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S.L. Viehl's Transcripts

September 10 2001 at 8:03 AM

Transcripts from my classes will be posted here from now on, and my heartfelt thanks to Blair for doing all the work!


This message has been edited by SLViehl on Oct 24, 2001 10:24 AM

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Part II of the Romance discussion

October 13 2001, 12:07 AM 

(some editing of contents)

<@SLViehl> Welcome to "How to Break into the Romance Novel Market" with yours truly, S.L. Viehl, aka Gena Hale, aka Sheila
<@SLViehl> you've all heard the rest of the intro so we'll skip that
<@SLViehl> The last time we met, we discussed a number of topics
<@SLViehl> covering the basics of what is and is NOT a romance novel
<@SLViehl> the statistics of getting into print
<@SLViehl> how to present your work and yourself to an editor
<@SLViehl> the pros and cons of unagented submissions versus attending romance writer conferences
<@SLViehl> Why you should -- or shouldn't -- consider getting an agent
<@SLViehl> and a little about what's selling, and what bestselling authors are doing
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to pick up where we left off, with Networking
<@SLViehl> I'll cover the material, then put up the word QUESTIONS
<@SLViehl> and that's when I'd like you to throw everything at me.
<@SLViehl> I'm going to try to break more frequently so you have a chance to ask more questions
<@SLViehl> ready to get started?
<BlairB> ready
<Gayle> yes
<June> All set
<Anne_Marble> Sure
<Kae> gtg
<spring> ready!
<Natalie> yes
<James> yes...
<@SLViehl> Romance writers are probably the most consummate networkers in the publishing industry
<@SLViehl> we are a force to be reckoned with in this department, starting with RWA, which is over 8000 members strong
<@SLViehl> trickling down to your local writing and critique groups
<@SLViehl> With all these men and women writing romance, and obvious open to networking, this should be a good thing for you, right?
<@SLViehl> Sometimes it is, and sometimes it can work against you. Remember that writers are basically lone wolves.
<@SLViehl> When you enter into a group -- just like this one here, that we're having tonight -- there are different levels of competency.
<@SLViehl> People who are less competent than you are going to recognize that pretty quickly.
<@SLViehl> Be cautious when networking. Try to find out if you fit in with the group before you commit yourself to their chapter, critique sessions, etc.
<@SLViehl> If they're all unpublished and have only written one or two novels, and you're on your tenth and getting your first contract, there may be resentment and even worse.
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, the group may be totally supportive.
<@SLViehl> Published authors you meet in these groups can also go both ways. Some will take an interest in you. Some will take an interest in how many of their books you're going to buy.
<@SLViehl> Published authors are good for advice, but don't expect them to get warm and fuzzy with you right away.
<@SLViehl> Go to their book signings, talk to them casually, show an interest in their work. Most will return the favor.
<@SLViehl> Anyone who knocks you and/or your work constantly is not worth your time.
<@SLViehl> You need to, in the words of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, always PROTECT THE WORK.
<@SLViehl> You can get swept up in the mystique of being an author, especially after you land a contract, and this slows or stops your productivity.
<@SLViehl> Money you should have been investing back into the work goes down the drain with promotion and conferencing.
<@SLViehl> Groups, activities, community -- all these things are fun. If you have time after you're done writing.
<@SLViehl> On the flip side, getting into a group or community gives you an opportunity to make contacts.
<@SLViehl> Right now, you're in contact with me. I'm published. I'm a good contact to have.
<@SLViehl> Can I get you published? No. Can I give you advice? Yes.
<@SLViehl> Can I be your best friend? Sorry, not enough time on my end.
<@SLViehl> The best you can hope for from networking is making contacts, getting educated on the industry, and a mixture of advice.
<@SLViehl> Go with what your heart (or your stomach) tells you works best for you.
<June> Promotional materials -- good idea? or not?
<Anne_Marble> What about joining reader lists? I know (of course) a lot of writers who do that. Some because they love to discuss books, others because they want to send out promos. (That's not always allowed.)
<@SLViehl> I have completely stopped doing my own promotions after a year of trying them out. My books are selling just as well, actually, better now.
<James> As an Australian aiming at the US market - therefore, also an optimist - can a career be built without making lots of contacts in the market you're aiming at?
<@SLViehl> Most authors are shameless self-promoters. You've got to do what you're comfortable with. I was never comfortable with promotion stuff anyway.
<@SLViehl> I think so, James -- you have to take a different approach to making contacts. Like being here -- doesn't matter geographically where we are, we can meet and discuss things.
<@SLViehl> A career should be built on the strength of your writing first, imho.
<@SLViehl> I also don't think most of the promotion stuff works. All those give aways at RWA Nat'l, for example. Who could buy all the books for every piece of promo they pick up?
<James> Thanks - that does away with a small worry I've been carrying around
<Anne_Marble> Someone on my list recently asked which promotional material got people to read books, bookmarks, magnets, or something else. People pointed out that it was recommendations, reviews, writing...
<@SLViehl> If I read a great article by a writer, I'll go buy his/her books. I agree with that.
<@SLViehl> the bookmark/postcard thing is a vanity, again, imho, it just doesn't work.
<@SLViehl> I also like reading stories in magazines, and will buy books by authors who do that.
<@SLViehl> Remember one thing -- Nora Roberts never promoted her work, according to rumor. And I know for a fact Linda Howard never did either.
<@SLViehl> 'cause Linda told me.
<BJ Steeves> Sheila, although I missed the first half of this class, these all seem to apply to most genres of righting. True?
<@SLViehl> Yes, BJ. I think it does apply across the genre board.
<BJ Steeves> Thanks
<@SLViehl> Onto contests -- enter ? don't enter?
