    That sounds entirely possible. Writing is writing, and good is good. And it's also true that some editors read fanfic (as their secret vice).

    Way back upstream, I even said that there was nothing wrong with writing fanfic as a way of practicing your skills. The only problem comes when you publish it.

    So I wouldn't recommend writing and publishing fanfic as a way to attract an editor's attention.
    __________________

    Line By Line
    Let's dip back to page 105 of this thread:


    He shouldn’t have taken the shortcut.

    Bahzell Bahnakson realized that the instant he heard the sounds drifting down the inky-dark cross corridor. He’d had to keep to the back ways used only by the palace servants—and far more numerous slaves—if he wanted to visit Brandark without the Guard’s knowledge, for he was too visible to come and go openly without being seen. But he shouldn’t have risked the shortcut just to avoid the more treacherous passages of the old keep.

    He stood in an ill-lit hall heavy with the stink of its sparse torches (the expensive oil lamps were saved for Churnazh and his “courtiers”), and his mobile, foxlike ears strained at the faint noises. Then they flattened in recognition, and he cursed. Such sounds were none of his business, he told himself, and keeping clear of trouble was. Besides, they were far from the first screams he’d heard in Navahk . . . and there’d been nothing a prince of rival Hurgrum could do about the others, either.

    He squeezed his dagger hilt, and his jaw clenched with the anger he dared not show his “hosts.” Bahzell had never considered himself squeamish, even for a hradani, but that was before his father sent him here as an envoy. As a hostage, really, Bahzell admitted grimly. Prince Bahnak’s army had crushed Navahk and its allies, yet Hurgrum was only a single city-state. She lacked the manpower to occupy her enemies’ territories, though many a hradani chieftain would have let his own realm go to ruin by trying to add the others to it.

    But Bahnak was no ordinary chieftain. He knew there could be no lasting peace while Churnazh lived, yet he was wise enough to know what would happen if he dispersed his strength in piecemeal garrisons, each too weak to stand alone. He could defeat Navahk and its allies in battle; to conquer them he needed time to bind the allies his present victories had attracted to him, and he’d bought that time by tying Churnazh and his cronies up in a tangle of treaty promises, mutual defense clauses, and contingencies a Purple Lord would have been hard put to unra-vel. Half a dozen mutually suspicious hradani warlords found the task all but impossible, and to make certain they kept trying rather than resorting to more direct (and traditional) means of resolution, Bahnak had insisted on an exchange of hostages. It was simply Bahzell’s ill fortune that Navahk, as the most powerful of Hurgrum’s opponents, was entitled to a hostage from Hurgrum’s royal family.

    Bahzell understood, but he wished, just this once, that he could have avoided the consequences of being Bahnak’s son. Bad enough that he was a Horse Stealer, towering head and shoulders above the tallest of the Bloody Sword tribes and instantly identifiable as an outsider. Worse that Hurgrum’s crushing victories had humiliated Navahk, which made him an instantly hated outsider. Yet both of those things were only to be expected, and Bahzell could have lived with them, if only Navahk weren’t ruled by Prince Churnazh, who not only hated Prince Bahnak (and his son), but despised them as degenerate, over-civilized weaklings, as well. His cronies and hangers-on aped their prince’s attitude and, predictably, each vied with the other to prove his contempt was deeper than any of his fellows’.

    So far, Bahzell’s hostage status had kept daggers out of his back and his own sword sheathed, but no hradani was truly suited to the role of diplomat, and Bahzell had come to suspect he was even less suited than most. It might have been different somewhere else, but holding himself in check when Bloody Swords tossed out insults that would have cost a fellow Horse Stealer blood had worn his temper thin. He wondered, sometimes, if Churnazh secretly wanted him to lose control, wanted to drive Bahzell into succumbing to the Rage in order to free himself from the humiliating treaties? Or was it possible Churnazh truly believed his sneer that the Rage had gone out of Hurgrum, leaving her warriors gutless as water? It was hard to be sure of anything where the Navahkan was concerned, but two things were certain as death. He hated and despised Prince Bahnak, and his contempt for the changes Bahnak had wrought in Hurgrum was boundless.
    ====================


    Okay, guys, everyone read that excerpt? Let's take it apart.


    He shouldn’t have taken the shortcut.
    Places a male in a situation, with a hint of a problem.

    Bahzell Bahnakson realized that the instant he heard the sounds drifting down the inky-dark cross corridor.
    Not an English name. Good thing we know (from the first paragraph) that this is a male. We have sounds, bringing in another sense, and more setting -- the shortcut has dark cross corridors. We're probably in a fantasy novel. Bet his dad's name is Bahnak.

    He’d had to keep to the back ways used only by the palace servants—and far more numerous slaves—if he wanted to visit Brandark without the Guard’s knowledge, for he was too visible to come and go openly without being seen.
    Okay, we're in a palace, in the back ways. There are servants here. Brandark is either a person or a place (unclear), and the Guard is a problem. Probably using too many words that begin with B as proper nouns, and "he was too visible to come and go openly without being seen" wins a "Well, duh!" award. Gives motivation for our guy to be in that shortcut, presumably a passageway in the palace.

    But he shouldn’t have risked the shortcut just to avoid the more treacherous passages of the old keep.
    This reinforces that we're in a shortcut, and that if we're not in the old keep itself, the old keep is probably nearby and another possible route. But if the passages of the old keep are more treacherous, isn't avoiding them the right choice?

    He stood in an ill-lit hall heavy with the stink of its sparse torches (the expensive oil lamps were saved for Churnazh and his “courtiers”), and his mobile, foxlike ears strained at the faint noises.
    Bringing in yet another sense (smell, this time), and a bit of personal description. Whether the ears being fox-like is literal or metaphorical we can't tell. Another character is mentioned (Churnazh) and identified as to gender. "Courtiers" in quotes implies that they aren't really courtiers. A level of tech is implied -- oil lamps and torches for light -- and a bit about the economy (expensive oil lamps).

    Then they flattened in recognition, and he cursed.
    Okay, the ears are literally fox-like. Human ears don't flatten in recognition. "He cursed" gets around the problem of actually saying #$#%! in a book.

    Such sounds were none of his business, he told himself, and keeping clear of trouble was.
    Okay, the sounds aren't the sounds of pursuit. But we're given a hint that he'll be moved from his original plans. No one tells himself that something isn't any of his business unless it actually is.
    Besides, they were far from the first screams he’d heard in Navahk . . . and there’d been nothing a prince of rival Hurgrum could do about the others, either.
    We're told what the sounds are. And where we are. And who our boy is -- a prince of rival Hurgrum. A bit of politics and hints of another problem.

    He squeezed his dagger hilt, and his jaw clenched with the anger he dared not show his “hosts.”
    Quote marks mean they're not really hosts. A bit about what weapons are expected (and given the other tech levels, and the genre, not unexpected).


    Bahzell had never considered himself squeamish, even for a hradani, but that was before his father sent him here as an envoy.
    Are hradani well known for lack of squeamishness? A hint of nameless perversion here -- sort of like saying that something makes an experienced homicide detective feel ill.
    As a hostage, really, Bahzell admitted grimly.
    Our boy's status, and how he feels about it. The "grimly" is a bit of countersinking.

    Prince Bahnak’s army had crushed Navahk and its allies, yet Hurgrum was only a single city-state.
    "Prince Bahnak is likely our boy Bahzell's dad. Navahk is likely a country -- but this is pretty unclear. Hurgrum is identified as "a single city-state." That tells us the political geography a bit better. City-states, ruled by princes.

    She lacked the manpower to occupy her enemies’ territories, though many a hradani chieftain would have let his own realm go to ruin by trying to add the others to it.
    City-states get gendered pronouns. This sentence is also pretty incoherent. The hradani apparently have chieftains. It looks like the hradani are fox-people.

    But Bahnak was no ordinary chieftain.
    He's apparently a Prince. And it appears that he won't let his own realm go to ruin. All this is talking about our protagonist's father, while he's pausing in a darkened corridor, listening to screams. I'm not certain this is the right place for core-dump exposition.

    He knew there could be no lasting peace while Churnazh lived, yet he was wise enough to know what would happen if he dispersed his strength in piecemeal garrisons, each too weak to stand alone.
    Churnazh is the rival prince from another city-state. The guy with the "courtiers."

    He could defeat Navahk and its allies in battle; to conquer them he needed time to bind the allies his present victories had attracted to him, and he’d bought that time by tying Churnazh and his cronies up in a tangle of treaty promises, mutual defense clauses, and contingencies a Purple Lord would have been hard put to unravel.
    What exactly a Purple Lord might be isn't clear, other than that they're apparently experts in paperwork. A distinction is made between winning a battle and conquest. Churnazh is the bad guy -- only bad guys have cronies. Bahnak is a good guy -- good guys have allies.

    Half a dozen mutually suspicious hradani warlords found the task all but impossible, and to make certain they kept trying rather than resorting to more direct (and traditional) means of resolution, Bahnak had insisted on an exchange of hostages.
    Back to why our hero is here. That was certainly the long way around the barn.

    It was simply Bahzell’s ill fortune that Navahk, as the most powerful of Hurgrum’s opponents, was entitled to a hostage from Hurgrum’s royal family.
    I'm confused. Apparently we've just been told that Churnazh is the Prince of Navahk and that Bahzell, son of the Prince of Hurgrum, is Churnazh's hostage during a pause in hostilities. Throwing an awful lot of names in the air here.

    Bahzell understood, but he wished, just this once, that he could have avoided the consequences of being Bahnak’s son.
    Just this once? He's Bahnak's son. I get it. I'm not certain that this entire expository lump couldn't have been deleted without leaving a hole.

    Bad enough that he was a Horse Stealer, towering head and shoulders above the tallest of the Bloody Sword tribes and instantly identifiable as an outsider.
    Horse Stealer appears to be a tribal name, rather than a job description. We have varying sub-races in these fox-people. We have a bit of description of our hero.

    Worse that Hurgrum’s crushing victories had humiliated Navahk, which made him an instantly hated outsider.
    So, he's a hostage, and the locals don't like him. But ... what's this with victories? I thought we were between battles, and we have an exchange of hostages ... this isn't making much sense.

    Yet both of those things were only to be expected, and Bahzell could have lived with them, if only Navahk weren’t ruled by Prince Churnazh, who not only hated Prince Bahnak (and his son), but despised them as degenerate, over-civilized weaklings, as well.
    Exposition.
    His cronies and hangers-on aped their prince’s attitude and, predictably, each vied with the other to prove his contempt was deeper than any of his fellows’.
    Cronies ... hangers-on ... aped. Slanted words. Those are some bad bad guys. Any chance Churnazh is just misunderstood?

    So far, Bahzell’s hostage status had kept daggers out of his back and his own sword sheathed, but no hradani was truly suited to the role of diplomat, and Bahzell had come to suspect he was even less suited than most.
    Are Hradani a social class, a race, or a political unit? Taller, less squeamish, and less suited to diplomatic service than others of his kind.
    It might have been different somewhere else, but holding himself in check when Bloody Swords tossed out insults that would have cost a fellow Horse Stealer blood had worn his temper thin.
    We have a couple of tribes, apparently.

    He wondered, sometimes, if Churnazh secretly wanted him to lose control, wanted to drive Bahzell into succumbing to the Rage in order to free himself from the humiliating treaties?
    The Rage? A new term. And we fall into the unfortunate fantasy novel Curse of Promiscuous Capitalization.

    Or was it possible Churnazh truly believed his sneer that the Rage had gone out of Hurgrum, leaving her warriors gutless as water?
    Bet not.

    It was hard to be sure of anything where the Navahkan was concerned, but two things were certain as death.
    All this while paused at a cross corridor stinking of torches, while listening to faint screams, while sneaking off to see Brandark (whoever he or she might be).
    He hated and despised Prince Bahnak, and his contempt for the changes Bahnak had wrought in Hurgrum was boundless.
    He is Churnazh. Is Hurgrum the entire region, with various city-states in it? The entire expository lump could probably have been condensed to this one sentence, and let Bahzell continue sneaking around.

    Betcha a nickle that our boy Bahzell will turn aside from his original plan in order to see who's screaming, will meet a new character, and the plot will continue from there.

    ==========================

    So, do we want to turn the page?
    __________________


    Originally Posted by Georgiana

    Would you please explain what you mean about to some extent in erotica? The fanfic is pretty obvious but I'm baffled over this one.




    If you want to be able to publish erotica in the US, oddly enough, it has to meet Canadian regulations if they're planning to export to Canada. That includes strictures against incest, and "incest" for Canadian legal purposes includes people who are only related through marriage. Your big publishers don't want their shipments of books confiscated at the Canadian border.

    Also, in erotica, you can't show sexual relations between people under the age of 18. (Oddly, you can show 'em in, for example, serious YA novels, but not in erotica.)

    Some other practices, or descriptions of them, may be illegal in certain jurisdictions. Publishers who regularly sell in those areas ... won't publish those stories, no matter how well they're written.

    Seriously, you can do things in "literature" that you can't do in "pornography." Weird, but that's the way it works.


    And on another note in the long PA thread you talked about how Ellora's Cave gets good reviews from its published authors yet I see that they offer no advances which would normally be a warning sign to me. Could you elaborate on why that is not a problem?
    This isn't a problem because they manage to sell pretty well and pay decent royalties, on time.

    The big cut off is between charging the author/not charging the author.

    A good number of perfectly respectable small presses don't pay advances. The ones that charge money of an author, no matter how good the publisher's explanation might be, are on the other side of the line.

    Ellora's Cave has proved that they do pay, and they sell to someone other than the author and the author's posse.
    __________________


    Originally Posted by Georgiana
    I suspect what I should do is just write the first draft and let it be as erotic as it wants to be and then decide later whether or not to cut a bunch of it out.



    You suspect right.

    Write the book, then see which publishers would be a fit for the book.

    If you're doing underage-girls-n-goats, with throbbing descriptions of bodily fluids splashing about, well, finding a publisher might be a bit tough. But what you describe sounds perfectly publishable.
    __________________


    So, delete everything from "He squeezed his dagger hilt..." through "...wrought in Hurgrum was boundless"?

    Yeah, I could go with that. That was one heck of an expository lump filling the first two pages -- and it wasn't very gracefully written, either.

    That one would be a "back on the shelf" for me. Or I might try the Page 147 Test. That's where you turn to page 147 to see if it's gotten any better.
    __________________

    March 20, 2005

    I'd go for re-readablity. I mean, people re-read books, right? And the book is totally "spoiled" for them, right?

    If all that your book has going for it is a surprise twist ending, that's not much to hang your shingle on.
    __________________

    Yeah, in the world of movies, Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects would be re-watchable because the twist ending isn't all they have going for them.

    On the other hand ... The Village. The twist ending is all that movie has. It's not a watch-again.
    __________________

    As some of you may know, I'll be at Writer's Weekend in Seattle, 9-12 June '05.

    Well, they now have a message board set up, in case you aren't subscribed to enough message boards yet.
    __________________

    Really, there's nothing wrong with saying "What with this and that, some five years passed."

    Look at books you know and like. How do those authors show the passage of time?
    __________________

    Disable the grammar-checker in your wordprocessor. You'll be better off.
    __________________

    March 24, 2005


    I guess I'd describe it as a thriller given that it is a fictional "explanation" (the "real" story behind the real story) for an international incident that took place in the 20th century.
    I've seen that genre called "secret history."

    My question is this: Is there any problem using real politicians and military personnel along with fictional additions as I tell this "story"?
    The more public a person, the less protection that person has. Remember Forrest Gump meeting Lyndon Johnson? But that won't stop a real person from suing you, if that's what you're asking.

    Do you have them doing bad things? Are they acting out of character?

    The best I can tell you is -- write the story the best way you can, then let the publisher's legal department worry about it. Tell a strong story. Without a strong story, the question will never come up, since the story won't get published.
    __________________

    Congratulations to Viable Paradise graduate David Moles on being a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
    Congratulations to Viable Paradise graduate Greg van Eekhout on his nomination for a Nebula Award.

    __________________


    Originally Posted by JohnLynch
    In books I tend to ask "what next?", which is what I've done with this short story. I keep asking "what next?", "what next?", "what next?" so the story never ends. And I really only wanted to write a short-story in the first place (I've been avoiding writing the story because I don't think it's that great, but I do remind myself that yes, I can write crap. As long as I write). So how do you suggest I work out how to end it? Or how do you suggest I end it?
    I suggest that you don't end it, because I don't see an ending there. At least, not yet. You've just gotten your characters into trouble.

    (With our first novel, we were still calling it "the short story" when we hit 200 pages.)

    Don't worry. When you come to the climax, you'll know. How will you know? Because suddenly the characters who had been acting purposefuly start wandering around and one of them says, "Hey, why don't we order out for pizza?"

    As I see things, none of the characters have changed in any fundamental way, nor have you reached a natural stopping point.

    Face it -- you've just finished the setup for a longer story than you had in mind. You've left too many "why"s lying around on the ground.

    You aren't in a rush. Keep writing. See what happens.

    (You want to learn how to write a novel? There's no substitute for writng one.)
    __________________

    Some of the Whys: Why's the king sending the sorceror?

    Why's the sorceror obeying the king's orders?

    Why are the machines interested in creating animal/machine pairings?

    -----------

    More characters? About time for our wandering pair to run into someone who's been living like a rat between the walls at this strange place.

    Don't do flashbacks or backstory unless absolutety necessary.
    __________________

    March 28, 2005


    black wing -- just write. Figuring out which parts are lovely and which parts are trash is hard to do close-up.

    Nichole -- we don't have dates for Viable Paradise 10 yet (except autumn, 2006). It will have a ten-year alumni reunion with an extra mini-workshop over the final weekend, though.
    __________________

    March 31, 2003


    Originally Posted by Julian Black
    Finally, in frustration, I took a pair of scissors and cut apart the first draft of a 25-page paper that had been giving me nightmares. I cut it into paragraphs, and then laid the resulting slips of paper out on a table, shuffling them around until I had an order that made sense. I had to re-write a few of those paragraphs, and break some of them in two; I also realized what I was missing and thus needed to write from scratch so I could fill in the holes.



    Congratulatoins! You independently re-invented cut and paste. That's where the terms that we see in wordprocessors come from: Authors used to do it manually with scissors and pastepots. (See, again, The Unstrung Harp. What do you mean you haven't already gotten your copy!)

    Even when you're using a wordprocessor, physically moving sheets of paper around can be very useful. On one memorable occasion I had parts of a novel all over the floor in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.


    ==============

    A long time ago, back at the beginning of the thread, I suggested taking entire chapters and taping them to the wall side by side -- then going to the other side of the room and looking at the patterns the typing made, to make sure you don't have too much dialog or too much description.

    Be visual. The arts are all related.

    __________________
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  4. #29
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Το Αρχαίο Τάγμα του Κρόνου

    I'll explain what this is all about, someday.

    ==============

    Answer: Peter Crossman's antagonists in his current adventure (now under construction).

    "The moon's in Uranus."

    "Kinda hard to walk that way, innit?"

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by lindylou45
    Anyway, here's my question: I want to submit my novel using a pseudonym, but I don't know what I'm supposed to say to the publisher/agent. Do I need to have a reason for wanting to use a pseudonym? I'm so confused.
    You don't need a reason. The way you do it is this: You put your real name in the address in the top left corner of the manuscript, and you put the pseudonym in the byline under the title of the piece.

    You will have a lot of time to discuss the name question with the editor during the whole editing process.

    Sherwood Smith, now, is a friend of mine. Her legal name isn't "Sherwood Smith." It's a name that she likes.

    Everything in a contract is negotiable, including your name and the date.


    BTW using the BIC method I have just completed the rough draft of my fourth novel. Ugh, now comes the editing! I'm editing three mss right now. Another question: should I concentrate on editing these mss or should I start another ms?
    Go, you!
    Edit something every day, and write something every day (even if it's only a paragraph).

    At some point, before you send off any manuscript, put it in your desk drawer and let it age for three months. Then re-read it and make your final changes.

    ===========

    Part one of originality --

    The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

    I spent fifteen years in destroyers and frigate in the North Altantic and Mediterranean. Men locked in small metal boxes for months on end -- well, that's very much like men locked in metal boxes for months on end, and if you call them spaceships, you have science fiction. And that's me -- I'm a science fiction writer.

    Part two of originality --

    Two Old Things Combined Make One New Thing

    There haven't been any new plots since Homer sang. But, you can make stories seem new. Cheap trick combine two dissimilar stories into one:

    Whar hae ye been, Lord Randall my son
    Whar hae ye been, my handsome young one?
    First doon tae Rosie's, mither,
    First doon tae Rosie's, mither,
    Make my bed soon,
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    What gat ye at Rosie's, Lord Randall my son
    What gat ye at Rosie's, my handsome young one?
    Fish in fish broo, mither,
    Fish in fish broo, mither,
    Make my bed soon,
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    And whar went ye next, Lord Randall my son,
    And whar went ye next, my handsome young one?
    I went tae the card-house, mither,
    I went tae the card-house, mither,
    Make my bed soon
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    What cards did ye hold, Lord Randall my son,
    What cards did ye hold, my handsome young one?
    Eights and aces, mither,
    Eights and aces, mither,
    Make my bed soon,
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    And how were ye dressed, Lord Randall my son
    And how were ye dressed, my handsome young one?
    I dressed as a cowboy, mither,
    I dressed as a cowboy, mither,
    Make my bed soon,
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    I fear ye've been bushwhacked, Lord Randall my son,
    I fear ye've been bushwhacked, my handsome young one.
    Oh yes I've been bushwhacked, mither,
    Oh yes I've been bushwhacked, mither,
    Make my bed soon
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    What d'ye leave tae your brother, Lord Randall my son,
    What d'ye leave tae your brother, my handsome young one?
    My watch chain and Stetson, mither,
    My watch chain and Stetson, mither,
    Make my bed soon,
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    What d'ye leave tae your sister, Lord Randall my son,
    What d'ye leave tae your sister, my handsome young one?
    My five-dollar gold piece, mither,
    My five-dollar gold piece, mither,
    Make my bed soon,
    For I'm shot in the breast and fain would lie doon.

    What d'ye leave tae your mither, Lord Randall my son,
    What d'ey leave tae your mither, my handsome young one?
    A rope tae hang ye, mither,
    A rope tae hang ye, mither,
    Make my bed soon,
    For I'm shot in the breast and I fain would lie doon.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by Galoot
    Jim, if I remember correctly, you mentioned you were 35 when you sold your first book. If you don't mind sharing, how long did it take you to write it, and for how long did you have to shop it around?
    Took four months to write it. It was kind of an unusual circumstance, because it was a packaged novel -- we'd sold one short story, and an editor at a packager who was putting together a series asked if we'd like to write a novel. That was kind of neat -- like taking a course in novel-writing and getting paid for it too.

    (The short story was the lead story in a prestige hard-cover anthology. Editors do look in such places for new talent.)

    After that we had got an agent and the next six sold on proposal. The one after that took about six months, and when we got it done and mentioned that we'd written an adult novel (all the previous were YA novels), an editor at Tor said, "tell your agent not to send your book to anyone before she sends it to me."

    That was the first nine novels, and they were all in the period '86 through '91.

    ==============

    John, I can tell you exactly what's happening with you.

    You're hitting the dread "mid-book." The joy of the opening is far behind, the climax is out of sight beyond the horizon -- and you're paddling, paddling, paddling with no hope of an end in sight.

    Lots of people quit right then.

    If you get through it, though, you get to the climax, and that's lots of fun. If you make through the mid-book you'll be rewarded.

    Later, when you're re-reading and revising you'll notice that the mid-book is where all the neat variations and clever twists and neat surprises took place. You won't see them while they're happening, but they're there. You revise to point 'em up, to plant 'em properly in the beginning and tie them off properly in the end.

    Next time, rather than quitting, bull your way thorugh. And when I say bull, I mean bull. As in BS.

    BIC and onward. You aren't allowed to stop until you hit "The End."

    The road to publication is strewn with the bones of men who faltered and died during the mid-book.

    ==================

    "Thinking about writing" isn't "writing." Only "writing" is "writing."

    By "bull your way through" -- imagine that you're in a bar with your buddies. You're BSing like crazy. Just telling stories. "That reminds me," you say, "remember that chick Fred was going with? The one who used to braid her nostril hair?" And you're off.

    Get the characters doing things. Move 'em around. Bring in a new character if you have to in order to liven things up, or let one of the earlier minor characters have a turn. Make stuff up.

    You're competing with the TV over the bar, the pool table, and the beer for your friends' attention. (They're your friends because otherwise they wouldn't be here with you.) Give 'em some reason to listen to you, but talk regardless. Silence will for-sure turn their attention back to the TV.

    You're going to revise this stuff anyway. Just get words on paper.

    ==================

    You tell the agent after he has agreed to represent you. Before that point it's your business, not his, what else you've done with the manuscript.

    ===================

    Where are you deployed, Jason?

    I picked up my college degree while on active duty deployed, and started writing while stationed overseas.

    ==================

    I probably shouldn't mention what kind of unhealthy things I did to my body to make time for writing. (Up two hours before reveille; gallons of coffee.)

    =================

    Jason, Katee, I hereby give you permission to write absolute garbage.

    I'm sure you've heard that everyone has to write a million or two words of garbage, to get 'em out of their systems? Well, what's stopping you? Get 'em on paper!

    The only thing I don't give you permission to do is stop before you reach "The End."

    Maybe the story will be good, maybe it won't be -- but until you get it on paper it ain't nothing.

    ================

    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.

    ==================
    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.

    ================

    Dare I ask the name of this publisher?

    ================

    Please whisper it in my ear.

    ================

    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?

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by jdparadise
    So. What haven't I thought of as I try to figure out how to tell this story?
    Rather than a different person, you may need a different point-of-view character.

    Does this judge have a sidekick? Think about Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes or Boswell to Dr. Johnson.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by jdparadise
    The Mah'hin judge whose high chair he kneels before, Pel Mah'Gandy by name....
    Confusion of antecedents. Is the judge, the chair, or "he" named Pel Mah'Gandy?

    (Apostrophes in fantasy names are a cliche. Consider well before using them.)

    Don't get tangled in adjectives.

    Let's try something a bit more ... direct.



    Judge Pel Mah'Gandy pulled at the edge of his shirt and tried to look comfortable. It wasn't working. He shifted in his seat and looked down at the naked boy kneeling before him.

    The boy, at fourteen a scant ten years younger than Pel himself, didn't look any more comfortable than the judge felt. Not too surprising. They were both in the center of circle upon circle of grass-chewing Falyai -- merchants and Cheapsiders dressed in colorful spun-glass -- and the sun was beating down. The odors of sweat and mud mingled in the air of the crafter's ghetto.

    The boy's tattoos would have made him look fierce in another context. Here, the snakes and scorpions that decorated his shaven head and lean torso looked pathetic.

    "Marko Mah'Tenji," Judge Mah'Gandy began. "You have been called before this court to answer the charge of assault. The evidence has been heard. The terms have been given. Have you anything to say before I pass judgment?"

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by jdparadise
    Better, I think.
    Yeah, better.

    By the time you reach The End, you may discover that this scene isn't the start of your book. This scene may not even be in your book. Who knows these things in advance? Continue on. When you have the entire mass of clay on your potter's wheel, then you can shape it.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by jdparadise
    So how does one know if a "starting somewhere else" beginning is the "proper" beginning for a story, or if it needs to be hacked and beaten into a "point of no return" beginning?
    Your story begins where all the preceeding events can't be summarized in a single sentence.

    (BTW -- King and Straub have earned the right to slow beginnings through their reputations for strong closes. This isn't something that a first novel will enjoy. If your novel must start slowly, consider holding onto it until you've sold a few others. Or not. A sufficiently brilliant manuscript....)

    (There are, of course, other sorts of openings besides car chases and explosions. What you really need is a sense of forward motion.)

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by Lydia Joyce
    And in the end, that's what it's all about. Midlist authors still have ample distribution. They still have decent royalties. They just need to write something that other people want to read!
    Sing it, sister! I'll join in on the chorus.

    ================

    Too funny, and too true.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by changling
    Somewhat on topic, When should you start shopping your work around?
    First-time novelist?

    1. I have 30,000 words in on my current project-bic nightly- and am curious to know if I should dig into my copy of Writers Market '05 to try and match it with a possible publisher-agent?
    For-sure, start researching. What publisher would you most like to see with this novel? What's your number two choice? Your number three? Who would be your ideal agent? Who's number two? Number three?


    2. Should I wait until the project is finished? I have read that one should not write another work until the first is sold. The thinking being that you may give up on the previous work.
    Yes, if this is your first, wait until it's finished. This falls under the heading of "never bet against yourself." What's the best outcome you can imagine? You send off a query to your number one choice publisher or agent, and you get a reply: "Please send the entire work."

    What are you going to say? "Ummm... wait six months"? For a first novel, have it in the bag and polished.

    The day after you finish your first novel, start writing your second novel.

    3. If I am to send out the work, I am under the impression that it be run through the ringer of re-writes, my best edit?
    You don't want to send out first draft, if that's your question. Get it to the point where it's the best you can make it. (If you're putting in a comma in the morning and taking it out in the afternoon, you're at -- you're past -- that point.)

    ==============

    If it's your second or subsequent novel, especially if your first has a decent track record, you can start querying with three-and-an-outline without writing a word more. If someone offers a contract you write the book, living on the advance money while doing so.

    Of course, finishing the book that you're sending around as a query wouldn't be a bad plan.

    Make sure you aren't walking all over an option clause while you're doing this.

    And ... having an agent becomes Very Useful Indeed 'round about that point in your career.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by changling
    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    First-time novelist?
    Uncle, Thanks. As you know with the "other guys" I wrote a book.
    So yes I would have to say my first novel in the sense that I'm really testing the market. It's not like I'm haven't written quite a few.
    It doesn't matter if you have a hundred novels in your desk drawer; you're still a first-time novelist until your first novel is published. (And, sad to say, that place in Maryland doesn't count.)


    I really have faith in this one. I'm behind it 100%. I'm excited about the two ideas I put together to come up with the plot. It's my best work to date.
    So.... I want to do it right the first time.
    Go, you!

    More ?

    1. Then, when finished, should I try to send it to houses that take submissions without an agent?
    Depends. Is it a good house? Do they get distribution? Would you be proud to be published by them regardless of the agent situation?

    2. I do have a party that is interested that is an agent, Janet Reid-jetreid agency. I have queried, she said she would read the first three when ready. Should I go with her if she says she'll take it on? I do know she has sold some works, and asks for no money.
    I assume that you've researched her. Wouldn't hurt to try her first if you think you'd be sympatico.

    3. Okay, back to a question I ask previously. I said that my story seems to rush to an end at 60,000 words. Do I, go back and flesh out? Add backstory? I'm a to the point writer. I.E. (The sky was clear.) Not,( The sky was wrapped in a deep blue blanket that encompassed the horizon.) I guess, I'm asking, where and how should I enlarge the word count without too much flowery content and needless words?

    You don't make stories longer by padding them with more words. You make 'em longer by adding more plot. Could a minor character use a subplot of his own? Only add backstory if it improves the book and advances the plot.

    ==================

    Now that you have a first draft, print it out, take a red pencil, go sit in a coffee house, and read it, marking it up the whole way with Things That You've Noticed and Want to Fix.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Martyn
    If round about 50,000 words one of your main characters suddenly "evolves" into to someone completely different, ie; he has a dark past that's popped out of nowhere (from the writer's point of view) and advances the plot wonderfully, going back and changing things, would that constute a rewrite or is a rewrite something more minor such as realizing your chronology is off and going back to change June to August.

    The temptation for the first one is extreme.

    Woo! It's great when that happens.

    I'll tell you what I do when it happens to me:

    I have the character say "Woo! My whole backstory just changed. Boy, do I have a dark past!"

    Then continue as if the first half of the book were already re-arranged. Write from and incorporating your new-found insight and knowledge.

    You may have more revelations before the book is finished. Too bad if re-wrote the first half, then had to re-write it again. This is what I mean when I say that until you hit "The End" you don't know what you've got.

    Then -- you go back and take the thing in to the shop. You're going to have to do a whole lot of front-end alignment. That's okay!

    (Coffee houses are really great because they get you out of your usual scenery, and you can rent a table all day if you just keep drinking the coffee. Besides, being a writer in a coffee house is traditional.)

    ==================

    On the interaction between the author and the character:

    Railroad Bill and the Kitten

    ==================

    Sometimes I add myself as a character in the first drafts. Not as a character who'll be in the final version, but as myself: The bearded author, who sits on the couch in the room and discusses with the other characters how the plot is going, whether the dialog needs work, and what they think about their own characterizations.

    (The last chapter of the first draft is always the Cast Party, where the characters show up as their normal everyday selves, wearing Hawaiian shirts, drinking beer, and carrying on. And the last line of every book is always where the characters raise their glasses and say "Here's to the author! Without that poor overworked underpaid SOB we'd all be out of a job!")

    All this stuff is removed in the second and subsequent drafts.

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by Julian Black
    I proofread as I type, and make minor revisions. I just can't let typos or spelling or grammar errors slide, and if I realize another word would work better I go ahead and change it. I can't not do it--it drives me insane.
    Heck, I do that too. It isn't lke the old days when you had to bring out the correction fluid or an eraser shield and eraser when you made a typo. (Anyone but me still remember eraser shields?)

    But I don't go back to the previous day's work and fiddle with it.

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Pullmann
    Simply put: How the frell is this possible? Am I nuts, or does that add up to more than 24 hours in a day? I'm OK with making sacrifices, but we're almost talking Mayan proportions here. Or at least that's how I feel.
    It isn't possible. So don't let it concern you.

    I read while standing in the chow line. I thought about revision while driving, so could quickly write 'em down.

    After you've reached The End if all you have is those two hours per day and nothing more -- I give you permission to do 15 minutes of original writing, and spend the other hour forty-five on rewrites.

    You will have to make decisions about what's important to you. TV went out of my life a long time ago.

    The important thing is that you do some writing every day. To call yourself a writer, only one thing is required: That you write.

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by EGGammon
    I've read posts on this board and I know that proposing a huge novel (possibly 200,000+ words) will only get me a stack of rejection letters.
    Standard disclaimer: Unless it's brilliant.

    Anyway ... in between writing the Big Book, you might try a shorter novel or two. Can't hurt. Get some things out in the mail and making the rounds. (And the practice of bringing a novel all the way to Ready To Submit will be good for you. Nothing teaches you how to write a novel better than writing a novel.)

    Anyway ...

    I'm not certain that the angel idea is the best thing to work on. Do you have any ideas that you don't already have in script form -- that are just ideas? Can any of them be made into 80,000 words over the next three months? If so, that might be a direction I'd go.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by EGGammon
    I have a wide range of ideas and a lot of different genres...
    Pick one that excites you, that you'd love to explore, and that has a strong climax.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine N.
    she had friends in high places to give her a boost.
    All that having friends in high places will get you is your work read more quickly, and, if it isn't brilliant, a quicker rejection.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by Sonya
    Should I try to edit ( I think both need a major edit) those and send them to an agent or just send them directly to a publisher?
    If they need a major edit, yes, edit them. Revise and rewrite until you're sure they're the best you can make them.

    If I were you, I'd look for an agent first (you can query many at once), though if there's a major publisher that takes books in your genre submitting it there at the same time wouldn't hurt.

    I know agents don't require money up front but what happens if they don't sell your novel? Is the writer then out a ton of money?
    If they don't sell your novel that's their loss, not yours. That's why they're picky about who they represent.

    For more on agents, see here: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents.

    You probably also want to read Slushkiller.

    =================

    Follow the publishers' and agents' guidelines to the letter -- and write your next book.

    I can't promise that you will get published. But I can promise that unless you work at your writing ... you won't.

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason M. Dyess
    My question is, what should I do? Start over at the beginning, pick up where I left off (in the middle of a chapter)? or delete my last chapter and start from there?
    This will depend entirely on your temperament.

    I would suggest starting fresh with a whole new novel (new plot, new characters) or resuming at the start of the next chapter in the current work.

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by astonwest
    So, I went ahead and wrote up a scene from later in the book. I've done this for four other scenes later in the book now, and am slowly closing up the gaps between them...it's felt good to actually have some production...
    Yeah I do that. If a later scene shows up in my mind I write it right then when I'm thinking of it.

    ==================

    Varieties of insanity known to affect authors

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by maestrowork
    We are considered the sane and reasonable ones (even boring) compared to rock musicians, pop divas and actors.
    That's because, on what an author makes, who can afford drugs?

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by brokenfingers
    I thought the brochure explicitly stated that there would be groupies.....
    Groupies. Yeah.

    I've got groupies. Unfortunately, most groupies don't look like Playboy centerfolds. At least mine don't. Maybe I have to be richer and more famous.

    And ... some writers have made some serious mistakes. First, your spouse or significant other may not be as supportive of that part of the writers' lifestyle as the other parts, and second, penicillin doesn't cure everything.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenora Rose
    **<<Goggle>>**

    Someone who explicitly writes most of his books WITH HIS WIFE gets groupies? There seems to be a rather significant reality check that was missed.
    For some reason there's a class of young ladies who seem to feel that the way to get published is to screw a writer.

    I have to keep explaining to them, "No, no, you don't understand. To get published an editor has to screw the writer."

    Pervy Editor-Fancier



    Does she at least get an equal number?

    If she does, I don't want to know about it.

    ================

    There have been some messy divorces. Don't do this, guys. Have some self-respect.

    =================

    Story time.

    There was a writer I know who went to a convention without his wife. He did, however, take along his three-year-old child.

    Later, the child told Mommy everything that he'd seen and heard (as three-year-olds will do).

    The wife got the house, the car, and custody of the kid. The writer, when last heard from, was living in a refrigerator box.

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    Forgive me for asking, but I'm honestly curious: why would an author want to burn his first novel?
    Because it's probably not his best work.

    This doesn't mean that you shouldn't finish it, and make it the best you can while you're writing it.

    =================

    How do you not InfoDump?

    You don't! Not in the first draft. Dump that info right on the page. It counts for writing.

    Then, when you go back for the second draft, take your big honkin' ol' red pencil and cross it all out!

    See, the InfoDump is gone.

    This is material the author needs to know, but not necessarily the reader. The reader will learn all that's necessary from the character interactions during the course of your book.

    ==============

    Changling:

    Your POV should be the character who's standing in the best place to show the scene. Minor characters make wonderful POVs.

    If a scene isn't working, write it from a different POV and see how it reads.

    ===========

    Sunandshadow:

    If it isn't too much trouble, can I ask you to go back through either the Index to Uncle Jim or Uncle Jim Undiluted to see what I had to say about Celtic Knotwork as Plot? If that isn't useful to you, we can talk about other ways of looking at plot.

    ===========

    In a moment --

    The first scene from the second volume from one of our middle grades books.

    ============

    The backstory going into the first scene of the second volume of a middlegrades book:



    Slap! Randal swatted a stinging horsefly that had tried to make a meal from his shoulder.

    "One down," he counted aloud. Then he looked at the swarm still hovering in the air around him. "Only about four thousand to go."

    The late afternoon sun beat down on the Basilisk, a small country inn a few day's ride from Tattinham, near the eastern mountains of Brecelande. Inside the stable, the air was thick with the stink of manure and rotting straw, and throbbed with the buzzing of a myriad heavy, slow-moving flies. Randal had once been a squire in his uncle's castle of Doun, and most recently had been an apprentice wizard at the Schola Sorceriae, the School of Wizardry in Tarnsberg on the western sea. Now he heaved another pitchfork-load of manure over his shoulder, and wondered why he'd ever left home.

    Randal was about fifteen, with the height and the sturdy build that come of being well-fed from earliest childhood. At the moment, however, a film of grey dust covered most of his face, and sweat plastered his long, untrimmed black hair to his head and neck. Randal had started work when a pair of merchants departed and left the stables empty, but the Basilisk's regular hostler—who should have been working with him—had never shown up.

    "It's no good," Randal muttered. "I have to rest."

    He leaned the pitchfork against the wall of the stable, and rubbed his hands down the front of his tunic. His right palm ached, as it did whenever he performed hard physical work these days. He looked down at the hand, and at the raised, red scar that stretched across it—low on the side away from his thumb, higher on the thumb edge, so that it actually crossed the first joint of his forefinger.

    Randal clenched and unclenched his hand, trying to ease the cramp in the scar-stiffened flesh. If only he hadn't grabbed the sharp-edged blade of Master Laerg's ceremonial sword ... if only he hadn't used the magical object like a knightly weapon, to kill the renegade wizard Laerg before his spells could destroy not only Randal but the entire School of Wizardry, if only ... but if he hadn't done those things, he would be dead now, and the kingdom of Brecelande would be held fast in Laerg's sorcerous grip.

    Even working here for the rest of my life, thought Randal, glancing about the filthy stable, would be better than that.

    He took up the pitchfork again, and returned to mucking out the befouled straw. As he worked, he took some comfort in knowing that tomorrow or the next day should see him on the road again, well away from the Basilisk and its stinking stable, and within reach—at last—of his goal.

    Magic.

    More than anything else, Randal had wanted to be a wizard, a worker in spells and the enchantments that could change the texture of reality—or, more practically, make short work of clearing out a filthy stable. He had spent three years at the Schola in Tarnsberg, studying the magical arts, before breaking the oldest law of wizardry, the one that forbade a wizard to attack or defend with steel.

    His action had saved the Schola from destruction, and the Regents—the master wizards who controlled the School of Wizardry—had not been ungrateful. They'd made Randal a journeyman wizard, setting him on the second stage of the long road that led from apprenticeship to mastery. But they'd also done something else.

    They'd taken his magic away from him. Until he could get permission from the wizard Balpesh, once a Regent of the Schola and now a hermit living near Tattinham in the eastern mountains, all Randal's skill and training had to remain untouched, no matter how great the need.
    The whole chapter is here.

    Discussion in just a minute.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine N.
    aw crap. back to the drawing board. Is there any way, given the excerpt we already used, to get the meat of the plot into it?
    Have you gotten all the way to "THE END" on this draft? If not, it's way too early to be talking about Back to the Drawing Board.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine N.
    This is what I get for just jumping into the next book before I have a good beginning in my head.
    Get a good ending in your mind. That's even better.

    Given this beginning: The ending will include Megan and Stephen, and Megan galloping on Thunder.

    ================

    Slap! Randal swatted a stinging horsefly that had tried to make a meal from his shoulder.

    [Start with action, and our protagonist, and he's already having a rotten day.]


    "One down," he counted aloud. Then he looked at the swarm still hovering in the air around him. "Only about four thousand to go."

    [His day is only getting worse. He's in a frustrating situation; no matter what he does, he's not going to make things better.]


    The late afternoon sun beat down on the Basilisk, a small country inn a few day's ride from Tattinham, near the eastern mountains of Brecelande.

    [An inn, named after a supernatural creature. Tattinham has an English sound to it (in fact, I'm referring to the Middle-English metrical romance, The Tournament of Tottenham. No reason that the readers should know that, but it amused me. We'll be going to a tournament there next. The geography lesson continues ... and before long we'll be visiting both that town and those mountains. Brecelande means 'broken land,' which it is, symbolically, due to the lack of a lawful king. This is again something that's mostly for me.]

    Inside the stable, the air was thick with the stink of manure and rotting straw, and throbbed with the buzzing of a myriad heavy, slow-moving flies.

    [Yeuch! Gross!]

    Randal had once been a squire in his uncle's castle of Doun, and most recently had been an apprentice wizard at the Schola Sorceriae, the School of Wizardry in Tarnsberg on the western sea.

    [It's the backstory. Doun is gaelic for 'castle.' Schola Sorceriae is Latin for School of Wizardry; it's translated in the very next phrase. Tarnsberg is Anglo-Saxon for 'secret town.' The western sea is an old name for the Atlantic. We're going to need to know about that castle, because in just a few pages Randal is going to meet someone who knew him back then, and who knew he was going off to school.]


    Now he heaved another pitchfork-load of manure over his shoulder, and wondered why he'd ever left home.

    [Under the circumstances, woudn't you? Action to break up the huge infodump.]



    Randal was about fifteen, with the height and the sturdy build that come of being well-fed from earliest childhood.

    [Description of character, early enough so the readers won't have formed too much of their own picture.]

    At the moment, however, a film of grey dust covered most of his face, and sweat plastered his long, untrimmed black hair to his head and neck. Randal had started work when a pair of merchants departed and left the stables empty, but the Basilisk's regular hostler—who should have been working with him—had never shown up.

    [Sounds uncomfortable. The merchants are going to drive a bit more of the plot in a chapter or so, and the ostler's disappearance is significant. Also puts our character into a poor-me-set-upon mood. Things will shortly get worse.]


    "It's no good," Randal muttered. "I have to rest."


    [Finally, some dialog!]


    He leaned the pitchfork against the wall of the stable, and rubbed his hands down the front of his tunic. His right palm ached, as it did whenever he performed hard physical work these days. He looked down at the hand, and at the raised, red scar that stretched across it—low on the side away from his thumb, higher on the thumb edge, so that it actually crossed the first joint of his forefinger.

    [Backstory and description all jumbled together, disguised with the use of the actions with the pitchfork and rubbing his hands. Tunic gives us more of an idea of time period. (This is, in fact, medieval fantasy.) I figured out where the scar would go by actually grabbing a sword.]


    Randal clenched and unclenched his hand, trying to ease the cramp in the scar-stiffened flesh. If only he hadn't grabbed the sharp-edged blade of Master Laerg's ceremonial sword ... if only he hadn't used the magical object like a knightly weapon, to kill the renegade wizard Laerg before his spells could destroy not only Randal but the entire School of Wizardry, if only ... but if he hadn't done those things, he would be dead now, and the kingdom of Brecelande would be held fast in Laerg's sorcerous grip.

    [The summary of Volume One, for the folks who haven't read it. This book was being offered through a school book club, where there was no guarantee that the others would have been read -- or even available. Each volume has to contain everything. Laerg is from the Welsh, the Seven Sorrows of Storytelling.]



    Even working here for the rest of my life, thought Randal, glancing about the filthy stable, would be better than that.

    [No such luck. Things will shortly get much worse.]


    He took up the pitchfork again, and returned to mucking out the befouled straw. As he worked, he took some comfort in knowing that tomorrow or the next day should see him on the road again, well away from the Basilisk and its stinking stable, and within reach—at last—of his goal.

    [The plot shows up! Hurrah!]


    Magic.

    [Yep, it's a fantasy.]

    More than anything else, Randal had wanted to be a wizard, a worker in spells and the enchantments that could change the texture of reality—or, more practically, make short work of clearing out a filthy stable. He had spent three years at the Schola in Tarnsberg, studying the magical arts, before breaking the oldest law of wizardry, the one that forbade a wizard to attack or defend with steel.

    [More backstory, and a bit more infodumping. Also asks the question the readers are no doubt asking themselves by now -- why's he doing this the hard way?]


    His action had saved the Schola from destruction, and the Regents—the master wizards who controlled the School of Wizardry—had not been ungrateful. They'd made Randal a journeyman wizard, setting him on the second stage of the long road that led from apprenticeship to mastery. But they'd also done something else.

    [More summary of the last chapter of volume one. This is because you really have to know what went on to follow this book. Originally, the novel had been a 400 page book, which we couldn't sell because Harry Potter was still ten years in the future and no one thought kids would read a 400 page book. So it was cut into pieces, and the summaries added -- our story so far -- in the first chapter of each volume.]


    They'd taken his magic away from him. Until he could get permission from the wizard Balpesh, once a Regent of the Schola and now a hermit living near Tattinham in the eastern mountains, all Randal's skill and training had to remain untouched, no matter how great the need.

    [He's going on pilgrimage to do penance. Also tells us what and where the last chapter will be. Pesh is from Peshawar, a city on the Kyhber Pass, since we're going to a pass in the mountains. Bal -- would it be more obvious if I spelled it Baal (The Lord in Hebrew)? Yes, this whole thing is a religious allegory. So shoot me.]

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by changling
    I just had a thought, should I write it now so I don't feel the rush to reach it?
    Write it now. Write it while the white fire is buring in your veins and the lightning is flashing from your fingertips.

    =================

    As it happens the Circle of Magic books (a bit quoted from above) were plotted using Celtic knotwork. Alas, my skill with computer graphics programs is small enough that I can't really do a good picture for you.

    If you want to recreate that diagram, though ... make a circle with six points. Join each point, every other point, and every third point. Draw your knot. Make it three-stranded. Label one strand Head, the second Arm, the third Heart. Now label one strand Randal, one strand Walter, and one strand Lys. Then label one oak, one ash, and one thorn.

    You will see which will be the main character, which will be secondary character, and which the background character in each book. You will also see the theme of each book.

    The series does form a circle. It ends where it started (physically), with the promises made at the beginning kept at the end.

    The fifth book (The Prisioners of Bell Castle, reprinted as The Wizard's Castle) contains within it a triple time-loop, built according to the same principles. Someone who wanted to could even reconstruct the diagram from the chapters of that book.

    Yes, I got Trinitarian in there.

    Watch out also for the appearance of the Holy Spirit, seen as a bird.

    How do you outline a complex story made out of various plot arcs? Lay them out on paper. Show them interacting. Show which one is in the foreground.

    This is not an entirely mechanical system. Make the pattern pretty.

    Or. Write the parts as separate stories. After they're done, see how to interweave them. You can do this by chronology or by character or by theme.

    The important thing is to write your book. Thinking about writing is not writing.

    ====================

    I'd believe that a young lady, especially one who's horse crazy, would be up with the sun to go riding.

    Get on with the story, then see where the beginning belongs.

    ===================

    I could have BICed all night, I could have BICed all night,
    And still have BICed some more.
    I need to clean and cook but I worked on my book
    'Til quarter after four.
    I never knew my characters would do that,
    Never saw the plot in quite that light:
    Suffice it to say, when it turned out that way,
    I could have BICed, BICed, BICed all night.


    ===================

    Remember: When the Muse comes to your house she expects to find you in front of your keyboard. If you aren't there, she won't go looking for you -- she'll move on to the next writer on her list.

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by FreeSlave786
    I think I fell in love with writing (again) after reading this thread.
    Thanks, FreeSlave. That's the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile.

    (And BTW, I did write five chapters last night, and stayed up to past four this morning doing it. It happens.)

    ====================

    How many chapters do you see? How long do you see your book being?

    Divide that diagram into however many parts as your book will have chapters.

    Say it's twenty chapters of 20 pages each. Divide the diagram into 20 segments.

    Think of what your climax will be.

    Now, without more ado, look at the first segment.

    Write the first chapter with that bit of diagram pinned beside your monitor.

    Looks like the chapter begins with Merru, and Lieann joins about half-way through.

    You probably want to expand and even up the right-hand side of the diagram so you can see what's in there.

    BTW, the diagram is pretty messy -- I don't see it as terribly like a Celtic knot.

    Try using this one:



    That's Merru and Attranath at the top left and Lieann and Ravenin at the bottom left. The midpoint far left is where two minor characters join in.

