Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

NicoleJLeBoeuf

a work in progress
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
1,492
Reaction score
567
Location
Boulder, Colorado
Website
www.nicolejleboeuf.com
I've found Holly Lisle's One-Pass Manuscript Revision technique to be of use. I've never actually gotten through a revision in a single pass, but her process here is a good one and helps me out as long as I don't kick myself for taking much longer with it than she does.

The bit about making each scene justify its existence was especially epiphantastic for me.
 

Judg

DISENCHANTED coming soon
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 13, 2006
Messages
4,527
Reaction score
1,182
Location
Ottawa, Canada and Spring City, PA
Website
janetursel.com
paritoshuttam said:
Sample this:
"Sooner or later, he had to get out into the cold, mean streets, but right now, he was not getting out of his cosy bed."

My confusion is, is it ok to use "right now", or should I use "right then" in the sentence above? On similar lines, in a narrative passage in the past tense, should I use "that day" for "today", or "the previous day" for "yesterday"?

The writing sounds stiff-y when I avoid using "now" or "today". My grammar is getting all messy.

- Paritosh
Now can mean what is present in the context. So you're quite correct to use it.

And choosing the correct word is not grammar, it's semantics. I know, I'm anal... *sigh* Look at the bright side - you're not the one who has to live with me. ;)
 

Brickie

just ... don't ask
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 20, 2006
Messages
64
Reaction score
5
Location
York, UK
NicoleJLeBoeuf said:
I've found Holly Lisle's One-Pass Manuscript Revision technique to be of use. I've never actually gotten through a revision in a single pass, but her process here is a good one and helps me out as long as I don't kick myself for taking much longer with it than she does.

I was having a look at that. I wasn't entirely convinced that it will convert first draft to publishable manuscript in one pass, but as you say there are some interesting ideas in there.

Does Uncle Jim (and for that matter anyone else) agree with Ms Lisle's contentions about scenes:

1) If it's not advancing the plot, dealing with the theme/sub-theme or providing characterisation, it shouldn't be there at all.

2) Each scene should almost be stand-alone in its own right, with an opening, a point of conflict or crisis and a resolution.

3) "You can safely eliminate almost all greetings and goodbyes in conversation, every instance where the character is driving and thinking, or sipping tea and thinking, or taking a shower in thinking. You can skip the parts where characters are getting from point A to point B if they aren’t engaged in pitched battle or serious trouble of some sort at the same time. Mostly you can eliminate waking-up and going to bed routines.
You want to give the impression of reality and of a life without actually showing the whole thing. Think of your novel as “A Life: The Good Parts Version.” All the sex and violence, passion and struggle. None of the teeth-brushing."
 

Manderley

Slowly does it.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 12, 2006
Messages
611
Reaction score
120
Location
de Winter's place
Brickie said:
Does Uncle Jim (and for that matter anyone else) agree with Ms Lisle's contentions about scenes:

1) If it's not advancing the plot, dealing with the theme/sub-theme or providing characterisation, it shouldn't be there at all.

2) Each scene should almost be stand-alone in its own right, with an opening, a point of conflict or crisis and a resolution.

3) "You can safely eliminate almost all greetings and goodbyes in conversation, every instance where the character is driving and thinking, or sipping tea and thinking, or taking a shower in thinking. You can skip the parts where characters are getting from point A to point B if they aren’t engaged in pitched battle or serious trouble of some sort at the same time. Mostly you can eliminate waking-up and going to bed routines.
You want to give the impression of reality and of a life without actually showing the whole thing. Think of your novel as “A Life: The Good Parts Version.” All the sex and violence, passion and struggle. None of the teeth-brushing."

This is anyone else answering:

1) Yes, I agree. If it's got nothing to do with the story or its themes and we don't learn anything more about your characters, why would you want to include it? The idea that one would want to include random things that don't add to the story in any way puzzles me.

2) I haven't thought too hard about this, and have no opinion on the matter.

3) Yes, and no. Most books do just fine without these scenes that can bore a read to tears. But I can see that there are stories where such things might be, not only necessary to include, but the whole point of the story in itself. I'm here thinking of the more quiet, literary character-driven pieces (and I really don't care to go into a debate with Jamesaritchi about this), where nothing seems to be happening on the outside, yet there's a whole world changing on the inside.
 

James D. Macdonald

Your Genial Uncle
Absolute Sage
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
3,780
Location
New Hampshire
Website
madhousemanor.wordpress.com
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.
 

badducky

No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 20, 2005
Messages
3,951
Reaction score
849
Location
San Antonio, TX
Website
jmmcdermott.blogspot.com
My two cents on the carving of elephants:

Novels look very big. They are not. They are in fact very, very small. The larger the novel, the smaller the writing must be. Novels are this way because one must hold the audience's attention for a long time.

If you want to write something very large and expansive and fat, write poetry in one page or less. For, in that scenario your artistic flights of fancy might be brief enough that your audience might indulge you.