<@SLViehl> RWA contests have become a minefield of controversy. You need to be aware of the politics involved.
<@SLViehl> These are the top contests to get into, btw -- the Golden Heart, the Maggie, etc.
<@SLViehl> I've always considered contests a waste of my time.
<@SLViehl> Never entered one except a screenplay writing contest which I semi-finaled in.
<@SLViehl> didn't do a thing for my career.
<@SLViehl> I've heard some shadowy things go on -- contests are fixed, people award places to PC writers, etc.
<@SLViehl> But let's look at the facts: what do you get out of a contest? A pin, some money, and maybe a chance for an editor to look at your work.
<@SLViehl> Average contest fees range between $10 -- $40
<@SLViehl> Imagine how many submissions you could produce and mail using the same money.
<@SLViehl> Instead of one editor looking at your work, you might be able to send submissions to ten or fifteen or twenty.
<@SLViehl> Losing a contest is sometimes worse than being rejected by a publisher
<@SLViehl> because you feel like you've been measured up to the competition and found wanting
<@SLViehl> and you really don't know who is judging it, and what's going on in their heads.
<@SLViehl> Entrance fees go into the bank accounts of RWA and the chapters/organizations who run these contests, so of course they're going to push them as great things.
<@SLViehl> They are great. They make these organizations a lot of money.
<@SLViehl> But if you think it's worth a shot, investigate the contest first. Who's judging it? What do you get if you win?
<@SLViehl> You must, of course, follow their guidelines to the letter, or you can't complain if you lose.
<@SLViehl> And expecting to win has to be realistic. I entered a contest with 3000 other screenwriters, and made the top 90.
<@SLViehl> I didn't advance any further than that, and that's what I got for my $45
<@SLViehl> There's also the danger of what I call contest junkie fever.
<@SLViehl> Writers get caught up in these contests, and seem to forget their ultimate goal -- getting published, instead of winning.
<@SLViehl> And make no mistake, winning a contest does not put you on equal professional footing with the published authors out there.
<@SLViehl> Glory can be fun, but you can't deposit it.
<@SLViehl> I'd go for the contests that give you an open door into an editor's office. That's the best advice I can offer.
<@SLViehl> Everything else is just not worth the trouble, cost, and heart ache.
<BlairB> What happens to the rights of the story if you enter it in a contest?
<@SLViehl> You retain the rights to your story unless you sign them away in the contest application. This was a problem with the recent Red Dress Inc. contest -- Harlequin wanted first rights signed off to them
<@SLViehl> or was it worldwide rights? I forget.
<@SLViehl> Read these applications and the rules involved carefully when you consider entering a contest.
<Anne_Marble> I've heard that the rules for the contests can be really... anal. There was a huge controversy with a major contest recently. So many entrants were rejected because of margins and the like that there were contests for manuscripts rejected by that contest!
<@SLViehl> My friend, Carol Stephenson, went through an experience like that.
<Anne_Marble> I've also heard that novels that take chances -- that don't follow a certain model -- don't have as much of a chance of winning. :-<
<@SLViehl> The contest is all about the pack, and the pack have a "herd" mentality.
<@SLViehl> Also, I am very leery about contests being judged by other authors. Too much personal stuff there.
<@SLViehl> I'd go for contests being judged by real editors.
<June> Hard to get editors to judge
<June> my housemate ran an RWA contest and had a terrible time finding editors
<@SLViehl> Hard to get editors to do anything these days, June
<June> good point, Sheila
<@SLViehl> Contests can really mess up the self-esteem, that's what I don't like.
<@SLViehl> And writing has never been about competition and winning for me. I compete only with myself.
<@SLViehl> And, on occasion, Orson Scott Card. Ha.
<Anne_Marble> Also, from what I've seen, publishers don't seem to care much about contests, is that true? (I mean, they don't publicize award winners, etc.)
<@SLViehl> They will slap a "Rita" or "Golden Heart" cameo on the cover of a book that won and gets published down the road
<@SLViehl> but it really doesn't matter to my editors. I asked both if I should enter contests, and they said it was up to me.
<@SLViehl> This is the section about Breaking away from the pack, but I'd like to talk about sex first.
<@SLViehl> A lot lot LOT of people think writing a romance means writing a story with tons of sex scenes in it.
<@SLViehl> And, if you're writing for Kensington's new Brava line, they'd be right. But mainly, no.
<@SLViehl> Romance is not about sex. It's about love.
<@SLViehl> Lynn Kurland wrote a novel that had one of the most erotic loves scenes I've ever read, and the hero and heroine were just talking.
<@SLViehl> If you're forcing yourself to write explicit love scenes because you think it's expected, stop.
<@SLViehl> Write what you're comfortable reading about.
<@SLViehl> Write what you're interested in. Is it important to you? -- that's what you have to ask yourself, not just about the physical part of your romance, but every aspect of the story.
<@SLViehl> I like writing sensual, sexual stories. I am very comfortable with it.
<@SLViehl> But I've also been in the medical field and there isn't anything I haven't seen, touched, shaved, stitched or bandaged.
<@SLViehl> I also like to explore how my hero and heroine relate to each other inside and outside the bedroom.
<@SLViehl> That's my comfort level. It's not a rule and I don't expect anyone here to write like me.
<@SLViehl> However, if you are targeting a publisher who wants explicit love scenes in their romances, you can't skip the sex.
<@SLViehl> Be grown up about it. Remember too, that you're writing about two people who care about each other. Respect that.
<@SLViehl> Erotica right now is the hottest ticket in town. So hot my agent asked me to consider writing one.
<@SLViehl> Erotica I consider the hard side of romance, and I really don't like it, personally.