    Fit your plot into that diagram. I fear that the diagram you showed me is your plot as it stands. Rearrange it until it's even and regular, with strict. interlacings. Fit your plot onto the diagram above. Alter the plot to follow the curves and maintain the balance.

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by Fillanzea

    Merru and Attranath are purple, yes? And Lieann and Ravenin blue? So... hm... would the top half of the purple represent one character, and the bottom half the other?
    Yep. Or ... add a couple of more colors. At the left-most points, divide so you have an upper purple, and what was the lower purple is now ... yellow.

    Same way, divide the blue at the left-most point.

    Then divide the red at the left-most point, so you have a top that's red, and a bottom that's grey. (They'll meet again to the right of that small figure.)



    I can almost grasp how you would go about putting this into practice, but not quite... what would it tell you about what's in the first chapter?
    Introductions of the four characters. Purple is at the very top, so it's stressed.

    This isn't mechanical ... it's more of a meditation device, and shows you what has to be in the chapter. How you get it there -- that's another problem.

    For your climax: Think of something that would look really good in wide screen 70mm with Dolby sound and a score by John Williams. That will be the climax you're driving toward. You may not ever get there, but it gives you an aim point.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by jlawrenceperry
    I have read through the first sixteen pages or so of this thread, and found some things very entertaining.
    Welcome, Other Jim!

    What're you working on, and what are your goals?

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by FreeSlave786
    Is it different if you're writing about a society with 'strange' rules and perceptions that is Here and Now? Not all my characters react as people in other societies do under the same circumstances. Do I need to explain the 'why?' behind everything they do? Actually, that's something my beta-readers should be able to help with…
    There's no need to explain the 'why' of anything unless you're writing a textbook. Just show the actions and the reactions of your characters.

    That's the secret of building alien/fantasy worlds too: Don't explain: Show.

    ================

    I don't want to get into the whole 'and then' thing again. This is one of my idiosyncrasies. Consider it religious on my part if it comforts you to do so. For me, and to me, the word cluster 'and then' is always and everywhere clumsy, illogical, and wrong. It is wrong for the same reason and in the same way that the phrase "over and out" is wrong in radio conversations. It can never be correct. Bring a stack of grammar books written by the highest authorities: I'll take a red pen and correct them. Let a copyeditor add "and" to "then" or "then" to "and" in my manuscript and my STET stamp will come out.

    End of discussion.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by reph
    "Over and out" is self-contradictory. "And then" is redundant.
    "And then" is self-contradictory. "And" in that word-group means "simultaneously." "Then" in that word-group means "sequentially."

    It is permissible to use "and then" in dialog, to reveal character.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    I'm honestly lost on this, I've never heard this issue explained quite this way before. Could I maybe get some of you to give me some good examples that I could learn from, of 'Don't Explain: Show?'

    "I got in my car and headed for Long Island" doesnt include any explanation for how an internal combustion engine works.

    ==================

    Further on showing v. telling:

    As the inimitable HapiSofi put it elsewhere at AW:

    Gala contributed:

    Tell: Bambi was so angry at Bob for the way he talked to her.
    Show: Bambi slapped Bob's face.


    "Honey, sweetie," I said, "you know I wouldn't lie to you."

    "The hell you say," I heard her mutter, just before her baseball bat connected with my head.
    Tell: Bertha felt like throwing a tantrum.
    Show: Bertha stomped her feet, and threw the empty glass at the fireplace.


    "What kind of idiot do you take me for?" screeched Bertha, throwing her empty glass at the fireplace and reaching for another.
    Tell: She thought it was about time he showed up.
    Show: She opened the door, and said, "It's about time you showed up.



    "By the time the cab pulled up in front of her house, she had already thrown all my clothes out onto the lawn, followed by my golf clubs. Then she kicked open the front door, and I saw what she had in her hands.

    "Stella, please," I said. "Not the computer."
    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    I don't really understand why "over and out" is impossible.
    "Over" means "I'm done talking and expect a reply." "Out" means "I'm done talking and don't expect a reply."

    "Over and out" means nothing whatever.

    The prowords "over" and "out" are necessary when you're transmitting and receiving on the same frequency (half duplex). They're good practice at all times.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by shmegegge
    Is there a general rule of thumb for how a magazine will feel about vulgarity in a story?
    Read the magazine you're submitting to. Get copies of their guidelines, and follow them.

    Realism: Remember that dialog in literature doesn't sound like natural speech. Dialog is a literary convention.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by black winged fighter
    Uncle Jim, would you mind sharing how many different novels you wrote before submitting for the first time?
    One that's never been submitted.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by jlawrenceperry
    Moral of the story for us?

    You just gotta submit that thing! One only learns by doing!
    Well, no. In not submitting my first novel I've joined the ranks of such literary greats as Hemingway, who didn't submit his first novel either.

    Far too many writers fail to burn their first books. (Exception: If you personally are a genius, and your first novel is briiliant.)

    Entirely too many authors who have failed to burn their first novel then spend ten years trying to sell it rather than write a second novel.

    ====================

    Quote Originally Posted by jlawrenceperry
    Can you call it a novel if you never submitted it? Or is it just a big stack of garbage prose? That's how I see my first attempt. I don't even dignify that thing with the word "novel."
    Sure you can call it a novel. If it pleases you to do so.

    ====================

    Quote Originally Posted by jlawrenceperry
    40 years? what's that? Time in the wilderness before entering the promised land? If it's a good story, recycle it as soon as it seems right, or at least recycle it in your head and see if it sounds better.
    Recycle it? If you must. A better idea might be a different story with different characters in a different situation.

    ===================

    How many of those characers are major characters?

    How many are just walk-ons?

    ===================

    E.G. -- How far have you progressed? Have you reached the end of the first book yet? The second?

    Maybe reading War and Peace would help you in working with large casts. Maybe not. But I tell you for true: It won't teach you a tenth as much as writing the novel.

    So ... what have you gotten done so far? It doesn't have to be finished and polished, but do you have first draft yet?

    ===================

    E.G. if this is the book that's filling your heart, let it out. Write it fully, the best that you can. Perhaps you'll publish this one, perhaps you'll publish others. But until you've written this one you won't know what you have and what you can do.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by EGGammon
    And how would I "introduce the world to some of these folks" and give "these characters a road test?" if my work isn't really finished?
    Short stories.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by EGGammon
    Do you mean just a couple short stories, trying to get them published in anthologies or magazines or do you mean a short story collection, trying to get it published as a novel?
    I mean single, stand-alone short stories, a couple of characters each. Beginnings, middles, ends. Try the magazines and any appropriate magazines.

    Collections are kinda a tough market.

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

    The prequel novel -- only if it's truly stand-alone. A satisfying climax with the loose ends tied in a pretty bow.

    ==============

    Lenora, go BIC.

    ==============

    BIC = Butt In Chair.

    You don't become a writer by thinking about writing. You don't become a writer by talking about writing. You become a writer by putting your butt in your chair and writing something.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by wurdwise
    Do I type above Chapter One, Summer, 1968, do I try to find a sublte way to add it into the beginning narrative?
    Why not put the date above Chapter One? You can delete it later.

    Let's see -- 1968. Does your protagonist go to see Night of the Living Dead in the movie theatres? Or want to and be forbidden because of the article in Reader's Digest that her granny read? What's on TV? News about Vietnam? Is the TV black and white? How are people dressed? How do they talk?

    If the exact date isn't important to the story, you can just not mention. But you, the author, should know exactly when it is. Follow it out on the calendar. Note what was happening. Be consistent. Your sureness will make the reader trust you.

    Now on to realism in dialog. Really -- take a tape recorder and record some natural dialog. Transcribe it.

    Then compare your transcription to literary dialog. You see?

    Specifically -- you don't need to have your villains say "Gosh wow!" to avoid having them use really foul language. You can leave out the really foul language, and no one will notice.

    ==================

    To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely set in a certain time and place (though I don't recall that a year was ever given).

    Peyton Place is again set in a definte time.

    So is A Separate Peace.

    All of these, and many more, were evocative of a time and place. Generic can be wishy-washy. Your readers are hoping that you will help them see the world more clearly.

    (Many years ago I wrote a YA book set mostly in gangland Chicago. During the course of my research I found the day of the week* when Bugs Moran was released from Joilet before he joined Dion O'Bannion's bootleggers. That never appeared on the page, but I knew it. I like to think that having those little details in my head gave me a sureness that the readers appreciated.)

    *Sunday. He was in on a breaking and entering beef. (I also know what brand of cigarettes** he smoked.)

    ** Clown brand.*** Why do you ask?

    *** Which may well have contributed to his death from lung cancer in 1957.

    =============

    Can't tell without reading the story.

    It might work. Why not try and see?

    I'm sure it's been done, but darned if I can remember any examples right now. In film, there's always Rashomon.

    ===============

    For those who don't want to click away to a different thread, short answer: To show a linebreak you use a pound sign (#) centered. How this will show up in the printed book is up to the book's designer.

    Meanwhile, for those who do want to click away to a different site: Dealing Poorly with Rejection.

    ===============


    • Watt-Evans' Law of Literary Creation: There is no idea so stupid or hackneyed that a sufficiently-talented writer can't get a good story out of it.
    • Feist's Corollary: There is no idea so brilliant or original that a sufficiently-untalented writer can't screw it up.
    For more fun:

    The Evil Overlord Plot Generator

    ===============

    If you just use a blank line you may be in danger of a copyeditor closing it up. The pound sign is used to mean, "no kidding, really, I meant for this line to be blank."

    No one is going to reject your manuscript just because you put your pound sign flush left rather than centered. (It'll get rejected for lots of reasons, but not that.) Nor will it be rejected only because you used three asterisks rather than a pound sign, or something silly like that. A compelling story overrides linebreak symbols.

    If the publication has a specific format specified in their guidelines, of course, you follow their guidelines.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by katee
    Uncle Jim, if I may be so bold as to ask - and to back the discussion up a few pages while I'm at it - what made you not submit that first novel?
    It stank.

    I find it hard to judge the quality of my work. Is this a knack you pick up? Or am I doomed? Any hints?
    Let's assume that you don't look at it after it's spent a month in your desk drawer and say, "Man, this one just didn't come together." How do you know you're good? You don't. Other people tell you that.

    Your beta readers start handing copies of your book to their friends. Their friends start bugging you for your next book. Things like that.

    If you're a writer you're doomed anyway. Think nothing of it.

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by stranger
    I'd like to re-echo Katie's sentiments, how do you know it is good. I'm in a similar position and I know the best thing is to finish the novel first but....
    Yes. Finish the novel.
    So I'm worried that I'll finish the book and that it'll be fundamentally flawed through bad pacing no matter how much I re-write it.
    That's a valid concern, and it's one of the ways a novel can be fundamentally flawed. So, what is going on in the first third? Is there psychological movement? Why is the reader following along?

    It may come when you're at second draft stage that you'll be cutting that entire first third.

    On a more micro level, I'll introduce a character and a subplot and a corresponding bit of worldbuilding and I'll be wondering whether this is sufficently compelling to be included in the story (I guess I can remove these subplots in later drafts).
    Yep. That's second/third draft territory.

    ==================

    Quote Originally Posted by stranger
    It's a fantasy book and some of the ones I've read lately have swordfights left, right and center which got me doubting my story.
    Car chases and explosions aren't the only sorts of movement that're possible. Psychological movement is just as good (some say better).

    Read widely. Read the top award winning and critically successful books. Read the top selling books. Read the classics.

    Read. We can't write otherwise.

    ====================

    Time, Romans.

    In a pub in Londinium at the end of the second century, a legionary squad consisting of Handsome Hans the Teutonic Terror, Gaius Gracchus the Grinning Gaul, Manual Magister the Enigmatic Iberian, and Severus Sixtus (seventh son of Senator Sapium) are having a few drinks when the publican announces last call. Wacky hijinks ensue.

    =====================

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine N.
    To be a baptized Catholic male is the only one.
    Yeah, I know -- and while I didn't get my hopes up too high....

    =================

    Tie me, Romans!

    A kinky young lady learns about life and love during an unforgetable vacation in the Eternal City.


    ==================

    Your next challenge!

    Take one of the ideas above and turn it into a story. You won't have completed the assignment until you've actually submitted it to a paying market.

    ===================

    Do a linebreak and switch POV, or use a different POV character for the entire scene.

    Your POV is the person who's best able to see the important actions. That's why you make 'em POV to start with.

    ===================

    FWIW, I have not a friggin' clue what a "marketing plan" for a novel might look like.

    Maybe "Roses are red/ Violet's are blue/ I'll sign people's bookplates/ I hope that'll do."

    =======================

    Hurrah! Back! There was a glitch in the board that kept me from posting.

    Anyway ... have to do some catching up. But while that's happening ...

    The Locus Poll only has a couple more days to run. You don't need to be a Locus subscriber to participate.

    https://secure.locusmag.com/2005/Iss...AndSurvey.html

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    It seems a darn shame that a book must fit nicely onto one and only one shelf. I'd love to write a science fiction horror romance, or a comic historical mystery. I'm just afraid I'd be told, "We can't market this." Wouldn't such a book appeal to more people than peruse just one shelf?
    The thing is -- the bookstores have to shelve it somewhere. The publishers and the bookstores are trying to maximize sales, so they put a book where they think it'll find the most readers. A book can be a science fiction horror romance, but where it'll be shelved is going to be where they think it'll sell the best, or by which element prevails.

    My own Mageworlds series was one of the first space opera/magical fantasy crossovers, and it did real well. (The fourth one in that series, The Gathering Flame, was a romance.)

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    I'm at the stage where I can recognize good description and most of the time I can see HOW it was done. But when am I going to be able to DO it?
    You'll be able to do it after you've done it enough times to see what's happening.

    You're a musician practicing scales. You're a magician practicing palming. You listen to yourself, or you watch yourself in a mirror. You go to clubs and listen to the performers, or watch them, as the case may be, to see how the guys who are standing where you want to stand are doing it.

    Let me play with that little opening a bit, okay?

    It was hot in the train car that evening. I didn't know where I was going and I didn't care. The guy across from me was a gambler. I could tell by the black frock coat and string tie...
    Right. "It was" (or "there were") is generally a weak opening. You'll want to have 'em in your bag of tricks for when you want to direct (or misdirect) your readers ... but the first words of a story probably isn't one of those places. What's important here? The heat? The train? I think the important bit is the other character, the guy.

    So let's start:
    The guy...
    Which guy?

    The guy in the black frock coat. Are both of those adjectives needed? Probably not.

    The guy in the frock coat...
    Time for the verb ... what's he doing? He's sitting, but that's not too exciting. There's always a version of "to be," but that's not too exciting either. He's a gambler. What's a gambler thing for him to do? How about the trick where you roll a silver dollar over your knuckles. (This also foreshadows his death ... the "ferryman's fee," and the practice of putting silver dollars on a dead man's eyes.)

    The guy in the frock coat was rolling a silver dollar across his knuckles.
    Now we can set the scene.

    The train was going nowhere special, and where I was coming from wasn't anywhere special either.
    Action and time, coming up.

    I stared out the window into the dark.
    Now some dialog.

    =================

    I can hear you asking, "Uncle Jim, is it true that you do no promotion at all?"

    Well, yes and no.

    There's this thread, y'see. You all know my name. And anyone who types the words Learn Writing -- no quotes -- will find this thread on the first page. It was #4 tonight. It's been #1 on some occassions. My very first post here, you'll see a link to my web page.

    So that's another thing. My web page. It's been up for years, it lists all my books and where to get 'em, and it has useful stuff. No one is going to go around looking for me -- I'm no one -- but they'll look for useful stuff. So if you type science fiction bookstore into Google, one of the top half dozen sites you'll get to (it was #3 as of a couple of minutes ago) is my list of SF/F/H bookstores. In addition to a list of bookstores (I love bookstores -- they sell my books) you'll see some colorful book covers on that page. Those are all links to my books.

    Who's visited there?

    Web Pages referring to this page within the last 24 hours (min 1 reference):

    Google [336]
    Yahoo! Search - Web Search [54]
    THE TOR BOOKS FAQ [32]
    MSN Search: -- More Useful Everyday [6]
    Antique Collectible Fantasy Fiction Horror Science [1]
    EarthLink Search powered by Google [1]
    Do you see the link to the Writer's Weekend at the bottom of this post? That's a conference I'm going to, where I'll be a featured speaker. (I've already been to three others this year.)

    I've done two book signings this year. One a multi-author thing at a convention, the other a multi-author thing at a bookstore. (They invited me -- in the hour we were there, every copy of one or another of my books in the place sold. No, I didn't count. Who cares?)

    I've got the regular writer's workshop I teach in the fall. (Still open if you're planning to apply.)

    We've got a LiveJournal going for a work in progress.

    Many years ago, when I was just beginning one day I visited my publisher, had my editor take me over to the publicity department, and met the head of publicity. I shook his hand, and said, "If there's anything I can do, let me know." He said, "That's what I like to hear."

    So, that's what I'm doing for publicity. I've done the tours, I've done the radio stuff, I've had the newspaper articles. Mostly, what I think those things do is give the author something to do with his time so he won't fret.

    I'm not having pens with my titles made. I'm not doing bookmarks. I'm not doing postcards. I'm not calling around to bookstores. I'm just here, writing novels, chatting with folks, and getting out into the world once in a while.

    ====================

    Quote Originally Posted by wurdwise
    I just wanted to say I GOT IT!
    Kinda like The Rain in Spain, eh?

    (Great musical, and the restored version on the DVD is wonderful.)

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by changling
    I plan to toss it in the drawer for a month or so before taking a red pencil to it.
    A month minimum. Take the weekend off, then immediately start writing your next book. (That'll help you gain distance, and through distance perspective, on the work in the desk drawer.)

    =================

    Stronger than love, stronger than hate, stronger than self-preservation, is the desire to mess with someone else's prose.

    I'm always careful of doing things with gazes and glances.

    Try this:

    She looked down, ashamed, as she realized she was still wearing her dirty old clothes.

    That does depend on your style, the rhythm of the scene, the character being described. Let everything support the effect.

    ===================

  5. #30
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    New Hampshire
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    05/01/05 and following.


    I prefer time to words -- but if you can do five pages (1,250 words) per day, no one will say you're slacking.

    ==============

    The common term is "in-cluing."

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    I guess I've been influenced by Heinlein too much. He said, "Never revise except by editorial direction." That's probably good advice if you can produce publishable copy in your first draft. I can't.
    He didn't mean what you think he meant. Heinlein himself wrote multiple drafts and revised his work until it was a finished piece.

    After you send it out, though -- if it comes back with a rejection slip, that doesn't mean "rewrite!" that means "send it right back out!"

    After you've gotten the piece to where you want it and you've started the submission process, don't revise unless an editor offers you a contract first. Meanwhile, work on your next book.

    ===================

    I do two hours.

    ===================

    Her eyes flew around the room and landed on the curtains.

    ==================

    Welcome to the Dread Mid-Book, folks. Did you ever wonder why most of the folks who start a novel never finish? You're finding out.

    All you can do is slog ahead.

    Get a copy of The Unstrung Harp, take a break, read it, then get back to the slog. Put your BIC, and type. Just get it on paper.

    You can shape the clay later. First you have to get the clay.

    =================

    If your book sounds like Atlanta Nights -- keep working. You have some learning to do.

    ==================

    If your reaction to hitting the mid-book is to start a new book (to get that Start Of A Book high) what you'll end up with is a trunkfull of unfinished novels. Is that what you want?

    Bull your way through. It's okay to skip ahead and write bits that haven't happened yet. It isn't okay to stop this project. If you feel the need to start a second book -- give it its own BIC time in your day.

    ===================

    If it sounds okay, and you're consistent, why not write in first person for the thoughts?

    And yes, use italics for thoughts. Unless you decide to do something different. As long as you're consistent. Don't confuse the readers.

    ====================

    Making the reader feel smart is a good thing.

    ====================

    Change "looking very dangerous" to "glaring."

    ====================

    Works for me. Carry on with your novel.

    ====================

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    My goal is to cut 25,000 words out of 125,000. I don't know if I can, but I'm going to try.
    Set your wordprocessor to search for "ly" and delete all your -ly words.

    Check your wordcount then.

    =====================

    If, when you've pointed your pistol at the adverb's head and said, "Ask yourself, punk, do you feel lucky?" the poor little word makes a case for its survival, you can let it stay.

    Sort of a catch-and-release program.

    Everything must advance the plot, support the theme, or reveal character. Those things that only do one of the above ... may find themselves in the Cold Darkness.

    ==============

    It all depends on how important the covert watching is. If it's very important you can write a whole scene showing him watching covertly. If it's not so important, you can say "he watched covertly" and get on to the important stuff.

    ============

    If your novel is about inner states, then by all means write about inner states.

    Incidentally -- I use a shaving mug, and got my younger son a shaving mug (with a nice badger-bristle brush) for Christmas.

    The rule isn't "show, don't tell, regardless," it's "use the best tools to tell the story."

    ============

    Quote Originally Posted by E.G. Gammon
    Would it be ok to do something like this?
    I don't know why not. Like anything else, it all depends on how well you do it.

    Try. If it isn't working, you do something else in the next draft.

    Now write your book... you won't know what you have until you reach The End.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleJLeBoeuf
    At first blush it sounds similar in tone to other "my publisher done me wrong" stories that I've come to view with suspicion.
    It's a fact: Bad things happen to good authors. Bad things happen to good books. Don't for a minute think this business is all fun and games and good times.

    We don't know all the factors (was his next book part of a series?) or who the publishers were. Given what we know: The author made a good decision. With his editor departing there's a good chance his next book would have taken a hit in any case.

    It sounds like the new publisher took a major hit in the Cash-on-Hand sweepstakes when they signed the big name. No one had expected that when they signed "Richard."

    Not every bet you make will win. Your job, on the business side of writing, is to make the best bet you can with the information you have.

    No one says you have to be a one-publisher author. I publish around. I know that any publisher out there can, at any moment, go crazy, melt down, go into a tailspin, or suddenly decide to switch focus.

    As an author, remember what Granny told you: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie76
    When you write a novel, is there a structure one should have in mind? Do you say "okay, I'm not going to exceed x amount of pages, or x amount of chapters, and in so and so chapter that's going to be my middle point, and in this chapter I'm going to have a major plot point, or in this chapter I'm going to reveal this."
    Some people certainly do it that way.

    Or do you just get to it, and worry about everything else later?
    And others do it that way.

    "There are nine-and-sixty ways of constructing tribal lays
    And every single one of them is right."

    -- Rudyard Kipling (In the Neolithic Age)

    You'll discover when writing novels that the master rule is "What works for you?"

    No one but you reads your first draft.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by E.G. Gammon
    Everyone here knows how complex the story is.
    There is no "right" way or "wrong" way to write. But all this thinking about writing isn't writing.

    Here is your assignment: Go to lunch today at a Chinese restaurant. It must be a place with paper placemats.

    Order hot and sour soup. (Hot and sour soup is Very Important to the process.)

    While eating the hot and sour soup, draw a flowchart for your novel on the back of the placemat. It must all fit on that one placemat.

    Take that placemat home with you, and stick it up next to your computer.

    Don't post on line anywhere, for any reason, until you've written chapter one.

    Then you can come back and tell us how it went.

    =================

    'Kay, Roger --

    I hope that's giving you some insight into your writing.

    Next -- look for empty phrases and words. Things that don't move the story forward. What we sometimes call "hesitation marks." "It seemed to him," and "as it were," and "And" or "But."

    Eventually you may need to rip out a sub plot.

    Or, if everything is a piece of the finished puzzle, no parts left over, no gaps, nothing forced -- you may need to admit that you wrote a 125,000 word book. If that's the case, ship it off and start work on your next.

    ================

    "Skip the boring bits" is excellent advice.

    "What with this-and-that some five years passed...."

    =============

    At some point in the process there's no substitute for standing in your living room and reading the whole thing aloud, beginning to end.

    ==============

    After The Lord of the Rings got to be Very Popular Indeed (right book at the right time at the right place), readers wanted to repeat the experience they got in reading it. (When readers have a good time with a book they will want to have a good time with another, similar book.)

    Up until then, Fantasy as we know it now had been an obscure side room on the great hall of mainstream.

    Publishers are the readers' servants. Up popped Lynn Carter who edited the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, bringing back into print a hundred years' worth of obscure fiction by eccentric Brits. William Morris, E. R. Eddison, Lord Dunsany, all the rest. Robert E. Howard's Depression-era pulp novels were reprinted. All of it sold very well. Before long everything that vaguely fit had been reprinted, and still the market was still calling. When then market starts calling, lots of folks answer. Pretty soon novels were coming out of desk drawers. Then authors started writing original fantasy novels to fill the vacuum. One of those was The Sword of Shanarra, which, while it wasn't very good, scratched the itch that folks who had loved The Lord of the Rings had developed.

    Sturgeon's Law applies. We'll see which novels are still in print a hundred years hence.

    =================


    Quote Originally Posted by MacAllister
    This was just a general, for-your-additional-entertainment kind of a post. We now return you to your Terry Brooks discussion...
    All that's changed is the location of the slush pile. New authors are still coming out of one slush pile or another.

    ===================

    The trip went fine, Liam. I'm looking forward to hearing from your guy.

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    What's the currently preferred slush pile for an unpublished writer? An agent's or a publisher's?
    Why not both? Three and an outline (or whatever the guidelines say) in a pubisher's heap while you're querying the devil out of agents?

    And in order to get back on subject, how normal is it to look at your own characters, scenes, plots and ideas and see disturbing connections to other works? Does everyone else look at parts of their work and say, 'Damn. That's a little like such-and-such'?
    It's way normal.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    So. Mass mailings of query letters to agents simultaneous with one-at-a-time submissions to publishers. I can dig it.
    Even if the agents say they accept e-mail, go hard-copy. On nice paper. Signed with ink. In a good envelope. With an SASE.

    Research and follow everyone's guidelines exactly, modifying your submission or query as necessary.

    Remember the two rules:

    • Publishers worth submitting to have books you've seen with your own eyes on the shelves of bookstores.
    • Useful agents have sold books you've heard of.
    It's wonderful to give a new fellow a chance, but why should they get their on-the-job training with your book?

    ================

    Guys, go get the following things (all freeware or shareware):

    AVG Antivirus

    Popfile Automatic Email Classification

    ZoneAlarm Firewall

    GRR! (Greyware Registry Rearguard)

    AdAware SE adware removal

    Spyware Blaster spyware blocker

    Spybot S&D spyware removal

    Microsoft Windows Anti-Spyware (Beta)

    Run 'em all, keep 'em updated. GRR! especially will help with viruses and trojans that haven't been around long enough to have profiles in the major anti-virus programs. It detects and prevents any unauthorized changes in your Registry files.

    =============

    Never, ever open or run an unexpected file attached to an email, even if it appears to come from someone you know.

    =============

    While we're talking Star Wars:

    http://www.pvponline.com/archive.php3?archive=20050510

    =========

    Quote Originally Posted by Unimportant
    I don't live in the US, so every one page query costs me $3; a synopsis+chapter query costs ~$20, and a full-ms submission costs ~$80.
    Is there a publishing industry in the country where you live?

    ==========

    As far as spelling out numbers, the rule is "be consistent."

    Whoever you sell the work to will have a house style, and that's the way it'll be printed.

    ===========

    The SASE is only important if you want to hear back.

    It's perfectly normal and acceptable to include a letter-sized envelope and state in the cover letter that the manuscript is disposable.

    ===========

    If anyone has any Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror short stories, previously published, to which you own the audio rights, here's a market:

    http://escape.extraneous.org/guidelines/

    ===========

    Maestro is correct. I want the checks to come with my real name on 'em.

    Your name isn't secret from your agent and the editor. The name on the cover is a marketing decision.

    ===========

    "An" sounds right because SASE is pronounced ess-aye-ess-ee, and "ess" begins with a vowel.

    If you pronounced it "say-see" then "a" would be the indefinite article of choice.

    You can do it either way, so long's you stay consistent.

    ============

    I always put the period inside the quotes when ending a sentence.

    ============

    These are all examples of things where, if you sell a story, someone at the publisher's will come by with their house stylebook and make the changes they like.

    If either can be correct, choose one and stay consistent. The power of your story is what sells the work. A dull story with perfect punctuation won't sell any faster than a dull story with non-standard punctuation.

    =============

    Here is a quote from Michael Moschen, perhaps the best contact juggler in the world, one of the most significant jugglers of the 20th century, recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant:

    Moschen tells would-be jugglers that having too many balls in the air can be dangerous, that control is just an illusion. "Try to understand the characteristics of the objects coming at you," he says. "Create a separate flight path for each. Beware of taking the simplest forms for granted, because it's the simplest thing that will be your anchor."

    There's wisdom for all of us there.

    For "object" read "character" and apply this to your writing.

    ==============

    Those of you who've seen The Labyrinth have seen Mr. Moschen's juggling. (That's him doing the crystal contact-juggling for David Bowie.)

    Many years ago, Mr. Moschen self-published a book on contact-juggling. (I know about this because a friend of mine typeset it for him.) You can't find used copies -- because anyone who has one is holding onto it. I know -- I've been looking for years.

    That's a perfect self-publishing project. Very specialized non-fiction for a well-defined audience.

    ==============

    In case you don't live with a writer but want to have the experience.

    And a link from the comments on that page.

    ==============

    Smiles are very important, but the link's been fixed. (Comes from reading/reporting my morning spam while I'm posting here.)

    ===============

    Yet another reason for keeping hard-copy backups and off-site electronic copies of your files.

    ==============

    'Cause y'all are my friends, here's a source for special graph paper useful for drawing Celtic knotwork. (See up thread for what you can do with Celtic knotwork....)

    http://www.incompetech.com/beta/plai...eltic_blue.pdf

    ===================

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Underhill
    Say, how's that pay, anyway?
    Better than hardcore nerdporn for elf fetishists. That's a really lousy market. (Too many hatcheck girls.)

    (I did, once, see a story that included the startling line, "She had not expected an elf at all, far less an abused one.")

    ===================

    The Too Many Hatcheck Girls joke:


    One night the police do a sweep in the red light district and haul in a whole bunch of young ladies. They're taken in to night court, where the judge arraigns each one in turn.

    The first one stands up, gives her name and address.

    "What do you do for a living?" the judge asks.

    "I'm a hatcheck girl."

    Second young lady, same deal: "I'm a hatcheck girl."

    And so on, through a whole paddywagon's worth of young ladies. Finally, the last one approaches the bench.

    "And what do you do for a living?" the judge asks.

    "I'm a hooker, your honor," the woman replies.

    "Really?" the judge says, perking up to finally have someone tell him the truth. "How's business?"

    "Terrible," she says. "Too many hatcheck girls."

    ==============

    The Romance Heroine Rules

    ==============

    Pointing up the theme is what you do during the second draft editing.

    All of your words need to be the right words. All of your words need to advance the plot, reveal character, or support the theme. Better words do two of those things. The best words do all three.

    Write your book. (Tell your story. Without story there is no book.)

    Read it.

    Figure out what the theme is.

    While writing your second draft knowing what the theme is will help you decide on the right words. Remove or change those that do not support the theme (if they are not already revealing character or advancing plot).

    ==================

  6. #31
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    Heh. I have some doubt that LOTR would make it out of a slush pile today.
    Why not?

    It's the sequel to a successful book, and it takes off like a shot. You don't run into any backstory until you hit the Council of Elrond halfway through the first book, and by then you're surrounded by Black Riders, Frodo's been stabbed and nearly died, and you're seriously wondering what's going on.

    ===============

    Here's something worth reading:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/?ci=16582



    GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

    PRINCETON, NJ -- About one in every two Americans is engrossed in some type of book, according to Gallup's latest measure of the public's reading habits. About half of Americans also say they have read more than five books in the past year, not much different from the number reported a decade and a half ago. There is no widespread pattern as to how people select their books -- some choose by the author, others based on recommendations from their friends, and still others by browsing in a bookstore or library.

    The poll, conducted May 20-22, finds 47% of adults saying they are presently reading a book, up from 37% who reported that in 1990, and 23% in 1957.
    It goes on, in some detail, about reading habits and buying habits of Americans.

    If you're in this business as a business, it behooves you to be aware of this stuff.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by changling
    Question posed to me: Mr. Schneider, when is your next book coming out?

    My answer: I have a book, but no publisher.

    People who have read my first book, and liked it, are now asking about the next one.
    This is normal and to be expected. "I'll let you know when it's coming out" is always a good answer.

    Question to you: I will now loose my small but wanting audience before I find publisher?
    Nah. They'll still be there.

    Question: Be honest about the experience of the first book with other publisher?
    Don't fib, but there's no reason to tell them everything you know. Your current book will stand on its own. You don't need to mention your previous book.

    Question: Hold them off?

    Hold who off? The hordes of zobmis surrounding your house?

    Question: Get some printed at Kinkos to keep them happy?
    Who, the fans asking about your next book? You could always ask them if they want to be beta readers.

    Conundrum 101.

    Signed, flapping in the breeze of P.A.
    Life's a ***** and then you die.

    ===============

    You've written your second book, right? You're sending it around? Write another book. Keep going.

    Nothing about this job is easy. Nothing is sure. We just have to do our best.

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by azbikergirl
    IOW, can a first person narrator die at the end without annoying the reader?
    It can be done. See, for example, All Quiet on the Western Front.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by UndercoverJackal

    I think my problem is with urgency, and having everything coming crashing down around the guys ears all at once, reacting quickly.
    Use an appropriate level of detail to regulate pace. If he's moving fast he's not noticing the chintz-covered tea cosy.

    Find a first-person novel you admire.

    Retype a scene that does what you want to do. See how the author did it.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    Is it a good idea to mention this (readers asking for more) to an agent or publisher when querying?
    What purpose would it serve? "All my friends think it's great" doesn't mean much unless your friends are Tom Clancy and Stephen King.

    Readers asking for more should be a mark to you, however, that you're doing something right. Readers, especially if they're total strangers, asking for more is exactly what'll move those books in the bookstores.

    ===============

    Christine is mostly in first person.

    =============

    Film rights were picked up by Sony.

    Good on her!

    ===============

    Most writers won't see that their entire careers.
    She may not see it either. When the size of an advance is announced, it includes all the possible escalators. Things like, If it's made into a film, $50K on the day of first principle photography, $50K on the day of release, $100K if it opens in the top five. $100K if it's a Oprah's Book Club selection. $1,000,000 if it spends more than 10 weeks as a #1 New York Times Best Seller. $50K if you appear on Good Morning America.

    I'm up to one and a quarter million already there, and not a dime I can take to the bank.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine N.
    She only promotes books by dead people now, didn't you know? Someone snubbed her or something, and now she doesn't deal with live authors.
    That was Jonathan Frazen; the novel was The Corrections.

    She doesn't touch fantasy and science fiction in any case, so who cares?

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by PattiTheWicked
    Oh my gods. I just had a Zork-flashback.
    You are in a maze of twisty little messageboards, all alike.


    ===============

    (And it's perfectly swell to post a link to Doyle's essay. She wrote it to be read.)

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawno
    What book am I buying? My giant schnauzer and his lawy...uh, anyway, he wants to know.
    Liam's book is OFFSPRING, and the details are here.

    Did everyone go check out the Lulu Experiment? Book is already up and for sale. I believe it didn't cost Uncle Jim 'one thin dime' either.
    Yep. The book is up, cost to me zero, time elapsed about nine hours (much of it spent looking for the software I'd need to create a .pdf and trying to figure out how to use my graphics program), and hacking around. Also: supper. And chatting with a friend. It should go quicker next time, if there is a next time.

    NOTE: I don't recommend self-publishing to anyone outside of very narrowly defined areas. Specialized non-fiction, niche fiction, poetry. Anything where you know the audience pretty much by name or expect to be looking them in the eye. A defined audience that you can get to is the baseline sine qua non.

    This was an experiment, using a public domain text.

    ===============

    I skimmed it in a bookstore. It looks amusing enough, but doesn't look like a how-to if your problem is that you don't have a plot.

    (If that is your problem, go here: The Evil Overlord Plot Generator.)

    ================

    Do the readers care about the character?

    =============

    You can always bring the character back in another book, but with a different name and a wig.

    ===============

    Then do whatever is best for your story.

    ====================

    When you kill characters ... it's okay. It's like in the movies -- when they kill a character they don't kill the actor. He can appear in another film.

    ===================

    While no one has managed to define Science Fiction or Fantasy ... RWA has defined Romance. Here it is:

    http://www.rwanational.org/press_rel...es_romance.htm



    RWA Defines the Romance Novel
    (HOUSTON, TX) -- Romance Writers of America has outlined two elements -- a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending -- as the crux of their association’s official definition of a romance novel.

    "There’s no doubt about it, when you call a book a ‘romance’ it gets attention," says RWA President Tara Taylor Quinn. "But there are so many books promoted as ‘romances’ or ‘love stories,’ readers, writers and reporters who are considering our industry statistics are confused as to what we mean. We see new titles released every month -- from non-fiction how-to manuals to women’s fiction -- that are being touted as ‘a new romance’ or a ‘timeless love story.’ Only a percentage are actually romances. Many ‘relationship’ novels come close to being a romance in our sense of the word, but in the end they don’t meet the expectations our readers hold about the genre of romance. They are not the same, and it’s confusing.

    "In short, we found ourselves needing to officially define what a romance novel really is," Quinn says.

    According to RWA’s official definition, a romance is a book wherein the love story is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying.

    Jennifer Crusie, a best-selling romance author and member of the RWA committee that wrote the official definition, says the central-love-story aspect of the definition means "the main plot of the romance must concern two people falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work.

    "The conflict in the book centers on the love story.

    "The climax in the book resolves the love story.

    "A writer is welcome to as many subplots as she likes as long as the relationship conflict is the main story," says Crusie.

    This aspect of the definition rules out books that contain a romance subplot, but a main focus of -- just to name a few -- mystery, social or business struggle of some sort, or intrigue. A true romance novel must have the love story as the main focus of the book. Things like mystery, intrigue, and other action may, and often do, appear as secondary plots in romance novels.

    "Romance novels end in a way that makes the reader feel good," says Crusie of the second aspect of the romance-novel definition, the emotionally optimistic ending. "Romance novels are based on the idea of an innate emotional justice -- the notion that good people in the world are rewarded and evil people are punished. In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love," Crusie says.

    This part of the definition excludes the type of novels that are most often incorrectly considered to be romances: love stories with unhappy endings. Bittersweet endings, like the conclusion to the love story in the film Titanic, for example, or the end of the novel Bridges of Madison County, prevent otherwise love-story focused books from being true romances.

    "RWA established a simple and straight forward acid test for classifying a book as a popular romance novel. Our central-love-story/emotionally-satisfying-ending criteria will allow writers, readers, and other interested parties to fully understand what RWA means when it discusses ‘the romance novel,’ and all the statistics and demographics that refer to it," Quinn says.

    The members of Romance Writers of America -- an 9,000-member strong writers association -- write the romance novels that represent 55% of all mass-market paperback fiction purchased in the United States, and that generate $1 billion per year in sales.
    Just so you know.

    ================

    Kate -- go, even if you don't pitch anything. Keep your eyes and ears open. Be the best listener in the room.

    Why would you want to cut yourself off from your colleagues, from networking and information?

    ================

    Since you mention Tor and the BEA, here's an After Action Report (complete with Giant Weiner costume).

    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight...91.html#006391

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    When I said I had written one, she asked me to send it to her -- Requested by her! WHOOPEEE!
    I presume you've aready sent off the manuscript, with the cover letter quoting this conversation, yes?

    ============

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    Now the agony begins!
    No, my friend. Now you forget all about that manuscript and start writing your next book.

    (If you haven't already compiled a list of which agents you'd like to be represented by, though, now's the time....)

    ===========

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    Oh, and another question. Assuming I have an offer from the publisher (a big if), is it appropriate to call agents? Or should I write letters with a SASE and all? What about email?

    Thanks.

    Beware pique. It doesn't have a place in this business.

    And yes, when you get an offer, then a telephone call is appropriate.

    Start with the best on your list, even if they already told you "not interested." You've just gone into a new inning.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by loquax
    It's just that I can't help but slip in a paragraph of seemingly (in your eyes) unnecessary description every now and then.
    Are the readers likely to skim it?

    ===============

    Story is a force of nature. It trumps everything.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    As I've been re-reading my favorites lately, I've come to the conclusion that successful books written only a few decades ago couldn't make it off a slush pile these days.
    You keep hearing that sort of thing, but I'm not certain that I believe it.

    More titles were published last year in America than were published in the first ten years of twentieth century -- in the world.

    Styles go in and out of fashions -- but stories, the baseline, are eternal.

    ==============

    Another advantage of handwriting is that it's tougher to go back and re-write yesterday's writing rather than moving forward.

    Do I have an endpoint in mind when I start a book? Sure. Do I always get to the climax I had in mind? Nope.

    Is possible that I don't know the climax and I'm just using this as a method of coming up with characters? Sure, that's possible.


    See also the discussion of positional chess as a method of plotting.

    =================

    You're quite welcome.

    It's common for writers to help other writers and to help folks who want to be authors. We know where we came from and remember those who helped us.

    Being a writer means you have homework every day for the rest of your life. It's easier with a study-buddy.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    I just have this fear that if the wordsmithing doesn't perfectly conform to the current fashion, editors never get far enough through the submission to see enough story to impress them.
    Write what you love; write what excites you. If you don't, I'll bet you a box of donuts that no one else will love your book or be excited by it.

    The current fashion is a moving target. The books being written today are the ones that will be setting "the current fashion" four years from now.

    =================

    Welcome, Tim. Best of luck with your submissions.

    =================

    Dialog! Woo hoo!

    We've probably discussed it, but that doesn't mean we can't do it again.

    First off -- using adverbs puts us in severe danger of creating unintentional humor: "My headache is gone," Tom said absentmindedly. "The prisoners are coming down the stairs," Tom said condescendingly. "I love hotdogs!" Mandy said with relish.

    These are referred to as Tom Swifties.

    Use of words other than 'said' to mean 'said' can get ridiculous, especially if overdone. "What?" he bellowed. "No one's here," he gritted. "The villain has departed," he hissed.

    These are called Said Bookisms.

    "Said" is an invisible word. You can use it as much as you like and no one will notice it. Not that you have to use it all the time. Especially if you only have two people talking you don't need to put "he said" or "she said" after every sentence. Sprinkle 'em in to keep folks straight so they don't have to flip back two pages and count lines to tell who's talking.

    Ideally your charaters should have voices that are different enough that the readers will be able to identify them from their dialog without any tags at all.

    Like anything else in your Author's Toolkit you can use Said Bookisms or Tom Swifties or Stage Directions when they're necessary.

    Spices make the food tastier; too much spice makes diner inedible.

    Observe how your favorite author handles dialog tags. Go and do likewise.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by gp101
    UOr another Scot-American writer with the good fortune of your last name?
    John D. is (or was -- he's dead now) another and far better writer than me.

    ================

    For dialog tags: Don't confuse the readers. The tags are there to keep the readers from getting confused. Don't annoy or distract the readers. Anything else you do is part of the art. Play around and see what works.

    ==============

    Here's one of our stories, in audio format: http://escape.extraneous.org/2005/06...jenny-nettles/

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by changling
    Uncle Jim,

    What are the benefits of writing a series such as your Mageworld's.
    Each volume has a built-in audience. Each new reader will seek out earlier volumes.

    How do publishers see a series? Do they prefer series over single novels?
    All depends. What it depends on is how well the first one does. Series have upsides, but also downsides. It might happen that however many read the first volume, that's how many readers you'll have for the full run. Some books also are clearly stand-alone. Some form loose series -- books about the same characters in the same setting, but don't require that the reader have read previous volumes in order to be up to speed on the plot and characters.

    Don't second-guess yourself here. Write the book you want to write and let it be what it is.

    ***

    So, tell me see if I have this correct.

    I shop a novel to the appropriate company.

    I write the next one, which, I put in the in the drawer when finished for a few months before re-working it.

    I write the next one, re-work and send the second, keep sending the first around, and so on?
    Yep, that's pretty much it. Unless the second book you've written is the second in a series. In that case, just keep it in your desk drawer until the first one sells.

    ===============

    Ah, the seven-point plot outline! (Not to be confused with the three point plot outline.)

    It works for the stories that follow the seven-point plot outline. It doesn't work for the rest. (Which is to say that I'm not a big fan of this particular Procrustean bed.)

    Advantages of the seven-point plot outline:

    It's easy to teach.
    It gives the writer something definite to do.

    Disadvantages:

    You wind up with a story that follows the seven-point plot outline just like 4,529 of the other stories that hit Asimov's mailbox this month.


    ================

    If it helps you get words on paper, follow it. Else, don't.

    ================

    The three-point plot outline:

    1) Get the hero up a tree.

    2) Throw rocks at him.

    3) Get the hero out of the tree.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by changling
    Do people really go through a paintaking process of outlining chapters and making the process of writing a job, instead of the joy of something they love to do?
    Some people do. It works for them. They enjoy doing it that way.

    It's been entirely too long since I handed out an assignment. Memorize The Walrus and the Carpenter. Memorize the Death of Kings from Richard II. Okay, here's the next:

    Memorize, and be prepared to recite from memory, "In the Neolithic Age" by Rudyard Kipling.

    I promise you that this will improve your writing.

    =============

    Here's my take on the ellipsis v. em-dash discussion:

    1) Don't confuse your readers.

    2) Be consistent.

    (Point 2 may actually be a subset of point 1.)

    If the place that buys your book has a house style, they'll follow it. If you have strong objections to the style, discuss it with your editor.

    If you disagree with the Chicago Manual of Style, take a pen and correct the book. First, however, you have to read the Chicago Manual so you know what's in it. Understand why you agree or disagree with any of their suggestions. (And anything they have is, in truth, just a suggestion.)

    The only rule is: Don't bore your reader.

    ===============

    Traill was most likely H. D. Traill, editor of Literature, a weekly review.

    Other vocabulary:
    Dwerg: dwarf.
    Solutré, Crenelle: French prehistoric sites.
    Allobrogenses: ancient Gallic tribe.
    Kew, Clapham: London suburbs.
    Khatmandhu: capital of Nepal.
    Martaban: town in Burma.
    Being a writer means you have homework every day. Words are your tools. History is your secret weapon. Read something every day. Write something every day.

    This is no easy art.

    ===============

    Traditionally the author's rights as far as cover art consist of bitching about it.

    In practical terms, publishers have art departments that work closely with the marketing folks to come up with a cover that will tell the readers "This is the kind of book you're looking for."

    Covers aren't meant to be illustrations. They're meant to be point-of-purchase advertisements.

    Don't think that the austere black-and-white cover of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an exception, either. It has the crow graphic, and the typography is distinctive (and undoubtedly hand drawn). That cover too gives you a feel for what the novel will feel like.

    Authors can get "cover consultation" in their contracts fairly easily. It's cover approval that's hard to get.

    The publisher can easily pay as much for the cover as they do for the novel itself. That's how important covers are.

    =============

    The purpose of the book's cover is to say "This is the kind of book you like if you like books like this."

    If some group doesn't like books that have dragons on the cover and won't buy them, then putting dragons on the cover serves both them and the author.

    Would it be better that they buy the book, not like it, and never buy another book by that author? I don't think so.

    ==============

    It's still two to three times as much as freelance slush readers make.

    ================

    The question is whether the potty break advances the plot, reveals character, or supports the theme.

    Dutch Shultz undoubtedly went to the bathroom many times in his life. The only time worth mentioning was one night at the Palace Chop House and Tavern in Newark, New Jersey.

    ===================

    It only matters if it matters to your readers.

    ==============

    This is an art, not a science. We do not measure our works with tape measure and stopwatch, saying "Ah, 10,000 words have passed, time to change POV!"

    ----

    Many years ago I wrote a Spider-Man book. In this book, Spider-Man and Venom (Eddie Brock) drink a lot of coffee. (This book was written in one week -- art imitates life.)

    At one point in a fight scene, Spider-Man said, "Wait up a minute -- I have to pee." To this, Venom replied, snarling, "Piss in your pants, Pete. It's what I do." (Since Venom wears a biogenic suit, this is actually a reasonable thing for him to do. It's also a reasonable thing for him to say since Eddie Brock knows Spider-Man's secret identity, and loathes him.)

    Alas, the editor didn't let me keep it.

    ====

    While bowels do generally unstop some time after death, smells and sounds and such are reasonable things to mention. But the time can be up to some hours later ... so it's not always necessary to mention.

    ============

    Everyone, if the board is suddenly unreadable, switch to "linear mode" in "Display modes" (link at the right end of the blue bar, top of the page).

    Threaded mode just plain doesn't work.

    ============

    Bullets are funny things. So are human bodies. They both surprise you.

    Also -- an awful lot of AK ammo is old, or was manufactured with a bit less quality control than you might like. Some of it is likely underpowered.

    =============

    A compelling query?

    Keep it to one page. Two at most.

    Beyond that ... there's not much I can say other than spell the agent's name right, and watch your grammar and spelling.

    ===============

    Drop a third or half-way down the page. Chapter number or title centered, drop another couple of lines, then start the first paragraph.

    Meanwhile: a nice review of an older book: http://www.livejournal.com/users/bla...ants/4107.html

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by paritoshuttam
    Has anybody here ever done anything like that?
    Happens all the darned time. Editor at Publisher A gets a cover letter addressed to Editor at Publisher B. Or the body of the cover letter talks about how the author always wanted to be published by Publisher C when the editor reading the letter is working for Publisher D.

    Always check and doublecheck the names before you send something out.

    ===============

    Times New Roman may be right but Courier 10 is never wrong. (Unless the guidelines say so.)

    ===============

    What Publishing Is: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight...79.html#006479

    ===============

    If you can do it in one page, do it in one page. If it takes five to ten pages to write your synopsis, take them.

    You aren't providing a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, just a description of your story, including the climax.

    =================

    Making the synopsis fun to read should be on your list, yes. It should read like a story, not a school assignment.

    Meanwhile ----

    I posted this down in the Bewares board, but not everyone reads there, so I'll put this here:

    Ms. Schwartz [Mary Louise Schwartz of the Belfrey Literary Agency] was at Writers' Weekend, as was I. I attended one of her panels and spoke with her briefly afterward.

    On the e-mail issue -- apparently when the word got out that she was accepting email subs, the response from writers crashed her ISP's server. So ... if you've been waiting for a while, you might re-submit.

    Second, she told a funny story. She got a manuscript by email. She read it. She loved it. She called an editor she knew and described it. He said, "Send it right over!" Alas, the writer had not included his/her name or contact information on the manuscript, and it had gotten separated from the cover letter (perhaps lost in the server crash?)

    So there she sits, with what she thinks is a sure sale on her hands, unable to do anything with it.

    ==========

    If that's your manuscript that you forgot to put your name on ... well.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by aadams73
    That's the kind of story that makes a writer want to weep!
    That's the kind of story that makes editors and agents say "Remember that 'running head' thing we keep talking about? Ever wonder why?"

