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Old 02-24-2006, 04:46 AM   #5051
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeLeung
I started submitting queries for my kids book about a French-accented dog.

Now I've discovered Pixar is releasing a cartoon next year featuring a French-accented rat: http://imdb.com/title/tt0382932.

Am I right in assuming my story is unsellable for the foreseeable future? Am I stuck back at square one with a new manuscript?
Let me guess - he says, "Le barque," right? Okay, okay, toss a snowball at me - I couldn't resist. I woudn't worry about the Pixar movie. If your story doesn't parallel the French rat plot, go for it.
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Old 02-24-2006, 08:35 AM   #5052
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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.
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Old 02-24-2006, 12:45 PM   #5053
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batgirl
Lucia, a beta reader is a term from fanfic, stolen from 'beta tester' for games. It's ideally someone who can read attentively and be articulate and honest about his/her reactions. I'm beta-reading for (quick count on fingers) four people currently, at different levels. One is just quick reader-reactions, what I understood, what slowed me down, what made me go aha!. Another is line-critting for punctuation and syntax glitches, which is slower and requires a different sort of attentiveness. Another is the whole deal, from commas to characterisation. So, it varies. Depends what you want and what the beta's strengths are.
I have about five friends and relatives who read my short stories, but they tend to be frustratingly uncritical. Luckily, I'm doing a correspondance course for short stories, and my tutor is far more critical.

When I finished writing my novel, I gave it to about 15 friends and relatives to read. Many only paid compliments, a few picked up some minor spelling or grammar mistakes, and one, who is also a writer, gave a written, in-depth critique on style, story, characters - the works. Unfortunately, we've lost touch, and moved to opposite sides of the world.

Since I can't depend on a correspondance course and a tutor forever, I guess I need to start looking for beta readers. The question is, how does one find them? Is there a place where writers advertise to say they are looking for beta readers, to exchange services? Can one have beta readers by email or other Internet options, or should it be in real life - like a reading group? My experience with a local reading group, where I live, was not particularly helpful; we read our work aloud in the group, and the feedback was invariably positive, with hardly any constructive criticism.
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Old 02-25-2006, 08:23 AM   #5054
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The people I'm reading for are all by email, so I don't see why that wouldn't work. In fact, come to think of it, I've only met one of them in person, and that was well along in the process.
Orson Scott Card, in one of his how-to books, talks about how he trained his wife to be his beta reader. But my husband refuses to be mine, so I rely on a friend who lives a few blocks away and is pretty ruthless.
You might want to consider Critters or the Online Writing Workshop, if not for the crit to be found there, for the possibility of finding a beta reader. Or check the SYW forum and see whose crits you think are good, and ask that person if they'd beta for you. The worst they can do is say no.

And to be semi-on-topic ... I'm wondering if it's necessary for every chapter to end with a hook, or only the first few? And how strong does a hook have to be? Deadly peril, or teasing clue, or mild curiosity?
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Old 02-26-2006, 04:50 AM   #5055
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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.
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Old 02-26-2006, 04:45 PM   #5056
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You may also want to check out Critique Circle (http://www.critiquecircle.com) It is also a give and take site, but it is closer to give three, receive a bunch.

Last edited by Jason M. Dyess; 02-26-2006 at 04:46 PM. Reason: Not quite awake yet.
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Old 02-26-2006, 07:09 PM   #5057
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hooks at chapter endings

[And to be semi-on-topic ... I'm wondering if it's necessary for every chapter to end with a hook, or only the first few? And how strong does a hook have to be? Deadly peril, or teasing clue, or mild curiosity?]


My general thoughts on this are that every chapter should end with a hook of some sort, even (or perhaps especially) if it's "What on earth happens after that?". "Why did that happen?" or "Why did he say (or do, or think) that?" or "Who (or what) is this just come into the room?" are also good end-of-chapter questions. I think the kind of hook largely depends on the kind of story you're telling. A comedy of manners will obviously have less deadly peril than a thriller. Then again, perhaps social death counts.

I think the hook should work together with the pacing and the tone of the chapter--though that's not to say it couldn't be in contrast. Perhaps you expect deadly peril and it turns out to be a joke; but the deadly peril may come from another direction entirely, and we must read on to find out which it is. Well-done humour is a good place to look for hooks, because humour depends on creating and then inverting expectations, which a hook, in my opinion, does.

