July 08, 2020, 02:20:45 AM

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Selling books in person I just came across this article, which I found both well-written and detailed. For anyone who has a book in hand and is looking for ways to sell, here is a guide to one aspect of self-marketing. I've archived it for the day when I do this for my own book.


February 26, 2015, 03:48:14 PM
Re: Explaining technical terms The best model here is science fiction. That genre has to deal with this challenge constantly.

FWIW, I don't use a pilum when a spear will do. If the point (*ahem*) of the scene is the type of weapon being used, then I'll go ahead and be precise and work the description in however it seems to fit; otherwise, there's no more reason to describe the weapon than it is to describe what a mountain ash is just because the character happens to be standing next to one.

If, however, the thing must be described, then you can either make a point of it, inviting the reader to revel in the details (e.g, describing Stormbringer) or you can just slip details into narrative or even dialog. In the former case, though, I'd say to return to the details (again, see Stormbringer) more than once in the book. Very often this is the case with a magical weapon, where it's not only the appearance but the weapon's behavior that's relevant.

Idea for small bit of amusement. Instead of a magic sword, the character inherits a magic trebuchet.  *chortle*

Anyway, either be unobtrusive and minimalist, or wave your arms and make a production. But in all cases, only if the story needs it! This is personal taste, of course, but I have little patience for technical description for its own sake.

March 14, 2015, 04:19:15 PM
Re: Scene & Chapter Length Contrary to what some have said here, I do think chapter length matters. I'm less sure about scene length, so I'll ignore that one.

If chapters 1, 2, 3 and on up to 10 are all about the same length, then I'm expecting 11 to follow suit. It can, of course, be dramatically shorter or longer, but that's the expectation. Sometimes using a shorter chapter can be done deliberately for effect, and I'm fine with that.

But if chapter 1 is a thousand words and chapter 2 is five thousand and chapter 3 is two thousand and chapter 4 is eleven thousand and chapter 5 is eight hundred, and so on, then the book becomes jerky. I'll almost guarantee the pacing within chapters will likewise not be smooth.

So, chapter length *does* matter. It's not something the author can get away with not caring about. (hey, two phrases ending in prepositions in the same sentence; achievement!)

March 18, 2015, 05:15:31 AM
Re: Do you read like a writer? I have a couple of thoughts on this, though they go in a different direction.

I'm a medievalist. I've spent my life reading and writing medieval history. Not once have I heard the advice that I should "study the masters" and learn to write history like they do. We do study historians (it's called historiography), but we study just about everything *except* their style. I suspect the same is true for writers in other academic disciplines, but I feel history is especially relevant, since it was long considered a form of literature. It seems odd that studying other writers is somehow useful in fiction but not in non-fiction. I'm not sure what to make of that, only that it seems odd.

I have indeed studied other authors--read them as a writer--but I have never been able to get anything from it. The writers I admire most don't write fantasy: Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, Raymond Chandler. Others, but not fantasy authors. The closest match would be someone like Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells.

And here's the thing. None of those people write in three acts. None of them open with a bang. They don't follow the Hero's Journey. Moreover, how they write doesn't seem to fit with how *I* want to write.

So many people talk about doing this. People I respect. I was quite young when I read Salvador Dali's advice to study the masters first, and when I saw his crucified Christ, a purely Mannerist painting. All these people, wiser than I, must be seeing something I am not. Once again, I don't know what to do with this, other than to make the observation.

I do know this much. Writing has soured my reading.

I'm also a musician. I took a workshop once on music production. In the very first class, the teacher told us that once we learn how to produce music, we'll never listen to music the same way again. He was right. I don't just hear the song, I hear the mix. It's the same with writing. I do now see the writer writing, and there are times when I wish I didn't. It has made me even less tolerant of poor writing, and even more in awe of great writing. That vivid line of description, that crackling dialog, the deft characterization, seems even more the work of inspiration than of methodology. There's nothing to study, only to admire.

So, I keep reading. I keep writing. I try to keep them in separate rooms. Sometimes they bang on the wall and I have to tell them both to shut up because I'm playing my guitar.

April 01, 2015, 04:20:14 AM
Re: Paper, Pad or PC? I use both. I mostly write with pen and paper for first draft, also for outlining and general brainstorming. I use a fountain pen so I don't have to press hard, so my hands (I have arthritis in both) don't get tired. I use smaller notebooks (typically 4x6 or so) and carry one with me at all times. I have grown accustomed to being able to make notes or write snippets in very short time spaces. This means, among other things, I'm able to write at times and in places that would be impractical with a computer.