    Guys, go to your manuscripts right now and put your name, address, email, and phone number on the first page. Put your name in the running head. It's okay -- I'll wait 'til you get back.

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

    And if you are that author, or know that author ... Ms. Schwartz wants to hear from you with your name and address.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by aruna
    Oh my god! that's NOT funny! Can't she reply to the mail, or did she delete it?
    The attachment was apparently saved separately from the mail (some email programs do this) and the cover letter (if there was one) got separated/lost. It happens with streetmail too. She seems to have lost a lot of mail to server issues (and doesn't strike me as being a computer power-user).

    I suggested that she Google on the title of the book and her own name, to see if the author mentioned sending it, and Google on unique phrases from the first chapter to see if the author workshopped it somewhere, but those are both longshots.

    =============

    "Reply all" has done more damage than you might imagine.

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

    "Funny" doesn't always mean "humorous." It can also mean odd, queer, or unsettling.

    Q. Why didn't the cannibal eat the clown?

    A. He tasted funny.

    ===============

    Researching the historical novel

    ==========

    Sell just the one book. That book needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    If that first book doesn't sell it won't have any sequels.

    ===========

    Story can be brief.

    ===========

    For any novel you can assume that the world existed before the action of the book started, and the world continued after the climax of the book ended.

    ===========

    Presumably if you'd been able to tell the story in less than 800 pages you would have done so.

    That being said, what you've told me about your synopsis may point to a problem area or two in the overall novel.

    ===========

    ...i had to kind of introduce some of the action in the back story in order to make the plot not confusing.
    If you need the backstory to have the plot make sense there's a chance you're starting the story at the wrong point.

    I don't know -- I haven't read your book.

    ===============

  7. #32
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/show...page=180&pp=25

    Quote Originally Posted by loquax
    For an easy example, the Harry Potter series not only follows Harry, but also the past lives of his teachers and his parents as he goes along. The more we learn about the backstory, the more we learn about Harry.
    I would tend to disagree. We do learn about past events, but they aren't driving the story. Also: The series begins with Harry, still an infant, being delivered to the Dursleys moments after Voldemort's final attack on his parents.

    The entire backstory can be compressed into one line: The wizarding community has been immersed in a civil war.

    That war might have continued indefinitely. The event that changes everything is the one that starts the first book: Harry survives.

    ================

    Betcha some of the backstory revelations in Harry Potter came about like this:

    JKR: [type type type]

    JKR: Oh <bleep>! Harry's dead for sure this time. No way can he survive that.

    JKR: [brood brood brood]

    JKR: Ah ha! I know! His scar will protect him!

    JKR: [type type type]

    ===========

    This is a lovely holiday weekend (Independence Day in the United States, Canada Day in Guess Where.)

    But, you're all writers! That means "No Time Off For You, Bucky!"

    So: Next assignments:

    First: Rent Secret Garden on DVD. (It's about a writer.) Watch it. Very good. Now watch the short feature with the director's comments on why he made the decisions he did. (Pay particular attention to his remarks about the strength of the characters.) Now watch the deleted scenes, with the director's comments turned on. Why were they deleted? Did he make the right decisions?


    Next assignment:

    Rent Princess Diaries II and Resident Evil II. Watch them back-to-back. Popcorn is allowed. Taking a break between them isn't. Your assignment is to combine them into a single story: Anne Hathaway wakes up in the palace in Gevalia to discover that all her happy subjects have been turned into flesh-eating zombies. She must rescue Julie Andrews and shoot her way out before the United States nukes the country. You're aiming for thirty to forty manuscript pages with a beginning, a middle, and an end. (Alternatively: Milla Jovovich wakes up in a hospital to discover that she has to choose which of two young men to marry in just thirty days. Or some other mix-n-match combo.) You must file off the serial numbers by removing all trademarked and copyrighted elements from the finished piece.

    Extra points to anyone who files off those serial numbers so well that no one reading the story would suspect it came from this assignment. Even more points to anyone who's gutsy enough to submit the result to a paying market.

    =================

    1) It's improving your strategizing skills

    2) There's an ah-ha! moment in your future

    3) At the very least your chess game should have improved.

    What the point is: Just as putting a knight on King's Bishop Three is the strongest position for that piece, and the chess master instinctively knows to develop the piece there -- in the same way the writer knows that giving his detective just forty-eight hours to crack the case puts that character in an interesting position.

    Put interesting characters in interesting positions and plot will develop. Later, surprising combinations will arise -- not necessarily because you plotted them out in advance, but because they flow naturally from the groundwork you've already done. The Sorting Hat couldn't have provided a sword in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets if the Sorting Hat hadn't been put into play and established as magical in Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone.

    As you gain practice as a writer you'll learn how to put interesting characters into interesting places -- even if you don't know how things will work out later.

    ==================

    The real rule is: The prose must be workmanlike or better.

    Strong story will get you through weak prose better than strong prose will get you through weak story.

    ========

    To the question of why the editor didn't remove the -ly and -ing words... perhaps the editor would say, "You should have seen it before." If your story grabs the reader and makes him read all the pages one after another your prose can be the dullest stuff imaginable.

    Me, I know that I'm not a genius so I make the parts that I can make strong stronger still, to make up for deficiencies elsewhere.

    ==========

    I am suddenly filled with the desire to write a story that incorporates every one of those evil metaphors and phrases. This could be particulalry amusing if at least one word in each phrase was being used in a different way than usual. "Dog" as a verb. "Pole" as a gentleman from Poland. And so on.

    ===========

    The average YA novel?

    Beats heck out of me. Probably 40K-60K.

    Check the particular publisher's guidelines.

    ==========

    Sean, finish it. After that, while you're starting your next book, you can decide whether it belongs in your closet or the mailbox.

    I'm a believer in finishing works. How else do you learn how to write endings?

    ===========

    Quote Originally Posted by aruna
    Can't say I agree with this of Heinlein's rules:
    You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order
    He's talking about after you send it out. How many times have you run into people who rewrite a piece every time they get a rejection slip? Too many times, right?

    After you've sent out a work, forget it. Every time it comes back, send it out again the same day. The only time you should rewrite is if someone says "I'll buy this if you make the following changes...." Otherwise work on your next book.

    ==============

    I figure that if they aren't willing to back up their suggestions with their checkbook that they're just one more opinion and my opinion trumps theirs.

    ==============

    Orwell's rule

    Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
    is similar in intent to Rule 2 of COLREGS 1972 (International Rules For Preventing Collision At Sea, aka the Rules of the Road):

    Rule 2 Responsibility
    (a) Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master, or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.
    (b) In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.
    That's the General Prudential Rule or the Rule of Good Seamanship: You should follow the rules at all times, unless following the rules would result in a collision; at that time you are required to break the rules.

    The rules of writing are all very well and will keep you out of trouble most of the time, but you'll break those rules if you must to avoid the literary equivalent of a collision at sea.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by kaku
    Can you provide some examples of how I can bring my readers closer?
    Not easily. I'd suggest you go to your bookshelf and analyse how other writers have done the trick in book-length works.


    (One possiblity -- give them something they want that isn't directly tied to the plot of the book, but is tied to the theme.)

    ==============

    It may be that going from a bio to a character is dry, and the bios themselves are flawed.

    Try writing the book, then write the characters' bios from the people they turned out to be -- then use those to go back and ensure consistency.

    ================

    Use bios if they work for you. Otherwise don't.

    Some people cast horoscopes for their characters. Other read Tarot cards. Myself, I take filecards (one per character) and write details about the character on 'em as I learn more about the person in the writing of the book.

    =================

    What vocabularly is appropriate -- and which words your readers do know, should know, or ought to know -- are a cursed subject.

    There's been a long-standing joke about finding and stealing Stephen R. Donaldson's dictionary.

    Some authors (Lord Dunsany, for example) deliberately use archaic words. (This has been going on for a thousand years at least -- one of the early Arthurian works uses only words of Anglo-saxon origin rather than French.)

    The meaning of a word should be reinforced by context. Nothing relieves you of the obligation to choose the right word with the exact meaning you intend.

    =============

    You use as many filecards per character as necessary.

    =============

    A good thread, recently dredged from the depths in the Bewares Board: Agents Charging Fees

    ==============

    If you haven't had a beta reader (someone who can be brutally honest) read your book, yes, now's the time.

    And, after two years of rewriting, now might be the time to start your next book.

    I congratulate you on your earlier publication. All you really need is to work on the slightly different skillset you'll need for novels intended for adults. I wouldn't neglect YA while all this is going on, though.

    ===============

    Those YAs -- I presume they've reverted? Did they have decent sales figures?

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by popmuze
    My original editor (only on the first book) was Melanie Kroupa, who has her own line of books at Farrar Strauss now.
    Are you agented?

    This might be time to get in touch with Ms. Kroupa (assuming you had a decent relationship with her).

    ==============

    See if she's interested in reprint rights.

    ==============

    If I were in your position, Ken, I'd write a new, better, different book. That is to say, choice 3.

    Meanwhile:

    Fame, sweet fame!

    http://www.businessweek.com/the_thre..._the_dark.html

    Sorta. I'm almost kinda mentioned by BusinessWeek. Now to see if maybe next time they'll spell my name right.

    =============

    Rather than saying "beta reader" say "focus group" or "test audience" if it helps explain the concept better.

    The question is "Yes, but does the novel work?" You'll know it's working when the beta readers start handing copies to their friends and begging you for more.

    A high bar? Sure. Publishing in general has a high bar.

    There's a discussion happening right now in the Children's board here at AW about the Delacourt contest (for first YA novels). Some folks won't submit because some years Delacourt doesn't select anyone at all. (There's no entry fee, BTW -- it's a chance to have your book read even if you don't have an agent.)

    I find it entirely reasonable that some years they don't find any manuscripts that meet their needs. That isn't to say the books are crap -- only that they don't meet that publisher's needs.

    ================

    Mainstream, contemporary, and literary are all marketing categories. What a book is called depends on how the marketing folks think it will sell better.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by zornhau
    Even better, a fictitious group will stop your story from dating.
    It's okay for your stories to date, but they shouldn't go all the way. Be back by midnight, drive safe and have fun, kids.

    ==============

    "I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off.So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!"

    "Why shouldn't I?" he said.

    I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"

    He said, "Like what?"

    I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"

    He said, "Religious."

    I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"

    He said, "Christian."

    I said, "Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?"

    He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"

    He said, "Baptist!" I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist church of god or Baptist church of the lord?"

    He said, "Baptist church of god!"

    I said, "Me too! Are you original Baptist church of god, or are you reformed Baptist church of god?"

    He said, "Reformed Baptist church of god!"

    I said, "Me too! Are you reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?"

    He said, "Reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!"

    I said, "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off."

    -- EMO PHILIPS


    ==================

    What you need to do is make BIC time for both writing the new and editing the old. The process will make you a stronger writer.


    Tomorrow's Saturday. Take the manuscript that's been sitting in the desk drawer, take the day, and read it straight through as if you were someone who'd picked it up in a bookshop. If something positively glares at you ... you're allowed to put a red mark beside it in the margin. Otherwise, just do a cold read-through.

    That'll give you an idea of where you stand.

    ================

    JUNIUS BROWN THE TRAGEDIAN, or "NO MATTER!"

    I'm an actor who's seen better days,
    For I once was a star I've a notion;
    I've been toss'd about all sorts of ways
    Upon the theatrical ocean.
    But jealousy, spite and all that
    Has brought me down to but a seedy 'un
    It's been all caused by envy -- that's flat
    For I once was a heavy tragedian.

    CHORUS:
    I've been a bright star in my time,
    Though now I'm reduced to a seedy 'un;
    In me you may please to behold --
    Junius Brown the Tragedian.

    You have all seen my name in the bills,
    Which is Junius Antonius Brown, sirs;
    And I flatter myself to have caused --
    Great excitment in many a town, sirs;
    My last 'shop' was the Garrick, Whitechapel;
    In a 'part' that I could above any fit,
    My 'screw' sirs, for only six nights
    Was two pounds and a half a clear benefit.

    SPOKEN: That was money, but what do they offer talent now! I was actually offered the other day twenty-five 'bob' per week to play Othello, the Clown in the Pantomime, and do bill-sticking in the mornings. Did I accept it? Blood and blue fire! Never! NEVER! but no matter, a time may come when they will be glad to secure the services of Brown the Tragedian.

    CHORUS:
    I've been a bright star in my time,
    Though now I'm reduced to a seedy 'un;
    In me you may please to behold --
    Junius Brown the Tragedian.


    Since Kemble none like me's been seen,
    Yet nought but bad luck is my portion;
    My friends say I'm better than Kean,
    That my 'Richard' and "Hamlet's' a caution.
    They say my declaiming's a treat --
    In the speech over Caesar by Antony;
    I can do the soft parts low and sweet,
    Likewise I can 'pile up the agony.'

    SPOKEN: For two consecutive weeks was I the leading attraction at the Royal Bower, and should have startled the world at Drury Lane; but for professional malice. I am kept off the boards out of fear. They know I should render Shakespeare's great characters as they have never been rendered before. My reading of his plays is entirely different to Macready, Kean, Phelps, T. C. King, and all those fellows, -- They know that, -- but no matter, a time may come when they will cringe to Brown the Tragedian.

    CHORUS:
    I've been a bright star in my time,
    Though now I'm reduced to a seedy 'un;
    In me you may please to behold --
    Junius Brown the Tragedian.

    I search through the 'Era' each week
    And I 'write in' when talent's required,
    But they say they don't know me (there's cheek
    Of such insults and envy I'm tired.)
    They offer me terms for a 'super,'
    Or ask if I'm up to 'utility.'
    But I'll starve and remain as I am --
    An artiste of wondrous ability.

    SPOKEN: Me, ME! Junius Antonius Brown descend to do the cock in Hamlet, or Bobby in the Pantomime. Ye Gods and small fishes! Rather would I descend from my pedestal of fame and become a comic vocalist. But no matter! NO MATTER!! The time may come when they will be glad to pile gold at the feet of Brown the Tragedian.

    CHORUS:
    I've been a bright star in my time,
    Though now I'm reduced to a seedy 'un;
    In me you may please to behold --
    Junius Brown the Tragedian.

    ====================

    Brown the Tragedian (No Matter!) as sung with great success by Arthur Lloyd. Copyright July 3rd, 1870.

    ====================

  8. #33
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    08/01/05 and following.


    Not quite yet for the betas, Changling, unless you really want to. Now make sure the opening is the absolutely perfect opening for this book. Make sure the climax is the absolutely perfect climax.

    Are all the scenes there? Are any scenes that you don't need present?

    Then go through, not as a reader, but as an editor. Hold a pistol to each word and ask "Are you the perfect word?" Ask the adjectives to justify their existence. Is anything vague? Are all the descriptions fresh, and spot on?

    I know some writers who re-type the whole work from scratch at this point. They figure that if a paragraph isn't worth retyping, it isn't worth reading.

    ====================

    Quote Originally Posted by hpoppink
    That being said, should I still practice my editing skills on this first version? Is it worth that kind of work if I am certain the current story will never be publishable?
    If you don't practice your editing skills, how will you ever obtain them?

    ================

    Minor brag on one of my students here:

    http://www.reflectionsedge.com/archi...2005/d_ss.html

    ===================

    Here are some other works by Viable Paradise students:

    http://www.sff.net/people/greg/vppubs.html

    ==================

    whew. 2.5 years of hard work, packed up and gone...
    Now start your next novel.

    Today.

    Yes, really.

    -----------

    Meanwhile, on the em-dash question: As long as you're consistent and don't confuse the readers ... you can go with anything you want. Really. Go look at Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier for some bizarre punctuation if you don't believe me.

    It's just that the farther outside of normal (for some values of "normal") you get, the farther over into the genius range (for some values of "genius") you have to be.

    ===========

    The Unstrung Harp.

    And buy a copy, too.

    ============

    Personally I wouldn't include recommendations from other writers unless a) the writers were clients of that agent, or b) were so famous as to need no introduction. If Kurt Vonnegut said that my book was really swell, I'd mention it.

    Use your best judgement and know that there isn't a right answer to that question.

    ==============

    Thank you for your kind comments, Mark.

    ==============

    That's pretty much it, Mark. A book that isn't written is never sold and never read.


    ============

    Pretty soon now I'm going to drop back to Page 105 and look at some more of those samples, to see what the authors were doing.

    ==========

    Publishers Weekly, and your contacts in the industry.

    ============

    I look for an person who will give detailed, no-holds-barred honest feedback. "I liked it" isn't good enough, nor is "It sucked."

    ============

    Someone else once said that the ideal beta reader is a highly intelligent but dirty-minded twelve-year-old.

    ============

    Woo! Go me!

    Next words of advice: Write a book a year.

    ============

    The question is probably going to come up, so I might as well explain it now.

    When a normal publisher publishes a book, and it's offered for sale through bookstores, that book isn't really sold until it goes out the door under a customer's arm. The other books are returned, to make way for still newer releases.

    So ... how does the publisher handle paying royalties when the publisher doesn't know how many will come back to the warehouse?

    This is handled with a process called "reserve against returns." The reserve is the number that you don't get paid for, just in case they come back.

    Publishers don't tell you exactly what their reserves are -- but as it happens I know at least one publisher uses this formula:

    The first royalty period after the book is released, the reserve against returns is 100%. Maybe they printed 30,000 copies, and maybe bookstores ordered 20,000 of them -- but they aren't going to cut a check to you for royalties on 20,000 copies. They assume that ever single one of them will be returned.

    Let's say that royalty months are April and November (which again is pretty standard). Let's say the book came out in July, that the cover price is $10, and the royalty rate is 10%. And let's say the author get a $5,000 advance against 10%. (I'm choosing these numbers for ease of math, not because they're necessarily real.)

    And let's say that 10,000 copies sold (actually went out the door with customers, 50% sell-through) of the 20,000 that shipped.

    Right, then.

    Comes November, and those 10,000 copies would be a $5,000 check for Joe Author ($10,000 in royalties minus the $5,000 advance) but he gets a royalty statement showing $0.00 due, because of the reserve against returns.

    At this particular publisher the reserve against returns is 100% in the first royalty period, and 75% in the second. And let's say that another 5,000 copies of Joe's book sold in the six months from November through April. So ... Joe would have $15K coming, but .... reserve against returns is 75%, so only $3,750 is credited to him. Subtract that from the advance, and his royalty statement says that he still has $1,250 in unearned advance.

    From May through October, books get returned by one bookstore, ordered by another, and an additional 5,000 that have gone out the bookstore door in a shopping bag.

    Total actually sold, to date: 20,000. This time around the publisher's reserve against returns is 25%. 25% of 20,000 is 5,000 books. So the publisher only reports a total to date of 15,000 sold, for total royalties of $15,000, minus the $3,750 already credited to him, minus the $1,250 in unearned advance, so Joe gets a check for $10,000. Happy day! He's earned out!

    Now in the fourth royalty period after the book came out, the reserve against returns is 0%. Books have gone out, been returned, been redistributed, sold, and another 5,000 have been bought and paid for by readers.

    So far: 25,000 sold. Royalties due, $25,000. Finally, we've gotten out from under the dead horse. In April two years after his book came out, Joe Author gets paid $25,000 minus the $10,000 he was already paid, for a nice $15,000 royalty check.

    After this, the reserve against returns continues at 0% -- if 5,000 books ship during those six months, the publisher pays royalties for 5,000. (And by this point they have a pretty fair idea of how many will sell, because they have a history, and at this point, with 25,000 sold out of an initial press run of 30,000 they'll probably have gone back to press. Do you know what a 100% sell-through means? It means the publisher didn't print enough copies.)

    So, reserve against returns at this one publisher: 100%, 75%, 25%, 0%. It takes you two solid years to get to the place where you're getting royalties as they happen. Normally, since you got an advance, this isn't that major a problem. You're living off the advance while the reserve against returns is catching up. It protects the publisher, and you do want to protect the publisher: If they stay in business that means they'll buy more of your books.

    (Among other unrealistic things in this story: I set the advance low for a book that was going to sell those numbers. I wanted to show a book earning out because I'm a sucker for happy endings.)

    ===============

    Hardcover novels don't go above $28.00, generally speaking, because the public won't buy them. Not even from authors they know and like. Because the public won't buy them, the bookstores won't stock them. The bookstores will fill that same rack space with a book that will sell.

    A newer author with a long book -- won't get bought, generally, if the printing costs for the print run that a new author is likely to get would push the retail price above $28.00. Grisham can do it because his books sell well enough that the publisher can print a ton and a half of them, and push the per-unit printing price down.

    (How far down? Far enough down that the bookstore can get the book at a 65% discount, and the publisher can still make money. That's how you see Times Best Sellers in bookstores discounted by 50%, and the bookstore still makes money. Don't worry about Grisham, though -- he's still getting his royalty based on the whole $27.95 cover price.)

    There's the genius exception: Susanna Clarke's debut novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, is a hefty 800 pages. Notice, please, that the cover price is $27.95. Notice too that Bloomsbury marketed the heck out of that novel, in an attempt to ship as many copies as they had printed, because they had to print a heck of a lot to make that price. Notice also that Ms. Clarke's book, in trade paperback, is listing at $15.95.

    Why $15.95?

    While it isn't as fixed at rule as $28.00 among hardcover novels, the equivalent price among trade paperbacks is $16.00. Customers leave the more expensive books right on the shelf. Even from authors they know and like.

    Don't forget that the cover price and the cash register price of books is often different -- and the latter is usually quite a bit lower than the former.

    ================

    Do I just go for it, keep plugging away until one day when the light gets through the ear wax and I have an ah-ha moment.
    Yes, Ken, go for it. Write the book as well as you can. Keep learning! Read other writers, see how they solved the problems that you're facing in your own writing.

    Read other authors with your writer mind. You'll be reading, not for plot and story, but for the mechanics of that plot and story. "Nice save!" you'll say to yourself. "Ohhh.... that was tricky!" you'll say somewhere else. "Gee, you flubbed that; real clumsy" you'll say elsewhere. Writers read other writers with different eyes than do regular readers. That's why you need beta readers -- who aren't writers themselves.

    That's why the Nebula Awards (given by writers to writers) seldom select the same winners as the Hugo awards (given by readers to writers).

    ===============

    On the subject of when to send the novel out:

    Once you've made it as good as you can make it -- send it out. Start high and work down.

    How else will you ever know that you've reached a publishable level of writing? More: It will get you used to the next part of the process, the endless submission and rejection cycle. The first time is horrid. The twentieth time is "So what?"

    Once again, let me recommend The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr. Earbrass Writes A Novel. That short book contains the real truth about publishing.

    ===============

    Lessee....

    We're talking about a novel here, right?

    You've made significant changes, right?

    If it's been years, the same editor may not even be there any more.

    Just be up front in your cover letter, and don't worry too much. What really matters is the words on the page. Meanwhile start work on your next novel.

    ===============

  9. #34
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    10/14/05 and following.

    Quote Originally Posted by J. Y. Moore
    Is this strictly something for the typesetter to do or is it something that should be addressed/adhered to by the author? I believe it would be extremely difficult for me to change that kind of habit. A double space seems to come out of my fingers at the end of a sentence.
    The double-space/single space after punctuation mostly separates folks who learned how to type on a typewriter from those who learned how to type on a computer.

    If you're submitting to folks who will publish your work electronically (a webzine, say), or folks who will be typesetting directly from your file, you can go ahead and do a global search-and-replace to turn double spaces into single spaces.

    Personally, I double-space after periods.

    In any case, always follow the publisher's guidelines to the letter.

    ============

    I've been neglecting my poor little thread for too long.

    It's time now to turn back the clock and clear up some unfinished business from Page 105. Yes, it's time to play What's Going On Here?

    The passage under discussion goes like this:

    I had always been fascinated by the big house of Framling. Perhaps it had begun when I was two years old and Fabian Framling had kidnapped me and kept me there for two weeks. It was a house full of shadows and mystery, I discovered, when I went in search of the peacock-feather fan. In the long corridors, in the gallery, in the silent rooms, the past seemed to be leering at one from all corners, insidiously imposing itself on the present and almost--though never quite--obliterating it.

    For as long as I could remember Lady Harriet Framling had reigned supreme over our village. Farm labourers standing respectfully at the side of the road while the carriage, emblazoned with the majestic Framling arms, drove past, touched their forelocks and the women bobbed their deferential curtsies. She was spoken of in hushed whispers as though those who mentioned her feared they might be taking her name in vain; in my youthful mind she ranked with the Queen and was second only to God. It was small wonder that when her son, Fabian, commanded me to be his slave, I--being only six years old at that time--made no protest. It seemed only natural that we humble folk should serve the Big House in any way that was demanded of us.

    The Big House--known to the community as "The House" as though those dwellings which the rest of us occupied were something...
    Now let's look at it sentence by sentence:

    I had always been fascinated by the big house of Framling.
    First person narrator. We're in, or the narrator has been in, a place called "Framling," where there's a big house. The narrator finds this fascinating, there's an implication that the readers will too.




    Perhaps it had begun when I was two years old and Fabian Framling had kidnapped me and kept me there for two weeks.
    We have a character name now: Fabian Framling. (English-speaking world, apparently.) We have action sometime in the past. Kidnapping is fairly dramatic. So in two sentences we have a person in a place with a problem. Good start. Bad point: It's trivial. It's much like saying "I don't know why I'm afraid of dogs. Perhaps it has something to do with my having been mauled by a pit bull when I was two." Yeah, good guess. Probably does.


    It was a house full of shadows and mystery, I discovered, when I went in search of the peacock-feather fan.
    "Full of shadows and mystery" verges on cliche. But we have the narrator in center here. Perhaps this is characterization, and he's the sort of person who speaks in fluent cliche. (At the moment, we don't know if the character is male or female.) We've also been introduced to an object. Apparently Fabian Framling's big house is the sort of place that could conceivably hold peacock-feather fans. Possible 1920s time-frame? Certainly the fellow Framling is rich: If for no other reason having the town named after him would imply that.




    In the long corridors, in the gallery, in the silent rooms, the past seemed to be leering at one from all corners, insidiously imposing itself on the present and almost--though never quite--obliterating it.

    By far the longest, most complex sentence so far. I have no idea how "the past" would go about "leering." This is an example of personification; it could easily become pathetic. We're getting more of an idea of the house -- it's the sort of place that has long corridors and a gallery. It's deserted, or nearly so (silent rooms). Was the family once larger? The house may be more than a mere setting. It may approach being a character in the story. So ends the first paragraph.


    For as long as I could remember Lady Harriet Framling had reigned supreme over our village.
    Okay, the narrator is located in the village of Framling. "Lady" implies England. We're slowing down to deliver backstory.


    Farm labourers standing respectfully at the side of the road while the carriage, emblazoned with the majestic Framling arms, drove past, touched their forelocks and the women bobbed their deferential curtsies.
    British spelling. Yep, England. Carriage: Not modern, but early 20th century isn't yet out of the question. Are the arms actually "majestic"? That is, are the Framlings royalty? We're in a rural area. More sense of time and place being laid down here.



    She was spoken of in hushed whispers as though those who mentioned her feared they might be taking her name in vain; in my youthful mind she ranked with the Queen and was second only to God.
    Right -- we're probably 19th century. That's likely Queen Victoria. "Hushed whispers" -- is hammering it home a bit heavily, don't you think? How's a hushed whisper different from a regular whisper? Again, this could be characterization of the narrator. (In first person, narrative is also dialog.) "Taking her name in vain" is a biblical reference; Lady Harriet is more than a civil authority -- she's taken an aspect of God. That's reinforced by the last word of the sentence (the last word is a position of power).


    It was small wonder that when her son, Fabian, commanded me to be his slave, I--being only six years old at that time--made no protest.
    I thought the kidnapping was when the narrator was two? Is this a different event? We may be looking at a story of an outsider's view of the doings of the rich and powerful. Is "slave" the right word?



    It seemed only natural that we humble folk should serve the Big House in any way that was demanded of us.
    The house and the family are being equated. "It seemed" implies that the reality was different. Will the story be one of discovering truth?


    The Big House--known to the community as "The House" as though those dwellings which the rest of us occupied were something...
    Yep, the Big House (now a proper noun at this point, though it wasn't in the first sentence) looks like it's going to be a character in this story. And with this we end the first page of this book. Sure, I'd turn the page right now.

    ===============

    All that the use of "had" means is that the author is using the past perfect tense. That is to say, the author is describing an action completed in the past. Would "I discovered" be clearer if it were written "I discovered [at that time]"?

    In a novel, dialog is privileged speech. In a story written in first person, the narration is a form of dialog, and so is also privileged.

    I'm not so much concerned with the style as I am with the story. A fast-moving story will take you over some very rough prose. Conversely, no matter how perfect the prose, a slow-moving story won't carry the reader anywhere.

    Tugging the forelock as a means of showing deference is very much a human thing (the military salute is a stylized form of this).

    ============

    I suspect that the passage quoted comes from a historical romance. With the emphasis on the house, it may even be a gothic romance.

    (You know the definition of a gothic, right? Girl gets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets house.)

    =============

    Hmmm? I rather doubt it's a Regency. I think the Queen element is a bit strong for that.

    Ah, well.

    Meanwhile, here's a quiz for everyone: What kind of Regency Heroine are you?

    ============

    Quote Originally Posted by Avalon
    azbikergirl, I got exactly the same response on that quiz that you did!
    So did I.

    (As a writer I'm in touch with my feminine side.)

    ==============

    Welcome, aertep.

    The copyright problem -- well, you're going to re-write the book several times, after you hear back from your beta readers, after you've left it in your desk drawer for a couple of months, and so forth and so on.

    It may be a substantially different work by the time you're done.

    Heck, after it's sold -- one of mine, the editor didn't like the characters' names. What happened? We worked out different names because you know what? He had a point.

    Please don't put the copyright notice on the manuscript when you start sending it around. After it's sold ... then you can be honest with your editor and mention this detail. The editor will *facepalm*, and it'll all be over.

    I've mentioned why copyrighting your book in advance is a poor plan. No need to angst about it now. Remember for your next book. (You are working on a "next book," right?)

    ===========

    "Facepalm" is the act of burying your face in the palm of your hand. It's a gesture of despair, a bit more emphatic than merely pinching the bridge of your nose and shaking your head.

    You'll find a lovely use of "facepalm" with examples from context here: Troy in Fifteen Minutes

    ============

    7,000 words ... just wait 'til you've been edited. Those can evaporate. Really. You'd be surprised.

    Don't sweat it. As long as you're within ballpark of the publisher's guidelines, you'll do fine.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by HConn
    So why is it that 65 characters makes 10 words? You got me. Maybe it has to do with word-wrapping or whatever. But that's the way it's done.
    The average word in English is 5.5 letters long. With a space, it's 6.5 letters.

    6.5 inches/line * 10 characters/inch = 65 characters/line.

    65 characters/line / 6.5 charaters/word = 10 words/line

    25 lines/page * 10 words/line = 250 words/page

    ================

    Courier 12 point = Courier 10cpi = pica

    Courier 10 point = Courier 12 cpi = elite

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer

    Book Title / Author Last Name / Draft Number / Page Number


    I'm not even sure if that's proper formatting either, though.
    Works for me. If you set 'em flush-right no one will consider 'em part of the text. Also, for submission copy, you might want to drop the draft number. No one but you cares.

    (After editing starts, if you provide a re-written version, a date up there might be handy.)

    ==============

    Wide margins and lots of space between lines and between letters gives the editor room to work. An awful lot of editing is hand-work with a pencil.

    =============

    *COCOA Association Requests Help

    Copyright Owners' Control of Access (COCOA) is petitioning Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. to allow copyright owners to exercise their legal right to control what's shown via systems like Google Print & Amazon's Search Inside The Book. They propose the COCOA Protocol as the vehicle for that control. Copyright owners use it to say, "Show *this* part of my book(s)" -- be that 100%, 99%, 75%, on down to 0%. (Compare to the current choices of 100% or 0%.) The result will be not just legal access, but access to far more copyrighted material than now. Everyone wins.

    COCOA requests your help in moving these behemoth corporations:

    1) Please SIGN THE PETITION -- worded for brevity -- at:
    http://new.petitiononline.com/cocoa/petition.html

    Read details at the COCOA web site: http://www.CopyrightAccess.com

    2) Please SPREAD THE WORD: Urge others to sign the petition, learn about
    COCOA, and likewise encourage others to sign the petition, spread the word, and urge yet others to, et cetera, et cetera.

    Please post on your blogs, tell journalists you know, put links on your
    web pages, etc. You may copy this article in full if you like.

    The COCOA Association is a non-profit organization established by representatives from a number of authors groups, publishers, and publishing industry experts. It serves as a central point for information on COCOA
    and distribution/authentication of COCOA records. COCOA was crafted by people ranging from "copyright conservative" to "copyright liberal," giving
    widespread appeal to this consensus design.

    Thanks for your help! Please sign! Please spread the word!

    --Dr. Andrew Burt
    Chair, The COCOA Association
    (& former SFWA VP, current chair of SFWA's Copyright Issues Committee,
    etc.)

    =================

    If I can boast on one of my fellow Viable Paradise instructors:

    http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire2005/index.php?id=33227

    =================

    More important: Around thirty of our students have sold professionally afterward, including one with a Nebula nomination and another with a Campbell nomination.

    =============

    I was a presenter at Writers Weekend in Seattle this year. If a workshop in the western US asked me, I'd certainly consider instructing.

    Viable Paradise is primarily SF/Fantasy. While large parts of writing in that genre are common to writing in general, that's the focus.

    ============

    No writing is wasted, first.

    Second, writing short form allows us to practice beginnings, middles and ends.

    Short form also allows us to play with styles and effects without too big an investment if they don't work.

    ===============

    Minor boast for me:

    Something I wrote was mentioned on the Phil Jupitus show (BBC-6).

    ===============

    There's no "normal" speed. You'll find something that's comfortable, and gives you the material for the rewriting and revision stage.

    Remember that two pages a day is two novels a year.

    Eventually, as you gain experience, you'll automatically discard phrases, paragraphs, plotlines, almost before you've thought of them.

    Everything improves with practice provided you practice them right. You know the guys who can fieldstrip and reassemble their M16s in thirty
    seconds blindfolded? They started off by fieldstripping and reassembling their M16s very, very slowly, but doing it right every step of the
    way.

    Oh, and you never stop learning. A year from now you won't be the same writer you are today. Keep reading, keep writing.

    ============

    Back on page 190 of this thread, Andrew Jameson referred to a post that I'd made elsewhere. Discussion followed. Since the question has come up again, I think I'll repost that other comment here, so everything will be in one convenient place.

    Without further ado:

    =============

    No, no, no! You don't pay the publisher $4,000! The publisher pays you $4,000! You're the one with the thing of value!

    ==============

    Meanwhile, another PA thread here: Agent's Interesting Observation

    A PA author says:

    From Writer's Digest, Nov 2005: "Agent Lori Perkins of the L. Perkins Agency in New York says it's much easier to market a first-time novelist's book if the word count falls between 80,000 and 100,000 words, or roughly 300 double-spaced, typed pages--the average novel length.

    "One-third of the novels that come into the agency are rejected because they're too long or short, (Perkins says), "The cost greatly increases on books larger than 100,000, so agents and publishers are less likely to gamble on a manuscript the size of a dictionary." END OF QUOTE.

    It's good to know we don't have that problem with Publish America, who, from my experience, publishes relatively small books as well as those exceeding 300 pages.

    I thought this might be helpful to those of you, who may be holding a manuscript and wondering what to do with it. Send it to PA for review. Maybe it will jump-start your writing career. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    Let me explain this, because I can see there's some confusion.

    Publishers don't drive publishing. Printers don't drive publishing. Agents don't drive publishing. Bookstores don't drive publishing. Nor do editors. Not even writers drive publishing.

    Do you want to know who drives publishing? It's the readers.

    First thing you should know: Readers have a sticking-point when it comes to prices. That price is around $28 for a trade cloth (hardcover) book.

    Second thing you should know: The unit price of a book decreases as the print run goes up.

    Third thing you should know: First novels by unknowns have relatively predictable, and relatively small, sales.

    Bookstores won't order books with cover prices that customers won't pay. They can fill the same shelf space with books that might move.

    The longer the book, the higher the cost of printing it.

    Say a book comes in at 120,000 words. Say it's a normal first novel by an unknown. The publisher figures that it'll sell perhaps 5,000 copies, which means printing and shipping around 7,000 copies.

    The publisher can't do that and maintain a price point below $28, while covering their overhead and making a profit.

    So they raise the cover price. What happens? Bookstores decrease their orders. So the print run has to go down. That makes the price go up. The bookstores look at the new price, and decrease their orders again. You see where this is going?

    Why is all this happening? Because readers won't open their wallets for trade cloth books above $28. Not even by authors they know and like.

    What's the solution? Going to PublishAmerica isn't it. Sure, PA will accept the book. They accept anything. Will this jump-start your career? No. Because however high a real publisher would have had to put the price of a hardcover, PA will put the price of a trade paperback even higher. Readers, we know, won't touch the book. You've thrown away your first rights, you're locked into an unfavorable seven-year contract, and your sales history will be horrible.

    The real answer is this: Write and sell another book of a more marketable length for a first-time writer. After it comes out, and it's bought and read, you'll have fans who are looking for your next book. Then you can bring out that 120,000 word book. The publisher will be able to print enough copies to justify a $28 price point. Your fans will buy it, new readers will buy it, and you have a happy ending.

    Short books, now ... novellas are very hard to sell to publishers. Why? Because readers don't buy them.

    I could discuss the path that brought Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, (a first novel weighing in at 800 typeset pages) to press. Notice, please, the price point: $27.95.

    How did Bloomsbury manage that? By printing a ton of them. What did they do then? They launched a huge publicity campaign to move that ton of books.

    Why did they do that for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? Because they believed in it. Why don't they do that for every book? Because they have limited resources, even with a bank account the size of Rhode Island full of Potter-bucks backing them up. Plus, even with the biggest publicity campaign in the world, if the readers don't like the book they'll leave it lying on the shelf.

    Please notice that Lori Perkins specified a "first-time novelist." Those are the ones who rely on impulse purchases in bookstores. When you're relying on impulse purchasing, it behooves you to make your book the sort of thing that readers who are buying on impulse are likely to take.

    =================

    From email:

    > From our friends at the US Department of Labor:
    >
    > 131.067-046 WRITER, PROSE, FICTION AND NONFICTION (profess. & kin.)
    > alternate titles: writer
    > Writes original prose material for publication: Selects subject matter
    > based on personal interest or receives specific assignment from publisher.
    > Conducts research and makes notes to retain ideas, develop factual
    > information, and obtain authentic detail. Organizes material and plans
    > arrangement or outline. Develops factors, such as theme, plot, order,
    > characterization, and story line. Writes draft of manuscript. Reviews,
    > revises, and corrects it and submits material for publication. Confers
    > with publisher's representative regarding manuscript changes. May
    > specialize in one or more styles or types of writing, such as descriptive
    > or critical interpretations or analyses, essays, magazine articles, short
    > stories, novels, and biographies. PHYSICAL DEMANDS ENVIRONMENTAL
    > CONDITIONS S C B S K C C R H F F T H T N F D A C F W C H H N V A M E H R S
    > N N N N N N F F F N O O N F N N N N N N N N N 2 N N N N N N N T O N N
    >
    > GOE: 01.01.02 STRENGTH: S GED: R6 M3 L6 SVP: 8 DLU: 77
    >
    > If you decide you can't live without the knowledge, I can explain what all
    > the codes letters and numbers mean. However, the basics are: this entry
    > comes from the DOL's useful publication, the Dictionary of Occupations and
    > Trades, and the description was last updated in 1977. The DOL considers it
    > to be sedentary work, which, to them, means you sit for at least 6 hours a
    > day, but stand and walk for no more than 2, and lift no more than 10
    > pounds occasionally (up to 1/3 of an 8-hour day) and under 10 pounds
    > frequently (up to 2/3 of an 8-hour day). The DOL considers this occupation
    > to have an SVP (Specific Vocational Preparation) rating of 8, which means
    > it takes 4 to 10 years to become proficient at this (a useful thing to
    > point out to those who would write: "Even the US government, dolts that
    > they are, realize you don't learn this job overnight!"). Some of the other
    > codes explain exposure to hazards like electrocution and other Fun Stuff.
    =================

    OJT is pretty much how writers learn anything at all.

    =============

    We frequently link to Making Light as one of the best places for writing-related information. Now there's a poll for "Best Blog," and Making Light is one of the choices. If you like Making Light, perhaps you might make your voice heard.

    (Full disclosure: I'm one of the posters at Making Light.)

    ================

    It's been a while since I handed out an assignment, so here goes: Due on Christmas Day!

    As you no doubt recall, in the novel Frankenstein, young William Frankenstein is murdered. The murder is blamed on Justine Moritz, who is (unjustly) hanged for the offense.

    The murder was actually committed by the wretch created by Victor Frankenstein, and Victor knows it.

    You can read all about Justine and her sorrows, and the story of the murder from the wretched creature's point of view, on the web:

    http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~hamber.../Chapter6.html
    http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~hamber.../Chapter7.html
    http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~hamber.../Chapter8.html
    http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~hamber...Chapter16.html

    But can we let this sad miscarriage of justice stand? We shall not!

    The facts of the murder are as presented, but let us alter some things (ignoring time, space, trademark and copyright).

    Choose one:

    Case 1) Victor Frankenstein, seeing the dire straits in which the virtuous Justine has fallen, writes to a consulting detective who lives at 221B Baker Street, London. That gentleman takes the case, and soon arrives in Geneva with his friend, Dr. John Watson. Write the story in the style of A. C. Doyle.

    Case 2) The investigating officer is Sergeant Josef Freitag of the Geneva police. His favorite phrase is "Nichts aber die Tatsachen, Dame." Dum-da-dum-dum.... Write the story in the style of Raymond Chandler.

    Case 3) The crack investigators of CSI: Miami are on vacation in Geneva, and are staying at a hotel next door to the Frankenstein home. They take an interest in the case, and prepare a friend of the court brief for Justine's trial. Write in the style of Danielle Steel.

    Case 4) By a weird coincidence, Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote is Justine's great aunt twice removed by marriage, and has arrived in Geneva at the same time as (sharing a coach with) Victor Frankenstein. Write in the style of Jessica Fletcher.

    Case 5) Perry Mason takes the case for the defence. Write in the style of Erle Stanley Gardner.

    Case 6) Justine hires Billy Flynn (from the musical Chicago) for five thousand dollars. Billy has never lost a case for a woman. This challenge includes songs. Write as a musical comedy. Happy ending mandatory.

    There's going to be a Part II to this challenge, but I'll give that to you on Christmas Day, as a present.

    ================

    Once more into the breech, dear friends: dipping back to Page 105.

    Sam and I are sitting on a mostly deserted beach on Lake Michigan a little north of the Drake Hotel in Chicago. The Drake is filled with treasured memories for both of us, and we had dinner at our favorite table there earlier. I need to be with Sam tonight, because it’s one year since, well, everything happened that shouldn’t have happened -- it’s one year since Danny died.

    “This is the spot where I met Danny, Sam. In May, six years ago,” I say.

    Sam is a good listener who holds eye contact beautifully and is almost always interested in what I have to say, even when I’m being a bore, like now. We’ve been best friends since I was two, maybe even before that. Just about everybody calls us “the cutest couple,” which is a little too saccharine for both of our tastes. But it happens to be true.

    “Sam, it was freezing that night Danny and I met, and I had a terrible cold. To make it worse, I had been locked out of our apartment by my old boyfriend Chris, that awful beast.”

    “That despicable brute, that creep,” Sam contributes. “I never liked Chris. Can you tell?”

    “So this nice guy, Danny, comes jogging by and he asks if I’m all right. I’m coughing and crying and a total mess. And I say, ‘Do I look like I’m all right? Mind your own blacking business. You’re not going to pick me up, if that’s what you’re thinking. Scram!” I snorted a laugh Sam’s way.

    “That’s where I got my nickname, ‘Scram.’ Anyway, Danny came back on the second half of his run. He said he could hear me coughing for two miles down the beach. He brought me coffee, Sam. He ran up the beach with a hot cup of coffee for a complete stranger.”

    “Yes, but a beautiful stranger, you have to admit.”

    I stopped talking, and Sam hugged me and said, “You’ve been through so much. It’s awful and it’s unfair. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better for you.”

    I pulled out a folded, wrinkled envelope from the picket of my jeans. “Danny left this for me. In Hawaii. One year ago today.”

    “Go ahead, Jennifer. Let it out. I want to hear everything tonight.”

    I opened the letter and began to read. I was already starting to choke up.

    Dear, wonderful, gorgeous Jennifer…

    You’re the writer, not me, but I had to try to put down some of my feelings about your incredible news. I always thought that you couldn’t possibly make me any happier, but I was wrong.

    Jen, I’m flying so high right now I can’t believe what I’m feeling. I am, without a doubt, the luckiest man in the world. I married the best woman, and now I’m going to have the best baby with her. How could I not be a pretty good dad, with all that going for me? I will be. I promise.

    I love you even more today than I did yesterday, and you wouldn’t believe how much I loved you yesterday.

    I love you, and our little “peanut.”…

    Danny.


    Tears started to roll down my cheeks. “I’m such a big baby,” I said. “I’m pathetic.”

    “No, you’re one of the strongest women I know. You’ve lost so much, and you’re still fighting.”

    “Yeah, but I’m losing the battle. I’m losing. I’m losing real bad, Sam.”

    Then Sam pulled me close and hugged me, and for the moment at least, it was all better -- just like always.
    A first page (a prologue in this case). Let's look at it line-by-line to see what the author is doing.

    ======================

    Sam and I are sitting on a mostly deserted beach on Lake Michigan a little north of the Drake Hotel in Chicago.
    We start with a person in a place. A novel starts with a person in a place with a problem, so we're off to a good start. All we need now is the problem. Present tense. Characters are Sam and "I." First person POV makes narration privileged speech.



    The Drake is filled with treasured memories for both of us, and we had dinner at our favorite table there earlier.
    This is characterization; apparently these folks have known each other, and lived in the area, a long time. Upscale folks, if they eat out frequently, and have a "favorite table."


    I need to be with Sam tonight, because it’s one year since, well, everything happened that shouldn’t have happened -- it’s one year since Danny died.
    A third character introduced, Danny, and perhaps the problem. So by the end of Paragraph One we have a person in a place with a problem. That's getting the pieces off the back rank expeditiously. This sentence is the longest and most complex so far. The reader slows down, making Danny stand out. All three characters are in this one sentence. "Died" is in the last-word position, a very important position in a sentence. It's also the last word of the paragraph. It jumps at the reader.


    “This is the spot where I met Danny, Sam. In May, six years ago,” I say.
    Presumably Sam doesn't already know this, even though Sam and "I" are old friends who frequently dine together not far away? Okay, I can buy that, but let's move fast now. No definite info on the gender of the speaker, but I'm thinking female. Sam knows who Danny is. Danny, whoever he was, isn't the speaker's child.

    Sam is a good listener who holds eye contact beautifully and is almost always interested in what I have to say, even when I’m being a bore, like now.
    Long sentence, with complexities in its clauses. Answers the reader's question "Why does Sam care?" before it's asked. Reinforcement that the speaker is a female -- "holds eye contact beautifully" isn't a particularly masculine phrase. We may have the author admitting that this is boring -- it's backstory and exposition -- but the exposition has to go somewhere. Flattering the reader, by comparing the reader to the admirable Sam. Are we being a bore when we're talking about a (so-far mysterious) death?

    People are interested in love, and people are interested in death (sex and violence -- can't go wrong with those), and so far in two-and-a-half paragraphs we've got both. This isn't really boring.


    We’ve been best friends since I was two, maybe even before that.
    Clearing the ground for romance with someone else, defining the relationship, and giving backstory and characterization. A good sentence.

    Just about everybody calls us “the cutest couple,” which is a little too saccharine for both of our tastes.
    Okay, we can be pretty sure that we're talking male/female now. That's an odd phrase to use to describe "best friends," so perhaps they're something more than that? More characterization, and more preempting the reader's objections.

    But it happens to be true.
    So ... y'all really are a couple? And cute, too? "It happens to be true" implies that some other things either are (or will be) lies. Very simple sentence, easily digested, getting the reader back up to speed. A good paragraph close.

    “Sam, it was freezing that night Danny and I met, and I had a terrible cold.
    We have to use "Sam" as the first word to show that "I" is talking. Otherwise the reader will have to pause a moment to be sure.

    To make it worse, I had been locked out of our apartment by my old boyfriend Chris, that awful beast.”
    A bit of confusion. Freezing in May? Well, Chicago -- perhaps. Is "freezing" the thing that's bad, is "had a terrible cold" the thing that's bad, or is meeting Danny the thing that's bad? A bit of as-you-know-Bob dialog here: Sam obviously already knows who Chris is, and (as the speaker's long-time best friend) undoubtedly has a poor opinion of Chris. No need to call Chris a beast -- that's for the reader's benefit.

    “That despicable brute, that creep,” Sam contributes. “I never liked Chris. Can you tell?”
    A number of short sentences. If Chris isn't important to the story, I'll be disappointed.

    “So this nice guy, Danny, comes jogging by and he asks if I’m all right. I’m coughing and crying and a total mess. And I say, ‘Do I look like I’m all right? Mind your own blacking business. You’re not going to pick me up, if that’s what you’re thinking. Scram!” I snorted a laugh Sam’s way.
    Telling, but we're telling a story to Sam, so that's okay. And Sam is a patient listener. I'm not certain I like "I snorted a laugh Sam's way."

    “That’s where I got my nickname, ‘Scram.’
    Sam doesn't already know this? But it's an emotional time, the anniversary of Danny's death. I'll let this pass.


    Anyway, Danny came back on the second half of his run. He said he could hear me coughing for two miles down the beach. He brought me coffee, Sam. He ran up the beach with a hot cup of coffee for a complete stranger.”
    We're learning more about Danny. I sure hope that coffee had a lid.

    “Yes, but a beautiful stranger, you have to admit.”
    Definitely a female character, if this isn't a gay romance. I believe we're in the romance genre. Sam's right in his implication: Danny was trying to pick her up.

    I stopped talking, and Sam hugged me and said, “You’ve been through so much. It’s awful and it’s unfair.
    Woo! Suddenly we drop from present tense to past tense. C'mon, author, you can do better than this. To make up for it, we're promised that there'll be lots of awful and unfair stuff. If we want to see a character angst, we've come to the right place. Here on page one, the reader will know if this is a book he or she will like.

    I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better for you.”
    So we're beyond hope, beyond help. This character is going to suffer for about 300 more pages.


    I pulled out a folded, wrinkled envelope from the picket of my jeans.
    She went out to dinner in jeans? Okay, I suppose so. She just happens to be carrying the letter? Or she was planning to show it to Sam? Still in past tense.


