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Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 2

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

smsarber

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I second that--they really did a good job!

On another note, I'm halfway through "Land of Mist and Snow." I really enjoy it, but I'm going slower than normal reading it for two reasons--I'm really eating up your's and Debra's prose, and since I feel like I know you, I'm giving it maybe some extra attention. And I've been pumping out short stories and working on the NaNo novel, so reading time has been cut down a little. I should finish it in four days, by my guess.
 

smsarber

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Uncle Jim,

I've been watching The X Files, and a couple of questions came up. Okay, first: I'm no expert, but I am fairly certain the FBI has more authority than the local police department. However, Mulder and Skully are repeatedly pushed around by county/city/town police. Second: After all the things Skully sees (or misses by a fraction of a second), even though she is (her character is a doctor as well as an agent) intelligent, she constantly refuses to believe whatever she cannot prove by hard science.

So, the questions are: Is it easier for a screenwriter to get away with things of this nature than a novelist? Do you think that if we see something on tv, and it doesn't quite make sense, we're more prone to 'let it go' than if we read it in a book? Because I know you can tell any lie you want in fiction, IF you tell it believingly. But I've had critiques where someone has said "I just don't see this happening." And I have seen things on television that I have the same reaction to, but dismiss it. Is this because we are closer to what we read in a novel than what we see on television?
 

allenparker

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Not Uncle Jim, but thought I might shed some light.

Uncle Jim,


So, the questions are: Is it easier for a screenwriter to get away with things of this nature than a novelist? Do you think that if we see something on tv, and it doesn't quite make sense, we're more prone to 'let it go' than if we read it in a book? Because I know you can tell any lie you want in fiction, IF you tell it believingly. But I've had critiques where someone has said "I just don't see this happening." And I have seen things on television that I have the same reaction to, but dismiss it. Is this because we are closer to what we read in a novel than what we see on television?


You can tell any lie as long as you are able to make your reader suspend disbelief. He has to believe that what happened could in fact happen, no matter how silly it might seem.
 

smsarber

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Not Uncle Jim, but thought I might shed some light.




You can tell any lie as long as you are able to make your reader suspend disbelief. He has to believe that what happened could in fact happen, no matter how silly it might seem.
Well, yeah, that's basically what I said. But my question was if there is a difference in how it should be done in novel writing as opposed to what we might see in tv shows. Every writer is going to see at least some tv, and possibly be influenced by aspects of what they view. But it seems to me that in a lot of tv the writers either cut corners big time, or expect the viewing public to just take it all with a grain of salt. Or maybe they just think we're idiots, lol;).
 

euclid

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You can tell any lie as long as you are able to make your reader suspend disbelief. He has to believe that what happened could in fact happen, no matter how silly it might seem.

They tend to stick in your mind, though, and they annoy the heck out of me, like bits of food stuck between the teeth. I'm thinking of a few episodes of Star Trek Voyager in particular. There was one where the victim of a murder came back to life to cause havoc after his autopsy, and several episodes where members of the crew were altered genetically and the doctor reversed the effects with no problem at all. There was one episode where Janeway and someone else (Chacotay?) were transformed into small spotted creatures before the doc saved the day.
 

HConn

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Uncle Jim,

I've been watching The X Files, and a couple of questions came up. Okay, first: I'm no expert, but I am fairly certain the FBI has more authority than the local police department. However, Mulder and Skully are repeatedly pushed around by county/city/town police. Second: After all the things Skully sees (or misses by a fraction of a second), even though she is (her character is a doctor as well as an agent) intelligent, she constantly refuses to believe whatever she cannot prove by hard science.

So, the questions are: Is it easier for a screenwriter to get away with things of this nature than a novelist? Do you think that if we see something on tv, and it doesn't quite make sense, we're more prone to 'let it go' than if we read it in a book? Because I know you can tell any lie you want in fiction, IF you tell it believingly. But I've had critiques where someone has said "I just don't see this happening." And I have seen things on television that I have the same reaction to, but dismiss it. Is this because we are closer to what we read in a novel than what we see on television?

A couple things are at work here, I think: First, the person giving you a critique knows the work is still at a formative stage, and is less likely to shrug off something that they find problematic. On TV, once it's aired, it's done, and while the audience might Fan Wank a problem away, they might as well shrug it off. People reading for critique are also less tolerant of the Shrug of God.

As for Scully's stubborn skepticism, any series has to keep things The Same But Different, as E.E. Knight says. Each story has to be different enough to hold fans' interest, but still contain all the things they liked about earlier books.

