Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

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

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LiamJackson

Re: omniscient pov

Hiya Dancer.

When attemtping to write in the Om voice, I constantly and inadvertently reveal information that the character should have no way of knowing, or simply shouldn't know.

The writing goes smoothest for me when I kick back and allow events to unfold through the characters senses.

And thanks for the greeting!
 

James D Macdonald

POV and Revision

It's entirely possible to change POV in the course of revision. If a story doesn't work as third person omniscient, rewrite it as first person and see if it's better. You can do versions in third person limited, then rewrite it as third person dramatic. You can rewrite scenes from one character's point of view, and if that doesn't work, rewrite from a different character's point of view.

For example, our first published short story, <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060267992/ref=nosim/madhousemanor/" target="_new">"Bad Blood,"</a> was written in first draft in third person omniscient, then rewritten in first person. That's the form it sold in. (To the very first market we sent it to, thankyouverymuch.)
 

EJ

Re: POV

Okay, I've always been told that third person limited is when you only go into the thoughts and feelings of one character throughout the entire story and don't go into the mind of anyone else.

What is it when you change viewpoints throughout the story, but when going to a different person's pov, you do a scene change thing?

Like, if you do a dramatic scene between two characters from the pov of one, and then the aftermath from the pov of the other?
 

James D Macdonald

Re: POV

If you change POV with every scene change, you can still be in third-person limited.

Right then, points of view:

First person. "I"

The narrator can be the main character, a major character who also observes the main character, or a minor character who serves only as a reporter.

The narrator may or may not be reliable. (<A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0425173895/ref=nosim/madhousemanor target="_new">The Murder of Roger Akroyd</a> is a classic unreliable narrator.)

The narrator is limited to what that one person knows.

Can you have more than one first-person narrator? Sure. <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553212478/ref=nosim/madhousemanor target="_new">Frankenstein</a> has three first-person narrators, in a nested story.

One thing you can do with first person is create dramatic irony -- the reader knows something that the character doesn't. (An excellent example of this: there's a military museum in Danbury, CT. They have a diorama there, showing off the M3 halftrack. The diorama shows a couple of soldiers, one on a halftrack, the other on foot, having a conversation. The caption on the base of this model is "Relax, buddy, the war's nearly over." The irony is this: they're next to a roadsign that reads Bastogne 25 Km.)

First person can create immediacy and realism. It can also fail by falling into a love-fest for the author.

====

Second person: You did this, then you do that. Seldom seen outside of "choose your own adventures." If you happen to be a master stylist with a genius for this sort of thing, go for it. Elsewise, try to stay out of second person.

====

Third person:

You have your choice here: you can do with third person omniscient (the narrator knows everything, can drop into anyone's thoughts), third person limited (the narrator can only listen in to one person's thoughts), or third person dramatic (the narrator is an audience at a play, and can't hear anyone's thoughts).

Third person dramatic is the fastest moving POV, and is really good for action scenes.

There's nothing that says you can't mix 'n match between scenes or between chapters.

I personally dislike the third person omniscent -- since it's easy to do badly. If you are using third omniscient, make sure that the smallest unit in any given person's head is the paragraph. Treat thoughts like dialog that way. And put up markers so the reader will know whose head you're in. Confusing the reader is a bad plan.
 

LiamJackson

Re: POV

What are some examples of "successful" pov switches within a gien text? (read 'successful' as not confusing, smooth transanction, etc...) Examaple: 3rd limited to 3rd Om..(not saying it's a good example, but rather an example.
 

James D Macdonald

Re: POV

Having beaten POV into the ground (short, take-home lesson: chose the one that's best for your story) shall we turn to Slick Quick Tricks for Outlining?

Oh, and show of hands: how many of y'all did your two hours of writing today? How many of you have retyped the first chapter from your favorite novel?
 

evanaharris

pov

Outlining sounds good...I've been writing like a madman recently, doing major revisions to my book...so yes, two hours a day...three, four sometimes... No to the first chapter...Gonna get to that eventually...
 

James D Macdonald

Re: pov

I may be away for a few days, so I'll leave you with an aphorism:

Never explain anything to your readers before they care about it.
 

qatz

Re: fonts

the only two fonts i would never consider using unless some publisher made me do it (or, in this case, i don't know how the software works) are courier and times. when i started as a writer i can't remember what i used, times maybe because i had a total of three choices. then i became a lawyer and had to use courier because my secretary said everyone did. then i switched jobs and they used times new roman over there, as everyone in those huge government offices did. then, i went to work for myself and realized at last, after millions of words written, that i didn't have to use the fonts everyone else did. i didn't use courier any more because it is ugly and i didn't use times new roman any more because it is pretentious. i normally write in arial or helvetica and use benguiat for chapter titles. after several hundred thousand more words, i like what i get. now you guys are debating whether courier is mandatory, or maybe times new roman can be used. well, you're the pros, but tell me why it matters.
 