    “Danny left this for me. In Hawaii. One year ago today.”
    So, Danny died in Hawaii. Vacation? Our characters are definitely well-to-do. Suicide note?

    “Go ahead, Jennifer. Let it out. I want to hear everything tonight.”
    I bet I know what the rest of the book is going to be: Jennifer (Hurrah! "I" has a name, and we were right, it's female!) is going to spend the rest of the book Letting It Out. We, the readers, will get to hear Everything.

    I opened the letter and began to read. I was already starting to choke up.
    Angst, angst, angst!

    Dear, wonderful, gorgeous Jennifer…
    Well, Danny's laying it on a bit thick.
    You’re the writer, not me, but I had to try to put down some of my feelings about your incredible news.
    Aieee! Our main character is a writer! Well, write what you know, I suppose.
    I always thought that you couldn’t possibly make me any happier, but I was wrong.
    Doesn't sound like a suicide note. We have another reason to follow along, now -- not only what happened to Danny, but what Jen's good news could be.
    Jen, I’m flying so high right now I can’t believe what I’m feeling. I am, without a doubt, the luckiest man in the world. I married the best woman, and now I’m going to have the best baby with her. How could I not be a pretty good dad, with all that going for me? I will be. I promise.
    Ah ha! Jen's pregnant. And, Danny's married to her. Looks like cup-of-coffee-on-the-beach worked pretty well. Fairly simple sentences. A fast read.
    I love you even more today than I did yesterday, and you wouldn’t believe how much I loved you yesterday.
    All is happy and serene! But we know that he'll be dead within the day, so we have a bit of dramatic irony going. The readers know something that the writer of that letter doesn't know. Danny's a bit one-dimensional right now, but maybe he'll improve.
    I love you, and our little “peanut.”…

    Danny.
    Argh! Blech! And Jennifer worries about appearing too saccharine?

    Tears started to roll down my cheeks. “I’m such a big baby,” I said. “I’m pathetic.”
    Speaking of babies ... what happened to the baby? If Jen was just telling Danny that she's pregnant one year ago tonight, she should have a five-month-old around somewhere. "You've been through so much," Sam said. I have a bad feeling about what's going to happen to that "peanut." Another reason for turning the page, to find out what happened to the pregnancy.

    “No, you’re one of the strongest women I know. You’ve lost so much, and you’re still fighting.”
    Go, Sam! More promises to the reader.

    “Yeah, but I’m losing the battle. I’m losing. I’m losing real bad, Sam.”
    The dialog is simple, punchy, short. A good contrast to that syrupy letter from Danny. All kinds of conflict promised. A person in a place with a problem? Yeah, we have that. And we're still on page one.


    Then Sam pulled me close and hugged me, and for the moment at least, it was all better -- just like always.
    Hmmmm.... way ambivalent relationship these two have. But we've finished the first page. Want to turn it? Sure. We have several unresolved questions, with a promise of some three-hanky emotional suffering.

    A pity this is a prologue -- most of the readers are going to skip it. But this is okay, they can come back later to get it if they're interested.

    I presume that the next page, the start of chapter one, will put us in Hawaii.

    ================

    Inside a publisher's office:

    http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/u...rkingpeng.html

    ================

    Guys, if you have plot and story, your writing only has to be workmanlike or better in order to make a sale. Yes, it's great if you can can write beautiful prose. Beautiful prose plus story and plot is golden. Beautiful prose without plot or story ... isn't what the public is looking for.

    In this particular instance, most of what we have is dialog. In a first-person novel, narration is also dialog. Dialog is privileged, and reveals character.


    Is this a classic? I doubt it will be. But I'll be long dead before history reveals that answer.

    I think y'all will agree, regardless of taste, that every sentence here is doing something that's moving the story along.

    ===============

    By "dialog is privileged" I mean that normal rules of spelling and grammar do not apply there. Dialog reveals character, as well as moving the plot forward.

    If a character would say "I ain't got no grits," it would be wrong to 'correct' that to "I have no grits." The character would be changed.

    You can do anything in dialog. The only question is "Does it work?"

    ===============

    Speaking of jokes:

    A Texan is visiting Harvard. He stops a student and asks, "Where's the library at?"

    "At Harvard," says the student, "we do not end sentences with prepositions."

    "Okay," says the Texan. "Where's the library at, ***hole?"

    ==============

    Shall we look at a work that's an undoubted classic? Something seasonal?

    Very well:

    Chapter 1: Marley's Ghost
    Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

    Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

    Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

    The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot -- say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance -- literally to astonish his son's weak mind.

    Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the ware-house door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.
    Line by line anon.

    ==================

    Chapter 1: Marley's Ghost
    We're in a book divided into chapters (unlikely to be a short story; we will use our novel reading protocols here). We are told there is a character named Marley, and Marley has a ghost. "Marl" is clay; a dead person can be referred to as being "turned to clay." This is rather an old-fashioned usage, but (we note) this book was written over 160 years ago. (Sometimes you see this written as "Stave One," as in a staff of music. I have no idea how the first edition put it.)
    Marley was dead: to begin with.
    We have a short sentence, introducing a character. "To begin with" implies more to come.



    There is no doubt whatever about that.
    Short, easily understood. Introduces conversational style.


    The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.
    Rather longer, more complex, with a list of people who will attest to the death. Raises the possibility that there may indeed be doubt that Marley is dead.


    Scrooge signed it.
    A second character introduced, very simply, three words. Follows a long and complex sentence. "It" is the burial register.


    And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.
    "'Change" is the 19th century Brit for Wall Street; the Exchange. Introduces the theme of money. "Put his hand" is both a term for signing, and a term for attempting. A longer sentence.

    Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
    Back to reinforcing the meaning of the first sentence. Treats Marley disrespectfully. Simple sentence. So ends Paragraph One.


    Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.
    Introduces a third character: "I," the narrator. Implies a fourth character, the reader to whom the narrator is talking directly. Admits that the narrator doesn't know everything, characterization. Sets jocular tone.


    I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.
    Again, the death-and-burial imagery, and the emphasis on trade -- money. More characterization of the narrator.

    But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for.
    Bringing in old times -- the wisdom of our ancestors. Complex sentence, with tradition, patriotism, and a depreciation of the narrator all rolled in. We still don't know much more about Marley, who had pride of place in the chapter title and the first sentence of paragraph one.

    You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
    Ah, there's Marley! His death is important. We've heard little else for two paragraphs now. "You will permit me" implies a co-equal status between narrator and audience. End of Paragraph Two.


    Scrooge knew he was dead?
    Conversational tone continues (the reader's question omitted, but clearly present). Scrooge again. Simple construction.


    Of course he did. How could it be otherwise?
    Two more very simple sentences, more on Scrooge, and more relationship between author and reader.


    Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years.
    The second time the narrator has confessed ignorance in as many paragraphs. More on business, and now tying Scrooge to Marley.


    Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner.
    A second long list; compare it with the earlier the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. The chief mourner is now revealed to be the sole mourner, and they are both Scrooge.


    And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.
    And Scrooge wasn't all that mournful. He buried his friend as cheaply as possible. Business theme extended, and characterization for Scrooge. End of Paragraph Three.

    The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from.
    We've never really strayed from Marley's funeral. Discursive style. The author is hammering this point home (particulalry apt when talking of nails).


    There is no doubt that Marley was dead.
    A simple restatement of the first sentence.


    This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
    Things changed a lot with Hemingway, didn't they? Ah, well. We're promised a wonderful story. This is clearly a story that's being spoken, and the point of view of the narrator is clarified. So the relationship of the speaker to the listener is reinforced. The listener is a more skeptical sort of person. Middling complexity on this sentence.


    If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot -- say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance -- literally to astonish his son's weak mind.
    A very long and complex sentence. The Churchyard is a graveyard -- the death imagery is here. The ghost element is introduced (previously only seen in the chapter title). "Astonish" literally means "turn to stone." As in what a Gorgon or basilisk would do. We're now moving away from buisness and trade and off to the supernatural. Assumes the listener is perfectly familiar with the works of Shakespeare. The walking dead introduced. End of Paragraph Four.


    Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name.
    "Old Marley" (second reference) is rather disrespectful. The story is moving away from Marley to Scrooge (mentioned first in the sentence and paragraph). More characterization.

    There it stood, years afterwards, above the ware-house door: Scrooge and Marley.
    So, Scrooge and Marley have a warehouse. And Marley's death was years ago. Theme of times-passed again.

    The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.
    Business, and linking Scrooge not just to Marley, but to death, because Marley is known only by the fact of being dead.


    Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names.
    Scrooge=Marley=dead. Business theme mentioned again.


    It was all the same to him.
    Rather devastating piece of characterization. End of Paragraph Five, and end of the first page.


    A slow and discursive beginning, with a promise from the author (who is positioning himself as the reader's close friend) that something "wonderful" will be related. Plot and story are only present in rudimentary, implied forms.

    Do we want to turn the page? Nothing much has happened, no problem stated, other than that the reader-character will not believe the narrator-character about the fact of Marley's death. Tons of characterization of Scrooge, a walking dead man.

    ===============

    "Preposition" means, literally, placed first: Pre-position. That "rule" about not ending sentences with prepositions comes from the 18th century grammar-masters who hadn't quite figured out that English isn't Latin. Ignore it. It isn't really a rule.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Schneider
    ... and I'm finished.
    Put it aside for a week or so, then re-read. I bet you'll find something to tweak.

    ==============

    I'm not 100% sure that people today would reject A Christmas Carol if it arrived newly-minted.

    A good deal of the first page is spent establishing the character of The Narrator as someone you'd enjoy spending some time with. If I were to summarize it in one sentence, it would be: Someone You Trust Promises Wonders.

    =========

    Marley was dead: to begin with.
    Please notice that Dickens ended that sentence with a preposition.


    Also notice: When Dickens wants to put a point across, he uses very simple, short sentences.

    Marley was dead: to begin with.

    There is no doubt whatever about that.

    Scrooge signed it.

    Scrooge knew he was dead?

    Of course he did.

    How could it be otherwise?

    There is no doubt that Marley was dead.

    Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name.

    The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.

    It was all the same to him.



    Elsewhere, I've commented that the author needs to cast him/herself as a character, and to cast the reader as a character. Dickens does it explicitly; you can do it implicitly, but I pray you, do it. (Some authors, I'm told, pin a photo of some person to the desk where they write, and imagine telling the story to that person.)

    ======================

    Combining genres:

    Marley was dead: to begin with. And when a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it.


    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by gp101
    UJ, don't leave a brother hangin'.
    That is, indeed, from The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Hammett is (IMHO) another great stylist.

    On A Christmas Carol though: Lush prose is not the only thing it has going for it. The plot and story are powerhouses: They've survived Mr. Magoo and the Muppets.

    Here's the full text to A Christmas Carol, for those who found that they must turn the page: http://www.stormfax.com/1dickens.htm

    (Plot: Scrooge is visited by four increasingly scary spirits. Story: A sinner is redeemed. Theme: Charity.)

    ==============

    Since I brought up Hammett, here are the first two pages from The Maltese Falcon. Discussion anon.

    Spade & Archer
    Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another smaller v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down -- from high flat temples -- in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.

    He said to Effie Perine: "Yes, sweetheart?"

    She was a lanky sunburned girl whose tan dress of thin woollen stuff clung to her with an effect of dampness. Her eyes were brown and playful in a shiny boyish face. She finished shutting the door behind her, leaned against it, and said: "There's a girl wants to see you. Her name's Wonderly."

    "A customer?"

    "I guess so. You'll want to see her anyway: she's a knockout."

    "Shoo her in, darling," said Spade. "Shoo her in."

    Effie Perine opened the door again, following it back into the outer office, standing with a hand on the knob while saying: "Will you come in, Miss Wonderly?"

    A voice said, "Thank you," so softly that only the purest articulation made the words intelligible, and a young woman came through the doorway. She advanced slowly with tentative steps, looking at Spade with cobalt-blue eyes that were both shy and probing.

    She was tall and pliantly slender, without angularity anywhere. Her body was erect and high-breasted, her legs long, her hands and feet narrow. She wore two shades of blue that had been selected because of her eyes. The hair curling from under her blue hat was darkly red, her full lips more brightly red. White teeth glistened in the crescent her timid smile made.

    Spade rose bowing and indicating with a thick-fingered hand the oaken armchair beside his desk. He was quite six feet tall. The steep rounded slope of his shoulders made his body seem almost conical -- no broader than it was thick -- and kept his freshly pressed grey coat from fitting very well.

    Miss Wonderly murmurred, "Thank you," softly as before and sat down on the edge of the chair's wooden seat.

    Spade sank into his swivel-chair, made a quarter-turn to face her, smiled politely. He smiled without separating his lips. All the v's in his face grew longer.

    The tappity-tap-tap and the thin bell and muffled whir of Effie Perine's typewriting came through the closed door. Somewhere in a neighboring office a power-driven machine vibrated dully. On Spade's desk a limp cigarette smouldered in a brass tray filled with the remains of limp cigarettes. Ragged grey flakes of cigarette-ash dotted the yellow top of the desk and the green blotter and the papers that were there. A buff-curtained window, eight or ten inches open, let in from the court a current of air faintly scented with ammonia. The ashes on the desk twitched and crawled in the current.

    Miss Wonderly watched the grey flakes twitch and crawl. Her eyes were uneasy. She sat on the very edge of the chair. Her feet were flat on the floor, as if she were about to rise. Her hands in dark gloves clasped a flat dark handbag on her lap.

    ===============

    Mentions of eyes:

    His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal.

    Her eyes were brown and playful in a shiny boyish face.

    She advanced slowly with tentative steps, looking at Spade with cobalt-blue eyes that were both shy and probing.

    She wore two shades of blue that had been selected because of her eyes.

    Her eyes were uneasy.
    Colors mentioned:

    yellow-grey
    pale brown
    blond
    tan
    brown
    cobalt-blue
    two shades of blue
    blue
    darkly red
    brightly red
    white
    grey
    brass
    grey
    yellow
    green
    buff
    grey

    ============

    This is an art. You, as the artist, need to make sure every word is doing its duty.

    The readers may not notice -- consciously -- what you've done,but they will notice. That's what makes the difference.

    =============

    Shall we try another book? A more recent book?

    Here are the first two pages of a novel published in 2005:
    In 1972 I was sixteen – young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions. He preferred to know that I was sitting attentively in class at the International School of Amsterdam; in those days his foundation was based in Amsterdam, and it had been my home for so long that I had nearly forgotten our early life in the United States. It seems peculiar to me now that I should have been so obedient well into my teens, while the rest of my generation was experimenting with drugs and protesting the imperialist war in Vietnam, but I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous. To begin with, I was motherless, and the care that my father took of me had been deepened by a double sense of responsibility, so that he protected me more completely than he might have otherwise. My mother had died when I was a baby, before my father founded the Center for Peace and Democracy. My father never spoke of her and turned quietly away if I asked questions; I understood very young that this was a topic too painful for him to discuss. Instead, he took excellent care of me himself and provided me with a series of governesses and housekeepers – money was not an object with him where my upbringing was concerned, although we lived simply enough from day to day.

    The latest of these housekeepers was Mrs. Clay, who took care of our narrow seventeenth-century town house on the Raamsgracht, a canal in the heart of the old city. Mrs. Clay let me in after school every day and was a surrogate parent when my father traveled, which was often. She was English, older than my mother would have been, skilled with a feather duster and clumsy with teenagers; sometimes, looking at her too-compassionate, long-toothed face over the dining table, I felt she must be thinking of my mother and I hated her for it. When my father was away, the handsome house echoed. No one could help me with my algebra, no one admired my new coat or told me to come here and give him a hug, or expressed shock over how tall I had grown. When my father returned from some name on the European map that hung on the wall in our dining room, he smelled like other times and places, spicy and tired. We took our vacations in Paris or Rome, diligently studying the landmarks my father thought I should see, but longed for those other places he disappeared to, those strange old places I had never known.

    While he was gone, I went back and forth to school, dropping my books on the polished hall table with a bang. Neither Mrs. Clay nor my father let me go out in the evenings, except to the occasional carefully approved movie with carefully approved friends, and – to my retrospective astonishment – I never flouted these rules. I preferred solitude anyway; it was a medium in which I had been raised, in which I swam comfortably. I excelled at my studies but not in my social life. Girls my age terrified me, especially the tough-talking, chain-smoking sophisticates of our diplomatic circle – around them I always felt that my dress was too long, or too short, or that I should have been wearing something else entirely. Boys mystified me, although I dreamed vaguely of men. In fact, I was happiest alone in my father’s library, a large, fine room on the first floor of our house.

    My father’s library had probably once been a sitting room, but he sat down only to read, and he considered a large library more important than a large living room. He had long since given me free run of his collection. During his absences, I spent hours doing my homework at the mahogany desk or browsing the shelves that lined every wall. I understood later that my father had either half forgotten what was on one of the top shelves or – more likely – assumed I would never be able to reach it; late one night I took down not only a translation of the Kama Sutra but also a much older volume and an envelope of yellowing papers.

    I can’t say even now what made me pull them down. But the image I saw at the center of the book, the smell of age that rose from it, and my discovery that the papers were personal letters all caught my attention
    Turn the page? Yes/no.

    =================

    Would it have helped in figuring out the gender of the first person narrator to know that the author is female?

    (This is, incidentally, a first novel, published by a major house, 656 pages in trade cloth binding.)

    =================

    The novel is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, published by Little, Brown.

    One thing I liked about the opening was the way it spiraled in: From the world, to the city of Amsterdam, to the house, to the library, to the bookshelf, to the book.

    Perhaps we'll look at it sentence by sentence anon. (Or perhaps in a couple of months, like the last bunch.)

    ==================

    Myself, I find that adding characters helps. That way the protagonist doesn't have to talk to himself.

    ================

    You don't want to use Whack-a-Mole characters. Guys who pop up in only one scene, then are never heard from again, unless a) It's really necessary, and b) It's realistic.

    Your main character may only see and speak to a bus driver once, during a scene on a bus. In that case, don't give the bus driver a name or description, lest the readers keep waiting for him to show up again.

    Use as many characters as you need, but no more. And no fewer. (Hey, this is an art, not a science.)

    Yes, it's common for characters who appear in one scene to want to be in the rest of the book. Let them. If they don't add to the finished work you can remove them later.

    When you're looking for characters, ask yourself: a) Do I already have a character who can fulfill this function, and b) What else can this character do?

    Cherish your minor characters. They'll save you.

    =============

    Good morning, all!

    I hope everyone is having a happy Christmas.

    The next part of your writing assignment is this:

    While you now have a story with action, adventure, excitment (and a beginning, a middle, and an end), your story has one major problem: It's using a trademarked or copyrighted character. (Some of Sherlock Holmes is public domain now ... but not all, and the parts that come from stage plays and movies are very much not public domain.)

    So ... the next part of your task is to file off the serial numbers. Take those trademarked/copyrighted characters and make them into original characters. Remove any identifying information. (You can't just turn CSI: Miami into CSI: Puerto Rico. Go right down to the roots and imagine what crime scene investigation would be like if Sir Bernard Spilsbury had been Swiss. Take out other people's characters and put your own characters in their places.

    Part II of this task is to make any "say what?" moments your reader might have due to problems with time-and-space seem plausible, at least for the time the reader has the story in front of him/her. This may mean moving Frankenstein (who is entirely in public domain, at least the book version -- I trust no one used the movie monster?) forward in time and across the sea to Civil War-era New York, or 21st century Geneva. Or it may involve
    making Hermes Trismegistus the father of forensic detection, so that 18th c. Switzerland had scholars who could read the evidence in spatter marks by means both occult and mysterious.

    New deadline for the rewritten story: 12th Night (January 5th). Oh, and read Twelfth Night by Wm. Shakespeare (or watch it on video).

    ================

    From CNN:
    Turkey drops case against author


    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkish prosecutors decided not to file charges against novelist Orhan Pamuk for allegedly insulting Turkey's armed forces, but the writer still faces charges that he insulted "Turkishness," said lawyers who asked for his trial.

    Nationalist lawyers had petitioned prosecutors to file criminal charges against Pamuk for reportedly telling a German newspaper, Die Welt, in October this year that the military threatened and prevented democratization in Turkey.

    European officials have criticized Turkey for putting Pamuk on trial on the "insulting Turkishness" charge and have called on the country to do more to protect freedom of expression. That trial was halted by the judge the day it began Dec. 16 and awaits a Justice Ministry ruling on whether it can continue.

    Prosecutors on Thursday decided there were no grounds to try Pamuk for insulting the military, said nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, who had petitioned the prosecutors asking for Pamuk's trial.

    Kerincsiz said he would appeal the decision on Friday.

    "It is of course not possible for the prosecutors to make a sound decision under so much pressure," said Kerincsiz. "We've come to the point where we're no longer able to protect our national values. Where will it all end?"

    Kerincsiz said the army was portrayed as the enemy of democracy, which he called a "grave insult."
    The story continues at the link.

    ===============

    Lest I was unclear:

    Leave Frankenstein in. Frankenstein is completely public domain, and this is unabashedly a derivative work.

    Jessica Fletcher, however, is not public domain. While the busy-body amateur detective is not copyrighted, the name, and the specifics (a female mystery writer) is both under copyright and most likely trademarked.

    The goal here is to remake the story so that while everyone will know (and part of the enjoyment will be) that this is a Frankenstein story -- no one should read it and say, "Oh, that's Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote."

    Yes, it's tough, but it's not impossible. (The impossible we'll try a little later.)

    ===============

  10. #35
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    01/01/06 and following.

    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleJLeBoeuf
    Would you speak to what sort of outline you'd like to see accompany the first 10,000 words of novel?
    Make it brief.

    A present-tense narration.

    But brief.

    ============

    Sure, Anna.

    You can also ask about 'em here: http://webnews.sff.net/read?cmd=xove...adise&from=-10

    ================

    The workshop organizers usually send the first batch of submissions to the instructors in mid-March, then every month thereafter until we've filled the class.

    We look at the submissions as: Obvious Invite, Let's Wait a Bit, and I Don't Think So. We keep going like that until we've filled the class.

    Other instructors may have other criteria, but mine is: Do I think I have something useful to tell this person?

    The staff figures it all out in June, though there may be some early acceptances. I don't have much to do with that end of things.

    ==============

    If I recall correctly, the first scene of The Golden Compass also has our protagonist sneaking around where she shouldn't be, in imminent danger of being discovered and getting in trouble. That she doesn't understand Adults talking about Adult Things isn't a problem there.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by Puddle Jumper
    Aw, you mean I can't use my pretty blue cloud paper?
    No.
    What's the difference between rewriting and revising?
    Rewriting gets the spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Revising is "looking again." Is there something else that needs to happen? Is this the best character to tell that part of the story? Does the story of the birthday party in chapter four, however amusing, belong? If so, would it go better in chapter eight? Is the ending as strong as it can be? Is the opening as smooth as it must be?


    On the title page do you want to keep the same size font for the title as your text or do you want to make it bigger? What about bolding it? What about changing the font to make it a little fancier? And what about bolding chapter numbers and titles?
    One font, one size. Why make your editor's job harder?


    Title and byline - is by line where you write "By Your Name?" So you have it both there and up in the upper left hand corner of the title page?
    The "byline" is "By [name of author that will appear on the story]." This is not always the same as [name of guy who wrote the story].


    Is there a difference between Courier and New Courier?

    No important difference for our purposes.
    Also, what if you have a really long title? For example if you're writing a series so that you have the series name plus the name of that exact book.

    To take C.S. Lewis for example...

    The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

    Would I want that full title "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" at the top of every page or would I want to shorten it to just the book name, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?"
    Abbreviate. Lewis/Lion/1 ... etc. The purpose is so that when the pile holding your manuscript and fifteen others falls over, the editorial assistants can put all the manuscripts back together in the right order.

    Or what if it's not a series like that and you just have a really long title?
    Use one or two words from the title.

    And do you want it bolded to set it apart from the text or do you want it to be unbolded and look just like the text?
    One font, one size. What's with all this bolding? Just because your wordprocessor can doesn't mean you should. The header is already on its own line and flush right. No one's going to mistake it for the body text. Why distract the reader with boldface?

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Puddle Jumper
    Since the text would be double spaced, does that mean it should be the same space in comparison as the rest of the text? Thanks!
    What's the antecedent for "it" there?

    If you mean the header: Yes, it's two lines above the first line of the body text.

    =============

    Back to Rambling's question:

    It's perfectly fine to have subplots that don't advance the main plot -- provided they support the theme (either by directly supporting it, by comparing, by contrasting, by illustrating, or otherwise commenting on the theme.)

    Everything needs to support the theme, advance the plot, or reveal character.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by MasterRegal
    Two format question:

    1. Do I put my pseudonym on the running header of every page in the manuscript, or do I put my real name?
    Your choice. I'd use my real name, but it really doesn't matter.
    2. How do you format subchapters? For example, I have Chapter One, and within this chapter I have I, II, III etc. I know I start in the middle of the page to start a new chapter, but how do I format the subchapters? Do I double space and continue?
    Skip a line, center your sub-chapter heading, skip a line, continue.

    =============
    Quote Originally Posted by batgirl
    And two out of three would better than one out of three?
    -Barbara
    Three out of three is better still.

    If you have a word with zero out of three ... ask yourself why you want to have that word.

    ============

    Quote Originally Posted by Lady of Prose
    Jim,

    Unless specified otherwise, is the rule of thumb for chapter breaks still new page, center? I've been seeing some variations here and there. I recently saw double space, including chapter break.
    New page, start the chapter half-way down the page. Center the chapter title or number, doublespace, indent, and type.

    Now, I'm faced with a challenge. The submission guideline I'm formatting says to send along with the query a two page "detailed" synopsis of my MS.. They emphasize--"not an outline", but a synopsis. I plan on present tense narrative to do so. Am I correct in that assumption?
    Present tense narrative, single spaced. Times Roman is acceptable. Think of how you'd tell your friend about a really good movie you saw last night. Put in the major plot highpoints and the surprise climax. The question they want answered is "Does this writer have a complete story with beginning, middle, and end?

    ==============

    Usually the hash mark is centered.

    ==============

    Chief complaints from editors?

    Dunno. If I were guessing: "Clumsily done. Threw me out of the story" would be the worst complaint about scene shifts.

    This is an art. If it works, it's right. Your readers will tell you if it works.

    (And Berry -- you have learned well. Now you are the master.)

    ===============

    I've never counted how many manuscripts go in each category.

    We stop looking after we've filled the class.

    ===============

    Titles are capitalized when it's the guy's name.

    As others have said above. When you're writing, just be consistent (and Beware the Curse of Promiscuous Over-capitalization).

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

    And a brief comment on my latest bit of self-publication. In this case, I'm using Lulu as an easy Xerox machine. This coming February, Doyle and I have been invited to speak to a couple of classes on publishing at the University of Connecticut. The instructor wanted the students to read some of our works, without making them go out and buy multiple anthologies just for one story in each. So I genned up a quick chapbook of three of our stories, my beloved wife did a cover (yes, it's legal to own those things in New Hampshire), and we put on line. Rather than keeping it private for the students, though, I pressed the button that said "make this available to the public" (or words to that effect). The advertising that I'm doing, sig lines, on my web page, etc., is no-cost. I've not yet decided if I'll leave it up after the class meets. I probably will take the PDF down (leaving only hard copy), if I put the same stories on Fictionwise.com (something else I'm thinking of doing with our old short stories).

    ==================

    All I sold were first serial rights, with a six month exclusive period after publication of the anthologies. Since the most recent of the anthologies came out in 2002, that's long passed.

    One of those stories has been reprinted two other times in two other anthologies (with new payments each time, hurray, go me!). Since I kept all the rights other than first serial (which, of its nature, can only be sold once), I can do with them as I please.

    ============

    I'm the shape-of-a-story guy.

    I don't really care much about the grammar; I ask "Does this person have somewhere they're going?" If yes, I can talk with them about refining that. If not ... I can't help.

    ===============

    I (we) have sold about as many short stories as novels.

    The differences are these:

    You don't have any room for error in a short story.

    A novel can do many things; a short story only does one.

    ============

    Think of 'em this way:

    If you're doing aerobatics, and you're flying at 5,000 feet, you have room to recover. If you're doing aerobatics and you're flying at 500 feet, you're dead.

    A short story is a single joke. A novel is a comedy routine.

    =============

    On the uselessness of Amazon Comments:

    http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-5...ml?legacy=zdnn

    ============

    Quote Originally Posted by aertep
    I enjoyed them thoroughly and recommend them to everyone.
    If you think my books suck, tell me.

    If you think they're great, tell everyone else.

    ============

    The more public the person, the less protection that person has.

    Titles can't be copyrighted, but songs may be special cases if, for example, the title is also one of the lines.

    Always ask if the effect you want requires the particular name/title/whatever.

    For real answers, please talk to a real lawyer.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Schneider
    Jim, Could you list certain points that need/should be covered in a query letter, and those points one should stay away from?
    What should be covered?

    Genre and length.

    What one should stay away from?

    How much you need the money, and how certain you are that this book will be a best-seller.

    ==============

  11. #36
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    22,920
    02/01/06 and following.


    What I've been telling you all along:

    http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/0...e_to_write.php

    ==============

    Offsite backup is a good thing. But you really don't need to worry about people stealing your manuscript.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by (grasshopper)
    I've heard this said before, but I'm not sure of the reasoning. Could you expand on that?
    An unpublished manuscript is, essentially, worthless. The only things that get plagiarized are published works. I can think of only one case where an unpublished work was stolen and published ... and in that case the two authors were partners who were working together, but only one of them put his name on the manuscript when submitting it.

    Suppose someone did steal your manuscript. What would they do with it? It would take them just as much trouble to sell as it would take you, then they wouldn't be able to revise it when the time came.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    The workshop organizers usually send the first batch of submissions to the instructors in mid-March, then every month thereafter until we've filled the class.
    Things are moving quicker than expected. Here it is first week of February and we've already had two batches sent to us.

    ============

    For those who came in late:

    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...postcount=4768
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...postcount=4855
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...postcount=4859
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...postcount=4880


    Well, folks, here it is the 5th of February. You have a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    You have your beta readers comments, you have your list of five paying markets.

    The deadline is close of business tomorrow!

    Take the beta readers' comments, and re-write your story to the best of your ability, making use of those comments. Then print it out in proper manuscript format, put on a cover letter, add an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope), and PUT IT IN THE MAIL.

    By five p.m. tomorrow, Monday the 6th of February, you'll have a story out there.

    When it comes back (and it will), THAT SAME DAY put it in an envelope and send it to the next place on your list. Do not let a manuscript sleep over.

    YOU MUST DO THIS FOR ALL FIVE ADDRESSES YOU'VE FOUND (unless it sells first).

    When it's come back from those five, put it in a file folder, with a disk copy, plus the sheet with the five addresses. Put that day's date on it, and put it in your file cabinet.

    One year from that day, take the story out and re-read it. Then, and only then, can you make any changes from what you have written and revised by tomorrow's deadline. (Exception: If the story sells, and the editor requests changes, I leave it to your conscience whether to make those changes.)

    SO:

    Tomorrow at five p.m. send it out. Tomorrow at six p.m. start your next story. Your quota is 250 words. They don't have to be good words; all they have to do is exist.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird
    Okay. I've made a vow to myself to be less negative, so this is not intended to be so. But I have to question the "and it will" here. My return rate, of any sort, on short fiction submissions is only about 50%. I've had many many many submissions simply disappear into the ozone, even with follow-up letters after several months. And, before anybody asks, yes, I ALWAYS send a proper SASE.

    Which again brings up the question of simultaneous submission vs. sequential submission. Comments?

    caw.

    First, limit yourself to top-tier markets. Less likely things will get lost that way. Second, the postcards: Why do you care when the thing was opened? What will you do differently on the day you get the postcard back, if you included one? Either they offer to buy the story or they don't. Anything else is a waste of your time and theirs. Third, simultaneous submissions. Only do this if the market clearly states that they accept simsubs, and clearly mark that this is a simultaneous submission in the cover letter.

    ============

    In the last paragraph of the cover letter, where you might put "this is a disposable manuscript," you put "this is a simultaneous submission." That's it.

    For some reason that I've never figured out, some writers include copies of their prior rejection slips with their submissions.

    Please don't do that.

    ==============

    Speaking of simsubs, as we were:

    There are two paths here, one going to agents, one going to editors.

    If you're looking for an agent, it's normal and expected to query a dozen or fifty at a time. Just spell their names right. If one comes back and asks for an exclusive, make sure you have reasonable time limits and dates on it. A six week exclusive isn't out of bounds.

    I keep hearing, "Suppose I hear back from a better agent?" The answer, O seeker after wisdom, is this: Don't query any agent you wouldn't be delighted to have represent you.

    The second path is through editors. Here, only simsub if the market explicitly states that it's okay. If they're silent on the subject, assume no simsubs. If they say "No simultaneous submissions," it would behoove you to believe them.

    Now on to cases. Suppose you submit to a bunch markets that allow simsubs. Suppose you get an offer back from a 1/4-cent-a-word market, you gleefully accept it, and the next day you get an offer from a ten-cent-a-word market. What then, Pilgrim? Answer: Same as above, don't submit to any market you wouldn't be delighted to have publish you.

    You will find folks who say, "Go on, young writer. Submit simultaneously to markets that say 'No simultaneous submissions.' You're only hurting yourself by giving 'em exclusive looks."

    I say, "Bah! Humbug!" You don't win a prize for getting the most rejections soonest. You're working on your next piece.

    First, that's a form of betting against yourself. You're betting that no one will want your story anyway.

    I will tell you a true thing: A story that's publishable by one is publishable by many. If you're writing at a publishable level, you're likely to get more than one offer. What then, sprout?


    By the time an offer comes to you, the publisher has already expended time and money on your piece. They've run profit/loss numbers, figured out where it'll fit in the schedule, and are ready to go with it. They won't be happy to have it withdrawn.

    Next, you will be found out. Editors all know each other. They talk with each other. One of the things they talk about is the great new writer they just discovered. So if your story is that flaming good (and why did you submit it if it wasn't?), they're going to be talking about it with their friends from other houses while they're picking up their sandwiches to eat back at their desks. (If al Qaeda wanted to destroy New York publishing there's one particular deli they could bomb at lunchtime.)

    One of the fictions that you're writing is that the publisher you submitted to is the one among all the publishers in the world that you really, really want to see publish your book. (That's why in the cover letter you want to make sure that not only did you spell the name of the editor correctly, but that the editor works there and you've changed all references to the publishing house to the name of the house you're currently submitting to.) They want to think that they're the first girl you asked to the prom.

    So, why not anyway? Because the next time one of your books comes in, the folks who see it will say "Bet he's submitted it to everyone in Writer's Market" and slip it back in the SASE with a pre-printed form. Faced with 18,000 slush manuscripts, editors are looking for easy rejects. "Functionally illiterate from Page One" is good for that, but "Doesn't follow the guidelines" is also fast and easy. Editors aren't cutting you any slack; they're looking for reasons to say no.

    Shall we talk about agents and auctions now?

    Those are one reason it's good to get an agent. Agents aren't limited to one submission at a time. They can hold auctions, which is a form of simultaneous submission. They are banking their reputations on finding Good Stuff -- so you need an agent with that reputation.

    The agent calls up however-many of her editor friends who might like the manuscript, and says "I'm holding an auction ... do you want in?" and messengers the manuscript over to the ones who say yes. It's got a closing date and time. After that, the fun starts.

    The first publisher to come in with a reasonable offer -- one that the author would accept -- gets the floor. If no other acceptable bids come in, they get the book. (There are advantages to having the floor, which I'll get to in a minute.) If other bids come in, all the folks who are bidding are informed, and can come back with better offers. Better offers may not be for more money -- they may be for future books, or variations in rights sought, or accounting, or publicity.... and so on, until the auction closes. At that point, the publisher that got the floor gets a chance to trump whatever the winning bit was, by paying 10% more. So whoever gets in the first bid is guaranteed to get the book, if they want it enough.

    That's where you want a savvy agent.

    ==============

    Send as many or as few as you want. Just don't put them all in the same envelope.

    Some people don't hold with that, saying that you're competing with yourself. So you could come up with a list of, say, 20 places that might take your stuff, and start story #1 with place #1, story #2 with place #2, and rotate around the list until you've hit 'em all (then retire that story for a year).

    Or, you could hand-select which market would be ideal for your story, and send it there first. If you write two stories a week apart that would be perfect for the same place, send 'em both to the same place, a week apart.

    Seriously, just write and submit. Gaming the system to any finer level gets you into the Avoiding Submission trap.

    ============

    This is from the RWA site:

    Definition of a Publisher:
    A RITA-eligible publisher is defined as a royalty-paying publishing house that (1) is not a subsidy or vanity publisher (2) has been releasing books via national distribution for a minimum of one year, and (3) has sold a minimum of 1,500 hardcover or trade paperback copies or 5,000 copies in any other format, including print on demand, of a single romance novel or novella or collection of novellas in book form, in bona fide arms-length transactions, and continues to sell a minimum of 1,500 hardcover or trade paperback copies or 5,000 copies in any other format of a subsequent romance novel each year.

    As of December 1, 2005, the following publishers and their imprints are RITA-Eligible:

    Baker Book House www.bakerbooks.com


    • Baker Books
    • Bethany House
    • Revell
    Barbour Publishing www.barbourbooks.com


    • Heartsong Presents
    Belle Books www.bellebooks.com
    Brilliance AudioBooks www.brillianceaudiobooks.com
    Broadman & Holman www.broadmanholman.com
    Chariot Victor
    Cook Communications Ministries
    www.cookministries.com
    Crossings Book Club
    Dorchester Publishing
    www.dorchesterpub.com


    • Leisure
    • Love Spell
    Ellora’s Cave www.ellorascave.com
    Granite Publishing www.granitepublishing.biz

    Harlequin Enterprises www.eharlequin.com


    • Harlequin Books
    • HQN LUNA
    • Mills & Boon
    • MIRA
    • Red Dress Ink
    • Silhouette Books
    • Steeple Hill Books
    HarperCollins www.harpercollins.com


    Harvest House www.harvesthousepublishers.com
    Howard Publishing www.howardpublishing.com

    Kensington Publishing www.kensingtonbooks.com


    • Brava Dafina Encanto Kensington Pinnacle Strapless Zebra
    • Zebra Regency
    Kregel Publications http://kregel.gospelcom.net

    Loveland Press www.lovelandpress.com

    Macmillan www.mcp.com


    Medallion Press www.medallionpress.com

    Multnomah Publishing www.mpbooks.com

    Penguin Putnam www.penguinputnam.com


    • Berkley
    • Dutton
    • G.P. Putnam’s Sons
    • Putnam
    • Jove
    • NAL
    • Onyx
    • Penguin
    • Signet
    • Viking
    Random House Publishing www.randomhouse.com


    • Ballantine Books
    • Bantam
    • Delacorte
    • Dell
    • Doubleday
    • Fawcett
    • Ivy
    • Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club
    • Random House
    • WaterBrook Press
    Red Sage Publishing www.redsagepub.com
    Severn House www.severnhouse.com

    Simon & Schuster
    www.simonsays.com


    • Atria
    • Downtown Press
    • Pocket Books
    • Simon Pulse
    Thomas Bouregy & Co.


    Thomas Nelson


    Tyndale House www.tyndale.com


    • HeartQuest
    Warner Books www.twbookmark.com


    • Center Street
    • Warner Faith
    • Warner Forever
    Zondervan www.zondervan.com




    ==============

    For poetry you're on your own. Many poets self-publish chapbooks, and sell them via non-traditional distribution (e.g. from a box on stage when they do a reading on Open Mike Night).

    Many magazines use poetry as filler. Find their guidelines, follow them to the letter. Never, ever, pay to get published. Don't buy your own books (that's poetry.com's scam).

    Where do you find the poetry that you read yourself? Submit your works to the same places.

    Good luck with that. You know the most seldom-heard sentence in English? "Hey, look at that poet's Mercedes!"

    ==============

    On the other hand, if short stories is what you're good at, and what you love doing, why not?

    Very few people make a living at this racket anyway.

    All writing is hard. Some kinds are harder for people than some other kinds.

    You just mailed a short story, didn't you? You're about to start another, aren't you?

    I'm probably going to start on a short story myself this afternoon. Why? Because the idea isn't big enough for a novel.

    This is the novels board. There's going to be a prejudice toward novels.

    Don't let anything that's said here stop you from following your heart.

    ================

    You want an example of someone who writes only short works? Take Ted Chiang. His complete published works fit in one hardcover anthology.

    If he ever decided to write a novel, it would get a serious read very quickly. So far he doesn't appear to have the urge to write a novel.

    There isn't any one path. There isn't any one style. At the end, there is only the reader. Please the reader and all will be well.

    ==============

    A synopsis covers the entire piece, beginning, middle, and end.

    This rate of submission for VP is a bit quicker than usual, but may just mean that the staff is more efficient this year than in years past. We always hold open a couple of spots to the very end, just in case something Super Fantastic comes in on the last day.

    As to how short a short story can be: My shortest ever sold was four words.

    It was to Two-Fisted Writer Tales, the companion volume to Swashbuckling Editor Stories. The guidelines said "Four to four thousand words." So I wrote a four-word one, and got accepted. The editor agreed to buy me a Coke as payment. Alas, the book was never published. Such things happen.

    The story, in full, read:

    Writer: "Fist, fist!"

    Thwack.
    I haven't found a market to re-sell it to.

    ===============

    Speaking of short stories, what they are, how they function:

    The king died then the queen died
    isn't a story.

    The king died then the queen died of a broken heart
    is.

    ==============

    Pen names? You can be any gender at all for a pen name. Male to female and female to male are so common....

    ==============

    What definition of "professional" do you want? There's been discussion on this forever, without consensus.

    One point of view is that there's no such thing as a professional writer, because the only "professions" are those that have licenses, such as doctor or lawyer.

    Another point of view is that anyone who gets paid for his/her writing is a "professional" writer.

    I don't think that anyone's argued that only full-time writers are "professional," since if that were true there'd be darned few.

    My personal opinion is that "professional" is a state of mind. If you act "professionally," (that is, in a businesslike way) then you're a professional writer. Know the standards, apply them, and so on. When your work is published by professional markets (that is, ones that sell copies to the public for money), then one is a professional.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    I could do it, but it will take quite some time.
    And this is a problem how? Take the time.

    ================

    Joseph Heller started his first novel (Catch-22) in 1953. It was published in 1961. His second novel was published in 1974.

    No one looks down on Joseph Heller.

    Really, how fast you pump 'em out isn't the question. How good they are is the question. Make your book good.

    ============

    There's a difference between writing for publication and writing for a living. If you're doing it for a living, you absolutely need to have something coming out every year. If you're writing for publication, write when and if you please, just be aware that you'll be getting first-novel advances each time.

    =============

    Beware performing rejectomancy.

    Here's one thing to try:

    Retype the entire manuscript. From hardcopy. You're allowed to make changes as you go. Some bits may not seem worth retyping. Don't retype them. Others will fill you with the need to expand. Expand them.

    Meanwhile, start another book.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by popmuze

    Thinking about doing that now in the era of the word processor, I'm not sure any of it would survive.
    I know one well-published and award-winning author who does exactly that.

    I've started another project, but 40-50 pages into it, I just don't have the same emotional investment as I've got with the current one.
    You will.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    My question: Does this work?
    Can't hurt. The trick, as aways, is finding a market for them.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    I do have one more question, if I may. Is there a formula to writing a book a year?
    Yes. Write a page a day.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor Kenshin
    Is this different from re-visioning scenes, away from the actual manuscript? I re-wrote two scenes today, not looking at (but thinking of) the original, and I like them much better this way.
    It's quasi-different. If you're in real trouble with a novel, and you don't want to just trunk it, my next advice would be to retype it from memory.

    In other news ...

    You can follow The Land of Mist and Snow (most recent novel) as it makes its way from me to my editor!

    http://www.fedex.com/Tracking?cntry_code=us&link=4

    FedEx tracking number 8550 1071 3281

    (Why FedEx? Pushing the deadline for one last re-write, of course.)

    I'll start the next one tomorrow. For me, right now, ice cream! (I know it's February. I want ice cream. You got a problem with that?)

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    Uncle Jim, do you think I should start up another, brand-new book while I'm still working on my present one? Or do you think that's a bit much to handle?
    Only you can know that, Sean. Experiment. Find what works for you.

    You might consider starting slow and building up as you see what your capabilities are, rather than starting out too high and perhaps burning out.

    Now, go write a page.

    ===============

    Talk about VP is a bit off-topic for this thread. There's yahoo email group
    for past-and-potential VP students.

    I'm trying to think of something useful to say about writing that hasn't already been said. I'm still in that post-turn-in haze, when I'm supposed to be writing, and I am, but it's all ... junk.

    This will pass.

    =============

    Litfic is just a marketing category. The exact same text could have another genre on the spine, and would if the nice publisher thought it would sell better over there.

    I could tell you stories that aren't fit for public consumption about that.

    As to how close you get to your characters ... it's one thing when you start seeing your characters around the house. It's worse when your kids start seeing your characters around the house.


    Or when your kids walk in to the middle of a conversation and ask "Are you talking about someone we know, or is it one of your characters again?"

    ===============

    See y'all at Boskone.

    =============

    Lee, I don't know. Could it work? Sure. How will you know that it worked? Your beta readers will tell you.

    Novellas are tough lengths to sell.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeLeung
    Am I right in assuming my story is unsellable for the foreseeable future? Am I stuck back at square one with a new manuscript?
    Nope. Just write it, and submit it, and let the story carry itself.

    If all that the story has going for it is an accented animal -- it may not be much of a story. Aside from the gimmick is the plot strong?

    Animals with French accents have been around since Pepe LePew. Carry on regardless of unseen films. By the time that one's released it might feature a Russian-accented giraffe. No telling with Hollywood.

    ================

    Anna, you might look at Critters (http://www.critters.org). It's a give-one-to-get-one kind of on-line workshop/critique group. You may learn more about your own writing by critiquing that of others.

    Beta readers who are willing to be brutally honest are a vein of gold. Even if you're crying inside, the only words on your lips should be a sincere "Thank you!"

    (Your mom and your best friend from high school probably aren't your best beta readers.)

    Do try to include a filthy minded fifteen-year-old and a literal-minded twelve-year-old in the mix.

    ===============

    The sixth sense is called proprioception, and it's the awareness of where your body is in relationship to itself.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by batgirl
    Are novellas and novelettes more like novels, or more like short stories, or is this a case-by-case decision?
    As far as rewriting, a novella or novelette is closer to being a novel. You can take pieces, rearrange, add and take away, and have something useful. It isn't a case of "Well, that didn't work," and try again from scratch.

    Sometimes, though, even entire novels are so fatally flawed that you have to lay it aside and start again.

    This is frequently the case with first novels.

    ==============

    I know all about being impatient, but seriously, what's your hurry?

    You may not even know what the real opening of your book is until after you've reached The End and revised it a couple of times.

    Sending out a partial of an unfinished manscript as a first timer is a form of betting against yourself. You're betting that everyone will say "no," so where's the harm?

    What's your goal? To get the greatest number of rejection slips? Didn't think so. Your goal is to get picked up by the first place you query. You want to hear "yes, send the whole thing."

    Even if you're up front about the fact that the book isn't finished ... as a first timer the best you'll hear is "write again when it's done." At worst, you'll get one of those nice form rejections. Sad fact: once a particular work has been rejected by a particular market, it's well-nigh impossible to get them to look at that same work again.

    So, don't do it. Finish your book. Make it perfect. That includes the perfect opening, the perfect ending, and all the words in between.

    Only then should you start sending it around. And while it's going around, you're writing your next book.

    ===============

    The Devil's Rejection Slips

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by Triavan
    I'm afraid the best I can do is a formatting question. My WIP is written in the form of a journal, using dates in place of chapter headings. What I am wondering is whether or not enough attention will be paid to these headings to allow them to direct the flow of time.
    For example, if the first section is the 12th day of 5th 2e214 (I am writing in a fantasy setting so standard names for months are inapplicable. The calendar is explained in the work.) and then there is a three day space before the second entry, is it enough to label it 15th day of 5th 2e214 or shall I reinforce the passage of time. Perhaps with an intro along the lines of "Three days of fruitless searching has finally led me to ..."

    Chris
    Would the character countersink the time passage with "three days later" when writing his/her journal? If not ... don't.

    Be very careful of using long strings of numbers for anything. Readers are likely to read those as "number number number" without actually seeing them. That is, they'll be aware there's a number, but not what it is.

    After that ... just try and see how it works. You can always go back and change it if you need to. No one but you sees your first drafts.

    ===========

    I'd still be wary of "somehow." What's wrong with merely noting "The door didn't close"?

    ===========

    In the workshop, were the workshoppers reading the whole book from the beginning as one unit, or were they reading an isolated chapter, after having read the preceeding bits some time before?

    Workshopping in pieces is difficult. Wait until your beta readers have the whole book in hand and read it as a whole before making that decision.

    =============

    Quote Originally Posted by batgirl
    To me, the opening I have is the moment of not-ordering-pizza, because it's when the protagonist (actually, he's died once already and dies a few more times in the course of the book, so he may a hero as well) decides to not just run away, but to arm himself (in a way) against his enemy. The part before that is him being victimised and endangered, really.
    Any suggestions on how to tell whether I've started the story in the wrong place or the right place? Or what the problem really is?
    Have you written the whole book?

    You can do flashbacks, but you need real justification for any deviation from chronological time.

    Are you entirely certain that those parts are needed to tell your story?

    The best way to tell if you've started in the wrong place is to a) finish the book, and b) let it sit in your desk drawer for three months while you start another book. Re-read then and the answer may be obvious.

    ===============

    If you really, really want to know how many words are in your manuscript, and how many pages will be in the printed book, here're workshop instructions:

    http://alg.livejournal.com/77731.html

    ================

    Some wonderful words:

    http://www.brownielocks.com/words.html

    ================

    It's been a while since we've played "First Two Pages." So, without further ado:

    They threw me off the hay truck about noon. I had swung on the night before, down at the border, and as soon as I got up there under the canvas, I went to sleep. I needed plenty of that, after three weeks in Tia Juana, and I was still getting it when they pulled off to one side to let the engine cool. Then they saw a foot sticking out and threw me off. I tried some comical stuff, but all I got was a dead pan, so that gag was out. They gave me a cigarette, though, and I hiked down the road to find something to eat.

    That was when I hit this Twin Oaks Tavern. It was nothing but a roadside sandwich joint, like a million others in California. There was a lunchroom part, and over that a house part, where they lived, and off to one side a filling station, and out back a half dozen shacks that they called an auto court. I blew in there in a hurry and began looking down the road. When the Greek showed, I asked if a guy had been by in a Cadillac. He was to pick me up here, I said, and we were to have lunch. Not today, said the Greek. He layed a place at one of the tables and asked me what I was going to have. I said orange juice, corn flakes, fried eggs and bacon, enchilada, flapjacks, and coffee. Pretty soon he came out with the orange juice and the corn flakes.

