Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

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

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Re: Stuff (Hapi)

<<I too would like to thank Hapi for that superb post. >>

What CC said.

Thanks for the tutorial. Much appreciated.

MacAl Stone

Hapi's post/sex scenes

Let me chime in my thanks, also. After reading this post I went searching through my memory and my bookcase for notable (either good or bad) sex scenes.

I concluded that there are many more completely forgettable sex scenes than any other kind...note for myself on yet another thing to avoid.

But I did happen across Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, which I read quite some time ago. I think this is one of the hands-down sexiest books I've read . . . but it's in no way pornographic.

The actual sex scenes have hardly any mechanics described.


Re: re: Endings


A late response to your request; it's my pleasure to tell you which bits of advice I took.

First off, I took this one:

"If your last line is the weakest one in the story, cut it."

That made me re-align the forces that led up to the conclusion, and prepared a more integrated climax.

Then I rewrote the ending and did this:

"Ask your beta readers for their opinions."

I agree, it always helps, so I then did this:

"Write a new story, then come back to this one."

When I came back and re-penned the last third of the story (including changing a key plot point so that it made more sense), it fell into place.

Then, of course, I took it out of double-spaced-Courier-12 and into single-spaced-Times-New-Roman-12 and read it out loud to myself. Twice.

Ta-da! Something I can be proud of.

Thanks again for the advice.


P.S. One thing I could not do is this:

"The best fix might be: Consider the writing of it as experience. Write a new story, this time with a strong climax. The climax is where you reward the reader for believing your tissue of lies."

I had to make this story work, because it came from a set of experiences and touched on a subject (dance and the art of dance) that I doubt I will ever treat again. It's an idea I love and a one-shot deal, so I damned the torpedoes and did it anyway


More re: Endings (but more like "Finishings")

Hah! Before I considered the story done, I did a search in the text for:

- words that ended in "-ly." If the word wasn't "only" it had to have a damn good reason for being there. I can't tell you the number of really's, actually's, and suddenly's that were slaughtered without mercy.

- the words 'were' and 'was' and 'is.' If they weren't in conversation, I got out the big axe again.

It was a beautiful, cleansing feeling, like staying in the sauna too long then going outside to lie in the snow and finally going back in and having a cold beer.


Re: More re: Endings (but more like "Finishings")

my biggest pet pev is phrases like "Look," she said ethusiatically, angrily, pleasantly. Arggg!!! but good job, jeff. it's always exciting when you use tech and it all comes together," she said pleasantly.:heart

pina la nina

Re: Six senses?

Finally made it to page 32! I linked here indirectly via Making Light and then 101 and have been absorbed by this discussion for days, thinking I would never catch up - yet here I am! Thanks to all and particularly James (Jim? Mr Macdonald?) for a good read.

It's nice to see a community interested in good writing, and talking about what makes it work. I especially like the passages quoted from texts, be they MH Clark or Beaver, good practice for reading with a critical mind (I also like the lime pie analogy and found it apt, and delicious.)

My question lingers from a December post that, as far as I could see, never got expanded on. I know this is ancient history for folks following this thread in real time, but it seems like there's a finishing up of loose ends right now and maybe it's a good time?

Today's Aphorism
Your readers have six senses. So should your characters!

Not being clairvoyant and having deprived my book's characters of such a gift, I'm wondering if I'm missing something here. What is this sixth? Sense of humor? Please tell me more! Thanks!

James D Macdonald

Re: Six senses?

The six senses are:



And welcome, pina la nina! (I'm Jim to my friends, and I hope everyone here is a friend.)

pina la nina

Re: Six senses?

That's my new word for the day, thanks Jim! Here I was thinking about something Completely Different. Glad you cleared that up!

So you mean things like dizziness or vertigo? Being spatially oriented?

Can I ask a personal question? Do you find that its hard to read for pleasure? I'm feeling like since I started reading with my writer's mind turned on I am more and more likely to want to hurl those books (is nausea a proprioception?)

Just finished Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex (Pulitzer Prize Winner, etc) and found it suffered from interminable Mid-Book syndrome. At least the sentences were incredible, but I do take your point that it's hard for great prose alone to carry a story. Story, folks. Sometimes we writers so love to be wordsmiths. That's one of the brilliant things you've done with this thread, to emphasize how satisfying a story is to hear/read. Bravo!

James D Macdonald

Re: Six senses?

Proprioception is awareness of where your body is in relationship to itelf. How you can tell how close your hand is to your leg, even with your eyes closed.

Yes, I read for pleasure -- all the darned time (Today, Post Mortem by Patricia Cornwell). But I also see books differently than I used to. I might say "Wow, the author sure slipped in some exposition there!"

Part of the trick is now to have both a writer's mind (to see how other writers write their books, as well as how you write yours) and a reader's mind to tell how your book will read to a non-writer.

(Think of a magician doing tricks for a regular audience, and that same magician doing the same routine for an audience of magicians. Each of those audiences will look for different things, and will be impressed by different things.)


Ah-ha! I've Arrived!

I finally got to page 32 and I have nothing to say.

