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Messages - The Gem Cutter

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Writers' Corner / Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« on: August 01, 2016, 05:38:58 AM »
 Figures don't lie, they say, but liars can figure  8)
I don't accuse anyone of misleading anyone, but it's economics, and so very, very overdetermined. Unlike some fields that are impacted by social media and technology indirectly (like accounting, for example), our industry is impacted directly along multiple fronts, and it's volatile with change. And the rate of that change is accelerating, and the rate of that acceleration is itself accelerating.

This is disconcerting but there's the solace of knowing that even painstaking analysis is ... very limited in value. Next year, when the X-Phone-Tablet Mark V comes out, the whole world's going to do things differently, and you can use that 24lb analytical report as a splendid paperweight ;)

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: August 01, 2016, 05:30:19 AM »
It occurs to me that the question "Is it good/permissible/advisable/possible to use elves and dwarves?" is tolerable only because we're familiar with the question.

Would people be on board with a work featuring Wookies or Vulcans or whatever the hell Yoda is?
Would we be comfortable writing stories with the Force, pulling characters toward noble and selfish acts?
How about an English investigator with a pipe, a drug habit, and an amazing eye for detail?
How about an island with a ginormous gorilla?

Focusing solely on whether it would be worthwhile to read (let alone write) works like these, the half-answer that comes to my mind is "Yes - when it's fan fiction, otherwise, no." Like diet drinks, they seem OK if properly labeled "LOTR, but with less sugar!"

Why am I so against this? Because it's been done over and over and over and over and over, and then there's the copies of the copies, and their copies, and theirs. Spinoffs and, dare I say, ripoffs are neither new nor going anywhere. But no one remembers the people who wrote Kull the Conqueror or the Beastmaster (Conan ripoffs).

True, some few stepped into Tolkien's void in the first decades after his death, but that space is now occupied and, those works are fading. And though 'successful', they never rose above the image of "thin, weak copies." Those author's non-Tolkienesque works - how successful were they? Meh. And why would they be, when their writers never developed the creative skill (and confidence) to envision new and compelling peoples and lands?

Fantasy is hard to do well, for reasons few genres share. Mystery and romance are just as hard, but for them, it's about adhering to a much tighter constellation of conventions. Our readers are among the most difficult to please that exist anywhere, or at any time in the past. But we have something other genres do not - hungry readers craving new everything. My unsolicited advice - give it to them.

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: August 01, 2016, 03:01:30 AM »
Venandier, for me, as a reader, yes, renaming helps me not hold the work to a Tolkien standard. That is a shallow but useful technique imho.

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: July 31, 2016, 06:40:53 PM »
First, if the story and characters are compelling, all other rules can be overlooked. If you can invoke the genre's tropes successfully, and prevent them from being clichés, your story will prosper. Of course, that's for the reader to judge, and therein lies your peril.

My unsolicited advice - instead of elves and dwarves, invent your own races. There's no sense of discovery for readers to see these people, and imho fantasy is all about discovery (see Tolkein's essay On Fairy Stories). This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with readers limitations, many of which are self-imposed.

As a reader of Tolkein since I was 5 or 6, I will confide that I do not read fantasy that has elves for many reasons. I am bored with attempts to recreate Tolkein's elves, and no other elves come close - because I won't let them. I am bored with people trying to re-invent elves and dwarves because, using the same terms, because for me, it's not re-invention, it's either perversion (unwelcome change) or repetition. Author R. Scott Bakker wrote an essay explaining this better than I can (or will).

Using him as an example, he created a race that is immortal and "high", but now fallen. They embody madness and greatness and perversion and memory so deep that they literally have become mad, their perversion driven by their attempt to remember and keep themselves whole in the face of all the centuries. He is a controversial writer, and I do not point to him as a model of any kind for the purposes of this discussion beyond his success as deploying standard genre tropes (conan-like warrior, sorcerors, immortals, etc.) in a new and interesting way.

There is a maxim in Michal Greene's 48 Laws of Power that states "Never follow a great man", meaning, never step into a role that was previously held by an amazing person - no matter how well you do, even if you're better, you will be seen as different, and in the shadow of the excellent, "different" always means worse.

I feel your pain and longing for a return to Middle Earth. I advise you to take the notions that make that experience and goal worthwhile, and create a new world, with new people, and new problems, and take us there.

My two cents, offered with encouragement and humility - Gem Cutter

Writers' Corner / Re: How much did you write today?
« on: July 28, 2016, 06:59:58 AM »
I imported my 78K word mess into Scrivener (which I just bought, and love, and hope to marry one day) and managed to get 4K further down the road.

Fantasy Resources / Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« on: July 25, 2016, 05:51:59 PM »
My comment about wet cloth armor was a bit ambiguous. I did not mean that it would fall apart, but that the way the weight lays on the body would be very different than 1) the way it was when dry and 2) the way the weight of metal or stiff leather armor would lay.