    "Hold on, now. One thing I got to tell you. If this guy don't show up, you'll have to trust me for it. This was to be on him, and I'm kind of short myself."

    "Hokay, fill'm up."

    I saw he was on, and quit talking about the guy in the Cadillac. Pretty soon I saw he wanted something.

    "What you do, what kind of work, hey?"

    "Oh, one thing and another, one thing and another. Why?"

    "How old you?"

    "Twenty-four."

    "Young fellow, hey? I could use young fellow right now. In my business."

    "Nice place you got here."

    "Air. Is a nice. No fog, like in Los Angeles. No fog at all. Nice, a clear, all a time nice a clear."

    "Must be swell at night. I can smell it now."

    "Sleep fine. You understand automobile? Fix'm up?"

    "Sure. I'm a born mechanic."

    He gave me some more about the air, and how healthy he's been since he bought this place, and how he can't figure it out, why his help won't stay with him. I can figure it out, but I stay with the grub.

    "Hey? You think you like it here?"

    By that time I had put down the rest of the coffee, and lit the cigar he gave me. "I tell you how it is. I got a couple of other propositions, that's my trouble. But I'll think about it. I sure will do that all right."

    ###
    Then I saw her. She had been out back, in the kitchen, but she came in to gather up my dishes. Except for the shape, she really wasn't any raving beauty, but she had a sulky look to her, and her lips stuck out in a way that made me want to mash them in for her.
    End of page two.

    How about it, folks ... turn the page?

    =================

    You can compose in any typeface you want. When it comes time to submit, submit your work in Courier 10 or 12 (unless the guidelines explicitly say something else).

    ===========

    Plot and character are related, and influence one another. But they are not the same.

    If you happen to come first to plot, or come first to character, relax. How you create is less important than that you create. Do what works for you.

    No one but you will see your first draft. Come out with a unified whole, and you will have succeeded.

    ================

  12. #37
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    New Hampshire
    Posts
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    04/01/06 and following.

    They threw me off the hay truck about noon.
    Great opening line. Introduces a character ("me") with action ("threw"). A play on naivity -- where someone might say "I didn't fall off the hay wagon last night," to mean that he isn't easily fooled, our narrator was literally thrown off a hay wagon. First person, past tense.

    I had swung on the night before, down at the border, and as soon as I got up there under the canvas, I went to sleep.
    A drifter. A tramp. He's getting around by informally hitching rides. Characterization, and location.

    I needed plenty of that, after three weeks in Tia Juana, and I was still getting it when they pulled off to one side to let the engine cool.
    More localization, more backstory, more characterization.


    Then they saw a foot sticking out and threw me off.
    He's careless. He's detected. Characterization.

    I tried some comical stuff, but all I got was a dead pan, so that gag was out.
    He's self-aware, and speaks in slang.

    They gave me a cigarette, though, and I hiked down the road to find something to eat.
    Characterization -- he manages to talk the unknown driver out of a cigarette. Our narrator can find a silver lining in some pretty grim circumstances. And he's an optimist. End of first paragraph. Short declarative sentences. Almost no description. The narrator doesn't care about anyone or anything but himself. Check the number of times he says "I."


    That was when I hit this Twin Oaks Tavern.
    A place. Non-standard English. The preceding paragraph told us how the narrator happened to be here -- pure random chance. The main location shows up in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

    It was nothing but a roadside sandwich joint, like a million others in California.
    Abbreviated description; we're in California. Probably southern California, since we know the narrator was coming up from the Mexican border.

    There was a lunchroom part, and over that a house part, where they lived, and off to one side a filling station, and out back a half dozen shacks that they called an auto court.
    Physical layout of the setting. No details; the reader can fill them in since there are a million just like it. An "auto court" is another name for a motel. Tourist cabins. The impression is bleak. New characters added: "they." Who "they" are is yet to be defined.


    I blew in there in a hurry and began looking down the road. When the Greek showed, I asked if a guy had been by in a Cadillac.
    The narrator is running a con. He's a natural play-actor. Who "the Greek" might be is undefined. Possibly one of the "they" from the last sentence.

    He was to pick me up here, I said, and we were to have lunch.
    We have a narrator who lies fluently, naturally, as his first choice. The story is being told by this narrator. That is to say, nothing is as it seems. The readers shouldn't believe a word he says.
    Not today, said the Greek.
    Indirect discourse.

    He layed a place at one of the tables and asked me what I was going to have.
    The Greek is apparently a waiter, perhaps the proprietor of this rundown gas-station-motel-lunch-counter somewhere in California.


    I said orange juice, corn flakes, fried eggs and bacon, enchilada, flapjacks, and coffee.
    In addition to not sleeping for three weeks, the narrator apparently didn't eat, either. Or, he asks for everything in hopes of getting something.

    Pretty soon he came out with the orange juice and the corn flakes.
    Not exactly what he asked for. End of second paragraph. Again, very short, simple sentences.

    "Hold on, now. One thing I got to tell you. If this guy don't show up, you'll have to trust me for it. This was to be on him, and I'm kind of short myself."
    The con is revealed. The narrator may have run this same swindle a thousand times before, at a thousand other lunch joints. First use of direct quotation in the story.


    "Hokay, fill'm up."

    I saw he was on, and quit talking about the guy in the Cadillac. Pretty soon I saw he wanted something.
    The Greek knows he's being conned, and doesn't care. The narrator knows he knows, and stops even pretending. This is lovely characterization for both of 'em. The Greek speaks broken English, close to dialect.


    "What you do, what kind of work, hey?"

    "Oh, one thing and another, one thing and another. Why?"

    "How old you?"

    "Twenty-four."

    "Young fellow, hey? I could use young fellow right now. In my business."

    "Nice place you got here."

    "Air. Is a nice. No fog, like in Los Angeles. No fog at all. Nice, a clear, all a time nice a clear."

    "Must be swell at night. I can smell it now."

    "Sleep fine. You understand automobile? Fix'm up?"

    "Sure. I'm a born mechanic."
    They're each lying to the other, for purposes unknown. I bet the Greek isn't there for the air, and I bet the narrator doesn't know the first thing about fixing cars. The narrator is a bum. The Greek is ... odd. Why does he need to expand on why he needs a young fellow? What could he possibly be talking about other than his business? Implies that the Greek is old.


    He gave me some more about the air, and how healthy he's been since he bought this place, and how he can't figure it out, why his help won't stay with him. I can figure it out, but I stay with the grub.
    Just like the Greek didn't buy the story about the guy in the Cadillac, the narrator isn't buying the story about the air. The narrator detects something about the Greek that means he would be a lousy boss. The readers aren't told, exactly, just that the narrator can figure out why no one wants to work for this guy.


    "Hey? You think you like it here?"
    There's the pitch. Notice that there are no dialog tags -- no "I said ... he said." No bits of business fiddling with coffee cups. No information about what the room looks like, where the door is, what color the tablecloths are (or even if there are tablecloths).


    By that time I had put down the rest of the coffee, and lit the cigar he gave me. "I tell you how it is. I got a couple of other propositions, that's my trouble. But I'll think about it. I sure will do that all right."
    Our narrator accepts the free meal, accepts a cigar (he's apparently good at bumming smokes -- he got a cigarette from the truck driver), and is on the verge of turning down the job offer. You know he's going to smoke that cigar and walk out and never look back. He's lying some more, though -- he doesn't have any other propositions. He's got no future at all except bumming from town to town and running penny-ante swindles. This is pure character building.

    ###
    Linebreak. Change of scene. Even though we don't move an inch, and the time is about one second later.
    Then I saw her.
    A very simple sentence. It leads the new scene, and adds a new character: "her." "Her" has the position of power at the end of the sentence. So far we haven't learned a single name.


    She had been out back, in the kitchen, but she came in to gather up my dishes.
    Simple narration. Gives the person a job, a reason for being there. The other part of the "they" we were promised.

    Except for the shape, she really wasn't any raving beauty, but she had a sulky look to her, and her lips stuck out in a way that made me want to mash them in for her.
    The longest sentence so far. A beautiful shape, a sulky look, and lips. And "mash them in for her" is ambiguous. Does he want to kiss her, or punch her in the mouth? The overtone of violence is inescapable. And we are in the classic triangle by the end of page two. Plot has just arrived. The old husband, the young wife, and the glib young stranger.

    Lies, poverty, violence, sex ... this is a dynamite setup. I don't see a wasted word in it.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Avalon
    I wonder -- for most people, I assume that kind of tightness happens several rounds into revision?
    Who knows? All that we know is that this is the final form.

    All anyone ever sees is your last draft.

    This is really a bravura example of minimalist writing. Later on, the author has pages on end of two and three person conversations, none of it with dialog tags.

    It's a first novel.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Anya Smith
    My question is, how do I determine whether my characters know or don't know if they're in a novel?
    If they do or say things for no other reason than that the plot requires it, or the author needs to clue in the readers -- then they know they're characters in a novel.

    "Fred, when you heard the mysterious noises downstairs why didn't you just call 9-1-1?"

    "Because if I did this would have been a very short book."

    ###

    "Bob, normal household current is 120 volt, 60 cycle AC. 'Cycle' and 'Hertz' mean the same thing."

    "Fred, we've both been electricians for twenty years. I know this stuff, and you know I know it. Why are you telling me?"

    "Maybe you know it, but the readers don't."

    ============

    Quote Originally Posted by Anya Smith
    Where else would I insert all that info?
    Ask yourself: is this information really necessary? If so, you might have a stranger who needs to have things explained as one of your characters. That's one of the functions Stephen Maturin plays in O'Brien's Aubrey novels. If he weren't there O'Brien would have needed to show 18th c. British sailors explaining rigging to one another, or left the readers hopelessly at sea.

    The other problem is a bit more subtle. You need to have characters who have credible motives for everything they do. All other things being equal, your characters would rather be at home eating ice cream and watching late-night TV, rather than dangling by their thumbs over active volcanoes. It's up to you to provide that motivation, and make the readers believe it.

    ===========


    Quote Originally Posted by Scribhneoir
    I'd turn the page. In fact, I think I did, way back in school -- is this "The Postman Always Rings Twice"?
    It is, indeed, The Postman Always B/r/i/n/g/s/ M/i/c/e/ Rings Twice.

    (For more fun, here's a first-lines quiz (and a linked last-lines quiz).)

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifiel
    Since a few months back, I've tried learning British punctuation and spelling(no, not much yet). And now, I'm not sure if I ought to stick to British or change to American. *totally and utterly confused*
    Where do you live, and what markets are you considering submitting to?

    ==============

    If you're planning to submit to American markets, use American punctuation. If you're planning to submit to British markets, use British punctuation. Or -- chose one, and just be consistent.

    Work on making your story compelling.

    ============

    If I recall correctly, the big differences between American and British punctuation are in the use of single and double quotes, and whether the period goes inside or outside of a close quote.

    Really, just be consistent. That way search-and-replace will get 'em all when the time comes.

    In fiction you can get farther out. The usual genius exception applies. (The farther away from the norm you are, the closer to genius the work must be.)

    =========

    Nothing wrong with 3rd omniscient. It's just notoriously hard to do well.

    ==========

    Here's some discussion about the author's role in publicizing their own books:

    http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/?p=300

    Pray notice this reply from a very senior editor:

    Look, what I meant is that the one irreducible thing that’s every writer’s job is the writing.

    Some writers can contribute to the selling of their work as well, and they want to, and their publishers agree and are willing to support them in this.

    Some writers can contribute to the selling of their work, and they want to, and their publishers don’t agree, so nothing happens.

    Some writers can contribute to the selling of their work as well, but they _don’t_ want to, but their publishers pressure them into tryng it anyway.

    Some writers can contribute to the selling of their work as well, but they don’t want to, and their publishers are fine with this.

    Some writers are very ineffective at selling their work, but they want to, and their publisher wants them to and is willing to send them out into the world, where they proceed to do significant damage to their reputations.

    Some writers are very ineffective at selling their work, but they want to, but their publishers (thankfully for all involved) manage to talk them out of it.

    Some writers are very ineffective at selling their work, and they KNOW this about themselves, but their publishers insist on sending them out into the world, with predictably successful results… Etc., etc., etc. You can work out the remaining permutations as well as I can.

    Meanwhile, you challenge me to “Tell that to the writers who get heavy pressure from their publishers to do book tours etc.” Okay. Send me their names and I’ll “tell that to” them.

    The plain fact is, some writers have accurate self-knowledge and some don’t. Some publishers have good judgement about who ought to be sent out to publicize their own work and some don’t. Everybody’s an idiot a good part of the time. There’s no substitute for using your own judgement. And RWA-style categorical assertions about what authors HAVE TO do or MUST come to terms with are, by and large, wise-guy ********. There are no accurate formulas, and the maps get redrawn every day.

    ================

    There isn't a standard for synopses.

    The one I use is for the classic three-and-an-outline. About ten pages of outline is what I tend to do.

    If I were sending a query letter, I'd more likely send two pages at most.

    ----

    You can absolutely mention forthcoming works in your query letters.

    =============

    Was the questionmark part of the phrase he was quoting?

    Personally, I'd go with "Which one is 'right'?" he asked, and ignore it thereafter, because the publisher will change it to house style regardless of which you choose. Just be consistent.

    =============

    I'm going to be doing a live chat here tonight at 9:00 pm EDT.

    http://www.starchat.net/chat/?chan=absolutewrite

    The channel is #absolutewrite

    ============

    Quote Originally Posted by Anya Smith
    Shucks, we have a dinner party at friends house. I always miss the good stuff.

    Uncle James, "The Apocalypse Door" was very good. Thanks for a good read.
    Thanks.

    I'm sure there'll be a transcript.

    =============

    His breath steamed and he stamped his feet.

    =============

    How books make money

    =============

    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'm back, having driven 2,846.3 miles since last Wednesday morning. My elder son is now a Mechanical Engineer with a diploma to prove it. He's going to grad school in the fall.

    My own opinion on stickiness: If the thread isn't active enough to be on the first page, it doesn't deserve to be on the first page. (When it sinks off the page, that's a reminder to me that I need to post.)

    The page-one-hundred rule (not so much a rule as a guideline): If you're writing War And Peace, or the Bible, you can introduce major characters later on. There are other special circumstances. Examine your story. If it's better with a major character introduced nearer to the end, then it's better.

    Be very sure that it's better. (Your beta readers will tell you.)

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    I might also set aside another time in the morning or afternoon to BIC a second time in the day. I find that my productivity is outstanding when I sit with Butt In Chair, doing nothing but writing.
    Do what's comfortable for you.

    Later, you'll want to set aside time to do an hour of original writing, and an hour of editing/rewriting an earlier work.

    An hour here, an hour there. It adds up.

    ==============

    Go, you! If you don't have the clay you can't make the pot.

    ==============

    Nope, no rule that I'm aware of.

    Fool with it. It's okay to try several different ways in different drafts in order to see which works best.

    ===============

    Off to go over the copyedit on Mist and Snow. The cover art is spectacular -- I hope to have permission to show it to y'all soon.

    ==============
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 02-04-2010 at 02:31 AM.

  13. #38
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
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    06/08/06 and following.

    The answer to the question "How many words are on the page in a printed book?" is "How many do you want?" The book's designer controls it and balances printing costs against readability.

    =============

    George Orwell's rules of writing:

    (i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    (ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
    (iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    (iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    (v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    (vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    They come from "Politics and the English Language." The sixth and last is especially important.

    =================

    Andrew, do two or more of the characters serve the same purpose in the story? If so, combine them.

    The viewpoint character does not have to be active, merely the best-suited to seeing the action in a given scene.

    What are those scenes meant to accomplish? What's your overall story? Those things I can't answer. If you can see them clearly, then cut close and accomplish your purpose.

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by alaskamatt17
    As for those rules above, I don't think Stephen King ever read them. Well, that's not exactly true; he may have read them but he ignores tham flat-out. Every single one them. Even the sixth.
    Gee, he never breaks the rules? Who'd a thunk?

    The thing about writing rules is this: They aren't rules. They're guidelines. You do have to know where the lines are, but if you need to color outside of them, please do so. The master rule is if it works, it's right. Yes, you can break that rule too, but don't expect anyone but mom to love your story if you do.

    ==============

    My personal rule is, the three most recent/most prestigious sales. All to the same market, to different markets ... that doesn't matter to me. The idea is to show "I'm writing at a professional level; a professional sent me money."

    =============

    There wasn't that much stetted, Duncan -- even though the copy editor apparently was confused that a vessel could be described as both having twelve guns and having a broadside of six guns. (She's a sloop of war, special experimental construction, during the American Civil War.)

    And Dawno -- thank you. I haven't yet been through this thread to be sure it's all here. The day will come, I'm sure. I've also heard from several people suggesting turning this thread into a book. I think I'll follow up on that.

    (One place where I put up the tip jar, and mourned the loss of this thread, was here: http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/UncleJim.html Y'all can help support AW by buying a book from that page. The commisssions go to Jenna.)

    ============

    Oh -- Dawno has made some nice Learn Writing with Uncle Jim tee-shirts. (Available in a variety of colors and styles.)

    Income from these shirts goes to support Absolute Write. Buy one! Better still, buy a dozen! They make excellent gifts....

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Patricia
    How to determine if you are keeping a handle on the word "had" in 3rd person fiction. If there is already a reference to it--just point me that way.
    The way I'd check on 'had' (or other words/word choices): Stand in your living room and read the book out loud. If something sounds funny to you, put a checkmark in the margin and move on. Smooth out those bits later.

    Things that sound wrong -- probably are.

    =============

    A bit of a brag: Paul Melko (Viable Paradise VI), just sold a novel, Singularity's Rising, to Tor.

    ================

    Two things: first, elsewhere in AW I posted this, and I thought I'd share it here:

    A writin' man walked out one day in a caffeine-powered funk
    And by a postbox rested while he thought about his bunk
    When all at once a mighty crowd of hopeful authors came
    A-trailin' dreams of bylines and a bit of local fame.

    Paragraph change! Paragraph STET! Ghost writers in the sky.

    Their eyes were red, their hair uncombed, they all wore mismatched socks,
    They fixed their hungry eyes upon that silent letter box.
    Some had gone with Barb'ra Bauer, and others with ST,
    And one of them had even signed with the Robins Agency.

    Paragraph change! Paragraph STET! Ghost writers in the sky.

    The authors most ignored him, but one tried to engage:
    "If you want to save your soul from Hell a-scribblin' on a page,
    Then writer change your ways today or someday you will be
    Wond'ring why you never sold -- and why you paid a fee."

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

    Second, the question about cash from the Amazon book sales.

    No, the authors didn't agree to anything. The way it works is this: if you have an Amazon Affilliate account, Amazon pays a percentage of any book sales they make that came to them through your link. Amazon gets a tiny bit less profit from the sale, but in return they get links to Amazon all over the Web. They figure it's a fair tradeoff.

    Those books have Absolute Write's affiliate code on 'em -- so the commission paid by Amazon for the sales goes to AW.

    =================

    Are all 120,000 words going to be the exactly right words?

    Make the book the best you can ... then write another one.

    ===================

    "Things happen" is pretty much the definition of plot. More stuff happening is better (usually) than less stuff happening (unless you're Marcel Proust).

    But ... when you say something takes away from the climax, that's a hint that maybe it doesn't belong in your book. Anything that doesn't move the story forward holds it back.

    Cut ruthlessly. You'll still have the original version in case you need to go back and reinsert some scenes.

    Then let it sit for a bit, read it out loud, do a re-write ... then hand it over to your beta readers.

    And start a new book, while it's sitting.

    ====================

    That's one of the reasons I recommend that you read your book out loud.


    ====================

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    What do you think I should do when I get it all done?
    Submit it and start writing another book, silly.

    Quote Originally Posted by PeeDee
    "He could feel the icey cold branches....on his neck....and he turned....to look....and then.....he SAW IT.....the hand of death."
    Oh, gee ... when did you get a look at my current WIP?

    ================

    If you're submitting it to one of the same places again, either use a new title, or put in the cover letter that this is a substantially revised and expanded version.

    ===========

    I'm a bit unclear on what exactly you mean.


    ============

    It's a work of fiction, right? Are you 100% sure that some lone genius in the year 1214 didn't put 'em all together?

    I wouldn't put in a notice about that. Novels aren't meant to be textbooks.

    Now it's true that readers of, say, historical romances will snark at you if you have your characters waltzing two years before the dance was introduced in a particular area, and firearms enthusiasts will wax wroth if you give your Colt Commander .45 semi-automatic pistol right-hand rifling ... unless the point of your story was What If the Waltz Had Been Introduced Early or What If the .45 Had A Right-Hand Twist? "What If" is one of the great story-generating engines.

    You might want to read a couple of alternate histories.

    ==============

    Short scenes.

    Dialog.

    ================

    Please, don't mix tenses.

    Of course, you can do anything at all in dialog -- it reveals character.

    If it's vital that the readers know that Fred is still the narrator's best friend, you could say something like:

    "He was my best friend -- still is."

    Or, you could fudge it:

    "He's my best friend."

    Ask yourself if it's important that the readers know that this person not only was but still is the narrator's friend. Ask yourself if the readers care. Be ruled accordingly.

    ================


    I fear that those sentences do, indeed, sound awkward. Please think very carefully before mixing tenses.

    ==================

    "I dunno, it just feels right" is the place where you should be when writing. Your subconscious will guide you; your characters come to life and surprise you; the right ending (as opposed to the one you planned) will appear.

    Meanwhile:

    Saturday I saw a Reader's Theatre (minimal sets and costumes, actors have the script in their hands and read it) performance of G. B. Shaw's How He Lied To Her Husband.

    May I recommend it to everyone here as a wonderful example of Not A Word Wasted? This is a one-act farce, and carries itself marvelously a hundred years after it was first produced.


    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by allenparker
    Is so, are there exercises that you do or did that helped this?
    I retyped a heck of a lot of other writers' published material, to get the feel of it into my hands.

    ===============

    Quote Originally Posted by Liam Jackson
    What did you take away from the experience, Jim?
    Where and how characters are introduced, paragraph rhythm, word-choice, punctuation ... if you try to write like your favorite author, you won't, exactly, because you're different people, but your own writing will be better.

    When you're training for the race, it helps that your training partner is a bit faster than you, because that way you'll really stretch your legs.

    ================

    Quote Originally Posted by allynnegirl
    Now, I am off to read, write and do more homework. I will get this novel (novella?? - don't know yet) finished before the end of the year!
    Go, you!

    ==============

  14. #39
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Beginning 07-03-2006:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    The remaining three days, where I reveal the Next Big Thing, the Secret Handshake, and Five Things Editors Don't Want You To Know, must remain forever shrouded in silence.

    Those who read them in time ... see you on the best seller list.

    ---------

    Dialog is privileged. That means that you can do anything at all in dialog.

    Dune was science fiction. The difference between "literary" and "commercial" is the label that the publisher puts on the spine.

    I've gotten burned every time I've commented on works over in Share Your Work, so, alas, I must decline.

    ---------

    I'd remembered writing this post -- but couldn't find it. At last, this morning, it turned up on a search for something else. So here, moved from another AW thread, is: Reserve Against Returns!

    ===============

    The question is probably going to come up, so I might as well explain it now.

    When a normal publisher publishes a book, and it's offered for sale through bookstores, that book isn't really sold until it goes out the door under a customer's arm. The other books are returned, to make way for still newer releases.

    So ... how does the publisher handle paying royalties when the publisher doesn't know how many will come back to the warehouse?

    This is handled with a process called "reserve against returns." The reserve is the number that you don't get paid for, just in case they come back.

    Publishers don't tell you exactly what their reserves are -- but as it happens I know at least one publisher uses this formula:

    The first royalty period after the book is released, the reserve against returns is 100%. Maybe they printed 30,000 copies, and maybe bookstores ordered 20,000 of them -- but they aren't going to cut a check to you for royalties on 20,000 copies. They assume that ever single one of them will be returned.

    Let's say that royalty months are April and November (which again is pretty standard). Let's say the book came out in July, that the cover price is $10, and the royalty rate is 10%. And let's say the author gets a $5,000 advance against 10%. (I'm choosing these numbers for ease of math, not because they're necessarily real.)

    And let's say that 10,000 copies sold (actually went out the door with customers, 30% sell-through) of the 20,000 that shipped.

    Right, then.

    Comes November, and those 10,000 copies would be a $5,000 check for Joe Author ($10,000 in royalties minus the $5,000 advance) but he gets a royalty statement showing $0.00 due, because of the reserve against returns.

    At this particular publisher the reserve against returns is 100% in the first royalty period, and 75% in the second. And let's say that another 5,000 copies of Joe's book sold in the six months from November through April. So ... Joe would have $15K coming, but .... reserve against returns is 75%, so only $3,750 is credited to him. Subtract that from the advance, and his royalty statement says that he still has $1,250 in unearned advance.

    From May through October, books get returned by one bookstore, ordered by another, and an additional 5,000 that have gone out the bookstore door in a shopping bag.

    Total actually sold, to date: 20,000 (66% sell-through). This time around the publisher's reserve against returns is 25%. 25% of 20,000 is 5,000 books. So the publisher only reports a total to date of 15,000 sold, for total royalties of $15,000, minus the $3,750 already credited to him, minus the $1,250 in unearned advance, so Joe gets a check for $10,000. Happy day! He's earned out!

    Now in the fourth royalty period after the book came out, the reserve against returns is 0%. Books have gone out, been returned, been redistributed, sold, and another 5,000 have been bought and paid for by readers.

    So far: 25,000 sold. Royalties due, $25,000. Finally, we've gotten out from under the dead horse. In April two years after his book came out, Joe Author gets paid $25,000 minus the $10,000 he was already paid, for a nice $15,000 royalty check.

    After this, the reserve against returns continues at 0% -- if 5,000 books ship during those six months, the publisher pays royalties for 5,000. (And by this point they have a pretty fair idea of how many will sell, because they have a history, and at this point, with 25,000 sold out of an initial press run of 30,000 (83% sell-through) they'll probably have gone back to press. Do you know what a 100% sell-through means? It means the publisher didn't print enough copies.)

    So, reserve against returns at this one publisher: 100%, 75%, 25%, 0%. It takes you two solid years to get to the place where you're getting royalties as they happen. Normally, since you got an advance, this isn't that major a problem. You're living off the advance while the reserve against returns is catching up. It protects the publisher, and you do want to protect the publisher: If they stay in business that means they'll buy more of your books.

    (Among other unrealistic things in this story: I set the advance low for a book that was going to be printed in those numbers. I wanted to show a book earning out because I'm a sucker for happy endings.)

    ---------

    What percentage of books earn back their advance?
    Don't know exactly, but my guess would be around a quarter of them.

    For an average professional writer (yeah, there probably isn't an average...) what percentage earns out?
    Probabaly about a quarter of them.

    Is the first incidence of not earning out the last time the publisher will work with the author?
    Gracious no! Publishers start showing a profit long before earn-out. The usual thing is for the publisher to try to guess how many will sell, and try to set the advance equal to the total expected royalties. That way they don't have to run around cutting checks every six months. The payments to the author are the smallest part of the book's expenses.

    The system is designed so that most books won't earn out. That 25% represents when the publisher guessed wrong.

    (And what does not earning out mean to you, as an author? Just that you were paid for your sales at a higher-than-contracted-for royalty rate.)

    Do the big names ever have books that don't earn out?
    Sure. All the time. Unless the advance is negotiated low (usually for tax purposes, to spread the income out into multiple years).

    ---------

    Page 211


    ---------

    Quote Originally Posted by Nangleator
    I was under the impression that only a small fraction of books showed a profit for the publisher.
    That's a misapprehension by folks who aren't in the business who hear "a quarter earn out" and think that means "only a quarter make a profit." I've seen folks claim that editors are all incompetent because they guess wrong three quarters of the time about what books the public wants. Usually it's the people who haven't managed to sell a book who tell you this.

    ---------

    No, you shouldn't be doing dialect. To differentiate your characters, play with word choice and sentence rhythm.

    May I again suggest James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice as a master example of characters identifiable through their dialog? There are long swatches of two-and-three person dialog with no tags where nevertheless we have no trouble keeping who's speaking straight.

    The baseline to doing it is this: The characters must be distinct in your mind.

    (Oh, and everyone go pre-order The Land of Mist and Snow. Coming out on December 1, which means it's actually gonna be available in the last two weeks of November. An excellent holiday gift for all the folks on your list! It's got action, adventure, romance, mystery, sex, violence, the American Civil War and a demented paleographer. Everything that a good book should have. You need a copy for every room in your house, and one for your car. Hard winter coming ... you'll want to lay in eight or ten cords of 'em.)


    ---------


    I'll be away for the weekend at Readercon:

    http://www.readercon.org/program.htm


    9:00 pm Friday: Fitting Character to Plot
    12:30 pm Saturday: Reading from The Land of Mist and Snow
    10:00 am Sunday: Kaffeeklatch
    12:00 noon Sunday: Social Class and Speculative Fiction
    1:00 pm Sunday: Viable Paradise Writers' Workshop presentation

    During the course of the weekend, my daughter informs me that we will be seeing Pirates of the Caribbean II. I also intend to see if there's any Indian food to be had in the area.

    I may or may not be logging in here.


    ---------

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor Kenshin
    Eat some saag for Sailor.
    Actually, I was planning on vindaloo.

    ---------

    The publisher decides what logo to put on the spine, which tells the bookstore what section to shelve your book in, which is where they think it'll have the greatest sales.

    The same book might be marketed as crime, romance, or literary ... depending one where the sales would be best. Don't worry about that. Worry about writing the best book you can.


    ---------


    Page 212

    ---------

    If you cut out the parts that the readers are going to skip anyway, you lose nothing.

    You are not different: you have to do whatever works.


    ---------

    Like any other spice, "said" words other than "said" should be applied with a light hand.

    ---------

    Quote Originally Posted by aertep
    Someday I'll be able to just relax and read again.

    Didn't anyone warn you? Becoming a writer ruins you as a reader.

    ---------

    Page 213

    ---------

    Quote Originally Posted by Nexusman

    How often does this occur in fiction?
    Often enough. Neither the Continental Op in Dashiel Hammet's stories, nor the English spy in Len Deighton's novels, ever gets a name, for example.

    ---------

    Oh, as long as we're looking at first chapters of my books -- we just got the cover art for Land of Mist and Snow.



    I've posted the first chapter on-line at my web page (click on the cover). I might do a line-by-line on it here.

    ---------

    As far as descriptions, what we know about the Continental Op is that he's overweight. About the English spy, we know that he wears glasses.

    And those only come up when it's relevant to the plot.

    ---------

    I end chapter one (as of now) with "It worked great for five years. Then he got a visitor that changed everything."
    And go into chap two.
    Great first-chapter close. Cut "Then he got a visitor...."

    Start off chapter two with the visitor knocking on his door. Continue from there, slow pace gradually picking up to the chapter two cliffhanger.

    Get your copy of Magic and Showmanship and study the chapter on routining an act.

    ---------

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeFlower
    This might be a bad idea, but my first instinct would be to open chapter two with the classic "FIVE YEARS LATER..."
    Probably not your best idea. We can get the idea that five years have passed in other, more subtle ways (which still advance plot, support theme, and reveal character).

    Meanwhile ... back at the ranch ...

    One reason for the sudden flurry on Mist and Snow is that we've just gotten the galleys back; we have 'til the 27th to read and correct them.

    Here are the first two typeset pages (line by line anon):

    In late January of 1863 I was an idler, assigned to the War Department office at 88 Whitehall Street in the city of New York after my ship, USS Tisdale, burned when the Rebels took Norfolk.

    Time weighed heavily upon me. The war, which some had at first expected to be over in a matter of weeks -- or a few months at most -- would soon be entering its third year, and I could not fail to perceive that matters stood at a most perilous juncture. In the west, the free movement of our forces up and down the Mississippi still broke upon the rock that was Confederate-held Vicksburg; to the east and south, in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Rebel commerce raiders and blockade runners ranged freely. Everywhere, my brother officers were gaining rank and experiencing sea-time, whether in gunboats on the inland waterways or in more conventional warships on the open seas, maintaining the blockade and chasing Confederate raiders.

    Meanwhile, I sat filing papers in an obscure office. President Lincoln had freed all the slaves in Rebel territory. My daily hope was that some similar edict would arrive to free me from my own labors. From my window overlooking the harbor, I could watch the Navy's vessels come and go -- a species of keen torture, since I feared that such a long period of shore duty would see my career stalled, if not derailed entirely, the ultimate goal of command at sea forever placed beyond my reach.

    So it was that on the morning of January 31st a messenger found me laboring at my desk, checking one long bureaucratic list against another. He had an envelope from the Navy Department in his hand, with my name on the front. I fairly tore the envelope from his grasp and opened it.

    What it contained was indeed the answer to my nightly prayer. I was detached immediately from my current assignment and ordered to travel by fastest available means to the Naval Arsenal at Watervliet. There I was to inspect and take possession of a dozen ten-inch Rodman guns, thence to accompany them to the place where USS Nicodemus might lie, in order to take my position as head of her gunnery department. Nicodemus was new construction; I would be a plank owner. I was further informed that Nicodemus was even then being fitted out in preparation for her sea trials.

    The remainder of the morning I spent in checking out of my temporary billet, drawing my health and pay records, and turning over my responsibilities to a hapless civilian clerk.
    As usual, the game is this: Would you turn the page?

    ---------

    With apologies to Uncle Jim, I would close with "Then he got a visitor."
    This comes precious close to telling when you could be showing.

    "It worked great for five years," is a version of "what with this and that some five years passed," which is valid.

    ---------

    This is going to be a bit different from the usual, because I know a bit more about what was going on in the author's mind. So I'll indulge a bit.

    In late January of 1863 I was an idler, assigned to the War Department office at 88 Whitehall Street in the city of New York after my ship, USS Tisdale, burned when the Rebels took Norfolk.
    We start off with a super-sentence -- a single-sentence paragraph. I'm trying to set a 19th century voice, a more florid and leisurely narrative style than is common now. Thus "of 1863" rather than plain "1863," and "city of New York" rather than "New York City." (Alas, I was unable to convince either my co-author nor the editor that New-York should properly be hyphenated.)

    The War Department building was, indeed, at 88 Whitehall St, New York City. This had personal meaning for me -- I'd been there, back when it was still in its Civil War dress; it's where I got my induction physical when I joined the Navy, so I know exactly what it looked like and where it is situated, and what you could see from its windows. I didn't actually describe it in the novel, but the fact I could still see (and smell) it -- helped me out.

    This paragraph is setting the scene, and filling in details of the American Civil War for folks who slept through history class.

    This also brings me to my first large whopper: there was no USS Tisdale involved in the American Civil War. The name actually belongs to a WWII destroyer escort. There are several compressions here, too: the Union burned the Gosport Shipyard in Portsmouth when the Rebels took Norfolk in 1861, shortly after the attack on Fort Sumter. The Rebels burned the same navy yard in 1862, when the Federals retook Norfolk. The first burning of the Gosport yards left USS Merrimack burned to the waterline; she was later raised and converted into CSS Virginia (famous for fighting USS Monitor in the Battle of Hampton Roads).

    The Battle of Hampton Roads would have taken place a year before the events in the story we're telling here; it's never mentioned. That's because in this world (an alternate history/secret history), it never took place. Instead, the duel between two unusual ships forms the core of our story. So where we are in the first paragraph: A ship that never existed is named, while a battle that actually took place is not. Still, the shadow of the Monitor and the Merrimack lies long across our tale. We're in 1863 in order to allow time for events in our story to have unfolded. 1862 wouldn't have allowed enough time to pass after the start of the war to do everything that I had to do, as will be revealed in the course of the narrative. (The other Civil War ship duel that's heavily referenced is CSS Alabama vs. USS Kearsarge, two more vessels that are never mentioned, even though they were both active during this period.)

    History is the fantasy author's secret weapon; those are the sources I'm using.

    I trust that the term "idler" is obvious from context; it's someone who doesn't stand watches.

    Time weighed heavily upon me.
    After that super-sentence, a short sentence for rhythm.

    The war, which some had at first expected to be over in a matter of weeks -- or a few months at most -- would soon be entering its third year, and I could not fail to perceive that matters stood at a most perilous juncture.
    For the folks who hadn't stayed awake in American History.

    In the west, the free movement of our forces up and down the Mississippi still broke upon the rock that was Confederate-held Vicksburg; to the east and south, in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Rebel commerce raiders and blockade runners ranged freely.
    More brief history -- enough so the readers will know what's going on. The hunt for blockade runners and raiders forms most of the rest of the book. (Vicksburg will be mentioned again in the last chapter.)

    Everywhere, my brother officers were gaining rank and experiencing sea-time, whether in gunboats on the inland waterways or in more conventional warships on the open seas, maintaining the blockade and chasing Confederate raiders.
    Motive and discontent for our narrator. Reveals him to be an ambitious man. So ends this paragraph, again with a very long sentence. Our narrator will soon be at sea in a very unconventional warship.

    Meanwhile, I sat filing papers in an obscure office.
    Short sentence for rhythm. Alliteration for emphasis. The ambition theme again.

    President Lincoln had freed all the slaves in Rebel territory.
    On 1 January 1863, thirty days before the narrative commences. A bit more history, and anchoring to time.


    My daily hope was that some similar edict would arrive to free me from my own labors.
    Ambitious, self-centered, given to exageration.

    From my window overlooking the harbor, I could watch the Navy's vessels come and go -- a species of keen torture, since I feared that such a long period of shore duty would see my career stalled, if not derailed entirely, the ultimate goal of command at sea forever placed beyond my reach.
    Back to the very long sentences, the ship theme pointed up. As far as torture goes, he isn't really being tortured. Certainly not in the same way as the slaves he compares himself with in the previous sentence. We're also setting up the ending here -- John Nevis will get command at sea before this book is over. Foreshadowing the climax, right on page one. End of paragraph, a position of power.

    So it was that on the morning of January 31st a messenger found me laboring at my desk, checking one long bureaucratic list against another.
    Finally, our story is about to start. Something happens. (Also, fixing the date. Dates are going to be important from now on.) Some attitude toward his job. This was, in fact, a Saturday morning. But then, the five-day work week wasn't invented until 1908, and didn't go nation-wide until 1940.
    He had an envelope from the Navy Department in his hand, with my name on the front. I fairly tore the envelope from his grasp and opened it.
    Now that we're out of setup the sentences are shorter, to speed up the pace. 19th century word choice and word order.

    What it contained was indeed the answer to my nightly prayer.
    Our narrator is the sort of person who says his prayers every night. This is, in fact, an important plot point, and will be repeated several times. LT Nevis had been chosen for one quality; and he was (though he does not know it) stashed at 88 Whitehall St. to make sure he didn't get his silly head blown off, so that he can serve his purpose on board his new ship. He'll learn that sometimes you don't want to have your prayers answered.

    I was detached immediately from my current assignment and ordered to travel by fastest available means to the Naval Arsenal at Watervliet.
    I have no idea if that's how orders read in the 19th century, but that's sure how they read today. There was, and is, a naval arsenal at Watervliet (just north of Albany, along the Hudson).

    There I was to inspect and take possession of a dozen ten-inch Rodman guns, thence to accompany them to the place where USS Nicodemus might lie, in order to take my position as head of her gunnery department.
    Super-sentence. Much longer than my usual, but again, I feel, necessary for the impression of pre-Hemingway prose. Much of this language is cribbed from the standard phrases in modern Naval orders.

    There was no USS Nicodemus, either. Rodmans were a variety of cannon, very similar to the earlier Dahlgrens (which USS Monitor and USS Kearsarge mounted). Climax technology for smoothbore muzzle-loaders. The name Nicodemus comes from an Abolutionist song, "Wake Nicodemus." While it was important to me to know this, the readers don't need to know, and are never told. Nicodemus is a Biblical name; Nicodemus the Pharisee was associated in John with the phrase "born again," and the Gospel of Nicodemus (an apocryphal Gospel) tells about the Harrowing of Hell (another theme in this book). Nicodemus is involved in the spirit, and water. Spirits and water are going to be themes.

    Nicodemus was new construction; I would be a plank owner.
    A definition demanded by my co-author who argued that civilians wouldn't have a clue what a plank owner was. Verges on as-you-know-Bob dialog.

    I was further informed that Nicodemus was even then being fitted out in preparation for her sea trials.
    It's the exposition. It has to go somewhere.

    The remainder of the morning I spent in checking out of my temporary billet, drawing my health and pay records, and turning over my responsibilities to a hapless civilian clerk.
    What with this and that some hours passed. More insistence on paperwork. (Books, papers, manuscripts, orders, logs ... writing will form a major theme. ) "Clerk" is braced up with two adjectives, partly to show our narrator's attitude, partly to show how trivial his assignment had been up to now. But mostly to get "clerk" noticed. "Clerk" is a form of "cleric." Until now our lad had been acting as a cleric.

    Purely by chance, page two ends with the end of that paragraph.

    ---------

    You can get a copy here: http://product.half.ebay.com/The-Apo...96625QQtgZinfo


    ---------
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 02-04-2010 at 02:18 AM.

  15. #40
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
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    Location
    New Hampshire
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    Page 214

    07-17-2006

    A far more interesting sentence from A Visit From Saint Nicholas is:

    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
    When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
    So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
    With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

    --------

    I have a sign on my office door:

    No, I don't know what's for dinner. I don't care what's on TV. Unless someone is actively bleeding, vomiting, or unconscious, I don't want to hear about it.
    A change of scene sometimes helps. Is there a coffeeshop or library nearby where you can go plunk yourself down, either for reading or writing?

    --------

    Quote Originally Posted by Allynegirl
    I don't ever remember reading a book in first person that ever moved that 1st person view to someone else.
    You might check out Frankenstein: It's first person, but it's three nested first persons: Robert Walton (the Arctic explorer) in first person relating the first-person narrative of Victor Frankenstein, who relates the first-person narrative of the Creature.

    You can do anything at all, provided you do it well. Your readers will tell you if you've done it well.

    Epistolary novels in general have multiple first-person viewpoint characters.

    --------

    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Sell just the one book. That book needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    If that first book doesn't sell it won't have any sequels.
    I originally posted that a year ago.

    Just recently I was chatting with an editor at Major New York Publisher (and not the one you're thinking of, either). The editor said, "I'm sick of trilogies! I never want to see another trilogy! If you can't tell your story in one book I don't want to see it!"

    Or words to that effect.

    Perhaps it had been a trying day in the slush mines. (Interestingly enough, this editor works on a line that only takes agented manuscripts. But there is such a thing as agented slush.)

    --------

    Where have all the fantasists gone?
    Long time passing....
    Where have all the fantasists gone?
    Long time ago....
    Where have all the fantasists gone?
    Gone to trilogies every one.
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn.

    --------

    I think we'll start seeing a lot fewer trilogies starting in 2008 or so.

    --------

    Page 215


    I"ll be on the radio, talking about publishing, publishing scams, vanity presses, and PublishAmerica.

    6 August 2006, noon to one pm Central Daylight Time. On http://www.am990.com for streaming feed. 990 on your AM dial if you happen to be in the Memphis, Little Rock (Arkansas), and Jackson (Tennessee) area.

    Special treat: We've dug up a PublishAmerica author who likes PublishAmerica!

    --------

    Puctuation around dialog is heavily nation-and-language dependent. Dama, if I recall correctly you're in Mexico?

    Regardless of what you do, be consistent. And make darned sure you're telling a compelling story.

    --------

    What I'm saying is that if something's a bad habit that you're eventually going to want to kick, don't associate it with your writing. Lighting a candle doesn't cause heart attacks, cancer, or cirrhosis.


    --------

    Very few people know how to use semicolons correctly.

    Don't confuse your readers. Don't knock them out of the story while they're trying to figure out what this particular set of black marks on white paper means. Sure, you can replace quote marks and other punctuation marks with one dingbat or another, but why?

    Oh, while we're here: a lovely review of a literary novel.

    --------

    As far as colons and semicolons: no, they aren't as important as other bits of grammar, but yes, they are important. Strive to use them correctly; you'll be rewarded. I don't see any advantage in abusing any of your tools.

    As to the serial comma, I'm a believer. Without the serial comma we get barbarisms such as I dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

    Others may not believe in the serial comma and house style will overrule you. Just be consistent.

    --------

    Theme, like so much else in writing, is something that I can only define by example.

    Earlier on I offered this, in re Dickens' A Christmas Carol:


    Plot: Scrooge is visited by four increasingly scary spirits. Story: A sinner is redeemed. Theme: Charity.

    --------

    On bad habits and writing -- from the folksong Nottingham Ale (tune is Lilliburlero):


    Ye poets who pray on the Hellican brook
    The nectar of Gods and the juice of the vine,
    You say none can write well except they invoke
    The friendly assistance of one of the Nine.
    This liquor surpasses the streams of Parnassus
    That nectar, Ambrosia, on which Gods regale
    Experience will show it, naught makes a good poet
    Like quantum sufficients of Nottingham Ale.



    --------

    Theme is something that will grow naturally out of your storytelling. I wouldn't attempt to impose it from the beginning. Later, when revising, discovering the theme can help you sharpen the story, help guide you in making choices in what to keep and what to cut, help you discover what new scenes must be added, how characters will react.

    Sitting down and saying "I'm going to write a story about Love!" gets you not an inch closer to telling that story. Having re-read your story and saying "Y'know, this story is about Love" will help you decide if that scene in the Shamrock Pub really belongs.

    --------

    We got the cover flat for Mist and Snow. Full text (including sales information for bookstores and sales reps) is here: http://webnews.sff.net/read?cmd=read...d&artnum=20938

    --------

    Page 217


    07-30-2006

    Welcome, lovetowrite, and thank you.

    --------

    I'm not convinced that theme needs to be mentioned at all in a query letter.

    What does need to be mentioned: word count and genre. Any special qualifications you have for writing this book. Previous publications and awards (limit yourself to the three most recent/most prestigious).

    If they ask for a synopsis, follow their guidelines on that. Brief is good.

    --------

    Once again, a plug for Uncle Jim on the Radio.

    Here's the information: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...postcount=3863

    Short version: http://www.am990.com at noon Central time, tomorrow the 6th of August.

    I particularly invite any of our friends who are, or are contemplating being, published by PublishAmerica to tune in.

    --------

    On the air in fifteen minutes.

    --------

    No idea, Liam. I'll be sure to let everyone know.

    --------

    Uh-oh! Looks like I ticked off some scam agent or vanity publisher!

    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/boo...12517067&itm=1

    Jim, A reviewer, August 2, 2006, *

    --------

    Here's the original post: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...2&postcount=35

    I'm happy that you're finding it useful.

    --------

    Deliberately bad? Perhaps. They're outlines, for heaven's sake: not a novel, the blueprint for one. They're where I find out if a particular plot arc is going anywhere, or if a character works. And where else could I write the scene where Harry Houdini escapes from a milk can full of maple syrup? It was fun to write, even if it never appeared anywhere. "Fun" is a big part of the experience for me.

    (Our short story, "Nobody Has To Know," incidentally, is an unedited chunk of one of my outlines. My coauthor took it, added linebreaks, and submitted it. It was published in Vampires, Jane Yolen, ed.)

    Ken: what went before might have been fascinating in its own right, but It Isn't Part Of This Story. The Mystery of the Flying Express was worth a novel of its own, but it isn't part of The Clue of the Broken Blade, and is disposed of in a single sentence in the latter work.

    BTW, for everyone: Leigh Grossman (author, editor, packager) is writing a series of posts elsewhere on the web on How Publishing Works. The latest episode is on Agents, and it's here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/8/7/122232/1998

    (Leigh has the good sense to quote me several places in his series.)

    --------

    If the backstory takes up a third of the novel -- it isn't backstory.

    --------

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanDSchaffer
    Is it part of the novel, or is it possibly another story....
    Yes.
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 05-03-2008 at 01:16 AM.

  16. #41
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    08-08-2006, 02:00 PM

    I'll be Away from the computer for a week or so.

    Keep writing!

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

    Hi, all.

    Not really back yet; a million things to do.

    Q: So tell me, Uncle Jim, what's a six-day hike on the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains like?

    A: Imagine six days on a Stairmaster...with rain.

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

    "When you lie back and close your eyes you sometimes see 'floaties,' right?"

    "Yeah."

    "They aren't supposed to look like mosquito wrigglers, are they?"

    "Don't think so."

    "Probably shouldn't look like paramecium reproducing by binary fission, either, then."

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

    Actually, I got to like the taste of iodine....

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

    Ah, Sean. Do not forget the master rule: What works for you is right.

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

    I've added a new chapter to the Mist and Snow excerpt available on-line.

    http://mist-and-snow.livejournal.com/

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

    Plot Bunnies

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

    My companion on this trip was another writer who managed to write 24 pages (longhand) during the course of it. We blocked out a climatic sword-fight scene at the Carter Notch Hut, to the vast amusement of all.

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

    We need something meatier than that. When we bump threads, we need to say something.

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

    Master: Writing is like a turtle crawling in the sand.

    Student: Master, how is writing like a turtle crawling in the sand?

    Master: You are correct. Writing is not like a turtle crawling in the sand.


    ===============

    Y'know how people always tell you to "write what you know"? Well, how do you know what you know? How do you know what you don't know?

    I have some thoughts on that (and not merely because I'm a know-it-all). What folks are really trying to say with that is:

    All stories are about people. You are a person; know yourself. Write about people, do it in a way that explains personhood with insight, wit, and psychological truth, and it doesn't matter what else you do or don't do.

    This is hard. Perfect self-knowledge is difficult. Perfect knowledge of strangers is harder still. Communicating that perfect knowledge is hardest of all. That's why we have to bolster our creations with research into the real world (if that's where our story is set).

    Do you know why Swift's book is still in print even though there aren't any tiny little people, or giants, or talking horses, or flying cities? That's because he had near-perfect self-knowledge and was able to transmit it. (And gave us Lilliputian, Brobdingnagian, and yahoos at the same time.)

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

    Is it time to play another game? Yes!

    Okay, here's what we're going to do. As we all know, Plan Nine From Outer Space was to create an army of zombies to take over the earth.

    Today's challenge is to come up with Plans One Through Eight.

    I'll go first:

    Plan One From Outer Space
    Space aliens, determined to take over the earth, disguise themselves as charcoal briquettes and hide themselves in suburban basements and garages all over America. The day is set: They plan to strike on September 2nd!

    Who's up for Plan Two?

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

    Great job, everyone:

    Now the next task. Those who are playing:

    Write the first hundred words of the story of your Plan From Outer Space, and the last line of your story.

    Again, I'll go first:

    "Commander Carbon!"

    "What is it, Russell?"

    "I think he's on to us. I saw him looking at us three times today."

    "It could be nothing."

    Russell turned back to the viewscreen. "It could be a lot, sir. All of the forces aren't in place yet. Those that are, are under strict radio silence...."