Except it took me sooooooooooooo long because my internet time has been cut back...
Yes! I am making excuses!
And my excuse is...
My internet time has been cut back because I've been writing for 2 hours a day!!!!!!!!!! HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm just a-cranking out the children's short stories. I may run out of ideas soon and be forced to start a novel or two!

Seriously, the amount of valuable information on this board is absolutely wonderful. Thank you for starting it Jim. And thanks to the other contributors as well.

I'll just sit here quietly now and wait for the crumbs to fall from the plates of the Gods!

Take Care,


Re: Six senses?

Proprioception is awareness of where your body is in relationship to itelf. How you can tell how close your hand is to your leg, even with your eyes closed.

Uncle Jim, can you please give an example of this in writing? I don't think i've ever come across something like this. maybe i did and i'm just not seeing it. I'm not sure how to write something like this. thanks


James D Macdonald

Re: Six senses?

Goodness, Dancre -- Beaver used it in his sample first chapter...!


how much of edit can i use...?

Dear Jim,

It's Beaver again and I have been writing and rewriting (i cant help rewriting) several chapters from the story you edited. (Thanks a lot by the way, really gave me some insight into my writing style). I was just wondering, if someone edits your work, and you want to use a sentence or even a few sentences from that edit, is that a plagiarism of some sorts? or should i just rewrite the entire thing again? Just curious... thanks

Beaver :hat

James D Macdonald

Re: how much of edit can i use...?

An edited work is still yours.


Re: how much of edit can i use...?

Dear Jim,

You edit registered members WIP's?

btw, what is a word count length for a novella?

I'm shooting for 50,000 words for a novel.

My novel deals with a super hero similar to Superman so I don't know if that is fantasy or sci fi? The character is transformed into a super hero when wearing an Egyptian bracelet.

As of today I have 0ver 36, 000 words drafted. By the time I complete the draft there will be close to 40,000 words or a little over. perhaps even close to 45,000.

Oh, I feel wonderful about nearing the end of this WIP. It has taken me way to long to get there. Lately, I've BIC for several hours a day. Today I wrote from page 182 to 191. I have about 1 scene to go to complete the WIP.

Do I dare say, YAY!



James D Macdonald

Re: how much of edit can i use...?

jeir12 -- nope, I don't edit folks' manuscripts (except for educational reasons, as the spirit moves me). Your best course is to learn to edit your own.

Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words.


Re: question?

hi there,

I can't give you an exact length of my novella/novel. I have 1 or 2 scenes to go to complee the draft.

Then like I said in my post I need to add more words to get word count even close to 50,000 words.




Thanks Jim,

I've rewrote some of the chapter but i found myself incorporating large parts of your edit. I appreciate it and good to know im not doing something wrong...


P.S. - congratz on your story progress jier12, makes me feel like I need to be writing right now. I would be if i didnt have all of this homework.

pina la nina

Sex Scenes

HapiSofi - I just wanted to let you know that I found myself writing two sex scenes in a short story the other day and I really appreciate your humor and advice regarding them. It was really funny to me to discover your post just when I needed it. I'll keep those things in mind when I go back for the edit.

It is sort of amazing, at least to me, how little one really needs particular body parts in the deal (fiction not irl, obviously.) Seems like things are juicier if the reader gets free reign in terms of certain details. One assumes they are passingly familiar with anatomy and don't need to be told that there are "members", let alone whether they throb.

Jim - thanks for clarifying the proprioception definition for me. All your help on these pages has been so valuable. I hope you'll be continuing to post here for some time to come.


What about this...

Uncle Jim,

While at Amazon.com the other day, I noticed that you wrote a Spiderman book. What are your feelings/thoughts on writing for a specific genre- where you write the story, and maybe some brand new characters, but include characters that already exist in the mind, hearts, (copyrights) of others? It seems that people love this "fanfiction" and consume it regularly and some authors have made good careers off of writing this type of novel. My god, how many Star Trek, Buffy, and X-men novels line the shelves of your local (giant, mega-chain) bookstore? But is it more difficult to get published for this type of work? I imagine some of it can be real bad. But what about the good stuff?

I'd also like to take this moment to congratulate Beaver on being a brave soul and thank both you and Uncle Jim for one of the most educational sections of this thread. Thanks to you both!


James D Macdonald

Re: What about this...

But is it more difficult to get published for this type of work?

Nope, easiest thing in the world. But they have to ask you. You don't write the book then submit it, like with normal publishing. Some cheerful editor calls you on the phone and says "Can you write a Spiderman book? Say, by Tuesday?" And you say ... "Sure."

This is getting closer to the slimey underbelly of traditional publishing here, but I have to say, the money's nice. It can keep you going as a writer while you're working on your regular stuff. Those two Spiderman books -- one was written in a week, the other over 72 hours. The dangers are two: you can be seduced by the money so you start doing them to the exclusion of your regular writing, and you can pick up bad habits that carry over to your regular writing.

The Bad stuff is as bad as you'd think (though you're talking pro writers here, who can do <a href="http://thepulp.net/PulpCompanion/03summer/plot.html" target="_new">story</a> on demand, so it's usually not as bad as the worst of the slush heap). The Good stuff can be darn good. (See, for example, Mike Ford's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671038591/ref=nosim/madhousemanor" target="_new">How Much for Just the Planet</a>.)
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