In a series of novels, that's not too bad, if the series isn't too long. For TV shows, they have 20+ episodes year after year, and if Scully loses her skepticism and becomes a wild-eyed believer like Mulder, the show loses that dynamic (and the excuse to exposition all over the audience with Mulder's ridiculous theories).

Yeah, it can reach ridiculous extremes, but poor TV! Traditionally, they have to hit the Reset Button on their characters after every episode.
 

FOTSGreg

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In regards to editing, rereading, and re-editing, I just received the review of Chapter 12 (of 44) of my book Hatchings from Feidb today. He is seeing things that I never would have and never have through 7, count 'em 7, drafts of this book - passive phrasings, POV violations, drone-on sentences, info-dumps, and a few other sundry items.

It's a perfect example of how, no matter how hard we try, we can become "snow blind" in regards to our own work and a perfect example of why it's necessary to have someone else beta-read the entire work, not just short pieces of it.

When Feidb is done, I anticipate I'll be able to sit down and correct the multitude of problems with this book that has prevented it from being accepted by agents in the past and he has my thanks for that.

All the problems aside, he does say that he's enjoying it regardless.
 

Calliopenjo

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Just in case you happened to stop on by. I hope Uncle Jim enjoys the holiday.

Update: Archipelago-4th revision: 80% done.
Eloise-1st draft: 3 chapters complete. About 4 more to go.
Vampire Hunter (Working title)-1st draft: 5 chapters complete.
About 3 more to go.

So what does this mean? I've been busy and that I thank Uncle Jim every time I put my hands on the keyboard and start writing.

 

smsarber

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Yes, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of us aspiring future and already acomplished novelists. Keep in mind all the things we are thankful for this Thursday: our freedom, our families, our creative imaginations. Thank a soldier, thank your mom and dad, thank your kids. Thanks Uncle Jim for this thread that started so long ago, and grew into possibly the most helpful resourse for novelists on the web.

Thanksgiving is no time to slack on your writing, take a notebook and pen with you to dinner at the Aunt's or Grandma's, listen to the members of your family tell stories, pay attention to detail, jot down notes, who knows... your next great character may come from something you hear.
 

euclid

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I had an agent interested (since March last) in my WWII WIP3. He asked me to do a couple of rewrites, which I did. I stopped querying it. On Monday of this week I asked him if he was still interested and he said no, but he encouraged me to send it out to other agents. He says there is a market there for "good material like this".

Am I downhearted? Not a bit of it. I sent it out to the next two agents on my list, and today, I wrote 3,300 words in my new thriller (WIP4). This is way above my daily average (about 1200 words).

I am a writer! :)

PS: You were right, Jim, this book is writing itself!
 
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James D. Macdonald

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Any time my friend Esther Friesner gets a story back (and it happens to all of us, all the darned time), she says, "Your loss, Toots," and mails it back out.

And my friend Jen Pelland (less well known, no less brilliant) treats herself to dinner out, every hundred rejections.

That's what makes the pro a pro.

And a story that writes itself means you're on the right track. (The converse, a story that fights you every inch of the way, does not mean that you're on the wrong track.)
 

Izz

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And my friend Jen Pelland (less well known, no less brilliant) treats herself to dinner out, every hundred rejections.
Oooh, good idea. I'll probably hit 100 short story rejections for the year by mid-December (fortunately i've made sales to some good markets in amongst that and had favorable rejections from other good markets, so the number isn't depressing at all). Yes, dinner out sounds like a great plan.

(The converse, a story that fights you every inch of the way, does not mean that you're on the wrong track.)
I've been working on a novella for the last eighteen months and i'm still only halfway through the first draft. Man, it's a battle to get words on the page. I've been wondering whether it's worthwhile to keep going (i usually write a novel first draft in 30-40 days), but something keeps bringing me back to it.

So the above is good to hear. Thank you.
 
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euclid

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Maybe time for a sequel? Atlanta nights 2.

Its actually quiet difficult to write that badly (on porpoise, I mean - I can do it with my eyes closed when I dont mean to)
 

smsarber

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Maybe time for a sequel? Atlanta nights 2.

Its actually quiet difficult to write that badly (on porpoise, I mean - I can do it with my eyes closed when I dont mean to)
Maybe you should try to write bad on purpose all the time--then, by reverse psychology, you should always write the best stuff of your life, lol.:roll:
 

JenPelland

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And my friend Jen Pelland (less well known, no less brilliant) treats herself to dinner out, every hundred rejections.

Actually, it's not dinner out, it's beer with my friends. I hand everyone a beer, then hold mine up in the air and say, "To 100 rejections. Fuck 'em all!"

At which point, my friends hoist their beers in the air and chorus, "Fuck 'em all!"

It's amazingly cathartic.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away