Paper has two other advantages that loom large for me. One, as others have noted, editing on any large scale is too cumbersome. So I don't do it. I just write. I will scratch out a word or phrase here and there, but that's it. The other advantage may sound silly but it's not. With pen and paper, I can doodle. When I'm being first-draft-creative, my writing flow is punctuated by countless little pauses as I think of the next word or sentence. Doodling keeps the pen in my hand and my eyes on the page. I don't get distracted as readily as I do on the computer.

But all that is only the first draft. The next step is to type all that up. No, it's not redundant work. Typing what I have written longhand brings two benefits. The first is that I do on-the-fly editing as I type. I fix small problems, and sometimes I throw out whole passages. The typing becomes a first-pass revision. The second benefit is that it gets me back into the flow of the story. Sometimes, when I'm stuck and I have pages still in longhand, I'll set aside the scene where I'm stuck and just type. It often helps.

Once it's typed (into Scrivener), all work from that point forward is on the computer. I have, at that point, a manuscript that is somewhere closer to the neighborhood of Done than to the district of WiP, and the cut and paste of software comes into its own. It's also the point at which I title chapters and consign scenes to the trash heap (er, archive).

So yeah, it's both. Both mediums have their irreplaceable aspects for me.

-= Skip =-

April 19, 2015, 06:32:39 AM
Re: Rating Books Based on Price This happens to everything, not just books. People give one-stars because they couldn't put the BBQ grill together. Or because the pajamas were the wrong color. All sorts of irrelevant things that add up to the same sum: the buyer was unhappy.

It sucks, it's unfair, but it's part of doing business.

April 25, 2015, 08:39:26 PM
Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die. As a young 'un, it was
The Martian Chronicles
Stranger in a Strange Land
Lord of the Rings
The Foundation Trilogy

but others stand out like lesser stars. Pierre Boule's A Garden on the Moon, for example. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea.

But I can't pass by my grown-up books
Stand on Zanzibar
War and Peace
Lord Jim
Dos Passos' USA trilogy
The Once and Future King

Aw heck. I have a whole spreadsheet.

Speaking of which, I started that some years ago. I have three grown children. The spreadsheet has a page for movies, one for books, and one for music. What's on there is what I think *they* should see, read, and hear. Over the years it has provided a very nice point of contact between us.

May 08, 2015, 03:16:41 AM
Re: Undressing Your Characters I have to disagree with Francis Knight ... somewhat. Though that somewhat is probably most of the time. I suppose that needs explaining.

Inconsistency can jar a reader, and that (staying just with clothing, but it applies to other things) manifests in two ways. One is anachronism, which is Sir Gawain was talking about. The other is internal inconsistency, which is what I think Francis Knight is overlooking.

If my world has castles, knights, peasants, swords, bows, and Ford Mustangs, there's a consistency problem. OTOH, if my world has spaceships, vampires, dragons, stevedores and eponymous archons, then there's not a consistency problem because I've established that my world is a mash-up. That story probably has other problems, but that's a different topic!

Sir Gawain was, I suspect, speaking to the former sort of author, who is striving for a particular tone, an internal consistency to his/her world, and who might appreciate not having to look up the details of clothing, if it turned out to matter whether or not people in that world wore doublets. It's no good saying it's a made up world and they can wear whatever I put on them. In setting the other world details I have created a certain expectation in my reader and I'm obliged to deliver.

That was my two bits; now here's my two cents. That's a nice list, but it would be more useful if it were more specific. So, for example, it's not just men's shoes that I'm likely to want to know; instead, I'd want to know what footwear was worn by monks. Even more, I might ask what was worn by 13th century Cistercian monks. (I know this because I saw that asked on a discussion list).  Also, there is a *huge* vocabulary associated with clothing, then as now, very specialized and rather ephemeral.

What I do when I want a bit of clothing info (I rarely want to know what *everyone* wore) is pretty arcane--I search it.
medieval monk shoes
returns not only verbal descriptions but images as well, which really helps the author. And the text hits often provide that one word you need for a bit of exotica in your description.

May 18, 2015, 12:50:37 AM
Re: I need help dating a very precious book. The Readers Library was an English publishing company that managed to stay in business until just recently. Sorry to see another fine old house go down. I'm glad you were able to put a date to the book.

May 18, 2015, 12:56:28 AM
Re: The Defenders (Netflix) Interesting. I thought Luke Cage was great. Jessica Jones was a little hard for me to get into, but by Episode 3 or 4 I was all in. Daredevil was great, mainly because it was the most fun of these three, but I also thought it was more uneven than the others.

Iron Fist was merely blah for me. Nothing drew me in. Then again, I may be carrying over my old prejudice--I was a fan of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu and regarded Iron Fist as an interloper. :)

August 17, 2017, 05:22:39 AM