Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

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

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anodyne

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<gasps> Don't you know there's a letter shortage in this country!?!?!?! How could you so abuse the acronym and negate the conservationist activities of millions?!?!?!

When I speak about the genre, I usually say "Sci-Fi" but the SF/F abbreviation is just faster to type, and most people here will get what you mean. But I doubt anyone is going to see you as a "noob" either way, so, welcome to the boards and the shared resource that is Uncle Jim.
 

Willowmound

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Isaac Asimov once told me (which is to say, he wrote in a book that I later read) that "sci-fi" denotes the squishy sort of science fiction (see Flash Gordon (1980)), and "SF" denotes the hard (see 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)).

This from the man who invented the word "robotics". But hey.
 

prusik

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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"?

Yes. In the "how not to get published" panel at Boskone this weekend, the panelists said referring to your work as "Sci-Fi" in your query letter was one way not to ever get published.
 

CutteRug

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Yes. In the "how not to get published" panel at Boskone this weekend, the panelists said referring to your work as "Sci-Fi" in your query letter was one way not to ever get published.

Wow. Serious note-to-self time. Thanks for the heads-up.

... really?

<feels terribly naive>

Yeah, me too. . . Anyway, thanks for the welcome!
 

anodyne

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I mean... I don't write Sci-Fi, or SF, or any other variation. At best I guess it could be called speculative fiction... or fantasy, but while the glove fits, it doesn't.

But at the same time, if that's your genre, why should stating it get your manuscript round filed?
 

allenparker

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a thought...

I mean... I don't write Sci-Fi, or SF, or any other variation. At best I guess it could be called speculative fiction... or fantasy, but while the glove fits, it doesn't.

But at the same time, if that's your genre, why should stating it get your manuscript round filed?

Query letters are formal business letters. SF and Sci-fi are abbreviations. Spell it out. "I am the author of five New York Times Best Seller List science fiction novels."
 

prusik

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But at the same time, if that's your genre, why should stating it get your manuscript round filed?

Are you really asking why referring to your genre by a term fans typically consider derogatory is problematic?
 

Prawn

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Query letters are formal business letters. SF and Sci-fi are abbreviations. Spell it out. "I am the author of five New York Times Best Seller List science fiction novels."


Somehow I don't think the abbreviation would matter in this sentence: "I am the author of five New York Times Best Seller List sci-fi novels" would probably get their attention just as well.
 

prusik

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Sci fi is derogatory?

The consensus, as I was introduced to it is that the relationship between "Sci Fi" and "Science Fiction" is the relationship between "Trekkie" and "Trekker."
You see, I'm a sci fi fan, and I like the term, so I wouldn't have known that would be a problem.

There are people who like being called Trekkies too. But that doesn't mean you should call someone a Trekkie who prefers being called a Trekker. If the person in question is an agent who may or may not choose to represent you...

The wikipedia article on "skiffy" goes into a little detail about this.

At the end of the day, I don't know if it matters what anyone calls it. What I do know is that agents on the "How Not to Be Published" panel at Boskone thought using "Sci Fi" in your query letter did not make a good first impression.
 

dawinsor

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What I do know is that agents on the "How Not to Be Published" panel at Boskone thought using "Sci Fi" in your query letter did not make a good first impression.

I'm not an agent but I so should have been on that panel! I've not been published a lot!
 

anodyne

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Are you really asking why referring to your genre by a term fans typically consider derogatory is problematic?

SF/F has been my pleasure reading genre of choice since I was like... eight. I've never heard anyone say that they found referring to it as sci-fi insulting or derogatory.

And um... what if someone prefers to be called a "Trekkie" and you call them a "Trekker" ? Aren't you going to be just as offensive? Isn't the movie called Trekkies? And anyway, you're not calling SOMEONE anything, you're calling something a term that is really common. It is the Sci-Fi channel after all.
 

Laurababs

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This thread is really useful and ive only read the first page! haha its gonna be a long night ;)
 

MoonWriter

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Fresie, if the boy's father's return begins the whole chain of events that changes the boy's life, I'd say that's your beginning. Remember Uncle Jim's "theater door" analogy? If you think that's when the boy can't turn back, it's your beginning.