James D Macdonald

Re: fonts

If your work is going to be published, the editor needs to work on it without distraction, and needs to be able to estimate the finished length of the piece as it'll be printed.

That's why courier ten is the preferred typeface (along with all the double-spaced lines and the one-inch margins).

Editors live by their eyes -- that's why sans-serif fonts are right out.
 

EJ

Re: fonts

As you are writing it, you can write it however you want. Heck, you could fiddle with a font making program and use one that looks like large orange crayon if you really want.

But once you have it written, you need to hit control a to highlight the entire thing, then change the size and font before showing it around to people.
 

James D Macdonald

On Guidelines and Winnowing

A <a href="http://scrivenerserror.blogspot.com/2003_12_01_scrivenerserror_archive.html#107099214006983999" target="_new">fine article</a> (and not merely because he quotes me).
 

evanaharris

Re: On Guidelines and Winnowing

I like Courier.

Me too. Fonts weren't meant to be pretty. They were meant to be readable. And Courier is as readable as it gets.
 

HConn

Re: On Guidelines and Winnowing

I'll take that a step further, ev, and say readability is beauty (when it comes to fonts.)
 

qatz

Re: fonts

thanks guys for your cogent advice. i personally find arial much more readable than courier, which is why the latter is ugly, but jim macD makes a very persuasive case for its being the industry standard. as for those that just like courier better, your opinion noted. hey, it's a free country!
 

qatz

Re: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

re: high-style romances

are you saying that dracula is not a novel? is it not a type of novel?dracula
 

qatz

Re: Backing off for a moment

jim DmcD, every so often you can't resist throwing in a note about self-publishing. probably the greatest self-publisher and self-promoter was Walter Whitman who had an alter ego and penname "walt," probably also our greatest american poet ever. me and rw emerson can't both be wrong. but there was a little kicker ... he was a genius. always helps to be a genius. and homer didn't have a publisher at all, or even write his stuff down, but that old genius thing kicked in for him too. i guess they're the exceptions that prove your rules. i hope Sunshine Creator will be another one, on the level of perspiration rather than inspiration.

i tried to start a thread on conventional publishing vs. self publishing taking off from your discussions with her, but it was lost somewhere in cyberspace due probably to my newbie-ist tendencies. which brings up another question, i wrote about my writing misadventures and some of my concerns that i don't know where to post -- here (i love this thread! thanks jim!) or elsewhere. it's mostly directed to jim et al, in the spirit of this sort of exchange. maybe it should go to newbies but i'd rather it not get lost. thoughts?

:hat
thanks, eric
 

qatz

Re: Backing off for a moment

you got an absolute constertutional write to use bad grammar word choyz spelling etc if its what yew really wanta dew. but you gotta walk thet lonesome valley, ain't nobody else kin walk it for you, you gotta walk it by yourself.

good to read from you!
 

PixelFish

HConn has the right of it.

I'll take that a step further, ev, and say readability is beauty (when it comes to fonts.)

Hear, hear. As a graphic designer, I'm pretty picky about my fonts, and there's a lot that goes into designing them, but readability is usually the number one thing to keep in mind. (There are several cardinal sins in using fonts inappropriately, and anything that interferes with readability is usually high on the list, second only to the atrocity of the all-caps script font.)

Qatz: Courier and Times are chosen over sans-serif fonts like Helvetica and Arial, because the serifs create a stronger word-shape while still drawing the eye easily along. When humans look at words, and read speedily, they often don't look at letters or words invididually, but as blocks or shapes. Their eyes recognise the shape and process it, rather than stringing all the letters together and going, "C-A-T = cat." The serifs create linear flow along the baseline, ascenders, and x-height, and thus keep the eye progressing neatly across a line of text.


Courier is preferred over Times, because Courier is a mono-space font, and can better give the publisher a proper idea of the text size.
 

qatz

Re: HConn has the right of it.

okay pixel, i give up. i'm convinced. take pity on me (TPOM).

about pov, of which i found the discussion fascinating, i finally got around to reading "the alchemist" and just love what coehlo does with a limited third pov concerning the shepherd, his hero. whenever the shepherd moves out of range coehlo shifts gracefully to the pov of someone else who happens to still be in scene, with a break in the text, and then back again. i used to hate omn.pov because though it worked for the classics it just seemed boring now. i wrote something with the pov hopping all over and the agent i sent it to sent it back by return mail, saying, be omnisicent (you fool)! lately i've been noticing the shift toward first pov and thinking, aha now you're catching up to me, fell publishable writers! so i wrote out the first draft of my last piece in first and boy was it quick and easy. a sort of MacDonald's (not you jim, the burger) of writing. very passionate but withal full of garbage. plenty of vomit in the true sense of the word. now i'm working with limited tpov and a main character who is not only a highly efficient killer, but an inhuman one at that. and you're supposed to like him! well, takes all kinds.