Douglas Adams is good for hooks, particularly in the later books. I can think of good examples from 'Life, the Universe, and Everything'--think of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect jumping onto the couch and falling through a crack in space-time to the cricket ground. It could be a joke--it could be deathly peril--it could be all sorts of things, most of which it turns out to be, or lead to. And it furthers the plot (insofar as it exists), the character development (such as there is of that), and the theme (if you can figure it out).
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Old 02-27-2006, 02:45 AM   #5058
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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?
May I impose on y'all to take a look at the query letter I plan on sending, and let me know what you think?

Quote:
King Spot is a 22,000 word story for middle readers about a dog that wins a radio phone-in contest and is made King of the World. After his vanity invites disaster upon disaster on him and his loved ones, the dog finally surrenders his crown.

Brian Garlic is the fastidious fourth grader into whose arms Spot leaps in the schoolyard. Brian deduces Spot is a runaway circus dog, but Spot refuses to name which circus he comes from. After a number of incidents in which Spot sickens and antagonizes Brian, Brian is horrified to learn his parents are considering keeping Spot if his owners can’t be found. To expedite Spot’s departure, Brian buys a classified ad calling for Spot’s owners to come forward. Spot reacts to Brian’s “betrayal” by running away.

A gang of cruel clowns responds to Brian’s ad and takes his parents hostage when Brian is unable to return Spot. Brian seeks help from involved neighbors, and finds them under a fairy enchantment sapping their will. Brian also discovers his neighbors and the fairies hosting the runaway Spot. Spot wins the radio contest and is made King of the World. To complicate things further for Brian, the fairies have themselves kidnapped the neighbors’ new-born baby.

And so Spot and Brian embark on a series of adventures and misadventures, recovering Brian’s parents, recovering his neighbors’ baby, rescuing a family from a werewolf, assisting a princess postpone an arranged marriage, searching for Spot a queen, accepting a challenge from a minotaur, and misguidedly aiding a cyclops in serenading a princess trapped in a tower.

Submitted are the first 17 pages of my manuscript. To notify me of your interest in seeing the complete manuscript, enclosed is an SASE.

Last edited by MikeLeung; 02-27-2006 at 03:09 AM.
 
Old 02-27-2006, 02:50 AM   #5059
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The end of each chapter should contain a reason to keep reading. That isn't to say that a cliffhanger is necessary every time ... but you need to give your readers cause to continue.

The end of a chapter is permission to set the book down for the evening. The chapter's end has to have enough forward momentum and unanswered questions that the reader will pick the book up the next day (rather than watching a football game, starting a different book, or staring off into space.

"Idle curiosity" isn't good enough.
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Old 02-27-2006, 02:53 AM   #5060
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeLeung
May I impose on y'all to take a look at the query letter I plan on sending, and let me know what you think?
Is that intended for someone who asked for three-and-an-outline? What are the specific guidelines of the market you're looking at?
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Old 02-27-2006, 03:17 AM   #5061
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Is that intended for someone who asked for three-and-an-outline? What are the specific guidelines of the market you're looking at?
Yes, a cold query/synopsis +3:
http://www.chroniclebooks.com/site/catalog/index.php?
main_page=pubs_info&iPath=37_51&info_uid=submissio ns.kids&
store=books&zenid=9d448bd495ab6aae4afe36752ea90f60




...I mean, if it were up to me I'd send the manuscript without any kind of cover because I feel like trying to sum up in a page diminishes my story, my characters, my themes etc.

If I wanted to convince you to go see "Million dollar baby," it would never occur to me to rehash the plot to you. I would rather tell you about the stuff Eastwood said implicitly in the movie, like how his trainer-character crushed the hopes of his fighters to get them to fight harder ("You can't win, she's younger, stronger, and a better fighter than you") and how that related to how he chose to end the movie.

Yet, what I like about my book isn't what the submission guidelines ask for.

Last edited by MikeLeung; 02-27-2006 at 05:35 AM.
 
Old 02-27-2006, 06:24 AM   #5062
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Make the letter short:

Dear Name of Editor Spelled Right:

I am querying a 22,000 word middle-grades fantasy, King Spot.

My previously published works include....

Sincerely,


Encl:
Three chapters
Synopsis
SASE


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

For the synopsis, make sure you include the conclusion. How's the thing end? Keep the synopsis under ten pages. (For that matter, for a story that short, you can probably keep it under two pages.)
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Old 02-27-2006, 06:35 AM   #5063
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Make the letter short:

Dear Name of Editor Spelled Right:

I am querying a 22,000 word middle-grades fantasy, King Spot.