Novels have no room for indulgence, because you have to hold someone's attention for a very long time. You must write small.

Same thing, but said differently.
 

James D. Macdonald

Your Genial Uncle
Absolute Sage
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
3,780
Location
New Hampshire
Website
madhousemanor.wordpress.com
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.
 

allenparker

Naked Futon Guy
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 14, 2005
Messages
1,262
Reaction score
234
Age
61
Location
Virginia
Website
www.allenparker.net
subject question

As a humor writer, I spend time thinking about what makes people laugh. Sometimes I stumble across a good idea while tripping over the cat while walking, but that is another story.

I took some time yesterday to go to my local B and N to see what they are stocking this season. The selection was not what I expected.

About 100 different titles. Of those:

22 titles dealing with cats.
14 titles either written by or about southern humor, 5 of which Jeff Foxworthy wrote.
11 duct tape titles.

It seems that a book written about rednecks duct taping cats to their trucks is certain to be a hit. My questions is,

Is this normal? The numbers seemed unusual.

Another strange thing was that there were many titles by 1st Book with pub dates into the 90's. Missing from the frey was the classic stuff; Dave Barry with only one title, Gary Larson with only 2 titles. Bunny Suicide series only had two separate copies and two collected series spots.

All of this has me terribly confused. How does one fight little warm kittens and people with only two teeth?

Is there no serious comedy anymore?
 
Last edited:

HConn

Whore for genre
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
814
Reaction score
182
Location
Inside a cursed painting
Website
www.harryjconnolly.com
Sure, there's "serious" comedy. I'm reading a Terry Pratchett novel right now.

Why would the mere existence of non-serious cat books--even a preponderance of them--mean that other kinds of humor doesn't exist?
 

allenparker

Naked Futon Guy
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 14, 2005
Messages
1,262
Reaction score
234
Age
61
Location
Virginia
Website
www.allenparker.net
not exactly

HConn said:
Sure, there's "serious" comedy. I'm reading a Terry Pratchett novel right now.

Why would the mere existence of non-serious cat books--even a preponderance of them--mean that other kinds of humor doesn't exist?

It is not that it doesn't exist, but what the stores are stocking is not necessarily a broad spectrum of the genre.

Now, take this with a grain of salt. It was one Barnes and Noble on one day at one hour of that day. I just found it unusual that the weight of stock was in short, less thought-provoking works. BTW, this is exactly what I write, stuff that is not even remotely serious.
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

a work in progress
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
1,492
Reaction score
567
Location
Boulder, Colorado
Website
www.nicolejleboeuf.com
Brickie said:
3) "You can safely eliminate almost all greetings and goodbyes in conversation, every instance where the character is driving and thinking, or sipping tea and thinking, or taking a shower in thinking. You can skip the parts where characters are getting from point A to point B if they aren’t engaged in pitched battle or serious trouble of some sort at the same time. Mostly you can eliminate waking-up and going to bed routines."
I am reminded of how I tried to handle this in the WIP, or at least the novel that is the most in progress in the moment, having had its first 3 chaps workshopped extensively last year. Chapter 3 consisted mostly of the MC driving. It had to, because Something Important To The Plot happens during the drive, and jumping right to the Something Important with no during-the-drive build-up struck me as Microwaving The Souffle.

Aware of the dangers of driving-and-thinking scenes, I made the MC's thoughts a series of flashbacks to the previous evening. I thought that was very clever of me. Unfortunately, everyone else thought it was unnecessary temporal distortion. And, y'know, they were right. What's more, the previous evening was the scene of much eating-and-talking, another dangerous thing to do--except character and plot were advanced during the eating-and-talking, or at least in my head they were advanced, and if they are not at current they will be in the rewrite, dammit.

At this point I'm thinking it'll be driving-and-cell-phoning, which is still dangerously close to doing-x-and-thinking, but it brings in an important secondary character's perspective much earlier in the novel. Which is good. I hope.

Really, I'm not sure you can get away from doing-x-and-thinking unless the novel is a cliffhanger action page-turner like, oh, The Da Vinci Code. Humans do a lot of thinking while they do x. But I totally agree that doing-x-and-thinking scenes, should they exist, must work much harder than action scenes to justify their existence. They can't just say "I am elephant!" They have to actually pick peanuts up with their trunks and display the sun glinting off their ivory tusks and smoosh small rodents with their dinner-plate-sized feet (because that stuff about elephants being afraid of mice is pure cartoon bunk, man, bunk I say).
 

James D. Macdonald

Your Genial Uncle
Absolute Sage
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
3,780
Location
New Hampshire
Website
madhousemanor.wordpress.com
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?"
 

Diane

Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 1, 2005
Messages
170
Reaction score
26
Location
California
Website
www.nobody-knows-anything.com
James D. Macdonald said:
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?"