    "Which includes us. Unless he takes definite hostile action, we're going to wait until D-Day, H-Hour, M-Minute. A reckless act by you -- by us -- will destroy everything."

    "Could we at least make preparations for a fast retreat?"

    Commander Carbon ran his pseudopod over his eyestalks. "It's just the waiting that's getting to you, Russell. Courage. You'll see that Supreme Headquarters has devised an unbeatable plan."

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

    Last line:

    "Hey, Fred! Them burgers done yet?"

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Theo Neel
    Question -- Are we writing the first hundred words of a short story or a novel?
    I think that mine was a short-story length idea, but if you see a novel, go for a novel.

    (And being a writer means you have homework every day for the rest of your life.)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Theo Neel
    Think I might take that up as a challenge.
    Oh, definitely do.

    The point of this little exercise:

    The three hardest things in getting started with a novel are:

    a) Coming up with an idea
    b) Knowing where you're going with it
    c) The first page

    So, what have we done? Provided an idea. Come up with a last line (where we're going), and written the first page (in standard manuscript format, page one is about 100 words).

    Guys, next time you sit down to start a story (and that's this afternoon, right? What are long weekends for?), think of how easy it was to get an idea and get started with a goal in view.

    It's true that by the time you reach "THE END" that the climax may have morphed a long way from your original vision, but knowing what the goal post looks like is a big plus when you're kicking off.

    Go, do.

    (Oh, and I take the blame for making my example story funny. I wonder what would have happened if I'd made my example horror?)

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

    For reasons that seem good to me (e.g. cat waxing), I've started to punch some of our books into the AW library.

    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=40178

    Buy one; better still buy a dozen. They make excellent gifts.

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

    Doyle and I will be down at the "Book 'Em" event in Lebanon, NH, this Saturday.

    (9:30 a.m. -- 4:30 p.m. at the Lebanon High School, 195 Hanover St.)

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

    Copying your first draft to the computer is a good thing. As you go, you can change things. If something seems short or rushed -- expand it. If something doesn't seem to be worth the trouble of retyping it --don't.

    As to whether you should write your next novel de novo on the computer ... try it. See what happens.

    You're allowed to start original writing on your next while you revise your current book.

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

    You have permission to rewrite while you transcribe.

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

    I just spotted this in the Google Ads of another writing-related site:

    Whitmore Publishing
    Quality book publishing since 1961 No publishing fee. We pay you.
    whitmorepublishing.com
    Let's count up the lies in that ad, shall we? Like the sign in the Dashiel Hammet story*, it threatens to have more lies than words.

    We can start the first lie with the name of the firm. Whitmore Publishing isn't really Whitmore Publishing: it's Dorrance (the well-known (not to say infamous) vanity press).

    Oh, they try to disguise the fact: Whitmore gives its address as 926 Liberty Avenue, Third Floor, Pittsburgh, PA. Dorrance's address is 701 Smithfield Street, Third Floor, Pittsburgh, PA. But a brief glance at Google Maps will show you that those two addresses refer to the same building: Whitmore; Dorrance.

    There was a publisher called Whitmore, back in the 1960s. And they did (as the current Whitmore boasts) publish Warren Adler's first book. What the current site doesn't mention is that the Whitmore that published Adler went out of business in the early 1990s. All the books are long-since reverted, all the editorial, production, sales and marketing staff has long-since moved on to other places. So "since 1961" is a shocking lie, as is their claim to quality book publishing. Or book publishing at all -- the current Whitmore arose in 2003, some ten years after the real Whitmore disappeared.

    "No publishing fee" is a red flag. When is there ever a publishing fee with a legitimate press? It's also a lie. This current Whitmore follows PublishAmerica's business plan: they print, POD, and their market is their own authors. They sell overpriced books and expect to make their profit on the small number of sales that come from self-purchases. The fee is hidden in the cover price.

    "We pay you." Indeed. They pay an advance that's ten times higher than PublishAmerica's. They expect to get many times more back from the author. That's the equivalent of cutting off a dog's tail and handing it back to the dog, saying, "Here you go, Fido! A nice piece of meat!"

    "whitmorepublishing.com" -- lists as its technical contact a person with a dorrancepublishing.com email address. Dorrancepublishing.com's IP number is 65.39.195.54. Whitmorepublishing.com's IP number is 65.39.195.56. They're both hosted by Peer 1 Network.


    A lot of writing (and other) sites don't realize that they can block URLs from advertising with them. The Google ads you see on writing-related sites (based as they are on keywords) are almost universally for scams: Vanity publishers, fake agents, unneeded services. The rule is this: If you see a publisher or an agent advertising through Google, they're either scammers or worthless.

    ===========

    *I was reading a sign high on the wall behind the bar:

    ONLY GENUINE PRE-WAR AMERICAN AND
    BRITISH WHISKEYS SERVED HERE

    I was trying to count how many lies could be found in those nine words, and had reached four, with promise of more, when one of my confederates, the Greek, cleared his thoat with the noise a gasoline engine's backfire.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by aertep
    That's some world-class sleuthing, Uncle Jim.
    Not all that difficult. You know, if you see a publisher or agent advertising with Google, that they're bent somehow.

    Meanwhile, Allynegirl, the general solution to problem scenes:

    Flop it, crop it, or drop it.

    That is, rewrite, showing the scene from a different POV. Or, make it lots shorter. If those don't work, delete it and see if the story still works.

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

    Where I'll be next weekend:

    http://community.livejournal.com/far...arty/8244.html

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

    From the archives of SFF Net (where I was looking for something totally unrelated), I find this list of The Lies of Publishing by the learned Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

    -- We'll fix that in the proofs.

    -- We regard ourselves as having made a serious long-term commitment to
    your career, but we can't give you any more money.

    -- The manuscript is very clean.

    -- We'll fix that in the second pass.

    -- Don't worry, this is standard industry practice.

    -- I've already started reading your manuscript, but I don't want to
    comment on it until I've finished the whole thing.

    -- We'll fix that in the actual book.

    -- The art will look a lot better when it's printed.

    -- I'll get back to you on that.

    -- You don't need to put that in the contract.

    -- When you've been a pro as long as I have, a few rejections don't worry you.

    -- We'll fix that in the paperback.

    -- The copyeditor must have done that -- too late to fix it now!

    -- The cover will look a lot better when it's foiled and embossed.

    -- Bad reviews don't bother me. I don't even read 'em anymore, and I
    certainly don't obsess over them.

    -- The sales force is very excited about your upcoming book.

    -- Of course I'll have the book in on time.

    -- Nobody'll notice that typo anyway.

    -- We'll do whatever it takes to make it right.

    -- The check is in the mail.




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

    Author lies? In addition to "Of course I'll have the book in on time," "A few rejections don't worry me" and "Bad reviews don't bother me" are total fibs.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by T. Nielsen Hayden
    Aaaargh! Did I actually post that in public? How young and irresponsible of me.
    Indeed you did, right out in a public newsgroup where the world could see it.

    I feel bad for anyone who's heard all four. (I also envy them.)
    Heck, I've gotten a fifth, after "We'll fix that in the paperback": "We'll fix that in the next printing."

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

    http://www.sff.net/people/yog/


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

    Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arrrr, Matey!

    A couple o' off-topic things, then an on-topic thing:

    Learn CPR at Home (for $30). I be a big believer in CPR (an' in public-access AEDs -- if yer community dasn't be havin' `em, be seein' if ye can get th' program going).

    Chapter Three o' Land o' Mist an' Snow be now on line. (An' a very nice article in one o' our local weeklies last Friday.)

    Now th' on-topic thing:

    Crawford Kilian has a series o' articles on Writin' a Novel that ye might find useful.

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

    CPR an' AED courses be available in lots o' communities. Prices (an' times an' places they's offered) vary: try callin' yer local ambulance squad or hospital t' be seein' when they'll be gi'en an' what they'll cost.

    Th' courses range from Free on up, dependin'.

    (In our community, me ambulance squad puts a wee kit wi' ever' public-access AED, consisin' o' a ziplock baggie holdin' a pocket CPR facemask, a couple o' pairs o' gloves, a set o' EMT shears, a washcloth, a disposable razor, an' a couple o' alcohol swabs.)

    I be seein' CPR work wid me own eyes (that be, a guy down an' dead, subsequently walkin' ou' o' th' hospital wi' nay neuro deficits). `Tis worth 't t' know how t' do that.

    (Particularly if ye`re a 50-60 year old female. Ye`re th' one most likely t' witness a cardiac event; th' shipmate sittin' across from ye at th' breakfast table goin' down hard. Ye dasn't want t' be seein' that an' nay know what ter do next.)

    While th' modern public-access AEDs be havin' pictures on 'em an' a voice chip in 'em what will talk ye through th' whole procedure, 'tis good t' familiarize yersef wi' them first. Th' number one reason they dasn't work in th' field si th' swabbie operatin' them dasn't take th' pads ou' o' th' package. Th' number two reason be th' swabbie tries t' stick th' pads abroadside o' th' patient`s clothin' rather than on th' patient`s bare chest. If ye`re suddenly faced wi' a Dead Swabbie, things get excitin' in a hurry an' 'tis easy t' get flustered. Havin' had th' machine in yer hand once in a classroom settin' can take away a wee bit o' th' high-pucker-factor that I promise ye're goin' t' feel.


    If ye wants ter buy an AED
    for yer church or home or office, they start around $900.

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

    Here are a couple more links for y'all:

    First is to many of the books and movies that we've talked about in Learn Writing.

    Next is to a bunch of books that would be interesting to writers.

    All the associate income from sales of these books go to AW (and y'all remember the down-time we had a couple of months ago? Legal fees and such continue....)

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

    A reading list for fantasy writers: http://www.worldfantasy.org/awards/

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

    Well, Casi, that sounds like a book you need to write.

    First, get everything on paper. Then use novelists' techniques to make it interesting to others.

    More than that -- we have a non-fiction section here at AW. You might want to hang out there, too.

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

    Oh. I've just heard that Amazon now allows folks to comment on the reviews posted there.

    If I catch anyone from here commenting on reviews on your own book, I will come to your house and mock you in person. ABM, y'know?

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

    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    CPR an' AED courses be available in lots o' communities.
    Oh -- funny coincidence. A good friend of mine woke up this morning at about 0130 with a panicky feeling. Yep, he was having a heart attack. (He's fine, in the Cardiac Care Unit right now.) And he's younger than me....


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

    Remember that the moral of the "sour grapes" story was "It is easy to despise what you cannot have."

    When a self-published author says "Bookstores are lousy places to sell books," that's "sour grapes."


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

    From another thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie

    There are many, many Muslim terrorists, and not writing about them out of fear of audience reaction is what writing should never be about.
    "What's in the slush today?"

    "A book about Muslim terrorists, a book about Muslim terrorists, a book about Muslim terrorists, and a book about terrorists who are Muslims."

    "Okay, put 'em in the 'Muslim Terrorist' pile."

    "Which one?"

    "The one that hasn't fallen over yet. What's that in your hand?"

    "A book about West Florida Separatist terrorists."

    "Hey! Is it any good?"

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

    Allen, I'll be in Maryland around Thanksgiving. I understand Virginia isn't too far from there? (Blue Cheese Chicken is fine with me.)

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

    Mike Ford is dead. The world is a poorer place.

    It is given to no man to know the day or hour.

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

    Mike was in fragile health for a long time. Diabetes, a kidney transplant ... we all knew he was chronically ill. Still, it came as a shock. He'd posted a witty poem just the day before.

    While looking for his old posts, I came across this discussion: How Books Sell. Folks who read this thread might find it interesting.

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

    Mike Ford on Romance, or, See! He agrees with me! I must be right!

    The shortish version (and there are much, much longer ones) comes from the division of stories into didaxis, mimesis, and romance -- teaching/instruction, the representation of reality, and idealization. (Or, as I said in another book someplace, lectures, reportage, and lies.) A "romance" in this sense is an idealized story, rather than a "realistic" one. It comes from an earlier usage, meaning stories told in the vernacular (the "romance languages") rather than Latin. Most of those vernacular stories were, well, pulp yarns. Amadis de Gaul, Alonso Quejana's version of the Jack Ryan series, was in the language of everybody who could read.


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

    There is no one as selfish as a reader standing in front of a shelf in a bookstore.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by spike
    I did the assignments.
    Good job! Let us know when you send that novel out the door.

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

    I'm off to Martha's Vineyard in the morning. Keep the thread warm for me while I'm away....

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

    If you don't have subplots, what you have is a short story.

    Subplots add depth and richness to your novel by comparing, contrasting, and supporting the theme.

    Think of counterpoint and harmonies in music. Those are subplots.

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

    Replying to reviews is always problematical. I'd avoid doing it. If you must, write a review of your own.

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

    Bravo!

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

    Snowflake, it might be time for you to read closely and analyse some of your favorite books to see how those authors did it.

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

    Woo! Viable Paradise is winding down. Next year!

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

    Our friend Sherwood Smith has been publishing under that name since her first book. This isn't in any way even close to her legal name.

    Without having read Miss Snark's remark I can't say anything about her specific issue. In my own experience, the name on the cover of the book is a matter between you and the publisher.

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

    Naptime worked for me in the day.

    Also, kid on lap, typing around him.

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

    No one needs TV.

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

    Rather than subplot, when I use these I work with theme and characters. Thus, it's time for a scene with Randy, and the theme will be Honor.

    It helps move things along, shows your progress, and provides inspiration for what the next scene will be. And, it's pretty.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by FennelGiraffe
    But I also thought that where the strands crossed was saying something about where subplots should be connected.
    It can be anything you want it to be. Theme can also connect. One can be brought to the forefront.

    I'm sorry that that isn't clear -- it's an idiosyncratic method of my own.

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

    Speaking of chemical fires and such, it's time for me to plug by Jump Kit page.

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

    Talking to yourself also gets you a seat to yourself on the bus/subway....

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

    Don't tell the readers anything until they care.

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

    If the readers don't care, they won't remember a word you've said.

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

    Page 227

  17. #42
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    10-28-2006, 09:33 PM

    May I again recommend Henning Nelms' Magic and Showmanship? Many of your questions about getting the reader to care will become clear when you read that book.

    Dan Brown's book is a poor example -- it's a thriller, true, but it's also a fad based on American anti-Catholicism. Its faults (lousy plotting, lousy writing) have been widely commented on in many venues.

    If I wanted to package Margaret Atwood's book as science fiction, I could. The difference would be in the cover painting, in the back-cover blurb, and the logo on the spine.

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

    Let's talk about Getting the Reader to Care:

    Time to play the analysis game. This time, a classic work. Best seller, multiple editions ....

    CHAPTER I.
    Say, ye oppressed by some fantastic woes,
    Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose,
    Who press the downy couch while slaves advance
    With timid eye to read the distant glance,
    Who with sad prayers the weary doctor tease
    To name the nameless, ever-new disease,
    Who with mock patience dire complaints endure,
    Which real pain and that alone can cure,
    How would you bear in real pain to lie
    Despised, neglected, left alone to die?
    How would you bear to draw your latest breath
    Where all that's wretched paves the way to death?
    --Crabbe.
    It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at
    occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which
    swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling
    along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the
    lamps that struggled against the darkness. Through one of the obscurest
    quarters of London, and among haunts little loved by the gentlemen of the
    police, a man, evidently of the lowest orders, was wending his solitary
    way. He stopped twice or thrice at different shops and houses of a
    description correspondent with the appearance of the quartier in which
    they were situated, and tended inquiry for some article or another which
    did not seem easily to be met with. All the answers he received were
    couched in the negative; and as he turned from each door he muttered to
    himself, in no very elegant phraseology, his disappointment and
    discontent. At length, at one house, the landlord, a sturdy butcher,
    after rendering the same reply the inquirer had hitherto received, added,
    "But if this vill do as vell, Dummie, it is quite at your sarvice!"
    Pausing reflectively for a moment, Dummie responded that he thought the
    thing proffered might do as well; and thrusting it into his ample pocket,
    he strode away with as rapid a motion as the wind and the rain would
    allow. He soon came to a nest of low and dingy buildings, at the
    entrance to which, in half-effaced characters, was written "Thames
    Court." Halting at the most conspicuous of these buildings, an inn or
    alehouse, through the half-closed windows of which blazed out in ruddy
    comfort the beams of the hospitable hearth, he knocked hastily at the
    door. He was admitted by a lady of a certain age, and endowed with a
    comely rotundity of face and person.

    "Hast got it, Dummie?" said she, quickly, as she closed the door on the
    guest.


    ====================

    End of page one. Well, do you turn the page?

    What do you know, and do you care?

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

    One thing y'all should remember about 19th c. novels is that they were meant to be read aloud -- by the pater familias in the parlour as an evening's diversion, for example.

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

    The opening of The Hobbit is a great example of providing description by taking away information. First we're told that a hole exists, then we're told all the things that the hole isn't.

    Tolkien had an idiosyncratic style. He also created a new genre. Later works in that genre have refined the concept so much that the earlier work seems crude in comparison, and reworked some parts so much that they've become cliches. That doesn't mean the original work wasn't groundbreaking.

    Of course it wasn't everyone's cup of tea. What work is?

    The lesson is to write your passion. Tolkien's passion was linguistics.

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

    CHAPTER I.
    We're in a chapter book, not a short story. Expect a slower beginning, since each part is in proportion to the length of the piece.
    Say, ye oppressed by some fantastic woes,
    Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose,
    Who press the downy couch while slaves advance
    With timid eye to read the distant glance,
    Who with sad prayers the weary doctor tease
    To name the nameless, ever-new disease,
    Who with mock patience dire complaints endure,
    Which real pain and that alone can cure,
    How would you bear in real pain to lie
    Despised, neglected, left alone to die?
    How would you bear to draw your latest breath
    Where all that's wretched paves the way to death?
    --Crabbe.
    The epigraph; perhaps a prologue. This is the stating the theme. The poet contrasts the rich hypocondriac with the genuinely ill poor person.
    It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
    Setting the scene, providing a backdrop for the action to come. A stormy night is naturally dramatic. Opening your novel with a weather report has become a cliche; it became a cliche because it works so reliably and so often.

    Through one of the obscurest quarters of London, and among haunts little loved by the gentlemen of the police, a man, evidently of the lowest orders, was wending his solitary way.
    A rough neighborhood, and we're introduced to our first character two sentences in. Remember that most stories start with a person in a place with a problem. Our person here is a common laborer, or perhaps a ruffian. He is certainly not afraid to walk out in a bad part of town. The first reason we have to care is this: The question "What brings a guy out on that kind of night?" Most readers have been out in bad weather and know what it's like, and know that only the most compelling reason will force it.

    He stopped twice or thrice at different shops and houses of a description correspondent with the appearance of the quartier in which they were situated, and tended inquiry for some article or another which did not seem easily to be met with.
    He's well-known in an area where the police fear to tread. This is characterization. Also, we're given his problem. He's looking for something, something rare in that quarter.

    All the answers he received were couched in the negative; and as he turned from each door he muttered to himself, in no very elegant phraseology, his disappointment and discontent.
    Very hard to find; and the man is a brute. Everyone knows what it's like to search for something they can't find, whether it be a cup of sugar or the car keys. What he said would have been literally unprintable in the 19th century, thus the circumlocution.

    At length, at one house, the landlord, a sturdy butcher, after rendering the same reply the inquirer had hitherto received, added, "But if this vill do as vell, Dummie, it is quite at your sarvice!"
    We're given the man's name. We care what the man's name is by now, since we've known him for four sentences and are sympathetic to his plight. Dialect has fallen out of favor since the 19th century. Its main purpose was to guide the person reading aloud in how to pronounce the words in the proper accent. With more silent reading by individuals this is less important.


    Pausing reflectively for a moment, Dummie responded that he thought the thing proffered might do as well; and thrusting it into his ample pocket, he strode away with as rapid a motion as the wind and the rain would allow.
    Indirect discourse. A bit of a cheat, since while the POV is close enough to hear the words a description of the object isn't given. More reinforcement of Dummie's character and of the severity of the weather. (The mention of the ample pocket is the first note of Dummie's profession -- he's a pickpocket -- but we won't be told that until later. At the moment we don't care what Dummie does as his day job, so we aren't told.) We're gaining more sympathy with Dummie, and learning that despite his appearance he's capable of thought.

    He soon came to a nest of low and dingy buildings, at the entrance to which, in half-effaced characters, was written "Thames Court."
    Pure description. Nothing much happens between getting the object and arriving at the destination, the reader has no reason to care about the interval, so it isn't given. Because it's where Dummie (who we care about) is going, we care, so the name of the place can be given.

    Halting at the most conspicuous of these buildings, an inn or alehouse, through the half-closed windows of which blazed out in ruddy comfort the beams of the hospitable hearth, he knocked hastily at the door.
    Description. We care about what it looks like since we know its name and need a mental picture to tie that tag onto.

    He was admitted by a lady of a certain age, and endowed with a
    comely rotundity of face and person.
    Character two. We don't care about her yet, so no name, and the description is spare enough that if we forget it, it doesn't matter.

    "Hast got it, Dummie?" said she, quickly, as she closed the door on the guest.

    This woman (again speaking in dialect), ties herself into Dummie (she knows him), and to the object. She's now important enough to care about.

    ==============

    For the sake of the folks who are wondering exactly what Dummie was after that was so hard to find in that district, it was a Bible. What the butcher gave him, instead, was a leather-bound copy of the works of Shakespeare. The reason the landlady wanted a Bible was because one of the young ladies there is dying; it doesn't matter that what's provided isn't a Bible because she can't read.

    We're starting a story comparing and contrasting life in the upper and lower parts of society, and highlighting the injustices of the English penal system. "Knowing yourself" is a compelling reason for any reader to pick up a novel.

    Paul Clifford had the largest first printing of any novel up to that time; it sold out on the first day. This was a crime novel, and of an entirely new subgenre within crime novels: the hero is the criminal himself.

    Bulwer-Lytton wrote the novel with the intent of reforming English criminal justice. Its current obscurity (other than as a bad joke) is further proof of Sam Goldwyn's dictum: "If you want to send a message call Western Union."

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

    Blast from the past time. I found today I needed HapiSofi's post on Decent Typesetting, and discovered the link back early in this thread was no longer valid.

    Here's the new link to HapiSofi on Decent Typesetting.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by jpserra
    McAllister, in your first post you cited the plagerism cases and outlined the laws, as it pertains.
    Sorry, jpserra, but I don't know which post you're referring to. (This is a long thread....)

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

    No. There's nothing in Star Trek that didn't already exist -- decades before -- in written Science Fiction. Nor can ideas be copyrighted, only the specific expression of ideas.

    Some popular characters that would be public domain from the 20th century include Sherlock Holmes -- but only from the stories that were published before 1923.

    Tarzan would be public domain, but Edgar Rice Burroughs cleverly trademarked the character, so copyright doesn't apply.

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

    Ideas can't be copyrighted. Klingons are probably trademarked, however.

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

    Ken's example is by Charles Dickens. It's really a bit short; I doubt that's a full page.

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

    Thanks, Dawno.

    (Dawno's blog is here.)

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

    I posted this elsewhere, but I think I'll repost it here....

    =================

    Why are you thinking of Amazon Shorts and ezines? Isn't The Paris Review taking submissions any more? How about Harper's? Woman's Day? F&SF? Cemetary Dance? Hitchcock? Where do you find the fiction that you yourself read?

    If you don't have a copy of Writer's Market go out right now and get one.

    Aim high, people. You won't know if you're good enough to play in the big leagues until you've submitted your stuff there. You should work down to the 1/4-cent-a-word and 4theluv places. You won't work your way up from them.

    Fast, Easy, Good. Choose two.

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

    I was an AFLA fencer (foil and epee), and fought broadsword and mace in the SCA. During my Navy days I'd sit with my back to the wall in waterfront taverns, observing the degradation of my fellow man, and taking mental notes during the fights.

    What I can say about describing swordfights is -- keep it brief, and don't use technical language. Who the hey among the general readership will know what a parry in quarte looks like? Or exactly what a coupe is?

    Later on I'll see if I can find one of my swordfighting scenes and type it in, with commentary.

    Like anything else: research. Find someone who's an expert and run your scene past him or her.

    Make sure the fight scene advances plot and reveals character.

    And don't bore the reader.

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

    In The Lord of the Rings we don't get a whole lot of backstory until the Council of Elrond, by which time we've been chased from the Shire to Bree to Rivendell by Black Riders, gotten trapped by a barrow wight (and a willow), and much else besides ... and the reader cares about the characters and is asking "What the foo is going on?"

    We also have the hobbits, who don't have a clue themselves, and so need to have everything explained them.

    Giving the reader the impression that they're studying for a test is bad. Few people read geography books for fun.


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

    Quote Originally Posted by anodyne
    What in the world does that look like? I keep trying to visualize it in my head. I'm not the type of girl who giggles often, but that worked.
    From The Gates of Time (work in progress):
    "I don't have a plan," Satan said. "And this miracle isn't my doing. Angelo ... he's won. We're outside time and I can't touch him. Not only that, we're stuck here."

    "Liar."

    "Flattery will get you nowhere." He went over to the open doorway and pressed against the air. His hands stopped at the threshold.

    "Then I have some things to do," I said. I pulled the elfstone out of my pocket and screwed it into my eye. Johnny was standing in the corner, having performed some vital function that the author will think of later. Perhaps he was the one who brought in the relic of St. Eloy and the pistol and gave them to me after I'd been searched. That would be a good thing for an invisible servant to do.

    Anyway, I turned to Johnny. "I'm ready to hear your confession," I said.

    "This might take a while," he said, coming toward me.

    "No worries; we've got all the time in the world."
    ------------------

    A database of which agents sold which books to which publishers (in the SF & F genres) over the past two years:

    http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/%...in19/locus.htm

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

    What we're up to these days:

    Publicity for our most recent book.

    Yeah, I know, I keep saying that authors aren't in charge of doing publicity, yet here I am, doing publicity. So, what have I done?

    Answer: I've put stuff about the book on my web page. This is wonderful, and free (I already have a web page because, face it, who doesn't?). Whether it will lead to any sales, who knows?

    I've talked about the book here, and in my news group at SFF Net.

    I have it in my sig line here at AW (I rotate various things through there) -- the sig changes, and by the time y'all read this perhaps something different will be in the sig. (Look at the bottom of this post.)

    I posted the book in the AW library. (More content for AW! Woo!)

    I've been doing readings from works-in-progress at SF conventions for years. Since this book has been in progress for years....

    When the publisher sent us a bunch of ARCs, I dropped them on various places (including my two local weekly newspapers). I live in a town of 2,000 people; those guys are personal friends of mine (the writers' community), and we got a couple of very nice newspaper articles out of 'em. Hurrah, go us!

    Now the signings and such. Where did these come from?

    Answer: from the publisher. They found the bookstores, and worked out the dates and times. (We talked to the publisher's publicity guy, he talked with the bookstores.)

    And this leads us to the next bit, when we got an e-mail from New Hampshire Public Radio, asking if we'd like to be on one of their programs, about our upcoming book. The answer was, you betcha.

    So yesterday we had a telephone pre-interview (to find out, perhaps, if we're the sort of authors who can actually talk, and have anything to say that might fill a half-hour). Upshot of that: We'll be on The Front Porch on Monday, 27 November, 6:30PM EST.

    This is New Hampshire Public Radio, and the show is available on the air, as streaming audio, and archived afterwards.


    • 88.3, Nashua, WEVS
    • 89.1, Concord, WEVO
    • 90.3, Nashua, WEVO
    • 90.7, Keene, WEVN
    • 91.3, Littleton, WEVO
    • 91.3, Hanover, WEVH
    • 97.3, Plymouth
    • 99.5, Jackson, WEVJ
    • 103.9, Portsmouth
    • 104.3, Dover, WEVO
    • 107.1, Gorham, WEVC
    • MP3 Player Stream
    • Windows Media



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

    Rules for Writing: http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2006/1...r-writing.html

    As far as mechanical text-to-voice solutions: they can be fun. But reading it aloud has its own advantages. Machines won't get out of breath during over-long sentences. You will.

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

    Rules for Writing: http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2006/1...r-writing.html

    As far as mechanical text-to-voice solutions: they can be fun. But reading it aloud has its own advantages. Machines won't get out of breath during over-long sentences. You will.

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

    If it was me, I'd leave the first and cut the second (put in the actual number, maybe).

    Making the reader pause to figure out what you meant probably isn't a good idea.

    Rewriting now, before you've reached "The End," probably isn't a good idea either. Unless you really gotta.

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

    Abnormal? Not at all. If there are 25,000 words that aren't the right words, cut 'em and replace 'em with the right words.

    Our novel, Groogleman (in French: la nuit des hommogres): at one point we cut everything after Chapter One and rewrote fresh from there. (I may still have the other book that it could-have-been around here somewhere.)

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

    I hope you like it.

    Meanwhile:

    Y'all know the three-point-plot outline:

    1.) Get the hero up a tree.
    2.) Throw rocks at him.
    3.) Get him out of the tree.

    And the seven-point plot outline:

    1). Introduce the main/viewpoint character
    2). Present him with a problem.
    3). In a particular setting.
    4). The character tries to solve the problem...
    5). And fails.
    6). The character tries to solve the problem again...
    7). And receives validation.

    Well, here's a very detailed working-out of those general plot outlines:

    http://www.miskatonic.org/dent.html

    Y'all can try writing a story based on that plot outline as your Christmas Challenge. As always, the challenge is to actually submit the story you wrote to an appropriate paying market.

    The Post Office is closed on Christmas, and the mail is nuts in the days before ... shall we say the deadline for mailing your completed story (in accordance with the market's guidelines) is 26 December?

    (If you finish your story early, lay it aside and give it a final read-through-and-polish on Christmas Day.)

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

    I intended the third, last, longest and most detailed plot outline; the one at miskatonic.org. Not because I think that paint-by-numbers, cookie-cutter storytelling is a good thing to aspire to, but rather for the same reason that one might do scales if one intends to become a concert pianist.

    Consider it a wordgame.

    Consider also doing the crossword in your daily newspaper every day. If your daily newspaper doesn't run a crossword, get a book of crossword puzzles.

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

    If you look around you can also find an 8-Point Plot Structure (Stasis, Trigger, Quest, Surprise, Critical Choice,Climax, Reversal, Resolution), a Nine-point Plot Structure, (apparently from Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee) and probably any number of other numbered plot structures.

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

    Meanwhile, in Russia: http://medlarcomfits.blogspot.com/20...by-friend.html

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

    To what should be no one's surprise:



    You're a Plot writer!

    Take this quiz!


    Quizilla | Join | Make a Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

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

    Quote Originally Posted by kybudman
    Hey, UJ!

    I was wondering how the book signings and radio gigs are going. What is an effective benchmark for success at events like this? Just wondering.

    The radio interview went pretty well; the host mentioned the title of the book several times. It's archived in streaming form here: http://www.nhpr.org/node/11869

    The first signing went well; the bookstore had 24 copies and sold 12 of them. (We also got 40% off on anything in the store. Hoo hah, Christmas shopping!) Folks were coming by and chatting all evening.

    The second signing didn't go so well. Of course it was also bucketing down rain, there was thunder and lightning, and 50-60 MPH wind gusts. If we didn't have to be there we wouldn't have gone either. The bookstore had 14 copies and two sold. On the plus side, we each got a $25 gift certificate to that bookstore. (Hoo hah! More Christmas shopping!)

    We signed remaining stock at both places, where they're now out with Autographed stickers.

    A benchmark for success is Anyone At All Shows Up.

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

    The nice lady from the radio station had one of the advanced reading copies of Mist and Snow. That had come from the publisher.

    At the Book'em event, back in September, we sold a bunch of books (I didn't count), from the freebie author copies that publishers have sent us over the years. Eventually the revenue sharing brought back about thirty bucks.

    It was interesting. At Book'em, even though there wasn't any assigned seating at the place (a school gym with tables arranged in a large horseshoe around the walls), the folks separated out naturally into the published authors, the publishers and bookstores, and the self-and-vanity-published authors.

    I was amazed at how slick the self-published guys were in their presentations. Balloons with their titles imprinted on 'em, pens, bookmarks, stands, custom printed tablecloths.... I was impressed. Over on our side of the room we were just putting piles of books on the tables and sitting there with the little "Hi, My Name Is" stickers that the event organizers handed out on our shirts.

    One of the self-published folks (who had driven there from Virginia -- that was something else: a lot of the self-published folks had come a long way) was handing out full-color flyers for her book, Take the Mystery Out of Promoting Your Book. The flyer tells us that her book is available in bookstores everywhere, and has a tear-off order form at the bottom to buy a copy from the author.

    Anyway, that flyer also includes an inventory list for "A Booksigning In A Bag." Here's the list:

    Tablecloth
    Candies and dish
    Flowers
    Props
    Scissors and tape
    Pens -- booksigning and other
    Mailing list
    Book cover stickers
    Business cards
    Water/water bottle with screw-on cap
    Change for parking meters
    Emergency personal supplies/first aid kit
    Book marks
    Posters/flyers/advertisements
    Loudspeaker announcements
    Book stands
    Blank card stock and marker
    Presentation materials (projector, flip chart, etc.)
    Lightweight table
    Lightweight folding chair
    Camera
    Thank-you gift for store employee(s)

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

    I feel like such a slacker. Doyle and I had one pen between us at the first signing (until one of the visitors gave us another). We had to borrow new batteries for our camera (Doyle usually carries a camera in her purse). In the past we'd done the dish of candy thing, but forgot this time. I'd intended to build a nice model of a Civil War ship (perhaps USS Kearsarge) as a prop, but never got around to it. We did have change for parking meters (that usually rides in the car) but we didn't need it. My big EMT jump kit was in the car (but we didn't need it either, thankfully).

    The bookstores provided the tables, chairs, water, book stands, and books. They had posters and signs (and flyers, too).

    I'd taken it on myself to send press releases to the local newspapers a month before the signings, with a cover flat from the book included in each. Might help, couldn't hurt. I don't know if anything was ever printed.

    Maybe next time I'll try to do better.

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

    I'm doing the Christmas Challenge myself. First page: http://mist-and-snow.livejournal.com/18656.html

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

    I've also been having way too much fun with the Official Seal Generator:

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

    My pseud for tie-ins.

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

    Woo! An interview with Doyle and me, including Doyle on "Constructing Villains":

    http://www.andwerve.com/october06_featured_artist

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

    How about telepathically creating the impression of a human body?

    If you can answer the question "why must this character be a feline?" you might find the answer to "how can it communicate?"

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

    My latest Eos/blog post is up, and it has more of a discussion on the secret origins of Land of Mist and Snow. A bit of How I Dun It. It's about Civil War songs.

    Oh, and I've finished the Christmas Assignment (first draft), over on our LiveJournal. It's friendlocked, but I make friends easily. Doyle will do her magic on it next.

    If it ever gets published, y'all can compare the first draft to the finished piece.

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

    Welcome, lfraser -- I'm glad you're finding it informative. Please let us know how it all goes.

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

    For folks interested in an agent's perspective on what to do if a manuscript has been making the rounds for a while with no nibbles, check out "Giving up on it" in Rachel Vater's LJ.

    (Rachel is an agent at Lowenstein-Yost Associates.)

    My advice is this: By the time you know that a particular book isn't getting any nibbles, you should have a new book ready to make the rounds. So start sending the new book around and begin work on your next.


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

    Beats the heck out of me. I haven't read your book.

    This may well be in the put-it-in-the-desk-drawer-for-six-months-then-reread area. Or it may be in the "What do the betas say?" area.

    Is there some reason that you can't just leave your antagonist drifting in a lifeboat/working at Burger King under an assumed name/returning to his Fortress of Silence to work on his plans?

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

    Y'know, if he's the last of his species, he's going to have a very hard time finding a date for Friday night....

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

    Some seriously brilliant writing advice.

    Unfortunately it's a PDF, but it's worth it.

    http://homepage.mac.com/noteon/Sites...on_writing.pdf

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

    Whatever works for you, Writerdog.

    Me, I'll turn off the monitor sometimes and type blind. That way I don't get distracted by the words on the screen.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Some seriously brilliant writing advice.
    And here it is in HTML:

    http://journalscape.com/keithsnyder/2006-12-19-12:05/

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

    It's well-over novel length. Just my own contributions come to over a thousand pages in standard manucript format.

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

    Yes: See Uncle Jim, undiluted.

    Be advised, though, that there's an awful lot of meat in the other posts, and some of my comments are pretty meaningless out of context.

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

    For reasons that seemed good to me, I just added the rest of the Mageworlds books and the Crossman short stories to the AW Library: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=40178

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

    Happy/Jolly/Season's/Merry
    Christmas/Holidays/Greetings

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

    Today's the day to send your Christmas Challenge Story out to a paying market. On your mark, get set, SASE!

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

    And today's surprise news: got royalties on the reprint of "Stealing God" that appeared in My Favorite Fantasy Story. (Also available as an ebook.) That means the silly thing's earned out. (This story is another of the Gift That Keeps On Giving stories. Reprinted several times, inspiration for two other stories and a novel, and earning royalties right the way along.)

    Only $15.82, but when you consider it's a pro-rata share of 1/2 of the royalties from the period when it earned out ... well, it's $15.82 that I didn't have yesterday.

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

    Please notice that it took six years for that anthology to earn out. Between 2000 and 2006 all the money we saw on that sale was the advance. (That was the second of three times we'd sold that story though, so it's okay, and no one expects to make a lot of money on short stories.)

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

    So far all of our short-fiction sales have been to anthologies, so I guess yeah, we like doing 'em.

    The criteria? A well-known editor, and a publishing deal with a known decent publisher. Plus the advance, of course. Look for $0.05/word and up, paid on acceptance.

    Stories in anthologies don't get the award recommendations that stories in the magazines get, but ... they can stay in print for years (decades, really), and keep on earning. A reprint from an anthology and a reprint from a magazine are still both reprints.

    Think of anthologies as single-issue magazines that stay in print for more than a month.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Monty
    ...could I use a puppy love type romance to involve the reader deeper with the characters emotions in my book?
    Yes, you could.

    Quote Originally Posted by Monty
    If so please explain how in some examples please.
    No, I can't.

    This isn't something that I can do in a sentence, or a paragraph, or even a chapter. It's organic to the whole.

    Here's what you can do ... take some of your favorite books that have the sort of romance you're looking for, and re-read them specifically to see how and where the author included the romance in the whole narrative.

    Then write your book. If romance develops between the characters, you can strengthen it and refine it in the second draft.

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

    I've been spending the day updating and correcting my list of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Bookstores. Still not done, but at least the dead links have been cleaned up.

    My next convention will be Arisia, in Boston, January 10-12. Here's my schedule:

    Friday, 7:00 PM Reshaping Grimm & Goose
    Saturday, 11:00 AM Playing in Someone Else's Sandbox
    Saturday, 12:00 noon Magic and Christianity
    Saturday, 3:00 PM Reading
    Sunday, 12:00 noon Pen Names: When and Why?


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

    That's my attitude. If the topic has worth, it'll stay on the first page. If it doesn't -- people who are interested can still search while other, more interesting, topics move to the head of the line.

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

    Speaking of which... I posted this in another thread today, and lest it sink and be lost I repost it here:

    Write the best first draft you can, but if, while you're writing it, you look at it and say "This is crap," keep writing anyway.

    If it helps: print out and frame this certificate. Hang it above your desk.

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

    You can't make a vase if you don't have the clay on your wheel.

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

    Nicole -- read your printout, out loud, marking in the margin the places that you'll have to come back and fix.

    And/or:

    Write a flowchart from your cruddy draft. See the overall shape.

    You will need to get the entire work into your mind.

    Also -- have you aged 'em in your desk drawer yet?

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

    The goal isn't to write badly -- the goal is to ignore the saboteur in the back of your head that's trying to stop you by saying "This is lousy! Give up!"

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

    Page 237

  18. #43
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    22,920
    Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1
    Page 238
    01-10-07

    It all boils down to "To carve a statue of an elephant, get a block of marble and remove everything that doesn't look like an elephant."

    Yes,
    eliminate greetings, unless they reveal character, advance the plot, or suport the theme.

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

    I went to a science fiction convention this last weekend. I brought along a half-dozen copies of our latest (from the case of books our publisher sent us, free) to put on the Freebies Table on Friday evening. They vanished within minutes.

    By noon on Saturday, the book dealers in the Dealers' room had sold out of our books.

    The reading of the new story went well on Saturday afternoon. That's "Philologos," which was the Christmas Challenge story.

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

    The stuff on the bookstore shelves may also reflect what didn't sell. The stuff that sold hasn't been restocked yet.

    Write what you want to, what you're passionate about. If you write to the market, editors may be saying "Why is it that suddenly everyone's sending me Southern Cats Duct Taped to the Fender books?"

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

    Looks like everyone's getting into the "contest" thing. First Simon & Schuster, now Crown Publishing Group.

    What the hey -- if you're unpublished and unrepresented, why not? There isn't an entry fee.

    http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/blindsubmission/

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

    Why not try? Either treat it as a first draft, or treat it as an outline.

    There isn't any one way to play this game. And if you've been growing in skill, problems that may have stopped you the first time may be surmountable now.

    If the book is fatally flawed -- you'll find out.

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

    Due to routing problems in the northeast USA, Making Light appears to be down at this hour.

    Details here: http://sideshow.me.uk/

    Pass the word to those who need to know.

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

    In the case of Land of Mist and Snow, the publisher asked for cover suggestions, we sent several, they went with something else. We saw the finished art (which, BTW, is totally gorgeous, even better than the final printed version).

    In other cases, we've been asked for cover suggestions and have had them used. Or asked for scenes from books that the artist might find useful. For interior art we've had more of a chance to comment, and have worked with the artist. But mostly -- the first we've known of the cover art was when the cover flats came in.

    Complaining about the cover art is the author's traditional right. (See Mr. Earbrass for an example.)

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

    W00t!

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

    I'm probably the wrong guy to ask, because we published a short story that was 100% dialog (not even any 'said' tags).

    Okay, here's what you can do. Print out your chapters and tape the pages to the wall on the far side of your living room. Look at the grey areas. Too many big blocks? Break them up with dialog. Too thin and jaggety? Add a few paragraphs of narrative.

    Be certain that you aren't writing a "head story" (the one where the story is in your head, not on the paper).

    Okay, now go to your favorite book, with a couple of highlighters in hand. Highlight dialog in yellow and description in green. See how that author handled the mix.

    I can't give you a formula, or an easy trick. This is where you'll be making your own art.

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

    "Yog" is a character from Lovecraft, and a name from India before that. I expect that it's a horror 'zine of some kind?

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

    At half-a-cent per word, I hope you've tried some of the higher-paying 'zines first.

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

    Change in POV entails ... changing the Point of View. If the POV character calls this person "Smith," then that's what he calls him. I don't see a problem.

    How else will we know that POV has changed than that there are differences between the voices?

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

    I'm going to port in some posts I made in another thread, because I think they can be of general interest. Folks who want to see 'em in context are invited to do so.

    =============

    I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess what was going on from the OP's post.

    Wizardry was a series of computer role-playing games from Sirtech. These date back to Apple II days. Their last game, Wizardry 8, came out for the PC in 2001. (Their website http://www.sir-tech.com/ hasn't been updated in some years.)

    The OP apparently wrote a trilogy using characters and situations from this game series (essentially, fan fiction), then contacted the copyright holder in an attempt to sell it to them. Discussion with Sirtech, however, did not prove fruitful.

    Some time later, Sirtech sold the rights to Wizardry to another company. This second company is interested in publishing the novels (even though they may never have published anything in their lives). One possible point of difficulty might be that while this second company bought the rights to the Wizardry games themselves, it's unclear if they bought the right to make derivative works (which a series of novels would be).

    It strikes me that that's a problem for the second company and their lawyers to hash out with Sirtech and their lawyers, and of little concern to the author. If they get the right to make derivative works, well and good. If not, no sale, everyone moves on to other projects.

    Other points of contention might revolve around characters and situations. The characters and situations that come directly from the game are clearly the property of the copyright holder. The original characters and situations that the OP created, however ... the author would want to keep the rights to them, while the game company would want to acquire those rights (this would simplify their lives in case they ever wanted to make more games in the series and might want to use those characters and situations (or ones similar enough to arguably be them). It would also simplify their lives if someone wanted to make a movie out of the games, and use the books as a source.

    I can see where a lawyer might get involved in all this (though an agent working on commission rather than a lawyer might be a better choice for the author).

    I could be entirely out to lunch on all this -- it's pure speculation based on the clues in the OP's message.

    Now some personal notes. I've done a bunch of tie-in work. The usual thing is for the copyright holder to approach the author with the idea for the novel, and negotiate from that point. The work is usually work-for-hire (though if you have a decent agent you can get profit participation in the book sales). The contract will spell out in nauseating detail exactly what rights are in play (and if you can get away without the copyright holder getting all rights, you're doing very well indeed).

    Another personal note: Going with a game company as a publisher is a path strewn with landmines. Going with a first-time publisher is a path entangled with barbed wire. Going with a first-time publisher that's also a game company is a path that's mined, entangled with barbed wire, and under sporadic artillery fire. It's way easy to get hurt.

    I really don't know enough about the OP's present situation to give any useful advice. A bit of clarification would be very handy. (Particularly what's meant by "option" in this case.)
    ================

    I'd say, find an agent.

    If the agent can get a $12,000 advance (which isn't out of the ballpark for three books), it'll still cost the same $1,800, but it'll be painless (and after the sale).

    All the money that comes in from the book goes from the publisher to the agent, the agent subtracts 15% (or whatever the agreed-upon commission is) and passes on the rest.

    There's a list of Science Fiction/Fantasy agents here:
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=42019

    There's another list here:
    http://www.sfwriter.com/agent.htm

    As always, research, research, research any agent on any list you find.

    If you already have an agreement in principle with the owners of the Wizardry copyrights that they will buy these books, you shouldn't have any trouble interesting an agent in representing you.
    ================

    The way I see it, the big problem is that there's exactly one company on the face of the earth that can legally publish this trilogy.

    (That's one of the reasons why writing fan fiction is a bad idea.)

    The first company wasn't interested.

    Now the second company potentially is.

    Let's say that the second company has the right to make derivative works.

    Let's say that they are interested in publishing these books. Let's say that they've never published anything, aren't clear on how to go about it, and have never seen a publishing contract.

    One of the things that they can do is call up a regular publisher on the phone and say, "Hi, this is Game Company X. We want to publish some books based on our games! How about you edit, print, and distribute them?" The publisher will say "Sure!" and their lawyers will work something out. (To my direct knowledge, Roc, Warner, and Tor have all published books on exactly this basis for various game companies. I'm sure they have boilerplate contracts on file to cover the situation.)

    Now the usual thing is for the publisher to come up with the contract, offer it, and the author either accept or not accept that contract. (Having the author coming up with the contract is ... bizarre. I think that derives from this being a first-time author dealing with a first-time publisher.)

    Generally the first contract that the publisher offers has some clauses in it that aren't too favorable to the author, so the agent works things out. Generally, the agent's major weapon ("Well, if we can't come to an agreement, I can take this manuscript elsewhere") has vanished, since there is only one company that can possibly publish the book, and the company is well aware of that fact.

    Three options right now:

    a) Get an agent who will work on commission to hammer out the deal with the company that now owns the rights.

    b) File off the serial numbers and attempt to sell the re-written work to another publisher.

    c) Forget this trilogy. Move on and write another novel.

    No matter what else you do, you'll want to move on and write another novel in any case ... so start doing that while searching for an agent.

    (Or: Look, I can write you a contract for free. Here goes:

    [Author] grants all rights in [Name of Work] to [Name of Company] for the full term of copyright in return for $20,000 paid on signing. [Company] agrees that [Author] will be identified as the author of [Work] on the cover, title page, and in any promotional materials when/if the Work is published.

    Signed: [Author]
    Signed: [Company]
    [Date]

    There, that wasn't so tough, was it? They'll come back with "$20,000! Are you smoking something?" and offer $10,000. You'll say, "Do you wish my children to be beggars? $15,000!" They agree to it, you both sign. It's a lousy contract from the author's point of view, but it does bring closure to the whole affair. And you do get a professional publishing credit.)

    Seriously, get an agent. And write a new, different, better book while you're looking.
    ========================

    Wow. Crossposted again.

    Please be aware that if you don't come to an agreement with Company B, that publishing the works on your website is still publishing, and is a copyright and/or trademark violation. If Company B wants to be complete dicks about it, they can shut you and your website down and make your life exceedingly unpleasant. Since they know about you and this work ... the odds of their finding out about web self-publication are pretty good. That may require them to Do Something about it.

    Since you know Ms. Duane, why not take her out, buy her a beer, and ask her what she advises at this juncture?
    ==================

    Reading more about Sir-Tech (the original company that created Wizardry) -- they're apparently bankrupt. Which means that their various rights (including the right to make derivative works) are assets controlled by a bankruptcy court until they can be sold to pay off the company's debts, adding yet another layer of mess to an already messy situation. Resolving something like that can take years even with all the good-will in the world. (Horrible things have happened to authors whose books were bought by publishers who've gone bankrupt.)

    This discussion has rambled a long way from Paul S. Levine's lousy phone manners. Perhaps it should be moved to the Ask The Agent forum?
    ================

    Oh -- one more thing. One of the reasons I caution about publishing books with a game company is that "doesn't know what it's doing" is pretty much Standard Operating Procedure.

    Bottom line: no matter what happens, The Author Writes a Check is not an option. If you reach that point, you're at a dead end. Back up and try another path.
    ===================

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Hillgate View Post
    That is why you have a clause in any contract specifying that if any rights accrue to the publisher, those rights revert to author on any form of liquidation/bankruptcy on the part of publisher.
    Alas, that clause, while it is a standard part of every publishing contract, is worthless.

    A publisher's publishing rights to works make up the bulk of their assets, and a company in bankruptcy simply can't give away its assets. The publishing rights might wind up in the hands of a third party which is not bound by the original contract with the author, with very bad results (from the author's point of view).

    Consider a non-book example: Company A rents its office furniture from Company B. Company A goes bankrupt. That office furniture might get sold at auction to satisfy Company A's debts -- and the only chance Company B might have to get its furniture back would be to bid on it.

    Also: as far as any money the publisher might owe to the author, the author is an unsecured creditor. All of the secured creditors stand in line ahead of the unsecured, and the money that is left in the till or that comes from the sale of assets usually runs out long before the unsecured creditors see any.

    If a company goes bankrupt while holding your publishing rights, in the best case you won't get any income from that work, and won't be able to resell it, for a period that can be measured in years. In the worst case, while you still hold the copyright, you've lost the income from that work and lost the ability to resell the work at all.

    As always, if you have a legal question, ask a real lawyer. For a real-world case the answer to your particular situation is "It varies."

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

    You will need the rights to the English translation. The question is, does the translator have the right to make that translation?

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

    Does he possibly already have rights to the English translation of that poem?

    The danger is, a second cousin twice removed may pop up from nowhere claiming to own the rights to that poem if lightning strikes and your book goes all DaVinci Code. Best to straighten out the rights-and-permissions questions now, and have 'em all in writing.