<@SLViehl> There is a tone to it, I guess, that I don't like. An anti-love tone, to me.
<@SLViehl> However, if you're into erotica, this market is expanding by the month.
<@SLViehl> and I define erotica not only by the sexual content -- which is huge, like 75% of the story -- but by that tone.
<@SLViehl> The hero and heroine use language that you wouldn't find in the average Harlequin romance. They get really creative sexually, everything from light bondage to verbal abuse of each other.
<@SLViehl> Some authors veil erotica in historic events, but it's basically about the hero and heroine doing it in a variety of positions and places every ten pages or so.
<@SLViehl> And as much as I enjoy sex, I find that very unrealistic. Not even Superman could keep up with some of these heroines.
<@SLViehl> Keeping in mind the balance of romance and sex is important. For 90% of the publishers out there, it's the story that matters, not the sexual explicitness.
<@SLViehl> Now, how do you find the diamond within -- your own, unique voice.
<@SLViehl> First, stop imitating your favorite author. You're going to become your own favorite author.
<@SLViehl> Think about what you love to read -- romances with angst, humor, tension?
<@SLViehl> Then ask a friend to tell you what's unique about you personally -- are you dramatic, funny, empathetic to others?
<@SLViehl> These are the qualities you need to invest in your writing. This is your voice. It's who you are.
<@SLViehl> When you write, imagine you are your heroine. Make her do and say what you'd do in that situation.
<@SLViehl> Imagine your hero is a man you'd fall in love with -- what do you want to see him do, hear him say?
<@SLViehl> You -- not Nora Roberts, not Linda Howard -- you are the bestselling author now.
<@SLViehl> Take a scene and write it, without editing or stopping, between these two characters.
<@SLViehl> Write the same scene every week for six weeks (one scene per week). If you have more time to write, do the same in six days.
<@SLViehl> Don't reread anything you've written before.
<@SLViehl> When you come to the end of the six weeks, compare the first scene you wrote to the last one you wrote.
<@SLViehl> You'll see how you've honed it, just by repetition.
<@SLViehl> You do the same thing with voice.
<@SLViehl> How unique can you be? As unique as the genre will tolerate, and boundaries are changing.
<@SLViehl> In the old days, it was Barbara Cartland and the "don't do it until you're married" school of romance.
<@SLViehl> Today, the hero and heroine don't have to be married.
<@SLViehl> They don't even have to get married.
<@SLViehl> Although we'd like to think they will, eventually.
<@SLViehl> Read what's out there. What is being done in romance is what you can do.
<@SLViehl> Can you push the envelope? Yes, with conditions.
<@SLViehl> As an unpublished writer, you cannot generally break new ground. So you can write a story that equals something that has already been published.
<@SLViehl> i.e. a book with a handicapped heroine who has a hook instead of hand. Been done.
<@SLViehl> You cannot write a book about a heroine who has been lesbian. Has not, to my knowledge, been done.
<@SLViehl> I have a romance written about 2 handicapped people who do not get better during the course of the romance. One's a paraplegic, the other is blind.
<@SLViehl> My editor is considering it right now.
<@SLViehl> Will I get it published, a double-handicapped love story? Probably not, but I have a shot because I'm already established. I can break new ground now.
<@SLViehl> Not fair, certainly, but that's the way it is.
<@SLViehl> Think unique as in twisting the classic romance story.
<@SLViehl> Norman knight storms Saxon castle, wins Saxon daughter's heart.
<@SLViehl> Been done a million times.
<@SLViehl> How about a Norman lady storms Saxon castle, wins Saxon knight's heart? Haven't read too many of those.
<@SLViehl> Do role reversals. A stay at home Dad meets a tycoon heroine.
<@SLViehl> A sheriff locks up a drifter -- sheriff's a lady, drifter's the hero.
<@SLViehl> Wildcat heroine falls for Librarian hero.
<@SLViehl> Just remember to keep thinking in new directions while following the established signposts.
<June> My problem goes the other way
<June> I want to write MORE sex than probably should be in there but it's NOT erotica
<@SLViehl> Try to explore the intimacy in a non-sexual way, June. Let them express their desires without consummation -- builds great tension.
<@SLViehl> Like hand-feeding each other, or bathing together.
<@SLViehl> Readers love tension.
<Anne_Marble> A sex question... What about safe sex (in contemporaries)? How do you fit that condom in? (Well you know what I mean.) Some readers hate contemp. novels without safe sex.
<@SLViehl> I always address safe sex, because a lot of my readers are teenagers. I feel a certain responsibility toward educating them.
<Anne_Marble> It's the health field experience.
<James> Is there a romantic subgenre in which the setting can be fantastic in nature, even other-worldy? If so, how fantastic can you be before it ceases to be romance and becomes fantasy?
<@SLViehl> Sometimes it's not possible for my hero and heroine to have access to condoms, just like in life, but they still talk about the risks.
<@SLViehl> James, for that type of story, I think you need to focus on the futuristic publishers. The fantasy elements have to be pretty background to the relationship. On the other hand, pure fantasy is becoming more open to romantic stories.
<James> Would you be able to recommend some pure romance with fantastic elements?
<@SLViehl> I think the balance is 75-25% romance/fantasy for futuristics, and 20-80% romance/fantasy for straight fantasy.
<@SLViehl> Nora Roberts has been incorporating a lot of magic/fantasy in her otherwise straight romances.
<James> Ah, thanks - I'll add her to my reading list.
<Kae> If I have my heroine say and do things I'd say & do, do I run the risk of every heroine sounding the same?
<@SLViehl> Not if your heroines are in different situations, Kae. You don't react the same to different people in different places. You've got to really immerse yourself in your character, though.