My previously published works include....

Sincerely,


Encl:
Three chapters
Synopsis
SASE

Uncle Jim, is this the general rule and format for all query letters? I never realized they could be so short (or that they should be so short).

Also, is the synopsis supposed to be sent as a separate document? I've been sending a short synopsis as part of my query letter; is that cause for concern?

Are agents and/or editors more likely to toss my work in the circular file the way I've been doing the query and synopsis all this time? If so, this knowledge will definitely help me out, because I'll know what to change.
 
Old 02-28-2006, 02:47 AM   #5064
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The cover letter has two purposes:

1) To give the editor something with your name, book's name, and contact info that can be easily filed, and

2) Someplace to put his coffee so it won't leave an embarassing brown ring on the first page of your manuscript.

Now as to a query letter: If all they want is query letter, then a brief synopsis (the whole letter is under one page!) goes in the letter itself. In this case the guidelines called for a letter, three chapters, and a synopsis. So put the synopsis in a separate document.

The first paragraph is the title of the work, its genre, and its length, and any special notes on the rights available.

The second paragraph is your recent publications and awards, and any special qualifications you may have to write this book (you train dogs for a circus, for example, or you, personally, are a circus dog). If none, leave this paragraph out.

Then a very brief synopsis if it isn't elsewhere in the submission packet. Tell the beginning, the middle, and the end. Please don't try to make it sound like flap copy.

Then stop.

It is entirely possible to say too much in a cover letter.


Always include an SASE.
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Old 02-28-2006, 03:37 AM   #5065
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I'm not associated with these folks in any way, but I do know one of the mentors. It appears to be more geared to short fiction than to novels.

http://www.speclit.org/Programs/Mentorship.php
SLF Mentorship Program

The Speculative Literature Foundation is launching a pilot mentorship program for beginning writers. These writers will be able to gather valuable advice from more experienced writers regarding the craft and business of writing.

Structure

Each mentor will receive five mentees. The mentors will offer advice and answer craft/business questions (both from a SLF facilitator and from the writers themselves). Please note: this is not a workshop, and mentors will not read or comment on individual writing from their mentees.

Applicants may indicate a preference for a particular mentor, but we cannot guarantee that you will be matched with that mentor. Once matched, you will be added to a mailing list with your mentor and the other mentees in your group.

Conversations on that mailing list are to be kept private and confidential. At the end of the program, participants are required to write a one-page evaluation of the program, and a brief evaluation of their mentor.

Mentors: Spring 2006 Pilot Program, Mar 15 - June 15
  • Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon with his books, where he works on numerous writing and editing projects, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated Polyphony anthology series from Wheatland Press. He has over 100 short stories in print. Current projects include Rocket Science and TEL : Stories. His next novel, Trial of Flowers, will be available fall, 2006 from Night Shade Books, while Mainspring will be released summer, 2007 from Tor. Jay is the winner of the 2004 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and a multiple nominee for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards.
  • Beth Adele Long's short fiction has been published in venues including Trampoline, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and Strange Horizons. She is a former writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House and a Clarion graduate, as well as recipient of the 2000 Asimov Award. She earns a living as a web designer/programmer and documentation consultant and lives in the Tampa Bay area. She can be bribed with Necco wafers or comic books.
  • Jennifer Pelland's science fiction, slipstream, and horror stories have appeared in publications such as Strange Horizons, Abyss and Apex, Tales of the Unanticipated, and Apex Digest, and come April, she will be the featured writer on Apex Online. She has completed two novels, and while working to find an agent to represent them, she's keeping herself distracted by writing a third. Jennifer attended the Viable Paradise writing workshop in 2002, and joined their administrative staff in 2005. She also volunteers for SFWA, runs Rapid-Fire Readings for Broad Universe, and participates in Boston-area radio theater.
How to Apply
  • Send a one-page bio and personal statement as an attached Word .doc or .rtf (Rich Text Format) to mentorship@speclit.org. This will serve as your introduction to your mentor and the group, if you are selected for the program.
  • Indicate if you have a preference for a particular mentor.
  • There is no fee for application or participation in the program."
  • Applications are due by Wednesday, March 8, 2006.
Thank you!

- Mary Anne Mohanraj, Director, SLF

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Old 02-28-2006, 05:00 AM   #5066
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The cover letter has two purposes:

....Snipped for Post Length....

Then stop.

It is entirely possible to say too much in a cover letter.


Always include an SASE.