What? .... Oh no. <quietly takes WIP and puts it a box labeled SCDTttF Project>
 

jdparadise

Talker of Good Games
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 16, 2005
Messages
319
Reaction score
52
Location
New Jersey
Website
www.livejournal.com
NicoleJLeBoeuf said:
At this point I'm thinking it'll be driving-and-cell-phoning, which is still dangerously close to doing-x-and-thinking, but it brings in an important secondary character's perspective much earlier in the novel. Which is good. I hope.

What you're describing sounds like the "sequel" part of the "scene and sequel" couplet. Which implies to me that a scene might be necessary first; if the scene is of such significance to the character that s/he needs time to absorb it, the drive would be a natural time to do so.

It also sounds to me like the three chapters need to be condensed; three chapters of a character doing -anything- is probably deadly, and driving moreso. Unless you're writing something called Jimmy Drives a Truck.

My suggestion, FWIW:

Chapter 1: Some thematically-related triggering incident that shoves the character in a direction s/he wasn't prepared to go, but which the character survives barely intact. If the underlying premise of your piece is "Kittens love yarn, and will kill to get it" the opening scene of the opening chapter might be the MC playing with a sharp-nailed little furball who draws blood fighting for a ball of yarn, sinking its little talons so deep that veins are hanging out; the MC manages to keep the yarn, though, and drives to the hospital thinking 'golly, that was one crazy cat.'.

Chapter 2, Scene 1: Driving, and talking on the cell--possibly arguing on the cell, with the argument threatening some thematically important element of the character's life. ("Dude, you -have- to put that kitten down. Vicious. Is it a werecat?")

Chapter 2, Scene 2: The "real" triggering incident. ("Dude, really. I'm almost at the hospital right now. If you don't put that cat down I'm going to sue for the--what the--" :: crash :: :: tinkle :: meowwwww)
 

PeeDee

Where's my tea, please...?
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 16, 2005
Messages
11,724
Reaction score
2,085
Website
peterdamien.com
I had not previously heard of the One-Pass Manusript Revision wossname, and normally I pay these sort of things no mind, because they never do anything but irritate me.

After reading it -- particularly, the bit in part one about listing all those details -- I think I like the idea, and I think I'd be interested to try it before doing a second draft of a novel. It might be interesting to do before a first draft, come to that. Myne brain is a-turnin'.
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

a work in progress
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
1,492
Reaction score
567
Location
Boulder, Colorado
Website
www.nicolejleboeuf.com
jdparadise said:
My suggestion, FWIW:

Chapter 1: Some thematically-related triggering incident that shoves the character in a direction s/he wasn't prepared to go, but which the character survives barely intact. If the underlying premise of your piece is "Kittens love yarn, and will kill to get it" the opening scene of the opening chapter might be the MC playing with a sharp-nailed little furball who draws blood fighting for a ball of yarn, sinking its little talons so deep that veins are hanging out; the MC manages to keep the yarn, though, and drives to the hospital thinking 'golly, that was one crazy cat.'.

Chapter 2, Scene 1: Driving, and talking on the cell--possibly arguing on the cell, with the argument threatening some thematically important element of the character's life. ("Dude, you -have- to put that kitten down. Vicious. Is it a werecat?")

Chapter 2, Scene 2: The "real" triggering incident. ("Dude, really. I'm almost at the hospital right now. If you don't put that cat down I'm going to sue for the--what the--" :: crash :: :: tinkle :: meowwwww)
Dude! You've totally ready my WIP! Admit it. ;)

Seriously, that's pretty much what I've got, if I were writing about deadly kittens, only there's a Chapter 1.5 in which the MC thinks he's actually going to be OK without going to the hospital, because he didn't need that thumb anyway, but then his buddy takes one look at the veins hanging out and goes, "Dude! How are you going to pursue a successful career as a rock musician without your left thumb? And what if it gets infected? You'll end up with your whole arm amputated, you wait much longer! Go to the hospital now!" And the MC goes, "all right, all right, I'm going," and he stares glumly out the door down the long, terrible road to the hospital that he will have to travel on the morn, Not Liking It One Bit.

I think I like your novel premise better than mine, actually. Everything goes better with kitties. And yarn.
 

BardSkye

Barbershoppin' Harmony Whore
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
2,522
Reaction score
1,009
Age
66
Location
Calgary, Canada
I think I'm going to revive an old manuscript now that I know a little more about how to write properly.

And I wanted to bump this back to page 1 where it belongs.
 

Nangleator

Rep Point Whore
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 4, 2005
Messages
408
Reaction score
59
Location
Dracut, Massachusetts
Is that a good idea? Or not?

Published writers, have you ever polished up an old practice MS and made it pay? Is it faster or slower than starting from scratch? Easier or harder?
 

BardSkye

Barbershoppin' Harmony Whore
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
2,522
Reaction score
1,009
Age
66
Location
Calgary, Canada
This one isn't really too bad. Just had a few spots where I knew something was wrong but couldn't figure out exactly what it was.

If nothing else, it'll give me some practise while I'm pondering what to do next with the others presently under construction.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.