<Kae> hmm. ok.
<@SLViehl> There is a certain amount of role-playing involved, but the voice that comes out will still be you.
<Anne_Marble> I once read an article where a romance editor said that many, many romances are rejected because the main characters turn out to be brother and sister as the end! So already, you all have a jump on the competition as you are not perverted. ;->
<Kae> eww
<@SLViehl> Ick, really? (making gross sounds)
<James> Has anyone read male-written romance? Are there common male-romance-writer mistakes that drive you crazy?
<Anne_Marble> This morning, someone posted on one of AAR's boards, asking for suggestions of love stories between their sons. :-/ The post was deleted.
<@SLViehl> Assuming women are like men, James. We're not.
<june> The prez of RWA is a man
<june> writes as Leigh Greenwood, I believe
<Anne_Marble> Does Clarissa Ross count? It's been a while since I read one of "hers."
<@SLViehl> Some male romance writers, like Nicholas Sparks, assume women will put up with a lot of nonsense that we don't.
<James> Do you mean low level violence, verbal abuse, that sort of thing?
<Anne_Marble> And the best-selling male romance novelists almost always kill the woman off at the end!
<@SLViehl> Adultery, slap-fests, yes, that sort of thing. And yes, Anne is absolutely right.
<june> Non-fulfillment of the romance
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, to be fair, some women writers turn their heroes into complete wimps.
<Anne_Marble> Diana Palmer!
<@SLViehl> trying to make a man who is really their girlfriend
<june> Romance is about commitment between the man and the woman. men seem to 'miss' that a lot
<James> That's all so interesting, the differences. I'll bear all that in mind.
<@SLViehl> We should celebrate the differences between the genders, as well as respect them in our writing. Men and women are not interchangeable, and we act and speak and do thing differently. It's not a competition, and we don't want to invalidate either gender as writers.
<Kae> And I can't stand the heroine and hero saying mean things to each other and then all of a sudden they're in love.
<@SLViehl> Excellent point, Kae
<James> Sheila, I just peeked at Mrs Giggles review of Paradise Island, and noticed that she mocks the fact that Luke gets erections from looking at the heroine - does that mean describing male sexual response can be a problem in romances?
<june> Not for me!!!
<@SLViehl> For Mrs. Giggle, apparently it is. (What's wrong with Luke having an erection? Sheesh.)
<june> I'm all for erections, personally.
<Kae> sounds like a good reaction to have
<@SLViehl> I'm counting now -- he gets two. See what these reviewers do to me???
<Anne_Marble> The only time I got annoyed with the erection thing is when the guy kept getting erections every time he thought of her, in numerous scenes. zzz
<James> I must admit, she seemed to go over the top about it - but I worried it might be a general problem for the readership.
<@SLViehl> Men have penises. They get erections. I have no problem with that.
<Anne_Marble> I mean, she wasn't even there, and he was ... well, happy.
<BlairB> kinda shows his true feelings.
<@SLViehl> Men get hard thinking about women. I have two brothers and two sons, and two ex-husbands. I know what I'm talking about.
<Anne_Marble> That might have been interesting a couple of times. But it happened a lot, and yet, he was using her, so I didn't like him.
<@SLViehl> It's the emasculation of the male hero that Mrs. Giggles wants. He can have an erection when she thinks it's okay, when in reality, it happens when it happens.
<James> So it won't alarm readers so long as it's not going on every ten seconds? And so long as it grows naturally (erm, so to speak) from the characters and the surrounding story?
<@SLViehl> Erections, to my understanding, are not timeable.
<june> Anything that's repetitive in a story is boring, I think.
<Anne_Marble> And she usually seems to like only sexy romances. Maybe she only wants sex when they're together.
<june> I don't think it's erections, per say
<@SLViehl> I think men tend to be physically reactive to women. But June's right, repetition does get dull.
<june> I mean, even if he has a constant erection the author doesn't have to mention it every four pages
<@SLViehl> True, June.
<James> So, as with everything else, sketch that sort of response in, so the reader knows what you mean but you're not clubbing them over the head with it.
<@SLViehl> You got it, James.
<june> what an 'interesting' image, James
<Kae> lol
<James> Possibly I should have added a "so to speak..."
<Anne_Marble> Snicker
<@SLViehl> That I'll have stuck in my dirty mind for a while. Let's move on to Opposites Attract.
<James> Thanks all.
<@SLViehl> We love it when an arson investigator falls for an alleged arsonist. Or a bad boy takes a dive for a preacher's daughter.
<BJ Steeves> James, all you can say is that they went to bat for you.
<@SLViehl> Opposites attracting means different worlds are set on a collision course.
<@SLViehl> Behave, Bj, I'm laughing too hard to type this
<BlairB> He's never going to live this down.
<James> lol
<@SLViehl> Tell me if they tease you, James, and I'll give them detention.
<James> Fear not, I'm remarkably durable to teasing
<@SLViehl> back to opposites attracting -- when characters in opposition to each other fall in love, they inevitably face extreme personal dilemmas.
<@SLViehl> When love conquers that, it renews our faith and trust in the power of love and romance.
<@SLViehl> and, let's face it, conflict scenes are much more fun to write than housekeeping scenes.
<@SLViehl> However, there are lines that still may not be crossed with romance publishers.
<@SLViehl> They're easy to spot -- no incest
<@SLViehl> no homosexual relationships for either the hero or heroine.
<@SLViehl> No threesomes.
<@SLViehl> This may change in the future, but for now, alternative lifestyles, abusive relationships, or anything that could get your hero and heroine convicted of a felony is out.