This is important because it impacts balance. Metal armors spread the weight between the shoulders and the waist, with some residual weight conveyed to the torso. Cloth armor relies much more on the shoulders. When wet, the additional weight (and it can be a lot - cloth armor can probably absorb 1 to 2 gallons of water, at 8 pounds each - most of that 8 to 16 pounds would be on the shoulders, and make one extra-top heavy. Combined with the shift in center of balance, that makes for difficulties in fighting, especially on broken terrain.

So it's not only that there's added weight (problem 1), it's also that you've changed the amount and center of gravity (problem 2), and moved it higher, leading to instability (problem 3). Problem 4 is less obvious - because the armor isn't always heavy, you never grow stronger and more able to carry that weight while doing all the things soldiers do, of which fighting is only 2% or far less.

I am not judging one form of armor over another, I am simply describing useful details for writers.

For example, If you want your lance-bearing hero to pitch off his horse so he must fight the baddy (who has neither horse nor lance) sword-to-sword, you have a problem: no one in their right mind gives up that kind of advantage. But putting him in cloth armor and making him soaking wet and top heavy makes it possible for him to fall, despite his excellent horsemanship.

Fantasy Resources / Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« on: July 25, 2016, 01:39:52 AM »
Interesting. As a soldier with some experience in difficult environs, I can see this being a go-to option, in its day.

One observation: heavy clothing + rain/water = a ton of weight, and unlike other, heavier armors, there is no support structure to manage it. So, if your opponent wears cloth armor, seek water, and keep it between you. And storming a castle with a moat, well, you might do well to drop it.

Writers' Corner / Re: How Quickly/Slowly Do You Write?
« on: July 21, 2016, 09:03:06 PM »
I can produce 5K words of decent draft prose / day, but cannot sustain it without health issues or quality suffering. I prefer half that. It's a great question, but I think straight numbers of words per hour/day, etc., are incomplete.

I use what I call a layered approach, and depending on the layer, there's a different unit of measure. I find I work faster if I only do one thing at a time. Here's what I do and approx. how fast I do it:

Scene Prep: 1/2 day / scene: establish setting(s), # & type of characters required, scene-level plot, exposition, and dialogue tasks, plot tasks and constraints (what must and must not happen).

Character synthesis (walk-ons, extras with basic actions, basic dialogue): .5 - 1 hour/extra, 2 hours for initial draft of a character profile

Initial Draft (creation of plot, events, character motives & major reactions, basic dialogue,  scenes) : 3-5K /day

Initial PLOT review (consistency, plausibility, linkage to other scenes, event sequencing): 10K / day

Characterization insertion: motives, reactions, noticed details, interior monologue: 3K / day

Dialogue review (grammar[mine], references [theirs], char. style/voice adaptation: 1 scene / day

Description: (additional details to stimulate senses, provide stage direction to the action and reader's eye): 1.5K / day

I won't go into editing, but I imagine I provide more detail here than most.

His quote was: “No one can be as intellectually slothful as a really smart person; give smart people half a chance and they will ship their oars and drift…dozing to Byzantium, you might say.”

I used it to allude to the common negative reactions that I have seen of Bakker's work (not on this forum but in person), many of which indicate closed minds and slothful thinking. People seem to want enjoy a violent world where people fight with swords and fire, but not rape! That's too far!

Discussions with this forum's members that I have seen of such things as depictions of rape indicate a culture incompatible with Bakker's use of them. I am not saying they are wrong for their opinions (more power to them!), but to me, having experienced real brutality, violence, and death, I find his depictions spot-on, and find his accuracy and consistency refreshing.

Some people want their versions of the human condition filtered like a PG or R movie - I liked Bakker's made-for-grownups world where sex, violence, and depravity existed alongside their nobler cousins.

I am one of the above-mentioned new members to the forum who is a big Bakker fan.  I am currently approaching the end of my own first draft, so I have not read the new book yet, but I plan to as soon as I can.

Haven't been here long, but I am not surprised Bakker's work is less popular here, there's a distinct culture and set of tastes across the membership that make his work an improbable item for their shelves. If you've read Stephen King's "On Writing", his "dozing to Byzantium" comment applies.

For my part, I was more than taken by the series and found his style to be ideal for me. I liked the naked brutality and honesty, and his refreshing take on archetypes.

Well, I have my own approach - not saying it's The Approach, or was conveyed to me by Angels, but my approach is to write my book with an eye to my audience. My themes include a lot of items that are always simplified in YA fiction (one could argue that the depiction of tyranny and rebellion in Hunger Games is an example - good explorations, but simplistic), and I want to get into the nuances and complexities.

And I am a writer, not a publisher or an agent. When I finish, if someone said "Dude, this would rock in YA" I would certainly listen - I don't know the markets. And I don't read much in the genre and prefer stuff that is solidly not YA - Bakker's Prince of Nothing series, etc.

So appreciate your passion, and I am not knocking the genre - I am just disappointed by the little of it I've seen, as I so often am by most books. I am finicky - I cut my teeth on the Hobbit at 5, the LOTR in 1st grade, the Silmarillion before I could ride a bike :)

Woah! Easy there Cupi!  :o Who said anything about blacklisting?!