Cool! I appreciate your help. Thank you.
 
Old 02-28-2006, 04:33 PM   #5067
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Yes, thank you from me, also.
 
Old 03-01-2006, 10:38 PM   #5068
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Thanks, Uncle Jim, and all the other writers who contribute to this thread. I've read about 2/3 of it so far and have already gotten tons of ideas and strategies for writing. I hope this question hasn't already been answered in the last third:

In the novel I'm working on, a lot of my characters are based on real people. I find it hard to invent characters out of whole cloth, they mostly seem to come out 'flat', like an inventory of motivations and quirks without any soul. It helps me to start out by thinking, "here's a guy like ____" -- and changing him from there as it suits the story. In my first draft I even use real names, so a character based on my cousin Bob would be named Bob.

The plot, setting, and what happens to these characters is completely invented, so I don't think that (once I change the names) someone reading the book cold would ever say, "hey, that's about Bob!" Still, I'm a little unsure about this as a writing technique. Is it a good way to get started? Bad idea? Pure writerly laziness?

Any other tips on how to develop characters besides those (cringe) character worksheets where you fill out their height, shoe size, deepest fear, etc?
 
Old 03-01-2006, 11:37 PM   #5069
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ems
Thanks, Uncle Jim, and all the other writers who contribute to this thread. I've read about 2/3 of it so far and have already gotten tons of ideas and strategies for writing. I hope this question hasn't already been answered in the last third:

In the novel I'm working on, a lot of my characters are based on real people. I find it hard to invent characters out of whole cloth, they mostly seem to come out 'flat', like an inventory of motivations and quirks without any soul. It helps me to start out by thinking, "here's a guy like ____" -- and changing him from there as it suits the story. In my first draft I even use real names, so a character based on my cousin Bob would be named Bob.
It would be a very bad idea to name the person "Bob." It's sometimes useful to do half-n-half ... half from one person, half from another. Then do a sex channge, an age change, new hair color, new history ... by then it's a new person.

Quote:
The plot, setting, and what happens to these characters is completely invented, so I don't think that (once I change the names) someone reading the book cold would ever say, "hey, that's about Bob!" Still, I'm a little unsure about this as a writing technique. Is it a good way to get started? Bad idea? Pure writerly laziness?
Anything at all that you do to create characters is in bounds. You, as the writer, have to come up with characters. How you do it is up to you. All of my characters are me, interspliced with folks I know, folks I imagine, and folks I've read about. Where the clay comes from is less important than the pot you shape on your wheel.

Quote:
Any other tips on how to develop characters besides those (cringe) character worksheets where you fill out their height, shoe size, deepest fear, etc?

Oh, Lord, those character sheets. Maybe they work for some writers... what works for you only you know.

You're an expert observer of humans. That's why you're a writer. Use your observations.
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Old 03-02-2006, 04:05 AM   #5070
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Old 03-02-2006, 04:12 AM   #5071
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Old 03-02-2006, 07:31 AM   #5072
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I haven't read all 5000+ responses, but have read quite a bit. Extremely interesting information. Thanks so much.

Totally off topic, are you the same James Macdonald that wrote the book Communicating Partners ? If so, could you tell me a little about it? I have a 13 year old autistic son who is still non-verbal but who communicates other ways.

Just curious! Keep up the good work. I am going to bookmark this and read more when I can. I've always been interested in writing.
 
Old 03-03-2006, 04:38 AM   #5073
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Just wanted to say...

Read through this entire thread -- it took a while, but was worth it. There's a lot of great information here. I especially loved the Key Lime Pie analogy, because there is nothing in the world I like better than Key Lime Pie. Now, having finally caught up, I just wanted to repeat what other people have said and say thank you for doing this! It's really been invaluable.
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"'I can't tell if you're serious or not,' said the driver.
'I won't know myself until I find out whether life is serious or not,' said Trout. 'It's dangerous, I know, and it can hurt a lot. That doesn't necessarily mean it's serious, too.'"

-Kurt Vonnegut
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Old 03-03-2006, 09:28 PM   #5074
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James D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate compliments
Thank you ... now go out and write a book.
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Old 03-09-2006, 10:31 PM   #5075
James D. Macdonald
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James D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsJames D. Macdonald is so great that we've run out of appropriate compliments
A wickedly accurate and very funny piece that violates several copyrights and trademarks. Derivative works, y'know:

http://www.aleuromancy.net/lalejandra/ronondex.html

I think I can name the publisher.
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