<@SLViehl> The book of your heart versus the book that gets published
<@SLViehl> everyone writes a book from their heart that becomes the book of their heart.
<@SLViehl> Its usually one of the first books we write, and we invest so much in it, time, emotion, struggle, that we can't accept that no one will publish it.
<@SLViehl> generally it doesn't get published because we wrote for ourselves, and not for the market.
<@SLViehl> You've got to get past this book, or it will strangle you.
<@SLViehl> When you consider the market before you start writing, you're on your way to getting published
<@SLViehl> so if you can't get it accepted after a reasonable amount of time, put this book of your heart away
<@SLViehl> and write another book.
<@SLViehl> and write another book after that one.
<@SLViehl> and keep writing.
<@SLViehl> The more books you write, the better you get at writing them.
<@SLViehl> The better writer you become, the closer you get to publication. That's plain fact.
<Anne_Marble> How do you make your hero/heroine different enough if they have similar interests or a similar profession?
<@SLViehl> Give them different backgrounds, Anne. Poor girl, Rich boy.
<Kae> I've seen a lot of couples of different skin color around the area where I live. Is there anyone writing romances for them?
<@SLViehl> Of the ethnic romances I've read, there are still same-race lines -- no interracial relationships. Anne, have you seen any? June?
<june> One Silhouette Shadows had a black heroine and a white hero, that's the only one I recall seeing
<Anne_Marble> I've heard of a few of interracial ones in the ethnic lines.
<@SLViehl> Wait, I've read one Harlequin Presents where the hero was descended from Island blacks, but was in appearance white.
<@SLViehl> That was a few years ago.
<Anne_Marble> You can't tell from the covers, most of them use those stylized covers.
<Anne_Marble> There are a more hispanic/white romances. And Indian/white romances, though many of those are corny noble savage books.
<june> Well Native American heroes is practically it's own sub-genre
<@SLViehl> I thought I might run over again tonight, would everyone like to have one more session?
<Anne_Marble> OK
<Kae> sure
<june> sure
<Gayle> okay
<James> Yes, thanks.
<BlairB> sure
<@SLViehl> Great. I'll ask Holly if we can have the second Friday in November for part III.
<Kae> And thanks for a very (fast) entertaining two hours!
<James> That's very generous - thanks.
<Gayle> thank you again sheila
<june> Great fun. Thanks Sheila
<Anne_Marble> Thanks! <clap clap clap>
<@SLViehl> Any other last questions on tonight's material?
<spring> thank you!
<Anne_Marble> What are your thoughts about "villain sex scenes"
<@SLViehl> I kind of whisk in and out of them, Anne. Maybe because subconsciously, I don't want the villain to have a good time.
<Anne_Marble> That's a good idea. Some writers seem to save them for the kinky stuff. Euww.
<@SLViehl> I have a mild villain sex scene in Dream Mountain, you can see how I did it in that book.
<James> If I actually try a romance (as I'm kind of thinking I might), should I pseudonym, because of being, you know, male?
<@SLViehl> James, I personally think men should not take female pseudonyms. I like to know it's a guy who wrote it.
<James> So you can forgive them their errors?
<@SLViehl> Unfortunately, publishers do not feel the same.
<@SLViehl> I try not to be biased, but I haven't found a male writer I really like who does romance
<James> Ouch - but then, you haven't read one of mine yet
<@SLViehl> True. So hurry up and write, James! <g>
<Gayle> that's the spirit James!
<James> Mind you, I've got to do the SF one, yet...
<Anne_Marble> I probably did the kiss of death myself. I wrote my romantic suspense novel in first person. But it wouldn't come out any other way.
<june> I really liked the Curtis's -- 1/2 male
<@SLViehl> Haven't read too many romances in first person, I have to admit, Anne.
<@SLViehl> Okay, folks, I think that wraps it up. Shall we call it a night?
<BlairB> 'till next week then
<Kae> Ok, it's a night. ;-0
<Gayle> sounds good...my shadow just came out wondering...not that we have any really good movies tonight...
<Anne_Marble> OK, it's a night. Oh, darn! You beat me!
<Kae> heehee
<june> Thanks, Sheila. Have a good night all.
<James> Sure - see everyone next week. Thanks again, Sheila, for a great session.
<@SLViehl> You guys are such comedians
<Anne_Marble> Bye
<@SLViehl> Good night all.
<Gayle> night everyone...see you in a couple of weeks...
<Kae> Thanks, good night
<@SLViehl> Thanks for letting me spend another Friday night with you!
<BJ Steeves> Getting late here 11:20PM and I'm on 24 hour call all this week until Monday Morning.
<Anne_Marble> Any time!
<@SLViehl> Thanks, Anne.
<@SLViehl> Go get some sleep, BJ
<BlairB> g'nite all
<@SLViehl> goodnight and see you again soon!
<BJ Steeves> Yeah, and as soon as my eyes are closed, the damned pager will go off!
<Gayle> oh and if anyone wants to come over for movie night ...you gotta bring your own soda...I can get the airpopper from my neighbor for popcorn
<Kae> Here's hoping for some good sleep, BJ
<BJ Steeves> Thanks you all, have a good night!

 Respond to this message   

Writing a Successful Novel Series Part I 9/7/01

October 23 2001, 7:55 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
9/7/01 -- Writing a Successful Novel Series
with S.L. Viehl

<Damon> Do excuse me, but is this class open to all?
<@SLViehl> Sure, we don't mind party crashers, come on in.
<Rang> yes
<Damon> just that i wasn't aware of it until 5 mins ago
<Damon> thanx - i'll take the seat by the window
<JehaneHello everyone> Hello everyone
<Rang> Hi
<Jenny> Hello.