Just because someone's pet genre isn't someone else's doesn't mean anything hateful or short-sighted is going on. The fact there is a popular thread with the title "Do you avoid YA?" that has been active FOR TWO YEARS suggests that maybe not everyone thinks YA is quite as star-spangled awesome as some others do. Maybe, there are reasons. Nahhhh!

I doubt anyone will be talking about Divergent or Hunger Games in 3 years, let alone 10 or 20. Now, Harry Potter is clearly YA, and is superior, by far, IMHO, and I believe in 20 years and perhaps beyond, people will still be reading and talking about Rowling's books, and Crichton's.

This is a writer's forum, so I thought we were talking about writing - and I don't personally have an interest in writing YA fiction as such; meaning, I might write a work that fell into the genre 'by accident', but I am not purposefully pursuing the genre's teen and low-20-something audience. This doesn't make me an anti-YA fanatic - I have neither a torch nor an anti-YA-genre sign. Neither witches nor witch-hunters here, thank you very much. (Any references to that stanchion of a YA franchise "Buffy" were unintended, and yet, eerily on-task)

By all means, defend YA fiction from its non-attackers loudly, and from the rooftops! Decry its vanilla, disinterested critics as short-sighted, unable to differentiate whatever from ... something else, whatever it takes. Take no prisoners! Point to the flaws it shares with other genres and claim reverse-age-discrimination - that should gain traction! As Colonel Mustard said in Clue: "This is war, Peacock! You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs - any cook will tell you that!"

Me, I'm going back to writing.

Lady Ty, I am well aware of my bias, and despite your detailed response, I don’t think you really looked at my post with very much detail. My post may have come across as ill-informed, but I am not. If I came across as patronizing, I assure you, that was not my intention. Allow me to expand and explain:
-   I do love young people. I spent most of my life working with them in very stressful situations, and admire young people who give their all, even when they do not succeed. I cannot prove this, but many of the younger people I have known remain my good friends, and have generously thanked me for my assistance to them as they crossed the threshold from following into leading things.

-   I admitted that I was biased, meaning your admonishing tone is redundant, as I already admonish myself. That’s what biased means - I understand that the way I feel is often unfounded and flawed. This bias arises when the faults of YAs in general are accompanied by faults of individual character, which seem to enhance one another. This is an illusion, but it does affect the way I look at YA when they whine and wallow. I hold mature and elderly people to the same standard – it just feels different. The same attitudes among older people come across as bitterness, etc., but it’s still the same whininess. The thread was focused on YA, so I didn’t mention this, as it seemed off the topic.

-   I never claimed the young today are any weaker, lazier, etc., than previous generations. I have no generational issues – I never said that I had an issue with today’s young people that I didn’t also have with their counterparts in previous generations. I know very well, as a father of three YAs that today’s YA face daunting challenges far beyond what my generation faced. So, pay better attention to detail, as your assumption that I did have a generational issue was unfounded and led to your unneeded explanation of how these modern times differ from earlier ones.

-   I actually admire today’s generation of YA in a lot of ways. As a class, they have outperformed previous generations in distinct ways. That said, through social media, the mediocre and substandard YA are louder and more clearly seen and heard than their older counterparts. Again, this leads to a bias (see definition): I do not doubt every generation has had the same dredges among them – we just see this generation’s more plainly as such.

-   I disagree that individual YA talents remain undeveloped, as there are countless examples of today’s YA succeeding, thriving, and accomplishing just as much and often more for their age than previous generations. Hence my bias – beside the excellent of today’s YA, the dredges seem even more “dredgy”.

-   Your suspicions of my views’ foundation in specific media are well off, meaning both inaccurate, and off-topic. You don’t know me, and your presumption is rude.

You read what you wanted to read from my lighthearted post, and took away what you wanted to, that I am some grumpy old man who thinks his generation was better. I am not such a person, and I frequently and passionately correct people who take that position.
I think a lot of successful YA works are overrated: Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent, the list goes on. Not to say they aren’t without merit and value, I just believe there’s some conflation.

Three random observations:

On some levels, I think YA shares the appeal of Pixar and many Disney films - there is content there for multiple levels of maturity, but couched so as to be mutually non-interfering, with the lowest common denominator being geared for the young. For example, pacing is particularly bent to appeal to the young/very young.

Reading this thread it occurs to me that my novel could be considered YA, although I break one of the rules specified earlier - I have an old version of the protag telling the story. But the fact I never considered YA as a potential branding for the work illustrates my sentiment - I am not interested in YA as such. I think I lack the necessary organs to appreciate it, as a class of books. Perhaps because when I was young, I read everything, and found that some works were appealing to me as a youth, in multiple genres - and YA tries to encompass them all: mysteries, romances, adventures, fantasy, coming of age, etc., which seems distracting and an unneeded doubling of all the genres (YA-fantasy vs. fantasy).

I am not sure if this is because I hold many young people in contempt, or because I hold their most popular works in contempt (Twilight? That's your generation's iconic work?). Don't misunderstand, I love young people, but I have a strong bias for the non-whiny, ambitious, and talented, and against their weaker counterparts. I know many YA who have fought and killed for their country, and faced terrible, complex problems - and knowing them, the genre leaves me feeling that they are poorly served by the genre that bears their name.

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