Your analogy, Uncle Jim, made sense, but it wasn't until I read the above quote by Maestrowork, post #2377 on page 96, that I realized that the theater door didn't slam shut for my MC didn't until chapter 4.

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.

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.

I'm off to page #96. I'll be back some time next year when I catch up to introduce myself and to offer my profound thanks to Uncle Jim and his sidekicks: Maestro, eraser, Relph, etc., etc. for your enlightening posts. Everyone's unique take on the same subject has helped me to understand some of the board's more complex discussions.
Tim
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.
 

James D. Macdonald

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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.
 

prusik

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SF/F has been my pleasure reading genre of choice since I was like... eight. I've never heard anyone say that they found referring to it as sci-fi insulting or derogatory.

I'm not sure why you seem to be making such a big deal of this. Is it so hard not to not use term "sci-fi" in a query letter? Why the insistence on avoiding the industry standard term, and using a potentially offensive term instead? If agents tell you that they don't like the term, where's the harm in not using it around them?

And um... what if someone prefers to be called a "Trekkie" and you call them a "Trekker" ?
Well, SF/F has been my pleasure reading genre of choice since I was like... eight. I've never heard anyone say that they found referring to themselves as a "Trekker" as insulting or degatory. :)

Seriously, if you follow the evolution of the terms "Trekkie" and "Trekker", you see that the latter sprang up because of all of the baggage dumped on the former. The latter is considered the more neutral term by those who know better than I. If I'm playing the odds, and I do whenever I speak, "Trekker" is less likely to offend. However, I'm certainly not going to tell you that you shouldn't use the term "Trekkie" or "SciFi."

As Uncle Jim point outs, it's a tribal marker. You are free to use "SciFi" if you want, but word choice matters. A character who freely uses the term "SciFi" is different from one who avoids it. That word choice implies things about the speaker. You might even say that it's a killing detail.
 

HConn

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SF/F has been my pleasure reading genre of choice since I was like... eight. I've never heard anyone say that they found referring to it as sci-fi insulting or derogatory.

And um... what if someone prefers to be called a "Trekkie" and you call them a "Trekker" ? Aren't you going to be just as offensive? Isn't the movie called Trekkies? And anyway, you're not calling SOMEONE anything, you're calling something a term that is really common. It is the Sci-Fi channel after all.

Yeah, for a certain very active segment of the sf/f reader- and writer-ship, sci-fi is the term outsiders use to describe the genre, and it implies actors in bug-eyed rubber Martian masks trying to Steal Our Women. It's a term that connotes condescension and disrespect among a certain segment of the sf community, especially the older ones.

That association is fading but it's still there.
 

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Uncle Jim,
Having read more than my fair share on the Internet, before it even was the Internet, I have to tell you that this is the most informative thread I have had the pleasure of reading. I had previously read pages 1-153 back in 2005, then became involved in a very large project that required most of my time. Having finished that, the thread called be back. Starting over at page 1 again, and reading all the way through to this page made everything even more clear to me than it already was. I would like to thank you, as well as all of the others that have contributed to this thread over the years.

This is my first post on this board, but am sure it will not be my last. I have also become a much better chess player since buying Logical Chess on my first pass through here.

Being a programmer, I tend to think of revising as debugging. Cutting out the cruft, and making my stories flow in a logical order. It is similar to the Celtic Knot-work and flowcharting talked about up-thread.

I do have a question for you or anyone else willing to reply. Having previously been in the video rental business, there are trends in rentals that vary with the strength of the economy. As the economy worsens, the video rental business tended to get better. People have less disposable income, and tend to stay home with cheaper forms of entertainment. Have you found in your experience that the same holds true for novel sales? The opposite effect? Do publishers modify the number of books released by trying to forecast the market? I realize there is quite a lead time in publishing, and it may not be possible. Just curious.

Thank you again,

Dennis
 

James D. Macdonald

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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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