<@SLViehl> Very friendly handle, Jehane. Hi Jenny.
<Rang> the more the merrier, I always say...especially when they're such nice
ppl like you guys
<@SLViehl> We should have about 20 to 25 people here tonight
<Jenny> Yikes.
<Rang> Sheila...think we should post a reminder on the bulletin board that
the class is now in session and open to all? Just as a reminder to anyone
browsing boards?
<@SLViehl> Which brings me to the one technical snafu I've got going -- would
anyone like to volunteer to make a transcript for me? My computer flat out
refuses to do it.
<Jinx> I'm going to be making one. I can pass it along to you after.
<@SLViehl> Good idea, Rang. Thanks, Jinx, I'm naming my next cat after you.
Where would I post the reminder, on Discussion?
<Rang> I'll try to make one as a backup too...but my comp might kick me off
like last time, and then transcript would be incomplete.
<Rang> I guess...general discussion?
<@SLViehl> That's the one I think everyone hits first.
<Damon M. Lord> main board is where the reminders usually go - first thing
people see as the enter the boards
<@SLViehl> Okay, I'm going to stay logged on if I can, and go do this
reminder thing. Hold down the fort for me, friends.
<@SLViehl> Am I still connected? Appears that way . . .
<Damon M. Lord> you're here, SLV
<Anne_Marble> Yup
<Rang> Sheila...do u want me to post a copy of the discussion outline on
board too?
<june> here
<@SLViehl> If you have a chance, yes, please Rang.
<@SLViehl> Hi and welcome to Anne and June
<larkin> these color clear games buttons are they dangerous to press while
<Anne_Marble> If you disappear, you'll know.
<Rang> done...
<larkin> thanks
<Rang> discussion outline for class is on board...
<@SLViehl> I see my friend Pantalia is here. Hey girl, how are you feeling?
<Pantalia> Hello, can anybody hear me? Feeling fine but having a problem
staying connected.
<@SLViehl> Hello to BJ, larkin, dilandau, James, and anyone else I missed.
<@SLViehl> I can hear you. Got pretzels?
<James> Hi all
<Pantalia> A big bag.
<BJ Steeves> Good Evening All!
<Rang> hello to anyone I haven't said hi to
<larkin> the hub seems to be strong. good evening
<Gayle> Hello everybody.
<@SLViehl> I'm going to give this a few more minutes then get started, folks.
Relax, kick back, the hub is with you.
<Anne_Marble> Good, sti.ll time to get some Scooby Doo ice cream.
<Stacy> hello
<Rang> hi stacy
<@SLViehl> Hi Stacy. Yes, if anyone wants to get a drink or snack or
whatever now's a good time.
<larkin> appreciated the outline
<Stacy> headed to get some cookies
<Pantalia> How long do you anticipate it will take to go through the outline?
<@SLViehl> I thought it might help. And I'm practicing on you guys, if all
goes well I'm going to be doing this live at the Broward County Main Library.
<Crista> Hello, all.
<dilandau> ah, so we're the guinea pigs?
<@SLViehl> If everyone holds questions and lets me get through each block of
the material, it should take about an hour and a half. I want to leave
plenty of time for discussion toward the end.
<@SLViehl> And yes, dilandau, I am experimenting on you. <g>
<dilandau> ^.^
<Jenny> Hi, Crista.
<Rang> hi Gayle
<Pantalia> I am going to hang for as long as possible but I still have things
to do for SS tomorrow.
<Gayle> hello
<Stacy> What's SS?
<Pantalia> Super Saturday- The Florida Romance Writers are hosting a literary
agent and I was volunteered to get up early and sign everyone in.
<@SLViehl> It's "Super Saturday" -- a workshop here locally Pantalia will be
<Stacy> Cool. A literary agent from NYC?
<@SLViehl> We're repeating each other, dear.
<Stacy> I sued to live in FL, and now live in NYC
<Pantalia> Sorry. I will sit here and be quiet.
<larkin> will the transcripts of this class be available?
<@SLViehl> No, I'll just stop answering stuff for you. Ha. Transcripts of
this class should be available, thanks to my friends Jinx and Rang who are
going to bail me out and make them as my computer won't.
<@SLViehl> Checking the clock, I'm going to give it one more minute, then get
<Anne_Marble> I'm having my Scooby Snacks.
<@SLViehl> Last chance to go over to Anne's and steal some of her ice cream
<Anne_Marble> <gulp!>
<Crista> Mmmm... Scooby Snacks...
<Jinx> I hesitate to ask, but what IS Scooby Doo ice cream?
<Gayle> Rather have my dinner first.
<Anne_Marble> Choc. chip ice cream with chocolate bones in it.
<Jinx> Chocolate bones. Well, ok... I did ask....
<Gayle> LOLOL
<Damon M. Lord> no talking at the back of the class!
<Gayle> who's says I'm at the back?
<@SLViehl> Teacher says . . . time's up, the others will just have to produce
tardy slips. Let's get started.
<Gayle> generally sit in one of the first two rows so I won't be distracted:-)
<dilandau> let the experimentation begin!
<@SLViehl> Welcome to the Writing a Successful Novel Series workshop hosted
by yours truly, S.L. Viehl
<@SLViehl> If you don't know me, I'm a published SF and romance author who
has written 36 novels to date
<@SLViehl> And I've sold twelve of them in the past eighteen months.
<@SLViehl> So I'm doing something right here.
<@SLViehl> If you signed up for the class, you should have a discussion
guideline that covers my topics for tonight.
<@SLViehl> If you don't and would like one, e-mail me after class.
<Rang> or check the general discussion board...posted right now
<@SLViehl> Whoops, forgot that, thank you for the reminder, Rang
<@SLViehl> There are 6 blocks to tonight's workshop, and I'd like to go over
the material in each block, then have a ten minute Q&A on it.
