Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

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

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JoNightshade

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Is it possible to have multiple protagonists? At the moment I'm writing a novel which has two characters who revolve around a third person. So the story is split between them (as they have two separate lives), but they both intersect at the third character.

Which begs the question, is the third character actually my protagonist?

I think I just answered my own question.
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.
 

James D. Macdonald

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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
 

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At http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/711.html (which looks like a cool site), I found this:

The Latin title is from the opening of Horace's Odes, Book 4.1:

Intermissa, Venus, diu
rursus bella moues? Parce precor, precor.
Non sum qualis eram bonae
sub regno Cinarae.

[T]ranslated by John Conington [London: G. Bell, 1909] as "Yet again
thou wak'st the flame / That long had slumber'd! Spare me, Venus,
spare! / Trust me, I am not the same / As in the reign of Cinara, kind
and fair".
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.
 

Claudia Gray

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I think Grandma Julie may want to get out while the getting is good.
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.
 

Ullikummis

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So, you're telling me that those 10 blank pages I sent off the FSF are going to be rejected...
 

slythwolf

From a couple of pages ago (I've just caught up):

I usually find theme by re-reading the text, then using that knowledge to help make decisions in the revision stage.

I'm learning writing is one of those things you do that when you look back at it you learn new things about yourself. Find the themes in your stories, and you'll find out what you really believe in.
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.
 

Little Red Barn

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Hi Jim, periods before all which's?
Thank you and happy Memorial Day,
 

JJ Cooper

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Hi Jim,

Apologies if you have answered these questions before.

I am working on my first novel (mystery/thriller/suspense) and my first six chapters are around my MC. This has been written in third limited. I am now introducing another character (new chapter) where my MC is not involved at this stage. Circumstances bring these two together at a later stage of the novel.

Should I write this new character in third limited as well? At the moment I have written it in third omni but it just doesn't seem to hold as well as previous chapters. This character has three chapters by herself before meeting up with the MC.

Following this, if I write both charcters in third limited how do I write it when they come together?

Any thoughts are appreciated.

JJ
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.
 

JJ Cooper

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Thanks Jim. I was worried there were some 'rules' that I needed to follow. I will go with what appears to work for the characters.

I appeciate your time.

JJ
 

Ken Schneider

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Hi all. Haven't been around for a while, been doing some serious writing.

Question UJ.

Now being deep into my current WHIP, I want to go back and add a beginning with some action that ties in later.

When writing this first— part, would you suggest that the length of this opening be a chapter, or a couple paragrapghs?

Thanks in advance
Ken
 

James D. Macdonald

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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?
 

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Hi Jim,

Here's a question for you: I read somewhere--maybe here--that sales of a first book can affect whether or not your second book gets published. Fair enough. What if your first and second books are for completely different audiences?

I have a non-fiction book of humor essays with a small target audience that might sell relatively well with that audience. I'm also working on a novel (mainstream women's fiction). Let's say I got the essays published first, and they sold well. Total sales are small, though, due to that small audience factor. Would that reflect badly on me when I start to shop the novel?

Assuming the novel's not boring, of course.
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.)
 
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Elizabeth George's book Write Away