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

    The exact legalities of permissions require the services of a real lawyer to untangle.

    However, it is my impression that a hard-copy letter with a real signature on it is required to grant rights.

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

    Ah, Hillgate -- you're in the UK. Things may well work as you've stated in the UK. I wouldn't know.

    Over here, the standard "in the event of bankruptcy all rights revert to the author" clause is just flat worthless. In the event of bankruptcy the rights are assets, and the assets become the property of the court, to dispose of as they please. This happens at the instant of bankruptcy and, depending on state laws, retroactively for a period of time before the bankruptcy. That is, if the company returns your rights today, and declares bankruptcy tomorrow, those rights become the property of the court anyway.

    Nor does the court transfer the contract -- the court tranfers the publication rights (the asset) without any of those details like royalties and such attached. The creditor is trying to get his money back from the publisher and cares not a fig for the writer. It really is messy, and it really is bad for the writer. I can give real-world examples of this happening.

    In the example I gave of the furniture -- the managers of the company aren't disposing of the property. As you point out, they can't. The court has taken that property, and the court is disposing of it. The court can, and may well do just that.

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

    I can boil it all down to three words:

    Write, submit, repeat.

    Everything else is commentary.

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

    A lot of the books in the Best SF thread are quite old.

    For What's Happening Now:

    Anything by Ken MacLeod. Anything by Robert Charles Wilson. Last year's Nebula winners. This year's Hugo nominees. Three books chosen at random from the SF shelf of your local bookstore, provided you've never heard of the authors.

    After that ... write your book.

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

    Ah, shucks, folks.

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

    I don't know how most writers do it. I know that I personally write new stuff and revise older stuff on the same day, just at different times of the day.

    This is another case of whatever works for you.

    You will eventually have to revise the material you've written (unless you're capable of doing publishable first drafts (and there are some people who can do that)). How your writers' group decides to count that is up to them.

    Please let us know what they decide.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Raphee View Post
    Just as an aside to above: East of Eden by Steinbeck was published from the original MS without any changes made by the publisher. Well at least the copy that I have.
    Hunh?

    Do you have any information that it was the first draft? How many drafts did Steinbeck write before the version he submitted?

    (Oh -- publishers don't usually make any changes to a manuscript (other than correcting typoes and applying house style). They may request revisions, but it's the authors job to either make them or not, as the author pleases.)

    (Example of house style: Numbers below 99 are expressed in numerals, numbers one hundred and above are expressed in words. (Other publishers may have another style for numbers.) Another example of house style: Extracts such as poetry or letters are set off by linebreaks, indented, and set in italics. (Other publishers may have other styles.) Yet another example of house style: The serial comma is used. (Other publishers may not use the serial comma.))

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

    Yes, write the darned book anyway.

    Now Wilson -- top talent, top of his game. But you can be certain of one thing: there exists a writer of whom Wilson says, "I can never be that good. I'll never be in his league."

    You might try re-typing the first chapter of Spin to see exactly what he did and how he did it. Observe his technique.

    It's the chess metaphor again: we may say of a Grand Master "I'll never be that good," but on a move-by-move basis we can understand each move.

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

    See also: Mikhail Tal and his hippopotamus story. It is illustrative.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by allenparker View Post
    In other words, how accurate does the history have to be?
    As accurate as possible provided you're still able to tell your story.

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

    No novel is ever perfect. It's just the best you can make it at the time. Let other people tell you if they enjoyed it.

    The other day I watched Hoodwinked on DVD. That's an animated re-telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. Pretty good film.

    What I did afterward was watch the special features, with the director's commentary. Particularly the deleted scenes and the extended scenes. What struck me was how many times the director said words to the effect of, "I loved this bit, but the point had already been made," or "I cut this for pace."

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

    You're learning, growing, and getting set to wrestle with stronger angels.


    Also: I just posted this in another thread, but thought I'd put it here, too:

    A scene is a unit that has a recognizable beginning, middle, and end.

    The scene ends with a mini-climax that leaves the reader wanting to continue. The next scene usually has moved in time, space, or viewpoint.
    __________________

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

    Quote Originally Posted by gclare View Post
    ...can you tell us of any standard that you believe would or should warrant Procrustean Bed rigidity in writing?
    Not so much.

    The only real rule is: If It Works, It's Right.

    The thing you should never forget is that you are writing for your readers.

    Beyond that, it's all art. There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays....

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

    Here's what I might suggest: Take a writer you admire and attempt to "channel" him or her. Pretend to be that person and have him or her write your book for you.

    (Don't worry that it won't be your book -- no matter how talented a parodist you might be, the work is original.)

    Now other stuff: Found in another thread here at AW, a piece of submission-tracker software. http://www.download.com/3000-20-10027591.html

    It looks like it would mostly be useful for short stories, but still....

    Now, how to do it by hand.

    Get yourself a file folder for each of your stories.

    In that file folder, put a hard-copy of your finished story. Put in an archive electronic copy of the finished story. Come up with a list of all the possible markets for the story, arranged in some order that pleases you (highest-to-lowest paying, most prestigious-to-not-so-prestigious, or something else). Print that out and put it in the folder.

    Make a photocopy of that story. Send it to the top market on your list. Note the date on the hardcopy list. When/if you get a rejection, write in the date, cross out that address, and send out fresh photocopy that same day to the next market on your list.

    Continue until either the story sells, or you reach the bottom of the list. If the story sells, put a copy of the contract in the file folder. Note on the top of the folder when the reprint rights will come back to you. If you see any reviews of the story, clip them and put them in the folder.

    If you reach the bottom of the list, after you've crossed out the last address, put a date one year in the future on the top of the file folder, and put it your file drawer. One year on, re-read the story and see if you want to revise it and start sending it around again. See if new markets have opened.

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

    You, only better than before, is everyone's goal.

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

    You could go to one of the digest pages (Undiluted) and use your browser's "Find On This Page" function.

    For more general stuff, use Google.

    Go to Google and in the search string type site:absolutewrite.com "Learn Writing With Uncle" (yes, use the quote marks) then your search terms. That seems to work pretty well.

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

    The "Search Within This Thread" feature apparently ignores "common words."

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&s...22&btnG=Search

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

    The idea is to use a different part of your brain when seeing your work. Getting a fresh view. Revision = re-vision. Looking again.

    If this trick doesn't work for you ... there are others.

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

    How about ... copying the book out by hand? Retyping it from hard-copy. Turning the pages upside down and reading it.

    All of these are mechanical ways of making the work different. Of using other parts of your brain.

    The classic is putting the book in your desk drawer for three months.

    If you've read your book on-screen up to now, read it in hardcopy. If you've read it in hardcopy, read it on-screen.

    Oh -- here's a cheapie: Reprint your book in two-column justified ten-point Times New Roman, and read it in that form (presuming that you've been reading it in standard manuscript format). (On the other hand, if you've been setting your reading copy in TNR two-column -- set it in standard manuscript format and re-read it like that.)

    I do like reading aloud, though. You don't have an audience other than yourself, so your public speaking skills don't matter.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by bsolah View Post
    I think the 'sitting thing' is by far the best advice when it comes to editing. It allows you to become detached from the work.
    Something else I recommend is that you start writing something else while you're letting your work marinate in your desk drawer. That too will help cleanse your mind.

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

    What should you do?

    Write 250 words of original fiction before you post on this board again.

    They don't have to be perfect -- they don't even have to be good. They just have to be there.

    Cut the crap and write.

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

    A working outline and the outline you send to a publisher are two different things.

    The first is Whatever Works For You. The second is a sales document.

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

    As William Faulkner said, "I only write when I'm inspired. Fortunately I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning."

    Were I in your place, I'd put in the daily BIC on the new work, and plan out a time period every day to edit/rewrite/revise one of the old works (flip a coin to figure out which one). By the time you've done editing that one, the new project should be about done, so put it into the editing queue. Start writing a new story. At the same time edit the second story you have in inventory. When you're done with that ... you'll have the story that you just completed about finishing up its three months in your desk drawer.

    So, you might consider arranging your time like that.

    Remember that what works for you is what's right.

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

    Sure. Write the ending. You can do that right now.

    Also, see the idea of flow-charting the story by way of an outline.

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

    Find another couple of beta readers, keep this one, and wait three months before revising.

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

    Oh, and what you say to a beta? "Thank you very much!" And mean it.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean D. Schaffer View Post

    Quickly, one more question: how many words of the ending should I do? Should I make it the whole last chapter of the book, or should I just do the last page or two?
    That's another "How long is a piece of rope?" questions. Write as many words as you need to.

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

    As you know, Bob, Doyle and I are regular instructors at the Viable Paradise workshop.

    On one occasion, Doyle had a particular author's story to comment. Her comment was "This story presses too many of my buttons. Have Maureen McHugh look at it."

    For us, Sherwood Smith has been our beta reader since we were all unpublished together. We also found beta readers for each of our Mageworlds books who hadn't read any of the previous books, to see if they made sense to readers just coming to the series.

    So it's an ongoing thing -- reliable beta readers who you've known for years, a rotating cast of new readers. Be aware that sometimes a story will hit a reader in a non-typical way. In that case get a second opinion.

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

    A perennial thread-topic on the Novel board is "What's Wrong with [1st/2nd/3rd] Person [Omniscient/Limited/Closed/Open/Grayscale] [Past/Present/Future] POV?"

    Usually we start with some vague reference to unnamed "experts" who allegedly say that a writer should [always/never] use the named POV. This is followed by a bunch of posts claiming that those [still unnamed] "experts" [do/do not] know what they're talking about.

    Listen, people: Here's the actual answer. There is nothing wrong at all with any POV. It only has to be done well.

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

    The difference between a query letter and a cover letter:

    Query letter: "Would you like to see my book?"

    Cover letter: "Here's my book. Hope you like it!"

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

    I don't say that anything is absolutely true, except that the Reader is King.

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

    Plots, plots, and more plots.

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

    I usually find theme by re-reading the text, then using that knowledge to help make decisions in the revision stage.


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

    "Clarified" and "simplified" are generally good.

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

    What? You've never heard of George I, George II, and George III?

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

    As to the use of 'they' ...?
    I'm not quite sure what you mean here.

    Are you referring to this line?

    You have to ocassionally remind the reader who they are reading about...
    If so, that's the singular 'they,' the word used in English to mean an individual of unknown sex. (This is the correct singular. "He or she" is a barbarism; "he" (or "she") alone is silly.)

    See for example:

    "Singular they": God said it, I believe it, that settles it

    Everybody loves their Jane Austen

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

    It's all looking for clarification. The names for the different POVs are mutable things; use them if they make the concept clearer for you. If not, not.

    And the master rule is that if it works, it's right.


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

    Quote Originally Posted by gp101 View Post
    UJ,

    I know you preach "if it works, it's right" but I want your opinion on tenses. Though I've seen the movie several times, I just recently started reading "Silence of the Lambs" for the first time. The first couple chaps are excellent. The author writes in past tense, but at times goes into description of people in present tense. It's as if the author is telling me "this story took place in the past, but the characters are still alive today as you read this".

    Let's take a look:

    "Do you spook easily, Starling?"

    "Not yet."

    "See, we've tried to interview and examine all thirty-two known serial murderers we have in custody, to build up a database for psychological profiling in unsolved cases. Most of them went along with it--I think they're driven to show off, a lot of them. Twenty-seven were willing to cooperate. Four on death row with appeals pending clammed up, understandably. But the one we want most, we haven't been able to get. I want you to go after him tomorrow in the asylum."

    Clarice Starling felt a glad knocking in her chest and some apprehension too.

    "Who's the subject?"

    "The psychiatrist--Dr. Hannibal Lecter," Crawford said.

    A brief silence follows the name, always, in any civilized gathering.

    Starling looked at Crawford steadily, but she was too still. "Hannibal the Cannibal," she said.

    That's the narrator, the person who is telling the story, interjecting himself into the narrative. It's a bit of a distancing mechanism. It's "I'm telling a story." And it's the exposition. The narrator is telling us something that the two characters can't mention to each other because they both know it perfectly well.

    Other places, the drop into present tense is POV. When seeing the characters' thoughts, they're present tense because the characters aren't thinking about what's going on in front of them in past tense.

    Character thoughts aren't always set in italics.

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

    I'm going to annotate some of these.


    Quote Originally Posted by smsarber View Post
    “What follows is a list of the most common shoulds, musts, and have-to’s that many of us have been taught about writing. Each of these is either useless, irrelevant, or just plain incorrect:

    *A writer must be unhappy, or lonely, or cynical, or 100% serious, or neurotic, or a little crazy, or downright nuts.
    You don't have to be crazy, but it helps.

    *If you wish to be published, you must do whatever editors ask.
    Depends on what degree of granularity you're looking for. At its most basic what the editors ask is "Send us something we can use!" and this is completely correct. If you wish to be published you must send something that suits their current needs.
    *You must dress and act in a certain way, and/or associate with certain people, in order to be a successful writer.
    The propeller beanie is absolutely necessary. By great good luck I have a number of them here. May I sell you a couple? Oh, yes, and you must associate with me.


    *You must keep each of your manuscripts circulating among editors until it is accepted for publication.
    Or until you've hit every reasonable market. Then retire it for a year, re-read it, see if any new markets have opened, and consider either rewriting it or permanently retiring it.

    *If manuscript is rejected, you must get it back out to another editor within 24 hours.
    That's a darned good idea. Six hours is better. Three better still.


    The only sane response to any of these pronouncements is a loud and emphatic, “NOT SO!” None of them is universally true. Some may be useful or true for some writers, or under certain circumstances. Some may be helpful as generalities, but are not absolutes. Many-the last seven, for example-are pure baloney through an through.
    If it works for you, do it. If it doesn't work, don't.

    In addition to the shoulds, writers also face a barrage of equally worthless shouldn’ts. Here are the most common examples:
    *Never write about yourself.
    *Never write in the first person, or use the words “I,” “me,” or ”my.”
    *Never use curse words, slang, or colloquialisms.
    *Never use italics.
    *Never use exclamation points.
    *Never use foreign words.
    *Never start a sentence with “and,” “but,” “anyway,” “however,” “nevertheless,” “therefore,” or “I.”
    *Never use incomplete sentences.
    *Never stray from correct grammar and usage for any reason.
    *Never write in dialect; always use standard English.
    Has anyone ever actually heard anyone say any of those things?

    *Never send something you’ve written to more than one editor at once.
    This one is true. Just plain don't do it, unless all of the editors involved clearly state that they take simultaneous submissions.

    *Never submit photocopied manuscripts to editors.
    This one dates back to the days when photocopies a) came out as negatives (white print on a black background), b) were on an odd slick paper that tended to stick to other sheets of odd slick paper, and c) smelled rather odd. It was true at that time. I don't know if that's been true any time in the last thirty years, though, and I don't recall anyone saying not to send photocopies any time in the last thirty years either.
    *Never rewrite, except to editorial order.
    Edelstein has completely misunderstood this one, but that's okay: many people misunderstand it. This rule doesn't instruct you to send out only first drafts. Once you've written, rewritten, revised, and made your work the best you can ... send it out. After that it's a trap to rewrite it every time it comes back. A waste of time. You've already made the story the best you could or you wouldn't be sending it out, would you? So send it out, and send it out again, until you've hit every reasonable market. Then retire it, as above. The exceptions are: if someone says "I will buy this if you make the following changes," by all means do so. Or, if the story's sat around in your Retired file for a year and you see a way to make it better, you can rewrite it and send it back on its travels. (Or, suddenly an inspiration strikes and the Muse won't let go of your throat until you rewrite the sucker.)
    I repeat: all of these are worthless at best, harmful at worst. Ignore them all.
    And ignore that, as well.

    There is yet another type of nonsense that we writers often face: strange beliefs about what makes a writer.
    What makes a writer is this: the act of writing. If you write, you are a writer. If you dont -- you aren't.

    It really is that simple.

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

    The actual rules:

    What works is right.

    The reader is king.

    A compelling story compellingly told trumps everything.

    A story that's submitted may be accepted. A story that's never submitted won't be accepted.

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

    I believe that there is a difference between the POV in this:


    Never have I felt quite so worldly as I did on my very first real date, when, after considered perusal of the wine list, I masterfully commanded the waiter at the Log Cabin restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts, to fetch me a bottle of Mateus Rosé. In its distinctive Buddah-shaped bottle, with its slight spritz, it represented a step up from the pink Almaden that my friends and I sucked down in order to get into the proper Dionysian frame of mind for the summer rock concerts at Tanglewood. (And that seemed a classic accompaniment--rather like Chablis and oysters--to the cheap Mexican pot we were smoking at the time.) Later, of course, as I discovered the joys of dry reds and whites, I learned to sneer at pink wine; it seemed--as Winston Churchill once remarked regarding the moniker of an acquaintance named Bossom--that it was neither one thing nor the other. A few summers ago a bottle of Domaines Ott rosé in conjunction with a leg of marinated grilled lamb cured me of this particular prejudice; I thought I'd died and gone to Provence, though in fact I was at my friend Steve's birthday party in the Hamptons.

    and this:


    You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might come clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already. The night has already turned on that imperceptible pivot where two A.M. changes to six A.M. You know this moment has come and gone, but you are not yet willing to concede that you have crossed the line beyond which all is gratuitous damage and the palsy of unraveled nerve endings. Somewhere back there you could have cut your losses, but you rode past that moment on a comet trail of white powder and now you are trying to hang on to the rush. Your brain at this moment is composed of brigades of tiny Bolivian soldiers. They are tired and muddy from their long march through the night. There are holes in their boots and they are hungry. They need to be fed. They need Bolivian Marching Powder.

    and this:


    When Christopher Ransom opened his eyes he was on his back, looking up into a huddle of Japanese faces shimmering in a pool of artificial light. Who were these people? Then he placed them. These were his fellow karate-ka, members of his dojo. And there stood the sensei, broad nose skewed to the left side of his face, broken in the finals at the Junior All-Japan Karate Tournament fifteen years ago. Ransom was pleased that he could recall this detail. Collect enough of the details and the larger picture might take care of itself.

    The sensei asked if he was okay. Ransom lifted his head. Turquoise and magenta disks played at the edge of his vision. He was hoisted to his feet; suddenly the landscape looked as if it was flipped on its side, the surface of the parking lot standing vertical like a wall and the façade of the gym lying flat where the ground should be. Then the scene righted itself, as if on hinges.

    We might as well call the difference first person, second person, and third person. If the terminology doesn't work for you, try something else that eases composition. They are, essentially, I'm talking about me, I'm talking about you, and I'm talking about that guy over there.

    In the end, while you can flip between POVs between scenes, you'll probably want to stick with one or another inside of the individual scenes to avoid confusing your readers.

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

    Oh yes -- and for the excerpts above, the question is: would you turn the page?

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

    Most of us are pretty laid-back here.

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

    Well, golly. Look what the mail brought today!

    Tekno Books sent me a contract today. They want the rights to reprint one of my stories for Sony's new e-book reader (non-exclusive electronic, World English, five years).

    Well, shucks. No advance, but this is for a reprint. 25% of purchase price as royalty.

    I can do that. It's found money.

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

    A small brag here: This story is by Dave Thompson, one of our students at Viable Paradise last year, and this story was one that he wrote at the workshop:

    http://pseudopod.org/2007/03/30/pseu...last-respects/

    This is, BTW, a paying market.

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

    Story Idea, Free!

    Take The Bourne Identity. Imagine that Jason Bourne, escaping from the Swiss bank, rather than hooking up with dodgy Eurotrash femme Marie instead got a ride from Maria from The Sound of Music.

    How does the story go from that point?

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

    Work on one, then work on another -- if that's what's natural for you, that's fine with me.

    Don't send them out until they're finished, but when they're finished, send them out. You have permission to do anything except not-write.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer L View Post
    Just never expected to have done my job so well that someone would have trouble finishing my book for a reason like that!
    Congratulations, you are a Writer!

    (Everyone, give Jennifer a round of applause. And thank her in the best way: Read her book. Then Will Come Night and Darkness. Buy one; better still, buy a dozen. They make excellent gifts.)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by willietheshakes View Post
    Why McInerney?
    a) Good writers are more fun to read than bad writers. One of these days I'm going to do another line-by-line, and these will do.

    b) He's written at novel length in the three basic POVs, so a comparison, same writer to same writer, is more interesting.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by aertep View Post
    Uncle Jim, I posted this question under "Book Promotion Ideas and Advice," but I'd like your take on it.

    With the help of a designer who's not a writer, I'm creating a website. I'd like to post a few of my past published articles on the site, as well as a teaser from my WIP. I own the copyright on these pieces.

    I'd like site visitors to know that articles are available to reprint with permission, but *only* with permission. Is there standard language for this? Is this understood, or do I need to say something to protect my work? Do I advertise my ignorance by asking this question in the first place?

    I'll also have photos, video and audio on the site. Any clues as to how to protect these?

    I'd appreciate your advice, and that of anyone else who cares to pitch some in. Thanks.
    I'm not a lawyer, but I'd say something like, "All rights reserved. For reprint permission, write to" and an email address.

    When you do grant permission, spell out exactly what rights, where, and for how long, and what language you want as far as identifying it as your work (linkbacks, and so on).

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

    Page 247

    04-06-07

  19. #44
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    22,920
    Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1
    Page 248
    04-07-07

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

    I posted this before in another thread. I'm going to put it here, too:

    ==========

    What type of "promotion" should one expect from a publisher once a book deal has been struck?

    I'm going to talk about novels here, because that's what I know about.

    Things vary, of course, but the minimum you should expect:

    1) Review copies/advance reading copies well in advance of publication to major venues (Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly) plus major newspapers, and any specialized magazines that deal with your subject matter (you'll work with your publisher on this -- you know your subject).

    2) Ads in trade publications.

    3) Listed in the catalog.

    4) Talked up by the sales force.

    5) Press releases to state and local newspapers (you'll work with your publisher on this, too -- they'll already have a list, you can add to it.) Press releases should have copies of the book attached. (A press release without a copy of the book is wasted paper.)

    Attractive cover, carefully written back cover blurb ... those should go without saying.

    TV/Radio/Newspaper ads, book signings, book tours ... they're a waste of time and money for a first novel. There are other resources a publisher can use, depending ... they vary from foiled-and-embossed covers, up through endcaps, shelf talkers, front-of-the-store placement ... depends on whether they think that the book will get enough extra sales that way to pay for the extra expense.

    The single biggest reason someone buys a novel is because they read and enjoyed a previous book by the same author. The next biggest reason anyone buys a novel is because a trusted friend recommended it. All the other reasons fade into single-digit percentages.

    A first novelist doesn't have that earlier novel that someone read (that's one reason selling short stories is important, even though there isn't a lot of money in them). So you have to rely on the early adopters, the adventurous folks who pull books off the shelf even if they've never heard of the author, to tell everyone in their carpool or in their bridge club, "You have to read Nameofbook!"

    This is tough. But the single most important thing to do is write your second book. Make it better than the first. Then you will have all the people who read and enjoyed your first book buying it, and talking to their friends.

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

    The truth about the literary life:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt_7KhSbExE

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

    Action is movement.

    That movement may be physical, it may be mental, it may be emotional, it may be moral ... but ... it's moving.

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

    Kurt Vonnegut offers advice on writing:

    http://puppetmaker40.livejournal.com/326453.html

    Some writing advice by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. on the subject of short stories from Bagombo Snuff Box

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

    3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

    4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

    5. Start as close to the end as possible.

    6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

    7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

    8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

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

    Monday, April 23rd, is International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

    That's the day to post a complete story or novel, your best work, on your webpage for anyone to read absolutely free.

    Details here: http://papersky.livejournal.com/318273.html

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

    One of the dead yesterday at Virgina Tech was Christopher J. "Jamie" Bishop, son of science fiction writer Michael Bishop.

    It is given to no man to know the day or hour.

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

    I've just learned of a new time-and-energy waster for writers: http://charteo.us/

    These nice folks will make automatic graphs of your book's Amazon sales rank.

    Naturally my first move was to add Mist and Snow's ISBN. Please help move the graph-line upward. You can make little Jimmy smile, or you can turn the page....

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

    Quote Originally Posted by screenmom View Post
    Can I buy you a beer?
    Why -- yes! Yes, you can!

    In the meantime, buy my books....

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

    You can indeed still get a copy of Atlanta Nights. The perfect book if one leg of your dining room table is too short!

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

    Yet another POD-cast: http://podibleparadise.com/?p=24

    (Who says I don't like POD?)

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

    In honor of International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch Day, I've put up one of our short stories, The Queen's Mirror.

    Y'all enjoy.


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

    That was so much fun I did it again: On Suivi Point

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

    It's been a while (since March, 2004, if you must know) since I've done a wrapup of the books and movies and articles we've discussed and linked to from here. So that can be this morning's project.

    The Best of HapiSofi:

    Lee Shore Literary Agency

    Need Advice

    Agents Charging Fees


    Sex Scenes, version II

    Typesetting

    1st Books was OK

    Prologues

    Midbooks

    Tone

    PA Authors

    ST Comments I Love It!

    All PublishAmerica Titles are in the Library of Congress

    Decent Typesetting

    ================

    Font:

    Dark Courier

    ====================

    Books:

    Cut and Assemble Victorian Shingle-Style House
    Cut and Assemble Victorian Cottage
    Modern English Usage
    The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld
    New Skies
    Between the Darkness and the Fire
    The Apocalypse Door
    Werewolves: A collection of original stories
    Otherwere: Stories of Transformation
    Murder by Magic
    Writers Digest
    The Killer Angels
    The Price of the Stars
    The Stars Asunder
    A Working of Stars
    Hunters' Moon
    Marvelous Max: the Mansion Mouse
    Tournament and Tower
    Aquatech Warriors
    Tiger Cruise
    Camelot
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Vampires
    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
    Conjure Wife
    Starpilot's Grave
    The Summons
    The Street Lawyer
    Bruce Coville's Book of Spine Tinglers
    Understanding Comics
    Psycho
    The Silence of the Lambs
    The Foxfire Book
    Cosmic Tales: Adventures in Far Futures

    ====================

    Links:

    Advice from Bookslut
    Parody of Jane Austen Doe
    Harry Potter and the Horrid Pain of the Artiste
    Why 98% of the slushpile is unpublishable
    International Slushpile Bonfire Day

    H. W. Fowler
    Yetanother Variant
    Warnings and Cautions for Writers
    How Gramatically Correct Are You?
    Medieval Numerology
    The Last Real New Yorker in the World
    Bestseller Lists 1900-1995
    Windhaven Press
    Viable Paradise Student Sales
    The Certainities of Life
    The Literary Life
    You're Published. Now the Fun Begins? Think Again.
    Scrivener's Error
    CafePress
    Print On Demand
    Five Deadly Sins
    What Kind of Writer are You?
    The Fight Crime!
    Celtic Knotwork
    Harry of Five Points
    Pericles, Prince of Tired Plots
    Skinhead Hamlet
    Romeo and Juliet, as performed by Peeps
    The Cask of Amontillado
    Viable Paradise
    ISBN Checksum Calculator
    Fold a paper pressman's hat
    Speed Writing
    On the Getting of Agents
    The Walrus and the Carpenter
    Panel Looks At Financing of Book by Rowland's Wife
    The F-word Song
    Hang on the Bell, Nellie
    A Visit from St. Nicholas
    Sovay
    Lime Pie
    Slushkiller
    Susanna Clarke's Magic Book
    Jump-starting a Stalled (or Dead) Career
    Stalled Careers, Writer's Block, and Monsters Under the Bed
    Bookslut
    Writers are Terrorists
    Bakeless Literary Prizes
    Holly Black's Writing Resources
    Storytelling
    Report to the Authors Guild Midlist Books Study Committee
    Le Bar aux Folies Bergere
    L'Empire des Lumieres
    Origami Crane

    ====================

    Movies:

    Jose Chung's "From Outer Space"

    Jose Chung's "Doomsday Defense"
    A Fistful of Dollars
    Shakespeare in Love
    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
    28 Days Later





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

    Looks like that thread has been removed. (Occasionally inactive threads -- ones that haven't gotten post in year or two -- get trimmed.)

    Not to worry -- most of the same material was reposted in this thread and this thread isn't going away.

    I'll delete the dead link.

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

    If there's a magazine that still serializes novels ... work it out with the editor. Generally they'll go with chapter breaks. Your chapter breaks should all end on a strong note, at a natural breaking place, with the urge for the reader to start the next chapter built in.


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

    Royalties are trickling in. Just got the money from Harcourt, with the three "Dozens" anthologies: A Wizard's Dozen, A Starfarer's Dozen, and A Nightmare's Dozen. Total around forty bucks, but then these have been going, twice a year, since 1993. A tank of gas....

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

    Royalties from novels come via my agent. Short stories they send me directly.

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

    Write the book.

    Later, in the rewrite, you can figure what goes into chapter one and what goes into chapter two.

    For all we know the second draft will start with a chapter you haven't written yet and both your current chapter one and chapter two will be in the discard pile.

    Get the words on paper. When you reach The End the contents of chapter one will be clearer to you.

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

    One way to tell who your protagonist is is to look at your last chapter and see who's in it.

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

    If the protagonist isn't in the last chapter, or isn't the main topic of conversation in the last chapter, perhaps you should rethink who the protagonist is.

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

    I should mention that it's entirely possible for someone who died before Chapter One to be the protagonist.

    ============

    Meanwhile, Good News! This year's Christmas Challenge story sold, to Fantasy & Science Fiction. They have up to three years to publish it, but they pay on acceptance. Go team us!

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

    Quote Originally Posted by JoNightshade View Post
    Is it possible to have multiple protagonists?
    Gosh 'n golly you betcha!

    Our first novel we had eight.

    Main character, protagonist, antagonist, all these fiddly definitions are more of interest to academics, I think.

    As long as you have characters that your readers can identify with, and you reveal those characters to those readers, you will not have gone far wrong.

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

    Where Margaret Mitchell got the title for her novel:

    Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae



    Last night ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
    There fell thy shadow, Cynara! Thy breath was shed
    Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
    And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

    All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
    Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
    Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
    But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    When I awoke and found the dawn was gray:
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

    I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
    Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
    Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
    But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

    I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
    But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
    Then falls thy shadow, Cynara the night is thine;
    And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea hungry for the lips of my desire:
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

    -- Ernest Dowson

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

    Department of Oh, the Humanity!

    When we married, it was with the well-intended but overly optimistic understanding that she would support my writing until my writing could support us both. And so I have written short stories and poems and novels and essays and newspaper articles and much more. I have spent thousands of dollars attending writing conferences and hiring professional editors to help me perfect my manuscripts. And I have never made more than a pittance in return for these literary labors.

    Make sure you read the comments.

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

    Many years ago, Doyle (my co-author) was teaching college freshmen.

    She was approached by a student who wanted to know why it was that, even though nothing had been marked wrong in her essay, she nevertheless got a B.

    Doyle said "For an A paper I expect something more than technical correctness. 'No errors' is not good enough."

    The student said, "You mean I have to be interesting too?"

    And in this moment the student achieved enlightenment.

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

    You may learn what you really believe in.

    Or you may not.

    Right now I believe I'll have a cup of coffee....


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

    My Favorite Font: Anne Fadiman, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Posner, and others reveal what font they compose in and why.


    ========

    On the subject of openings, I recall the (perhaps apocryphal) story of the author whose short story had been rejected from a magazine that specialized in "spicy stories."

    "There isn't enough sex in it," said the edtior.

    "Whaddaya mean?" said the author. "There's sex on the very first page!"

    "Yeah, but it's near the bottom."

    (This would have been in the days of the pulps, when authors dropped by the editors' offices in New York City to hand in their stories and pick up their checks. Ah, the golden days! We'll never see their likes again....)

    =======

    Do y'all remember when, back on page 246, I posted this and asked, "Would you turn the page?"

    Never have I felt quite so worldly as I did on my very first real date, when, after considered perusal of the wine list, I masterfully commanded the waiter at the Log Cabin restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts, to fetch me a bottle of Mateus Rosé. In its distinctive Buddah-shaped bottle, with its slight spritz, it represented a step up from the pink Almaden that my friends and I sucked down in order to get into the proper Dionysian frame of mind for the summer rock concerts at Tanglewood. (And that seemed a classic accompaniment--rather like Chablis and oysters--to the cheap Mexican pot we were smoking at the time.) Later, of course, as I discovered the joys of dry reds and whites, I learned to sneer at pink wine; it seemed--as Winston Churchill once remarked regarding the moniker of an acquaintance named Bossom--that it was neither one thing nor the other. A few summers ago a bottle of Domaines Ott rosé in conjunction with a leg of marinated grilled lamb cured me of this particular prejudice; I thought I'd died and gone to Provence, though in fact I was at my friend Steve's birthday party in the Hamptons.

    Well, ask yourself, punk: Would you?

    That's the first page of a published novel. In a bit, a line-by-line to see what the author was doing.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by kimmi View Post
    ... periods before all which's?
    Hunh?

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

    Quote Originally Posted by JJ Cooper View Post

    Should I write this new character in third limited as well?
    Alas, I don't know that answer. In general, only if it works best that way.

    At the moment I have written it in third omni but it just doesn't seem to hold as well as previous chapters.
    Ah, then it isn't working.

    Try another POV. See if it works better. That's the re-writing stage, though. For now I'd bull through to THE END. But that's me -- something else may work best for you.


    Following this, if I write both charcters in third limited how do I write it when they come together?
    Try third limited. If it doesn't work ... try something else. No one but you will read your first drafts.

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

    Ken, I can't answer that. The length of the new opening should be as long as it needs to be, but no longer.

    I would advise that you wait until you reach "The End" before you add it, though if it's screaming to be written by all means write it.

    Next:

    Yesterday I watched Pan's Labyrinth on DVD, then immediately afterward watched it again with the director's commentary. What a lovely example of storytelling! May I suggest to y'all that you do the same?

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

    Do y'all know what the one unforgivable sin is? It's being boring. You can get away with almost anything -- as long as you aren't boring.

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

    Pseudonym.

    Really.

    One of the Things That Happen is the major chain bookstores order to net -- their preorders equal the sales of your last book. But changing your name (as little as using or not using your middle initial) makes you a new author from their point of view.

    Write the novel, make it non-boring, and be prepared to have this discussion with your editor.

    (As to the question of the sales affecting the sale of your book to another publisher, they'll be looking at sell-through: the ratio of books printed to books that went home in a customer's hand.)

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

    You know what 100% sell-through means? It means the publisher didn't print enough copies.

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

    Optimum sell thorugh? Probably 60-70%. Long before you hit 80% the publisher should be going back to press.

    Remember: printing the books is one of the cheapest parts of the entire operation.

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

    It is with great joy that we report that Karen Joy Fowler's novel, The Jane Austen Book Club, is written in the first-person plural.

    Now that's a point of view we don't see every day.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by swvaughn View Post
    Should I just put it aside and work on something else... book five in the other series (my agent's taking a look at those after this one sells), another stand-alone (I have two started)?
    Yes, put it aside. If the one on submission doesn't sell it won't have a sequel.

    No, don't work on something in another series.

    First, write a short story to clear your palate. (See above, this year's Christmas Challenge for one possible way to do this. Hey, mine sold.)

    Next, write a totally stand-alone book. Do it this way: Three pages a day, without fail, for three straight months. At the end of that time you will have a book -- and you'll probably have a call-back from your agent.

    And watch a couple of movies along the way. And read a few novels just for fun. You have to top off your fun tank. It may be getting low.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by ArdillaNegra View Post
    (I noticed that there was talk about making a compilation of the more salient bits. Did that come to any fruition? It might be a bit crazy to ask now, considering how long ago that was, but it can't hurt to check.)
    Well, yes.

    There's the Uncle Jim Undiluted thread, but more than that, there's a book that's in progress based on this thread. My beloved wife and co-author is whipping this raw material into shape. We'll see what comes of that.

    Just my posts alone come to over a thousand pages in manuscript format so you see there's some room for trimming and condensation.

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

    You have my official permission to Write Crap.

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

    http://www.sff.net/people/yog/permission.pdf

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

    So there I was, reading the Writer Beware blog, when I read this:

    April 29 was apparently Say Nice Things About Michele Glance Rooney Day, because encomiums are offered by yet another lone-post blog. No book sale this time, but Super Writer is happy to describe how she (or he) Was Motivated By Michele Glance Rooney. "I had the good fortune of seeing Michele Glance Rooney speak at a writer's convention, and I feel newly determined and dedicated to finishing my book project...I am half-way through chapter 8 and I've figured out how the hero is finally going to excape [sic] from the wrath of Mr. Bunstable." (No, no, not Mr. Bunstable! Please...I'll do anything...AIEEEEEE!)
    And I was instantly inspired.

    Bunstable. Willard Bunstable. The name alone was enough to bring a strong man to his knees. Now Edwin sat in his rented room -- rented by the week, semi-furnished -- and awaited the coming of Willard Bunstable.

    A footstep on the stair. A floorboard creaked in the hall. A knock sounded on the cracked door. Edwin opened it timorously. The words came out in a rush:

    "Mr. Bunstable! I have it. I mean I'll have it. Thursday. All of the money. I swear!"

    Then he noticed that the person standing in the door wasn't wearing a greasy yellow-plaid suit. Wasn't wearing a sneer. Wasn't, in fact, a man. It was flame-haired Jasmine, the smiling minx from the corner donut shop.

    "Bunstable problems?" she asked. "Lots of folks have them 'round here. How'd you like to get out of his debt ... permanently?"

    For the first time in a month hope suffused Edwin's features. He waved his hand in a gesture of welcome, sweeping her into the room. She walked to the sofa by the window and sat, crossing her legs high up, and leaned back. Edwin shut the door and turned to face her.

    "You mean it? Permanently?"

    She nodded her head in assent. "Depends on how bad you want it."

    "Anything!"

    "We'll see." Her smile turned predatory. "We'll see...."

    She opened her handbag and pulled out a Colt .45 automatic. She laid the pistol on the couch beside her.

    "You aren't asking me to kill Bunstable, are you?"

    "No. Nothing that easy." She stared into Edwin's eyes. "But Bunstable will be out of your life. Forever."

    My friends, inspiration is all around us. And you don't even have to hear a scam agent speak at a writers' conference to get it.

    Crap? Of course it is! It's first draft. But it's over a page in manuscript format, which means I'm well on the way to a nice, satisfying 6,000 word (24 pages in manuscript format) short story.

    Race ya to the end!

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

    Ported from Another Thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Geist View Post
    Should I register my novel's copyright before sending it out to an agent?
    Short answer: No.

    Longer answer: The book probably won't sell anyway, so that's $45 you'll never see again.

    Even longer answer: Copyright exists automatically from the moment the work is first fixed in tangible form. The records you make in the course of doing your everyday business, your printouts, your rough drafts, provide more than adequate proof of your original composition.

    Longer answer still: Publishers routinely copyright works in their authors' names. Breaking that routine slows them down and costs them. When a new book comes out with a copyright date that's some years earlier (and face it, if you sold your work tomorrow it probably wouldn't hit the shelves for a couple of years) readers in bookstores looking at that date would figure that the book was old, or a reprint. Many would put it back in search of something new.

    Go ahead, copyright your book if you have money to burn and can't get to sleep otherwise, but understand that you're wasting your time and money. There is no market for pirated slush. None at all.

    Among agents there are two basic kinds: Honest and dishonest. Honest agents aren't going to pirate your work because they don't just want this book, they want your next, and your next, and your next.... Someone who can write a publishable manuscript is rare enough that they aren't going to throw him or her away for a one-shot advantage, and if a book is successful the odds that you wouldn't learn of it approach zero.

    A dishonest agent isn't going to pirate the book either, because they couldn't sell a book, even a publishable one, if you held a gun to their head. How are they going to sell a pirated work? Their source of income lies in the fees they collect from writers. Plus, again, if the book has any kind of success, you're certain to find out, and their cheese will be in the slicer for sure then.

    An honest publisher isn't going to buy a pirated manuscript because, not only they are honest, but they're going to want to work with the writer to improve the work. No one but the original author could possibly do that.

    A dishonest publisher isn't going to "buy" a pirated work because their business depends on the author himself buying multiple copies of his own book to peddle at flea markets. Who's going to have so much ego invested in a manuscript they stole to pay thousands of dollars to pretend to be its author and go from bookstore to bookstore begging the managers to carry a copy?
    and

    Quote Originally Posted by Geist View Post
    I don't know why you feel you have to say that. I'm not sure what your publishing success is, but the fact that I'm not sure what it is may in fact say something about it. Be that as it may, I don't know if my book will sell. What I do know, is that you certainly don't know whether or not my book will sell. Even if it never sells, you only guessed lucky, 50/50, not because you are aware of my potential in some greater measure than I am.
    If one hundred people that I never saw before in my life leapt to their feet in front of me, each one waving a manuscript and saying, "It's my first novel! Will it sell?" I would say to each, "Probably not," without reading a word because for ninety-nine out of those hundred it's true: The book won't sell.

    Yes, you have to write the book the best you can.

    Yes, you have to polish it until it shines.

    Yes, you have to send it out 'til Hell won't have it.

    But yes, you have to start writing your next novel (and not a sequel to this one!) the next day, because this one probably won't sell.

    Simplifying and moving over out of novels for a minute for the sake of example:

    Let's say that you're a short-story writer. Let's say that you write ten stories, and copyright them all. Let's say that one of them sells for $450 (and both of those numbers are completely believable for professional-level short story writers -- selling one out of ten is typical, and $450 for a 9,000 word story is reasonable). At that point, had you copyrighted every one of them your profit would be zero.

    Why would you bet $45 on very long odds that have no payoff at all even if you win?

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

    No, you can't copyright plot twists either. Just the actual words on actual paper.

    There was one fellow who tried patenting a plot, I think, but I don't know if that was ever challenged in court, and I think it's more a symptom of how the patent system is broken than a real solution to a real problem.

    Any plot twist has probably been done before, hundreds or thousands of times, all the way back to Gilgamesh. Plot is only one element of your novel in any case. And ideas -- everyone has ideas. That's why "I have a great idea for a book! You write it and we'll split the money!" is so funny.

    By the time you have a unique enough description of your plot twist to copyright it -- you have your novel.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Morgan View Post
    I have been told that all new writers are EXPECTED to do booksignings these days. The publishers expect it and if you aren't willing, they wont even want to look at your manuscript. Or so I have been told.
    Information like that comes from the literary equivalent of learning about sex by hanging around on streetcorners talking with the other kids who have never done it either.

    Say the first word that comes to mind when I say:

    Reclusive.


    "Author," right?

    Authors are frequently solitary, introverted, and not terribly socially ept. The only reason to do a signing is if you think it's fun. Signings are so notoriously ill-attended that there are cartoons: An author sitting behind a table with a pile of his books. The bookstore manager and no one else is present. The manager is talking: "Since it's only the two of us could you read my manuscript?"

    The stories about how all authors are expected to go on tours, and how only Beautiful People who will Look Good on Morning Talk Shows can get book deals are just that: stories. Forget them. Go write a good book, then write another.

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

    A book signing, or a launch party, is a bit of a celebration for the author. Think of them as parties and you won't be disappointed. Think of them as Selling and you will be.

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

    Spammer.

    Stupid fool thought it would be a good idea to spam one of the threads one of the mods takes a personal interest in?

    Bad idea.

    (I edited your post to remove the links he was touting.)

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

    Hi, J. A.

    Your advice is good as far as it goes, but consider this: America is about 3,000 miles across. My driving range is about 200 miles. If I hit every single bookstore in my driving range it would be a fraction of a percent of all the bookstores in America.

    Los Angeles alone has ten times more people than my entire state, and I'm not going to fly out to Los Angeles, rent a car, drive around to bookstores just to introduce myself, and so forth and so on.

    And what do I do about my books for sale in Poland? I don't speak Polish and I sure can't afford to fly there just to drop by the bookstores.

    Do it if it's fun, but don't go nuts if you can't -- or don't want to.

    (BTW, it isn't true that only one in five books make a profit. It may be true that one in five earns royalties beyond the advance, but that's the way the system is designed to work. Publishers start making a profit long before the book earns out.)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Morgan View Post
    Maybe that's pushing it though. I'm curious if I'm just paranoid, and should by all means let them know of my other works, or not.
    I think you're just being paranoid. Your writing credits are to show that someone else thinks that you're writing at a professional level and is willing to bet money that total strangers will agree.

    This is all assuming that the book sells to a decent market, of course. The credits that you're listing are your most recent and most prestigious. A string of 1/4 cent-a-word crudzines means that you're writing at that level and have been sucking bottom for a long time. That's more likely to fill an editor's heart with dread than someone with no credits at all, so I'd just leave them out. (I don't list my credits with "little and literary" magazines anywhere.)

    There's no percentage in trying to game the system, though. Just tell the truth and go forward.

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

    I don't recommend newspaper ads or printing up bookmarks, either.

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

    True: Obscurity is a far greater problem for authors than piracy will ever be.

    Meanwhile:

    The reasons people buy books:

    #1: Read and enjoyed another book by the same author.
    #2: Recommended by a trusted friend.

    All the other reasons fade into single-digit percentages.

    That's why I say that the best way to promote your book is to write and publish another book.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by JA Konrath View Post
    That's true only you get a chance to publish another book. If your first book doesn't do well enough, book #2 won't sell.
    The real gap is with book #3. Book #1 goes out, and it sells what it sells. Book #2 goes out, and you hope it sells better than #1. If it doesn't ... that's when there isn't a book #3 and you have to go to a pseudonym.



    Book #1 will only benefit from book #2 if book #1 is still in print.
    Write a book a year and this isn't a problem. The other nice thing about putting out books on a regular basis is that when the new book comes out the publisher will often reprint and resolicit your backlist.

    Good, free advertising is selling short stories and articles. You reach new audiences, and people who like your writing will seek you out. I've bought many books by new authors after reading shorts by them.

    Sure, if you're the multi-talented guy who can write shorts as well as novels. It's as much work to sell a short as a novel, though, and there aren't as many markets. But yes, people who like your short stories will seek out your novels. A short story is less of an investment in a reader's time, so readers are more willing to give a new author a try.

    (And if you subscribe to Fantasy and Science Fiction now, you'll be certain to get my next short story ... coming soon!)

    (Or, go to my webpage and read some of my stories absolutely free.)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by JA Konrath View Post
    As authors, we need to figure out which group we want to reach, and how to reach them.
    I really have to disagree. As authors we need to write the best books we can.

    If you want to understand "giving the reader something on page one that makes him want to turn to page two" as marketing, well, yes, that's an author's job. If you want to understand "give the reader a last chapter that's so strong he wants to run out and get your next book," as marketing, that's a good way to look at it.

    Any other marketing we do is invisible if the publisher isn't already doing its job. As far as running around to bookstores takes time and energy away from writing, it's counterproductive.

    Do I do signings? Heck yeah. Most recent one was this last Sunday (and my book sold out, thank you very much). But selling eight, ten, twenty, forty books here and there ... I also saw a couple of movies while I was down there and ate some Indian food (the town where I live is so rural and remote that it's an hour's hard drive to the nearest stoplight), and that was the real purpose and the highlight of the weekend. Getting out of the house.

    ==========

    Everyone: Go here: http://www.lulu.com/content/219003 Buy a copy of my book.

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

    Let's just agree to disagree about this.

    Selling an extra 500 books is a 1% difference when you're moving 50,000.

    Visiting bookstores in New York makes no difference to my sales in California, nor to my sales in Oregon. But I'd better have sales in California and Oregon, too, or I'm out of business.

    If it's fun for you, if you enjoy gladhanding, more power to you. It isn't a requirement.

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

    The best book in the world won't sell a single copy if nobody ever hears about it. Part of my job is getting people to hear about it.

    Look at all those self-published guys with double-digit sales. That's what author-promotion without publisher-promotion gets.

    Getting more interviews and getting invited to speak at more places don't strike me as major inducements. I did a four-state seven-city tour once. Never again. I'll schedule elective oral surgery instead.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by JA Konrath View Post
    I'm just a midlist mystery author. But I've earned out my advance on my first 3 book, six figure contract, and my brand is growing.

    I think self-promotion had a little something to do with it.
    Well, I'm just a mid-list SF/fantasy author, and you know my attitude toward self-promotion. I'd rather drive a spike through my hand than do most of that stuff you've listed as Good Things ... and you know what? My results are about the same as yours, as far as selling and earning out.

    So no, I don't see self-promotion as having all that much to do with it.

    Self-promotion: People who do it well and enjoy it should do it. People who don't do it well but enjoy it shouldn't do it. People who do it well but don't enjoy it shouldn't do it. People who don't do it well and don't enjoy it definitely shouldn't do it.

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

    There are also agents who are in cahoots with " professional editors." They recommend that you get your book "professionally edited," and supply their chum's name. The "professional editor" sends a kickback.

    See, for example, the Edit Ink affair.

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

    Here are some notes on Point of View: Site link removed per request of other site's Webmaster

    This is, dare I say it, from the point of view of a filmmaker, but all the arts are related, and the story-telling arts more closely so.

    Anodyne, have you been a good little girl? Did you eat all your vegetables? Did you write at least two pages of original prose fiction today? Very well!

    Your assignment is to pick up a magazine that you've never previously read, preferably in a genre you don't like, find a short story, and read it from beginning to end.

    Then go to your public library, find a novel in that same genre, and read it from beginning to end.

    The reason for the short story is to give you an idea of the reading protocols for the novel.

    Now: what worked, and what didn't, in that novel, and why?

    Or:

    If this is too onerous (or if you really, really want that creepy crawlers gross-out treats factory), go to a video-rental store. Get a movie you've never seen before (or read any reviews of). Watch it with the sound off. (Films with subtitles don't count.)

    Now write a short story based on the story you think you just saw. You have a week for 6,000 words.

    If you're a natural novelist, write a novel instead. You have three months.

    Let me know when you've done it....

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

    For Celtic Knotwork, I'm not necessarily talking about characters. I'm talking about themes, I'm talking about moving foreground to background and back.

    It's partly mechanical, it's partly as a reminder that things have to change, partly because readers have constantly moving focus of attention.

    Mostly, though, it's (one of the many) ways I Do Things. If it's useful to you, if it helps you get a grasp on your plot -- then that's good. If it isn't useful, move on to another mode of construction.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Ava Jarvis View Post
    I'm working my way backwards through this wonderful thread.
    Thank you, and you're quite welcome.

    And I ran across something I'd forgotten, which is the power of the complete rewrite; pick up your first draft and then type it all back in again, adapting as you go....


    I burned---oh how I burned---through text as quickly as I could.

    ...

    How I do love writing. I'd forgotten. How could I forget. I feel possessed.
    You have to love it. Make it burn, light your world. That's the joy. That's what this art is all about. Publishing? Pfah! Nice, but not the biggest reward.