<@SLViehl> So when I post "QUESTIONS" this would be the time to throw stuff
at me.
<Damon M. Lord> (not literally?)
<BJ Steeves> With this crew, I'd get ready to duck!
<@SLViehl> Spitballs will be tossed right back at you.
<Anne_Marble> An interactive Rocky Horror, cool!
<@SLViehl> Only if I get to be Rocky. Okay, let's get started on block one,
Composition of the Series, "Hub" versus "Chronicle"
<@SLViehl> A "HUB" series has a core, central concept around which everything
<@SLViehl> These are books that are held together by this concept, and
everything that happens in them revolves around it.
<@SLViehl> Examples: StarDoc, my SF series, is about a genetic construct
physician who practices intergalactic medicine and fights for freedom.
<@SLViehl> In Holly Lisle's Secret Text books, there is an ongoing clash
between shape-shifters and soul-snatchers.
<@SLViehl> In Frank Herbert's Dune series, powerful empirial families try to
gain/maintain control over Arrakis spice, which is the only thing that allows
them interstellar navigation.
<@SLViehl> It doesn't matter what happens, or when it happens, in these
books. That central HUB them is what ties them all together.
<@SLViehl> The great thing about a HUB series is it never has to end.
<@SLViehl> And from what I've observed, most HUB series are generally
<@SLViehl> On the flip side is the CHRONICLE type of novel series.
<@SLViehl> These books are tied together by a defined series of events.
<@SLViehl> The events, not the characters, determine the progression of the
series, as in Star Wars
<@SLViehl> You've got warriors who draw on powers of good and evil to win
universal dominion, a definite progression there.
<@SLViehl> If you like Star Trek, you've had to notice the many incarnations
of the starship Enterprise. Again, timeline and events are very central to
Star Trek
<@SLViehl> And for you alternate history fans, Eric Flint's 1632 novel is
based entirely on events as they happened (or didn't happen) during the 30
year war in 17th century Germany
<@SLViehl> It matters what happens in a Chronicle series. It's planned
around a fixed timeline.
<@SLViehl> There are often "HUB" type plot points in these books -- like the
force, the prime directive, etc. but the novels follow a progression, and are
generally plot-driven.
<larkin> are detective books hub books?
<Damon M. Lord> i know it's TV, but would Babylon 5 be classed as hub or
<@SLViehl> Detective books are character-driven, and although they follow a
character's timeline they are centered on the detective, not the events, I'd
call them HUB.
<larkin> why did you choose hub for your books?
<june> It sounds like you are more 'locked down' with a Chronicle than a Hub
universe. That you need to know more concretely what will happen in future
books and have less spur of the writing flexibility. True?
<BJ Steeves> My guess is that B5 is chronicle
Rang what are the advantages or disadvantages of hub vs. chronicle, in your
opinion? Relative strenths and weaknesses?
<@SLViehl> Babylon 5 would definitely be a good example of a chronicle. The
creator planned it that way.
<Rang> what are the advantages or disadvantages of hub vs. chronicle, in your
opinion? Relative strenths and weaknesses?
<@SLViehl> It's true, june, that chronicle series lock you in. But being
that time is endless, on the other hand, and if you don't mind moving in both
directions timeline wise, you can keep it alive. I just think it's h
<BJ Steeves> Which one seems easier for you to write to?
<@SLViehl> The HUB series, imho, is superior to the CHRONICLE series. You've
got more room to play with the HUB.
<larkin> mythology is both hub and chronicle.
<@SLViehl> I'm writing a chronicle series now, and it requires more
discipline and planning on my part.
<@SLViehl> Mythology is wonderful to play with for a hub series. With a
chronicle, you're locked in to a specific legend timeline, I think.
<june> What would you call the Pern series? I see elements of both there.
<larkin> would a poem that revolves around a central image be a hub poem?
<Crista> In a chronicle series, must the timeline be in chronological order
or can you move back in forth from past to future?
<@SLViehl> Pern and the Animorph books I'd tag as HUB. Remember McCaffrey
set up Pern and has moved all around it, time-wise. The central core of Pern
books is always Pern.
<@SLViehl> Have not read the Animorph books but the central theme, I believe,
is shape-shifters, isn't it?
<Rang> It seems as if hub/chronicle is a separate issue from series with
standalone novels vs, non-standalones...like goodkind vs. jordan
<Diana> Yes, in Animorph books a kid turns into an animal - each book a
different kid, different animal
<@SLViehl> As for moving through a chronicle timeline, you can go both ways.
The problem is, like with Star Wars, do you really want to like Darth Vader
as a kid when you know what he's going to grow up to be?
<larkin> wizard of oz series is hub. alway returning to oz? though there is
timeline too.
<@SLViehl> It's a creative issue you need to think about when planning to
write a series. Make the decision carefully and know what you're getting
yourself into.
<june> With SW, for me, it's do you have any suspence left when you know the
end? For me. No.
<Pantalia> But then you have the Dragon Lance prequels which are about the
individual characters and is interesting
<larkin> why did you switch to chronicle?
<@SLViehl> Good point, Pantalia. If you're going to go backwards in a
chronicle, you may want to feature characters who have no obvious or
headliner role in the future books
<Diana> Would you give us a couple more examples of a central concept for the
hub? How simple can a central concept be?
<dilandau> or, perhaps if you explore a point of the character that wasn't
shown before... whereas with Vadar... you know too much to be interested...