btw i think those who dissed higgins clark so bad on her word choice may have been missing her apparent attempt, and not a bad one, to portray a certain class of a certain age. that stilted kind of language is not used in 30-something hangouts, but it may be found on newport beach or the hamptons, or even santa fe.

jim, i really look forward to your thoughts on outlines. you didn't mention them at first, then casually say yours, hashed out in the first few weeks, are 75% !!! of the length of the eventual book. pardon my asking, but are you nuts? an outline that long is the book, sans a little description. could we get back to the skeletal stage a little more?

you seem to be saying your outlines are more in the nature of 3D topographic maps, charting the rise and fall of subplots like foothills in the gradual climb to the mountains of climax etc. without an eventual end in mind, the positional playing up near the front may lose momentum and stall out. but TPOM! these book things seem to spring fully formed from your forehead like Greek monsters! for those of us who lack your last fifteen years, could you be a bit more detailed, and slow down, about the creative process?

finally, and speaking of which, your discussion of plot seemed a little glossy to me. it was mainly "you need to get one!" or "plots move things along!" or some combination, but nothing much in depth except your rec of Sweeny Todd in Concert, which i'll try to track down. but think of your explanation of steven king's book -- how helpful was that? -- and see, i most humbly request, if there's more you can add along that line to this point.

i'll be posting a little intro piece on me for explanation soon. sorry i'm so long winded. am i putting off bic over my tiger book? maybe.
 

James D Macdonald

Very Briefly on Self-Publishing

Most of the examples usually given of sucessful self-publishing date from before WWII (when the whole face of publishing was very different), in the nineteenth century, or before.

Even then, most of the self-publishing apologists don't mention that Mark Twain went bankrupt self publishing, that Dickens lost money on A Christmas Carol, and that for every famous success there are thousands of others who sank without a trace.

Self-publishing these days works for: a) when the book will be sold face-to-face anyway (e.g. poetry anthologies sold by the poet at readings), or b) specialized non-fiction (town or regional histories; how-to books).

Yes, lightning may strike. No, it probably won't. Remember that in addition to writing a brilliant book, you need to be art director, designer, printer, salesforce, and warehouse. Those last things are non-trivial; professionals make money doing them all, and you'll be going head-to-head against professionals. Do you have the time and money? Will you break even? How big a gambler are you?

There' nothing wrong with self-publishing. I've done it myself. Sunset Creator, in other threads here, is doing it right now, and all I can do is cheer.

There is something wrong with vanity publishing. It's like self-publishing, only with an anchor tied to your leg.

More on other items as we go along. Lots of things have been brought up; I'll try to get to them all.
 

James D Macdonald

Dracula

No, taxinomically, Dracula isn't a novel. It's a romance. A novel is a book-length work of realistic prose fiction. Dracula flunks the Realistic test.

(Other than that -- it was an epistolary romance. That is, it was presented as a set of letters, diary entries, and so on. It was also high-tech and up-to-the minute, set it its own present day -- parts of it were transcripts of that cutting edge technology, the dictaphone.)
 

qatz

Re: Dracula

i agree that Drac was a romance. one could go on and on about that! but not a romantic novel, as romantic fiction? i see your main distinction ... plausibility ... but isn't it just that, if one is willing to suspend disbelief for a second, that makes Drac such a great book? and what brings out the horror? isn't the most famous radio show of all time War of the Worlds, and for just that reason?

i thought you were going to be gone a few days. or is this one of your minions speaking? anyway, i will post something else if you have time to read it.

thanks unc.

eric
 

qatz

Re: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

comments from the benighted

i can slop out reams of material but i have to revise it to death for it to be any good, at least in the fictional realm and often in technical writing too. why is that? well, lessee.

when i was 9 i came up with a copy of the Ur Leaves edited by Malcolm Cowley and was completely blown away. i knew then i was going to be a writer and, because my genius was just then peaking, i figured i’d be a darn good one too. this was before 1960.

i turned out to be pretty darn smart and my writing was pretty darn good after all. i was chosen as the number 1 high school english student in the nation by one group. this was in the late sixties, i think (see below). this ruined me as a writer. i got lazy.

ram dass said if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there. some people think ken kesey said that but i knew kesey, got to hang around out at his farm sometimes, and he didn’t say that. but if you go back to the saying, i’ve just proved i don’t know nothin’.

be right back.

:hat
 
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