    (Oh -- and I recall my AP History exam back in High School, where the essay question was on the outcome of WWII, and I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the sole unique outcome of WWII was the composition of the song "Dirty Gertie from Bizerte." During the course of the essay I quoted most of the lyrics. (Dirty Gertie, among her other adventures, hid a mousetrap 'neath her skirtie, baited it with fleur-de-flirtie, made her boyfriends' fingers hurtie, and made her boyfriends most alertie. (She was voted, in Bizerte, 'Miss Latrine' for 1930.) I got an 800.....)


    Quote Originally Posted by aertep View Post
    Hey Uncle Jim and all,

    I finished my novel. First book, third draft.
    Woo hoo! Go, you!

    Go, have a pizza! See a movie! Have a long chat with a friend! ... And write the first chapter for your next book.




    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Wagner View Post
    Congratulations!
    Mitch, I see you've been a member here for two years, and I see your first post has been in this thread. I am honored.

    Quote Originally Posted by wayndom View Post
    Sounds good, but I used to do the same, and found that 3.5 floppies are very prone to damage, even when carefully placed in a protective case.
    and

    Quote Originally Posted by Ava Jarvis View Post
    Saving to Amazon S3 does. So far I have been paying maybe 5 cents a month for storage and transfer, access from anywhere, all encrypted, and things don't get lost.
    Save, save, save. Every day. And save some more.

    The thing that I find is the absolute best, though, is Save to Paper. Hardcopy has some real advantages....


    Oh--and how I spent my morning. Sitting in my favorite coffee shop (Le Rendezvous, in downtown Colebrook) going over the galleys for "Philologos; or, A Murder in Bistrita" coming soon (probably December) in Fantasy and Science Fiction (Subscribe now! Don't miss a single thrilling issue!)

    First paragraph (I'm really happy with it):

    William Sharps (Ph.D., Harvard, 1844) sat in the dining room of the Coroana de Aur hotel in Bistrita and listened to two men plotting to kill him.

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

    I'm going to go along with Allen and Stew21 -- get it written, out to The End, then reread, revise, rewrite.

    And 250 words per day is a novel a year. Which is Perfectly Respectable.

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

    There are still plenty of markets for short stories. Check out Duotrope.

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

    Arrrrgh! Words per day! Not Pages!

    On my very best day I've only managed a bit over a hundred pages.

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

    (250 pages a day is three novels a week.)

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

    http://www.sff.net/people/yog/permission.pdf

    Permission To Write Badly. Suitable for framing.

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

    Things I've Learned Since My First Book Got Published by Cherie Priest

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

    Why books get rejected: Example #528907

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

    Give it three months in your desk drawer while you write something else.

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

    This isn't even the longest thread at Absolute Write.

    Meanwhile, here's an Index to Miss Snark.

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

    Beginning tomorrow I'll be away at Viable Paradise.

    Here's how that ended up last year.

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

    Duotrope needs help to stay free. If you can donate, please do so.

    http://www.duotrope.com/

    (Note: I am not affiliated with Duotrope in any way. I just think it's a heck of a neat service and would serve all writers better by staying open and available to all writers.)

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

    Adsense is a blot on the face of the 'net.

    But don't ask me. Ask the Duotrope people -- I don't know any of them.

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

    I mean the Adsense ads. Google ads.

    Anything you see advertised that's writing-related is usually an ad for a scammer. Perhaps that extends to areas I don't know as well, perhaps not, but for writers, it's scams all the way down.

    Much of the time the ads that are served are hilariously mis-aimed.

    If someone wants to be supported by advertising, well and good, but they ought to pick their ads, not accept whatever random stuff shows up.

    ===========

    Having said that, here's a place that supports itself with Adsense ads, but is nevertheless useful.

    http://nine.frenchboys.net/index.php

    Go, and pick up Random Stuff to use in your stories (for those days when the inspiration just doesn't arrive on time).

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

    My secret shame revealed.

    In the Boston Globe.

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

    10-17-07
    Page 257
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 02-04-2010 at 02:14 AM.

  20. #45
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
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    Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1
    Page 258
    10-26-07

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

    Where I'll be tomorrow: Book 'Em.

    This is your chance (O ye New Hampshire/Vermont/Massachusetts/Maine fans) to visit.

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

    A very clever thing indeed:
    Stephanie Zvan's Very Smart Writer's Spreadsheet


    It's a tool for looking at a story scene-by-scene, and making each scene explain why it's in your story. You use the spreadsheet software that you probably already have to make this work.

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

    Heck, the first draft you're still groping around trying to figure out what the book is about. Second draft is where it starts coming together.

    Speaking of which, we're starting to run some bits of deleted draft from one of my old novels in our LiveJournal over at http://mist-and-snow.livejournal.com/

    These are scenes that were cut early on from The Apocalypse Door.

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

    Do you remember way back here when I posted...

    Never have I felt quite so worldly as I did on my very first real date, when, after considered perusal of the wine list, I masterfully commanded the waiter at the Log Cabin restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts, to fetch me a bottle of Mateus Rosé. In its distinctive Buddah-shaped bottle, with its slight spritz, it represented a step up from the pink Almaden that my friends and I sucked down in order to get into the proper Dionysian frame of mind for the summer rock concerts at Tanglewood. (And that seemed a classic accompaniment--rather like Chablis and oysters--to the cheap Mexican pot we were smoking at the time.) Later, of course, as I discovered the joys of dry reds and whites, I learned to sneer at pink wine; it seemed--as Winston Churchill once remarked regarding the moniker of an acquaintance named Bossom--that it was neither one thing nor the other. A few summers ago a bottle of Domaines Ott rosé in conjunction with a leg of marinated grilled lamb cured me of this particular prejudice; I thought I'd died and gone to Provence, though in fact I was at my friend Steve's birthday party in the Hamptons.
    ... and asked "would you turn the page?"

    The time has come for a line-by-line, to discover what this author was doing and how he was doing it.

    That's the first page from Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar by Jay McInerney. Five sentences; 201 words.


    Never have I felt quite so worldly as I did on my very first real date, when, after considered perusal of the wine list, I masterfully commanded the waiter at the Log Cabin restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts, to fetch me a bottle of Mateus Rosé.
    Never have I felt ... is an unusual word order. Primacy of place in the sentence, and the whole book, to "Never." The author introduces his main character, who happens to be himself. The book is in First Person. "So worldly," combined with the never, tells us that the author feels less worldly now. "Very first real date" tells us that we're looking at a young adult (probably a teenager, from the days when the drinking age was 18). Certainly someone who's callow, and mistaken about being worldly at all. The "wine list" contrasts with the "Log Cabin Restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts" to produce an irony--the waiter there would hardly have been a wine sophisticate--which leads us to the punchline "Mateus Rosé." This is a lovely description; we can see a young man trying to impress his date, (the "lengthy perusal"). What kind of a wine list would a place called the Log Cabin have? Nothing there would be anything other than common, and probably cheap.


    In its distinctive Buddah-shaped bottle, with its slight spritz, it represented a step up from the pink Almaden that my friends and I sucked down in order to get into the proper Dionysian frame of mind for the summer rock concerts at Tanglewood.
    Pure description at the head of this sentence, leads into a memory within a memory, from that first real date, to earlier, and even more callow teenager invoking the Roman god of wine. Dionysus (another name for Bacchus), suggests wild, larger-than-life, heroic drinking and merrymaking. We're tending to the orgy side of the scale. This, by someone who has never been on a date. He's trying, oh yes. The author is looking back on his younger self with amusment and fondness. The horrors of pink Almaden are explained by example: the use it's put to by young men heading to second-rate rock concerts.


    (And that seemed a classic accompaniment--rather like Chablis and oysters--to the cheap Mexican pot we were smoking at the time.)
    Comparison--Chablis and oysters--pink Almaden and cheap Mexican pot. We're putting rose wine in a category, one that only the young, inexperienced, unsophisticated, would enjoy. This parenthetical is the shortest, simplest one on this page. The other sentences are grammatically complicated, revealing the speaker's character as a someone who is infinitely worldly.

    Later, of course, as I discovered the joys of dry reds and whites, I learned to sneer at pink wine; it seemed--as Winston Churchill once remarked regarding the moniker of an acquaintance named Bossom--that it was neither one thing nor the other.
    "Of course." With a historical allusion, a slightly risque joke that slows us down to get the flavor. This sophisticated person speaks of the "joys of dry reds and whites." He sneers at pink wines. Three sentences in and we have a very good idea of this character. We also have the first inkling of the plot: the classic "The Man Who Learned Better."

    A few summers ago a bottle of Domaines Ott rosé in conjunction with a leg of marinated grilled lamb cured me of this particular prejudice; I thought I'd died and gone to Provence, though in fact I was at my friend Steve's birthday party in the Hamptons.
    Our speaker is a true gormand; "died and gone to Provence." No longer are we in Tanglewood, we're in the Hamptons (well known for being an expensive neighborhood just chock-a-block with urban sophisticates. Marinated grilled lamb is a world away from the Whoppers that we can imagine the author's younger self eating when the cheap pot gave him the munchies. We've also met a second named character: his friend Steve. The date he took to the Log Cabin and the nameless friends who went to rock concerts aren't important and the reader won't think about them. Now we have someone to keep in mind. The author is also breaking out of the total self-absorption of the young and into a wider head-space, developing his own character.

    And who is Steve? Someone who lives in the Hamptons, serves grilled lamb, and is able to teach someone who thinks he knows about wine, and who apparently is a world traveler, something new about the drink.

    So. Character revealed in every sentence. Complex compound sentences. Using the Flesch-Kincaid scale, this piece of writing is at the 16th grade level (senior in college).

    We've seen several tricks used to slow the reader down, to make the reader sip the prose the way our narrator would sip his wine.

    And so... would you turn the page?

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

    In the big divide between Character-Based and Plot-Based writing, this book seems to me to be very firmly on the Character-Based side.

    But let's look at the genre a bit: there's a sub-genre called "Bob and Me," in which two people learn something together. It's a novelistic approach to non-fiction. You can find it anywhere -- from the columns in Byte magazine through Popular Mechanics and on. The reader will be aware of the book's title: Bacchus and Me. We're being promised a Bacchanal: an orgy characterized by heavy drinking. The subtitle promises "adventures." The wine cellar is a low place. That tension, the urban sophisticate we're meeting now and the reveler that the title promises, can drive us a bit.

    McInerney's works ought to have a little disclaimer on the cover: Warning, professional stunt writer on a closed course. Do not attempt this at home.

    But there is nothing that a writer should not attempt at home.

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

    A perennial question on the boards here is, "Can I write about an unlikeable main character?" The answer is, "Yes."

    Even if this main character is utterly loathsome (and I don't really see him that way right now), casting him in first-person means that the character will attempt to justify himself. Since every man is the hero of his own story ....

    If you do find yourself trying to write an unlikeable character as your protagonist, consider going the first-person route.

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

    The secret to getting your readers to follow any character (likeable, unlikeable, sympathetic, unsympathetic) is to make that character move. You can't follow someone who's standing still. (The best you can do is mill about in that person's general location.)

    The eye always follow the object that's in motion.

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

    Readers don't consciously drag this stuff out. They find the meaning they need. Writers don't necessarily put the material in cold-bloodedly, either. It could (should?) be just what feels right.

    Please notice that the act of building the character started in the first sentence of the first paragraph on the first page. There isn't a line that isn't devoted to defining the character.

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

    Which is what makes writing such a difficult task.

    One one hand we have the question of Which Came First, The Character or the Plot? On the other hand we have The Prose, It Burns! (And yeah, that's deliberately ambiguous.)

    Pretty Soon Now I'll look at the next McInerney excerpt. Then it'll be time for the Christmas Challenge.

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

    Oh, yeah -- becoming impatient with novels as we grow older ... that's a function (I think) of having more experience with books. Ideas and techniques that once would have seemed fresh and new are now "Been There, Done That, Got the Tee-Shirt."

    And comes the realization that time is fleeting; there are only so many more books that I'll ever be able to read. Does this need to be one of them?

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

    Back to the post from ages ago...

    Today we're going to look at this bit, sentence by sentence:

    You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might come clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already. The night has already turned on that imperceptible pivot where two A.M. changes to six A.M. You know this moment has come and gone, but you are not yet willing to concede that you have crossed the line beyond which all is gratuitous damage and the palsy of unraveled nerve endings. Somewhere back there you could have cut your losses, but you rode past that moment on a comet trail of white powder and now you are trying to hang on to the rush. Your brain at this moment is composed of brigades of tiny Bolivian soldiers. They are tired and muddy from their long march through the night. There are holes in their boots and they are hungry. They need to be fed. They need Bolivian Marching Powder.

    That's the first page from Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. This is a slender book, barely over 200 pages. Around 50,000 words. That's short for a novel, but still book length.

    (Caveat: Studying openings teaches you openings. Studying endgames teaches you chess. In the same way, to learn novel-writing, study last chapters. It's just that last chapters are Lots Harder to do Line-by-Lines on. I'm taking the easy way out.)

    So, what did McInerney do? 237 words, 14 sentences.


    You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning.
    Second person. We have two characters already from the first word: "You" and the narrator/speaker. We have a place ("a place like this") and a time ("this time of the morning"). So: person, place, time, and, taken as a whole, a problem. The "you" character is male, and there are certain expectations of him (rank? class? background?) that contrast with his location. At twenty-one words this is also one of the longest sentences on this page. It's doing a lot of heavy lifting.


    But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.
    Maybe you are the sort of person who's to be found in a place like this. Character building.


    You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head.
    Two of those fuzzy details in a short, punchy sentence.

    The place is defined, and another character is introduced. (Not only is this a nightclub, but it's the sort of nightclub where you'd find a girl with a shaved head.) That head is what we call the "telling detail."

    Perhaps the narrator is the character himself, split up into a self and a conscious, like Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket? Perhaps the narrator is a friend trying to do an intervention?

    The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge.
    Character's mental state: Isn't sure where he is. Place defined further. We're learning that the first sentence was wrong: the protagonist is exactly the kind of guy who would be at a place like this. Which means that he's as freaky as a girl with a shaved head, only it might not show on the outside.


    All might come clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder.
    A longer sentence, and the introduction of cocaine. The problem becomes clearer for the reader, though not necessarily for the protagonist. The place is even further described; the kind of nightclub where you find bald girls and people doing coke in the bathrooms.



    Then again, it might not.
    Five words. A more staccato rhythm. The protagonist's mental status further defined. Confusion. This is character building.


    A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.
    Perhaps the narrator speaking of himself in third person? The readers are told that the protagonist is seriously drugged-out. The protagonist seems to be having a lucid interval, as he suddenly looks around and asks "What the hell am I doing here?" I presume that the rest of the book will tell us that.


    The night has already turned on that imperceptible pivot where two A.M. changes to six A.M.
    "At this time of the morning," a question left hanging from the first sentence, is defined. It's already getting light outside. There are hours of missing time between two and six. The protagonist is in serious trouble. Still no plot on the horizon, but character and place are making up for that. (Oh, and that "imperceptible pivot" is a lovely image, isn't it? Gorgeous prose all through here.)


    You know this moment has come and gone, but you are not yet willing to concede that you have crossed the line beyond which all is gratuitous damage and the palsy of unraveled nerve endings.
    Thirty-five words. The longest sentence of this paragraph, about midway down the page. We learn that the protagonist is damaged and shaky and lying to himself.


    Somewhere back there you could have cut your losses, but you rode past that moment on a comet trail of white powder and now you are trying to hang on to the rush.
    Thirty-three words. We're at the slowest point in this pair of compound complex sentences. The reader will slow down too. We're in metaphor-land here, and this too will slow the reader.

    Your brain at this moment is composed of brigades of tiny Bolivian soldiers.
    Thirteen words. The sentences get faster and shorter from this point on. Extending the Bolivian Marching Powder metaphor. And the image of fragmentation is introduced. The army, while it usually acts as one, is composed of individuals fully capable of independent action regardless of what the commanding general orders.

    They are tired and muddy from their long march through the night.
    Twelve words. A shorter sentence still, extending the metaphor, tying it into the protagonist's activities last night.


    There are holes in their boots and they are hungry.
    Ten words. Extending the metaphor.


    They need to be fed.
    Five words. Simple sentence. Fast rhythm.

    They need Bolivian Marching Powder.
    Five more words. Extending the metaphor. Character and situation developed further.

    We've seen some really excellent character development done by a trained stunt writer on a closed course. The protagonist is talking to a girl, but all he's thinking about is getting more coke to keep going, keep damaging himself, because that's what his fragmented brain, the ragged army barely under his control, needs to keep going. Even though he knows that "keeping going" isn't what they need. They need sleep, warmth, dry clothing, new boots, food.

    Now the question: would you turn the page?

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

    What I particularly like is the way the sentence rhythms imitate the mental processes of the protagonist.

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

    The narrator stays in 2nd person all the way through. Which may be part of why this book is so short. It's at the bottom end of novel-length.

    What the various opinions about person show is that there's no one right way. What's right for one reader may be totally wrong for another. Which is why there are many books by many writers, not just the One Perfect Novel. (One definition of "novel" is "a book-length work of prose fiction with a flaw.")

    Another famous use of first-person present-tense is All Quiet on the Western Front.

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

    Your characters can have more than one problem. In fact, I encourage you to beat your characters severely about the head and shoulders.

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

    Time for another line-by-line:

    When Christopher Ransom opened his eyes he was on his back, looking up into a huddle of Japanese faces shimmering in a pool of artificial light. Who were these people? Then he placed them. These were his fellow karate-ka, members of his dojo. And there stood the sensei, broad nose skewed to the left side of his face, broken in the finals at the Junior All-Japan Karate Tournament fifteen years ago. Ransom was pleased that he could recall this detail. Collect enough of the details and the larger picture might take care of itself.

    The sensei asked if he was okay. Ransom lifted his head. Turquoise and magenta disks played at the edge of his vision. He was hoisted to his feet; suddenly the landscape looked as if it was flipped on its side, the surface of the parking lot standing vertical like a wall and the façade of the gym lying flat where the ground should be. Then the scene righted itself, as if on hinges.

    That's the first page from Ransom by Jay McInerney. (Please note how short a page is. Three pages a day for three months is a novel. It's easy ... all you have to do is sit there and do it.)

    Okay, let's look at this page sentence-by-sentence.

    When Christopher Ransom opened his eyes he was on his back, looking up into a huddle of Japanese faces shimmering in a pool of artificial light.
    A person in a place with a problem. This is a classic opening form; you'd be hard-pressed to do better. We learn the protagonist's name by the third word.

    Christopher means "Christ bearer." "Ransom" suggests salvation. (C.S. Lewis used the character name to suggest that meaning in his Space Trilogy; so did I in my Mageworlds books.) We've got baptismal imagery here. I don't know if the author will run with that, but the possibility is open to him. Nothing happens by chance in a novel; every word is an individual artistic choice.

    We're in the absolutely classic third-person past-tense. Again, an excellent choice. Only use some other person and some other tense for the very best of reasons.


    Who were these people?
    That's the character's internal thoughts. Not marked with italic, but obvious from the context. A simple sentence.

    Then he placed them.
    Still simpler. The effect is of someone returning to consciousness.

    These were his fellow karate-ka, members of his dojo.
    Further defining place. Note use of foreign words (but still words that the average educated US readers should understand). More complex grammar. More about the protagonist too: We learn that Ransom himself is a karate-ka, and belongs to a dojo.


    And there stood the sensei, broad nose skewed to the left side of his face, broken in the finals at the Junior All-Japan Karate Tournament fifteen years ago.
    The sentences grow longer and more convoluted as the protagonist returns to consciousness. We have a second character introduced, with a telling detail, and a bit of history. More implications; this is full-contact karate.

    Ransom was pleased that he could recall this detail.
    Drop back to simpler grammar. We're focusing back on the protagonist.

    Collect enough of the details and the larger picture might take care of itself.
    End of the first paragraph with a philosophical statement, and perhaps foreshadowing of the overall shape of the novel.


    The sensei asked if he was okay.
    Paragraph two starts with a simple sentence, indirect discourse. Redirection to the second character.

    Ransom lifted his head.
    Very simple sentence. First physical motion in the book, and it's very small.

    Turquoise and magenta disks played at the edge of his vision.
    Sensual detail. But complex words: turquoise and magenta, not green and red. We're learning, not by being told directly, that Ransom was clocked upside the head, hard enough to knock him out.

    He was hoisted to his feet; suddenly the landscape looked as if it was flipped on its side, the surface of the parking lot standing vertical like a wall and the façade of the gym lying flat where the ground should be.
    Very long, compound-complex sentence, weird imagery. More definition on where he is -- in a parking lot. Ransom is passive here, giving us the impression of weakness. Whatever he told the sensei, about being okay, he's clearly not okay. This will slow the reader down.

    Then the scene righted itself, as if on hinges.
    Contrast: simpler sentence. Ransom is the observer. And a lovely image.

    We've seen bunches of telling details. The prose is smooth. The imagery is outstanding.

    Again, the author is concentrating on building scene and defining character. Plot hasn't yet arrived, for all that there's been some physical movement. The movement here has mostly been mental, from unconsciousness to observation.

    So we've learned quite a bit more about the character and his situation/problem, even though some major mysteries are present. We don't know why he was on his back in the parking lot. It's night time (he's out of doors yet there's artificial light). A parking lot is an odd place to be having a formal karate bout. Was he mugged, despite his karate training?

    The protagonist has a Western name, although the scene seems to be in Japan, or at least in a Japanese community. Lots to wonder about here.

    So: the master question. Do you want to turn the page?

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

    It's time for the annual Christmas Challenge!

    This year, we're going to write a ten-page short story. Beginning, middle, end. The protagonist is fourteen years old and lives in your city, present day, same gender as you are. Your audience is mixed gender, age twelve.

    Now the fun part: take a die. Roll it.

    If the first roll is 1, 2, or 3, write in third person. If it's 4 or 5, write in first person. If it's 6, write in second person.

    Roll it again. If the second roll is 1, 2, or 3, write in past tense. If it's 4 or 5, write in present tense. If it's 6, write in future tense.

    Write three pages (750 words) per day until you're finished, starting today. Then put the story aside until Christmas. Then read it aloud, and rewrite it until you love it.

    On Wednesday the 2nd of January, go to Duotrope and find five appropriate markets (paying semi-pro or better rates). Send your story to each of them in turn, following their guidelines to the letter. Don't let the story sleep over when/if gets rejected: send it back out the same day.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor Kenshin View Post
    Of course. It's got Japanese stuff in it.

    This points up a serious issue:

    Some readers will love a story because, for example, it has Japanese stuff in it; they'll read anything, no matter how dreadful, based on one criterion.

    Other readers will hate a story because, for example, it has Japanese stuff in it; they'll refuse to read anything, no matter how wonderful, based on one criterion.


    We as writers can't do anything about either of those cases. All we can do is write something that pleases us and hope for the best.

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

    Brief excerpts for the purpose critical analysis or teaching falls under Fair Use.

    (Now, mind you, Fair Use is a defense against a charge of copyright violation, not permission, and there's no guarantee I'd win, but there's enough chance that I'd win that the copyright holder would have to be nuts in the head to bring a suit.)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by jpserra View Post
    Even when I was 14, I couldn't get my mind around it.
    Couldn't get your mind around what?

    Person, in a place, with a problem: Jeremy (age 14), on Second Street (after school), finds a wallet with $10,000 in hundred dollar bills (but no personal information showing who it belongs to).


    There you are. If you can't get all that into the first sentence I'm mistaking the man. One down, 167 sentences to go. What's Jeremy do next?

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

    Make sure your story is starting in the right place.

    The right place is where the Exit Only door swings closed behind the protagonist and there's no going back into the nice comfortable room where he started.

    (To become a better writer: Write tons, then cross out tons. No writing is wasted, but much won't be anything anyone will ever want to read.)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by dawinsor View Post
    What a comforting thought.
    Writing is many things, but comfortable for the writer isn't one of them.

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

    I think we can say that 2nd person is the right person for this story, told in this way.

    Second person fiction is the prose equivalent of a Rachmaninoff sonata. It can be done beautifully, but you have to be good.

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

    It isn't necessary to have the characters in the various plotlines aware of each other.

    Here's one way to do it:

    Write a story of about 30,000 words, set in a location, with a given theme.

    Write another story of about 30,000 words, set in the same location, at a different time, with another view of the same theme.

    Write a third story of about 30,000 words, set in the same location, at a different time, exploring a third take on the same theme.

    When you have those three well in hand, slice them lengthwise, and layer them together like a sandwich. The reader, taking a bite from the edge and eating through to the other edge, gets a bit of bread, meat, and cheese in each mouthful. Sometimes with more pickle, sometimes with less, and a surprise dab of mustard in the middle that brings out all the flavors and textures in a new way.

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

    How would an editor feel? Dunno.

    Does it help reveal character? Does it support the theme?

    Write it the way you're going. You can go back and forth in subsequent drafts. Right now, go to the end, then read it to see how it sounds.

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

    A book Uncle Jim threw against the wall, and why he threw it.

    The book is The Northeast Kingdom by Peter Collinson. The sell-line on the front cover is: "One prison is about to experience a riot and jailbreak. One town is about to learn about fear and survival."

    Near as I can tell it's first (and so-far only) novel. I picked it up off the shelf in a bookstore, because I do that sometimes if a book appeals in some way. I like mystery/thrillers, this one is set near where I live, and the cover is a grabber. So I bought one.

    And I started to read it. It started well.

    The story is set in "Gilchrist, Vermont," a fictional town. Based on internal evidence it would be somewhere around where Island Pond, VT, is really located.

    I was perfectly willing to believe that there was such a town (although I'd be familiar with it if it were real, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief that far).

    I'm willing to believe that there was a SuperMax penitentiary in that town -- prisons are getting built in all sorts of rural areas. Heck, there's talk of building another one over in Berlin, NH. I was willing to suspend my disbelief.

    This breakout is set in the midst of a howling blizzard, so the town is cut off. To aid to the being-cut-off, the villains have hijacked the town snowplows, so no one can get in or get out.

    Even though, through local knowledge, I know that just about every 4x4 pickup truck in town would have a plow blade attached, I was willing to give 'em that one. I was willing to suspend my disbelief.

    So, why did I throw this book across the room?

    SPOILER WARNING

    SPOILER WARNING

    SPOILER WARNING

    Quite early on in the narrative, the Head Bad Guy decides to tell one of the townspeople how he managed to escape (and get his band of equally evil and depraved criminal followers out too): His henchmen on the outside had drugged the guards by introducing drugs into their groceries over the preceding weeks. The guards had all gone unconscious at the same time, and our villains escaped!

    And this brought me to the question of how in the heck did they know which guard had Wheaties for breakfast, and which one had nothing but coffee, and which one had a fried egg, toast, and orange juice; and how did they drug the right package with exactly the right amount; and how did they arrange it that the guard, and only the guard, ate from that package, and ate from that package for the first time ever on that day; and how did he arrange it that no one would be running late and decide to skip breakfast; and how did he know far enough in advance that a blizzard was going to hit on that day, so he could have his outside henchmen get to the various folks' shopping trips a week, two weeks, or even a month in advance?

    And which the heck drug is it that you can eat at some time in the morning, that will produce rapid-onset unconsciousness at a specified time later that day, with no symptoms beforehand?

    At that point the suspenders of my disbelief snapped.

    The real sorrow of it was this: There was no reason whatsoever for the villain to explain how he escaped. He was monologuing (as they put it in The Incredibles). He could have left it mysterious. All we really needed to know is that he got out; how isn't a required element. We can assume that it was something Intensely Clever. The story doesn't even start until he and his band of criminals show up in town. No viewpoint character was around for the actual breakout. So to add a bit of icing to the blunder, this particular episode of over-explaining was a huge infodump Telling Not Showing.

    Arrrgh!

    I threw the book against the wall.

    I keep meaning to finish it, but... it's been five years now. I don't think I will.

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

    Character-driven vs. Plot-driven?

    Well, first of all, there isn't a bright sharp line between 'em. All stories must have both, character and plot, and either (and both) will move the story along.

    Character-driven usually means that the story is more internal, and is moved along by the characters' wants and needs.

    Plot-driven usually means that the story is more external, and is carried by the action. This-happened-then-that-happened.

    Plot-driven means that we have to blow up the bridges at Toko-Ri. Character driven is one pilot's journey of self-discovery. Along the way he may also happen to blow up some bridges (which might, by chance, be at Toko-Ri).

    Nothing's 100%. (Ray Nelson, who wrote "Eight O'Clock in the Morning," deliberately tried to write a story that was completely plot-driven, going so far as to name his protagonist "Nada." It didn't work. There's still character-driven elements in his story.)

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

    You're allowed one wild improbability. A snowstorm that the residents of northern Vermont can't handle on their own is already wildly improbable.

    A master villain who can predict the exact day and hour of a New England snowstorm weeks in advance (even without using the Mysterious Super Drug that would leave the Sinister Doctor Fu Manchu scratching his head and saying "How did he do that?") doesn't need to turn to a life of crime. There are ski resorts who would pay him far more than he'd ever earn by super villainy for him to exercise his talent.

    But really, a plan that requires that not one single person (from a large group of persons who are not under your control in any way) doesn't say "Screw it -- this morning I'm going to have the Cheerios instead" or the plan will fail, that isn't a workable plan. That's a plan that can only succeed if the author is on your side. If you're going to do that, have them dematerialized inside the cells and rematerialize outside the wall, using the Mystic Power of the Rosicrucians, learned from an elderly Unitarian/Universalist from Bethel, Maine.

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

    The problem is that the story is "mixed bag of townfolk and tourists, cut off from aid, are under siege by Wicked Criminals; they must learn to survive, work together, and overcome."

    No part of that requires the Wicked Criminals to explain themselves. The Wicked Criminals aren't even POV characters.

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

    How's everyone doing on their Christmas Challenge?

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

    How To Do What You Love

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

    Nearly the New Year. Time for a reading assignment!

    Okay, we're going to look at Noir Fiction.

    Let's start with The Pardoners's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer

    Skip forward a few hundred years to The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe.

    Forward a bit more to some Sherlock Holmes. Try A Study in Scarlet (novel) or The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short stories).

    Onward!

    Here's The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler, and here's Chandler's The Big Sleep.

    Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.

    Double Indemnity by James M. Cain.

    A different approach to crime:
    The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, perhaps the first serial killer novel, years before the term "serial killer" was coined.


    To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway. Also, The Killers (short story). A brilliant work, almost all dialog.

    For another superb stylist, go to Fright by Cornell Woolrich.

    Fifty years or more after they were first published, all these are still in print. Think about that.

    Read the best, my friends. Fill your heads with good stories. They provide the soil in which your own flowers will grow.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by BrendaK View Post
    Genial uncle, is any sign of a universal standard for online submissions coming forth?

    For a given market, follow the market's guidelines. (Most wordprocessors will save in any given format.)

    If no format is given, I'd use this format:

    Rich Text Format (RTF) only. Not .doc, .txt, .wpd, or anything else. Most wordprocessors allow a "save as" function with .rtf as one of the choices.


    Turn off "Smart Quotes." Replace all curved quotes with straight quotes. Replace all curved apostrophes with straight apostrophes. Indicate italics with underlines. Replace the elipsis character with three periods in a row (...), not with a true elipsis (…). Indicate an em-dash (long dash) with two hyphens (--) not a true em-dash (—). Scene breaks should be indicated with a single hash mark (#) alone on a line.

    And don't be too concerned. If they had a format in mind that they wanted, they'd have specified it, right?

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

    Oh -- when you're creating that attachment -- don't call the file STORY.RTF or SUBMISSION.RTF. Use your name and a keyword from the title as the filename.

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

    Happy New Year!

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

    The Lumberjack Joke was in post #369, way back here.

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

    Hardcover and softcover are the same. Please yourself (and your pocketbook) with that choice.

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

    I've been committing random story here at AW.

    First, in the thread When Did "Beta" Become a Dirty Word here in the novels forum.

    Please notice that this is a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end:

    "Beta" became a dirty word at 4:57 pm, August the 8th, 2007.

    At first few took notice. A motorist would mutter "Beta!" under his breath as a traffic cop pulled him over. A schoolboy would write "Beta" on a wall.

    But before long a tourist was removed from an airplane for saying "Beta!" in a loud voice when the pilot announced that the plane would be delayed half an hour at takeoff.

    The real breakthrough came with the release of Quentin Tarantino's Blood In The Drains, starring Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, and Madonna. The screenplay used the word "beta" a record-breaking 25,027 times in dialog, and an additional twelve times in scene descriptions.

    After that there was no denying it: "Beta" had become a dirty word.
    The second was in the Erotica forum, in the Which POV during a sex scene?... thread.

    Someone had suggested 2nd person, and again I was inspired.

    You are not the kind of guy who would be in some strange girl's bedroom at this time in the morning, but here you are, and you're looking at a blonde with really big knockers. Her name is either Sheryl or Stacie, but it would be too embarrassing to ask which, because of what you've been doing for the last hour, and besides her mouth is full. You are mildly surprised to learn that you can still feel embarrassment, especially after she brought out the "Jeff Stryker" brand realistic-molded toy and the tube of K-Y, and showed you what she wanted you to do with them, and you did those things. Maybe you could keep calling her "Doll" or "Darling" or "Babe" but you wonder if she'll see through that and ask you what her name is. Then you wonder what she'll say if you ask her what your name is, even though you're sure you told her, back in the bar. Before she invited you home. Before Jeff Stryker and before the rabbit fur and before the video camera. All the wondering distracts you and she looks up and asks what's wrong and inspiration strikes. You say, "It's the beer; I have to take a leak," and you think that maybe you'll check for her driver's license in her purse on the way back from the bathroom.
    Aside from the homage to Bright Lights, Big City, please notice that this is the opening paragraph from a novel. Depending on what our second-person protagonist finds in that purse, the story could go in a lot of different directions.

    Maybe the young lady is only 15. Maybe there's a police badge, a running tape recorder, and a .38. Maybe the driver's license shows she's Mrs. Giovanni "Meatgrinder" Luciazzi, wife of the Mafia chief who has never yet been convicted for any of the thirty-seven mob hits he's been suspected of. Maybe she's Meatgrinder Luciazzi himself, after his sex-change.

    That's a plot hook, and we can go a lot of ways with it.

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

    The best advice on what to do with an advance that I ever got (from a multiply-published, multiple-award-winning author) was: "Buy a dishwasher."

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

    Dishwashers make washing the dishes fast and easy.

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

    I have several bathrooms that need to be cleaned and some leaves that need to be raked

    And, if all else fails, you can always wax the cat.

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

    In Media Res (Latin for In The Middle of Things) is often a good place to start.

    That "Res" is the same "Re" that you see in business letters, meaning About or Concerning. Only with "Res" there's more of them.

    Since all of our stories are presumably part of a continuous narrative that started back in pre-history and will go on to the end of time, it's a good plan to start the part of the story we're telling when things get interesting. We could start telling our detective story with the night our protagonist's grandparents met (or, if we're James Michener, with the rocks that would eventually form lower Manhattan cooling), but for most of us it's better to start the story when the blonde sashays in the door with a two-dollar gat in her hand and a look on her face that spells trouble.

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

    Who wants to write a story (I see around 6-9,000 words) featuring cooling rocks, blue-green algae, and slime-molds? Oxygen is a plus but not required.

    Must have action, adventure, and a slam-bang climax.

    Your market is Exciting Evolutionary Tales and your deadline is Tuesday.

    Okay, cowboy, go to town!

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

    Stuck for a plot, young Jedi? An inspiration you need? Here is another slick quick trick... use a joke.

    Jokes (of the Story Joke variety, not the riddle or pun) are condensed Plot In A Box. For example, the last line in my previous post was from the punchline of a joke. Here's how it goes:

    The sheriff of a small western town spots a young man walking down the street, and the young feller is wearing nothing at all. So the sheriff hauls him in for indecent exposure. Once they're in the jail, the sheriff asks him how he came to be walking down the street starkers, and the fella says, "Well, sheriff, it's like this:

    "There I was in the roadhouse having a beer, when this young filly comes up to me and asks if I'm a cowboy. So I says 'Yep,' and she asks me back to her trailer.

    "Once we go there, she whipped off her blouse, and said 'Okay, cowboy, take off your shirt,' so I did.

    "Then she whipped off her skirt, and said 'Okay, cowboy, take off your jeans,' so I did.

    "Then she whipped off her undies and said, 'Okay, cowboy, take off your shorts,' so I did.

    "Then she leaned back on her bed and said, 'Okay, cowboy, go to town....' "

    ========

    Note that this has a person in a place with a problem, it has characters, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, it has a surprising yet satisfying climax, it has dialog, it has POV -- heck, most of it is a flashback in a frame-tale.

    Jokes are great.

    A single joke is a short story. A novel is a comedy routine made of many jokes built around a common theme, each one topping the one that came before.

    The funny thing is, your story doesn't have to be funny.

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

    The Dumb Little Man writes a book. Good advice all the way around. FREX:

    Book bible. Most writers won't bother with this, but that's a mistake. If you are serious about your writing, a book bible is a must-have. However, you can work on that last. This is ideally a binder with everything about your book contained in its pages: plot outline, character sketches, notes, bits of dialog, small details, scene description, research, etc. You'll find this extremely useful. The habit to develop: get a binder, write notes on characters, plot, scene, dialog, and keep it updated, as soon as you're done writing. So: write, log it, then update your book bible.
    ------------------

    It's coming up on the end of January. Has everyone sent out their Christmas Challenge story?

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

    Kcshrimp: Sure, you can.

    But determining exactly how much you'd have to change it to make it a "new" work is something to discuss with a lawyer.

    If you get it reprinted now, you get reprint-level money.

    A better plan would be to take the experience of writing this book, and use it toward writing a new book. Then, when that's sold, and your editor asks you "Do you have anything else?" You can say "Yes, but there's a bit of a story to it...." and fill her in on what went down.

    The kind of numbers that vanity books sell, that previous publication won't be a bar then (I think). But selling it straight, with its history ... tricky at best.

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

    Crap you say? Here's some!

    This is a story fragment I posted on another thread about a year ago.

    You probably want to read the part of the thread it's in, to see what inspired it.

    On a lonely stretch of road in Togo, two families, two wealthy families, are destined to meet. Little did they think that morning, as they filled coolers with beer and set off on holiday, that the Nouvissi Express Road would prove to be their undoing.

    S. J. Tann, an Engineer with Shell Oil, turned to his wife just as the speedometer nudged sixty-five miles an hour. The sun was in their eyes, for they were eastbound. "Are you wearing your knickers?" he asked. "In case of an accident, that is."

    "No," she responded, in her usual simpering manner. "Knickers would only get in the way. I don't believe in knickers, nor does our daughter."

    "You wearing your knicks?" S. J. asked their lovely just-turned-eighteen daughter, riding in the backseat.

    "Nope!" she responded enthusiastically, and popped open another beer. Her short skirt rode up her thighs rendering her words superfluous.

    Meanwhile, westbound on that self-same Nouvissi Express Road, Engineer (with Shell Oil) S. J. Tea turned to his wife. "I just read a book by my cousin, Travis," he confided. "Great book. Starts with a rich guy getting in a car accident."

    "Wait a moment?" his wife trembled. "We're rich."

    "You'll wake our daughter," S. J. said. "Hand me another beer." He glanced in the rearview mirror, to where their lovely daughter lay asleep in the back, her seatbelt unfastened. "No worries, though, the rich guy lives."

    "If you mean that wonderful book, Atlanta Nights, available in brick-and-mortar bookstores from sea to shining sea, that I saw you reading, the rich guy in the auto accident dies."

    "Lives."

    "Dies."

    "Lives."

    "Dies."

    Meanwhile, in the Tann automobile, S. J. had a question: "Do we drive on the right or on the left in this country?"

    "Well," his wife suggested, "If the women wear knickers, we drive on the left. If, on the other hand, they wear panties, we drive on the right."

    "What if the women don't wear anything at all?"

    "If they aren't wearing knickers we drive on the left," she stated. "If they aren't wearing panties we drive on the right. I, myself," she sniffed, "am not wearing knickers."

    Faster and faster, they drove east. In the left-hand lane.

    In the Tea auto, the argument grew hotter:

    "Lives!"

    "Dies!"

    "Lives, lives, lives!"

    "Dies, dies, dies, times a thousand!"

    "Lives, times a million!"

    Neither was watching the road as they drove west, in the right-hand lane (which, from the point of view of the rapidly approaching Tann car was the left-hand lane).

    Suddenly, Mrs. Tea screamed out, "Watch out for the Tann car!"

    "Trying to get out of admitting you were wrong?" Mr. Tea asked. "And I don't see any tan car. The car directly ahead of us in our lane, with which we are about to have a head-on crash, is red!"

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

    From http://www.iconsf.org/authors.php

    Authors' Workshop

    The Author's track is proud to offer you a chance to have your work critiqued by professionals. Coordinator Terry McGarry, James Macdonald, Debra Doyle and Ann VanderMeer will analyze your short story in two ninety minute sessions during I-CON 27. Participation is strictly limited to five writers. Fantasy or science fiction stories must be submitted by email only, in MS Word format, double spaced, with a maximum length of 5000 words. The deadline for submissions is February 15, 2008. NOTE: you must be available both Saturday and Sunday to participate in the workshop.

    Please send to authors@iconsf.org with the words "Writer's Workshop" in the subject header. Participant confirmation will be sent by March 5, 2008. Submission implies your permission to provide your story to all workshop participants
    ------------------

    Free e-books.

    Oh, yeah. And free stories.

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

    When the characters want to start telling the story for you: Let them. It makes composition a lot easier.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by CutteRug View Post

    PS: One question for Jim (or anyone who feels like fielding it). I've usually shortened "Science Fiction" to "Sci-Fi", but noticed (while reading this thread) that you all usually refer to it as "SF". Just want to know if there's any derision that goes along with saying or writing it "Sci-Fi"?

    Like for example: I'm from the San Francisco Bay area, and when we shorten the name, we say "San Fran", but anyone who says "Frisco" is instantly known to be a ... how do I put this politely? Tourist.

    I'd hate to come off as a tourist. Even though for now, I am.
    Welcome, Adam.

    You've got it exactly right: People who call Science Fiction "Sci-fi" come off as tourists (unless they pronounce it "skiffy," which you should only attempt if you're already a black belt eighth dan skiffy writer).

    The reasons for this are lost in the mists of bad metaphors, and include such questions as "How do your feel about 4E Ackerman?" For right now, don't think too much about it or attempt to suss out the logic: If you must abbreviate Science Fiction, abbreviate it as "SF."

    It's a minor thing, but it's a tribal marker.


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

    On your other points: one of the nice things that screenwriters tend to notice when they switch to writing novels is that the special effects budget is no longer a concern. You can go with what the story requires. Another nice thing is that you get final cut. (Sure, the editor and copyeditor will read and mark up your book, but you can write "STET" beside anything they fooled with and your version goes.)

    On the down side, selling a book usually brings in nowhere near as much money as selling a screenplay.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by MoonWriter View Post

    I'm working on my second novel and trying to use different P.O.V. characters for the first time. Question: Is it ok to have the door close, but not lock, in the first chapter, which is where my MC is first presented? The situation I have him in is bad, but not life altering as in the fourth chapter.
    Is there any way to get it to lock? If the character can say "Screw this; I'm going back inside where it's comfortable and warm," you lose a bit of forward motion that won't be easy to regain.

    Another question: Where is the best place to find a concise explanation of the different P.O.V. options? I've read about it on this thread and in books and other sites, but, with the differences in terminology and definitions, I'm still not comfortable with my understanding.
    There's really nothing to understand.

    You have three basic points of view.

    First Person: This story is about Me.

    Second Person: This story is about You.

    Third Person: This story is about that guy over there.

    The two rules are: (1) Know where you're standing when you describe a scene, and (2) don't confuse the reader. Of those, the second is the most important.


    Here's an example by me in First Person. Here's an example by me in Third Person. I've never written anything (other than the brief paragraph here and there as an illustration) in Second Person.

    I suppose I could go through one of them and point out the Points of View.

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

    What publishers do, or don't do, I don't know. I'm sure they try their best.

    It's always been my opinion that books sales increase when times are hard. People still want entertainment, and dollar-for-hour, books are a great bargain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MoonWriter View Post

    I would be happy to answer that. You see, I am a simple man, rooted to the earth. Four steps up a ladder is as far into space as I prefer to go. Imagery is confusing and I tend to spend so much time trying to pronounce the characters' names, that I forget where they are, how they got there and what they're doing. I relate better to baseball bats, hot dogs, and cigars, unless the author is trying to trick me with symbolism.
    My very good friend, I've been trying to present general principles that pertain to all fiction, not just to science fiction.

    Have I given my Chess Set Analogy yet?

    Let us take one of those games of chess that I've used as a metaphor for plot and character. The novel is the game.

    If you use an Orcs'n'Elves chess set, you have a fantasy novel. If you use a Space-Aliens'n'Rocketmen chess set, you have a science fiction novel. If you use a Housewives'n'College-Professors chess set you have a mainstream novel. If you use a Cunning-Murderers'n'Detectives chess set you have a mystery novel.

    The game itself is the same. The characters go to their most effective places; the characters move and interact; surprising combinations develop; a satisfying conclusion is reached. All that's changed is the feel of the game.

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueLucario View Post
    When you have ideas like that? What do you do? Do you just write it, taking the risk of losing your readers or do you just keep it to your self.
    Write your book. When you've finished, write another book. Repeat.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caveman View Post
    Occasionally I have a similar thought about names especially in Fantasy. Were there never anyone in an alternate reality, or dimension that was named just plain Jim?

    Well, I have an eight-volume science-fantasy series where the main characters' names are Owen, Beka, and Ari.

    Close enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by Komnena View Post
    ... adding needed description and back story should flesh it out.
    Rather than description and backstory (readers need far less backstory than many writers think), consider adding plot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OddButInteresting View Post
    I'm facing a dilemma at the moment: stay true to the story and write it in the second-person present, or cop-out and stick to the first or third.
    Stay true to the story.

    If, after you've finished and let it sit for a few days, you re-read it and discover it isn't working, you can re-write it in some other POV.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Perle_Rare View Post


    3. I like the image of the Celtic Knot for plotting but I'm still not clear how it all works. I know it's hard to explain without images but I guess what would help me understand the concept better was if, along with the image on Post #3552 (or any other image actually) there was a short description of a plot that had been based on it so I could relate the threads with the plot elements. (For example, one thread is at the top and two are going down. What does that do to the story?)
    My Circle of Magic series was based on the Celtic Knotwork plot pattern.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Perle_Rare View Post
    Which threads / patterns should I be looking for?
    Look for a circular patter with six major nodes. Look for Will/Randal/Lys, look for hand/head/heart.

    It's all there.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Raphee View Post
    Wish me well.
    Good luck!

    Make sure the front end of your book matches the back end.

    And start writing your next book.

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    Page 267

    03-13-08
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 02-04-2010 at 01:53 AM.

  21. #46
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1
    Page 268
    03-13-08

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

    More writing tips for beginners.

    And advice on how to write killer short stories.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Raphee View Post
    Could you please elaborate on front end matching back end.
    Make sure that everything you planted at the beginning sprouted and bore fruit by the end. Make sure everything you harvest at the end was properly planted at the beginning.

    Chekhov's gun and all that.

    On writing a new novel; I have this inability to multi task on two novels at the same time. I have tried doing it, but it seems that I do this at the detriment of one MS over the other.

    You might surprise yourself.

    You aren't writing the old novel any more -- you're editing it.

    Try to write a page a day of Something New and Different.

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    Happy Easter, y'all.

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    There's a time to study how-to, and a time to go-and-do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    I have never encountered a successful professional writer who did not read.
    Reading in general, yes. Reading how-to-write books? Maybe not so much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Schneider View Post
    Take for instance JRR Tollkiens works. They didn't become popular until after his death.
    Say what? The Lord of the Rings was incredibly popular in the mid-sixties, and hasn't stopped since. (Do you recall the text on the back of the Ballantine edition, "Those who approve of courtesy, at least, to living authors...."?) Do you remember the Ace Books pirate edition?

    Yes, The Sword of Shanara was as close to plagiarism of The Lord of the Rings as copyright law would allow. Lester Del Rey knew it, but figured (correctly) that he'd make a ton of money by publishing it.

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

    Bizarre copyright regulations put The Lord of the Rings in the public domain in the USA, which is why Ace was able to publish a pirate edition without the author's approval (or paying him any royalties). That's why the Ballantine edition, which was registered in the USA, is substantially different from the British first edition (among other things, Aragorn's sense of humor was removed in the revision process).

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

    I'm just back from I-con, where we did a little workshop (which I participated in).

    During one of the sessions I had an insight into the employment of characters in short stories:

    Use 'em, abuse 'em, or lose 'em.

    I trust I do not need to unpack that?

    =============

    The Historian? As it happens, post 4812 in this very thread is the first two pages from that work, as we play "Would you turn the page?"

    =============

    And welcome, roseangel! What are you working on?

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

    Don't worry over-much about your openings when you start. When you reach "The End," the appropriate opening will become apparent.

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

    Art is not life.

    While revenge makes a dandy plot-engine it's a lousy way to spend your time.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Komnena View Post
    My first draft is so awful I don't think there's any salvaging it.
    Then your second draft will surely be better.

    Have you left your book to marinate in your desk drawer for three months while you worked on something else? Books that suck immediately after you've finished them often improve just by letting them age.

    Print the whole thing out. Get a couple of red pencils and a sharpener. Go to a coffeehouse or a library. Read your manuscript page-by-page, scribbling all over it as you find things that can be moved, changed, fixed, made better, deleted, expanded, or reshuffled to a different POV.

    Go back and retype.

    Or... try retyping your book entirely from memory.

    I know a writer who creates her second drafts by re-keyboarding the book. If it isn't worth retyping a passage, that passage it isn't worth reading.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by honeycomb View Post
    My problem is info dumps.
    Use infodumps sparingly. The readers need far less information than you think. (In particular, never tell the reader something before he cares about it.)

    Sometimes the best way to deliver an infodump is to just take a paragraph or so saying the thing.

    The worst way to infodump is with the "As You Know, Bob" dialog trick. ("As you know, Bob, Ronald Reagan was born in an apartment above the local bank building in Tampico, Illinois on February 6, 1911 to John "Jack" Reagan and Nelle Wilson Reagan....") Particularly avoid having two characters explaining things to each other that they both already know perfectly well--two Marine Corps sergeants won't discuss the standard number of men in a standard Marine Corps squad, even if the author desperately needs to let the readers know that there are twelve men per squad.

    Good infodumps? Mine, of course.

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

    Some things that drive me frantic include The Character Describes Himself By Looking in a [mirror/puddle/polished wood on the top of the bar] and Describing What He Sees. This goes double if the character is female and goes on to a complete and loving description of her breasts.

    Other cliches: you've seen the various Evil Overlord lists? Or this list of Science Fiction cliches.

    If you want to find out if your fantasy story is Just Another Fantasy Story, you can't do better than