<@SLViehl> I decided to deviate from an open-ended series to give myself a
challenge. Writing chronicle is tough, but rewarding if you can master the
<Anne_Marble> Is this why Raymond Feist's books are considered more
standalone than most other fantasy novels within series? Are his books (at
least the later ones about the sons) more hub than chronicle?
<Anne_Marble> Euwww, I shouldn't have listened to that line from the
documentary about the shipwrecked sailors.
<Damon M. Lord> ditto to Diana's Q - Babylon 5, i felt could also be ahub -
concept of good versus evil. Lord of the Rings in space?
<@SLViehl> On Diana's question -- Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Laurell K.
Hamilton. The protagonist is a necromancer.
<@SLViehl> Damon, the theme is definitely a hub-type, but Babylon 5 was
planned as a five-year no further chronicle. That I'd call the central
driving force of the series -- that five year period.
<@SLViehl> Anne, I'm not familiar with Feist so I'm going to have to toss
that question out to the class. Anyone have an answer?
<Pantalia> I think that they would be chronicle because they detail the son's
adventures with no real central theme
<Pantalia> tying them together. The Demon King was over once he was out of
the way
<@SLViehl> Diana, one more example -- William Fortschen's The Lost Regiment.
The HUB concept in that series was a Maine Union battalion being transported
from the Civil War on Earth to an alien battlefield.
<@SLViehl> Although with Fortschen there were strong chronicle points to the
series, too. He might be the best example I can think of as a mid-stream HUB
and CHRONICLE series writer.
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to block two -- is your idea epic enough to
fuel a series?
<@SLViehl> (And just a note, if I miss any questions or don't answer them
well enough, you can e-mail me after class and I'll get back to you on them.)
<@SLViehl> First, when you're putting together an idea for writing a novel
series, take a hard, cold look at it.
<@SLViehl> Is this going to last -- as in lend itself to many different
<@SLViehl> In my StarDoc novels, my clone doctor Cherijo is immortal. She
can't die.
<@SLViehl> That underlying theme of immortality bought me unlimited time to
do whatever I want to her, poor girl.
<@SLViehl> You must have an idea that will endure, like an immortal character.
<@SLViehl> Is there a reason someone is going to want to buy more books after
they read your first in the series?
<@SLViehl> In Holly Lisle's Sentinel books, the world teeters on the brink of
self-destruction, while mortals toy with the temptation of becoming Gods by
crossing over to the next, upworld
<@SLViehl> I want to know what's going to happen to the gate keepers that
have to police the crossroads between these worlds, so I'm going to buy the
next book.
<@SLViehl> I also want to know which of the gatekeepers is going to give in
to temptation.
<@SLViehl> Is this concept of yours interesting enough to keep you writing?
<@SLViehl> In Eric's 1632, he (literally) drops an entire 21st century West
Virginia mining town in the middle of the Thirty Year War in 17th century
<@SLViehl> If you were thrown back in time 300 years, what the heck would you
do? How would you survive? Whose side would you be on?
<@SLViehl> If Eric ever gives up writing that series I'M going to take it
<@SLViehl> And finally, is this idea of yours marketable?
<@SLViehl> Put on the hard cold glasses again, because here's what's going to
make the difference between a manuscript gathering dust on your shelf and a
contract for publication.
<@SLViehl> What do fans want?
<@SLViehl> Judging by what sells, they want suspense, action, adventure,
surprises, romance -- yes, romance, stop snickering, dire straits, and most
of all, characters with whom they can identify.
<@SLViehl> If they're going to plunk down $6.99 for your book, remember what
they're giving up to read it.
<@SLViehl> The internet, video games, movies, television, sex, and food.
That, ladies and gentlemen, IS your main competition.
<@SLViehl> Your concept has to AT LEAST compete with all that, and give them
what they want.
<Anne_Marble> What are the things that can make a series idea fail? :-<
<@SLViehl> Too much time at the computer, not enough talking to people who
read. Get out there and ask them questions.
<dilandau> When you begin writing a novel, do you know if it's going to be a
series before you finish that novel?
<@SLViehl> Ask people "What's the best book you've read this year?" and go
read it.
<Damon M. Lord> how to tell if it's just a one off book or a series idea?
<Pantalia> Correct me if I am wrong, but a wise person <g> once told me a
cliffhanger ending is suicide for a novice writer. How do you keep them
hooked but finish the first novel?
<@SLViehl> dilandau, I am the most cold blooded writer who ever lived. Every
series I've ever written, I've planned. I can't write a book unless I know
where I'm going with the concept.
<dilandau> Do you think it's possible to make a novel a series even though
you don't plan it that way?
<kewms> Wasn't The Hobbit originally a one-off?
<@SLViehl> Diana, incarnations can be whatever drives the series on that
relates back to that very first book. In your case, I'd use generations of
teenagers, the sons and daughters of the previous incarnations. You can
have a lot of fun playing with the contrasts between characters.
<@SLViehl> Damon, if it's a just one off book, you won't be able to outline
ideas for five more. That's always the test for me.
<larkin> if it's a series of five books are you more or less working on them
all at once?
<@SLViehl> Pantalia, I have been smacked repeatedly on the nose for my
cliffhanger endings. Somehow, I get away with it, but I don't recommend it
as I do get much grief over them. It's better for an unpublished writer t
o at least present a standalone novel that CAN be developed into a continuing
series but doesn't have to be.
<@SLViehl> And also, to keep them hooked, go back to that central HUB theme
and make sure it's well incorporated into the story.
<Anne_Marble> C. S. Friedman's "Dark Sun Rising" is a good example of a book
in a series that avoided a cliffhanger yet managed to lead into the next
<Sarah> (Beyond Varallan was the first book I ever threw across the room in
frustration because it ENDED)
<Anne_Marble> In that one, the first villain is defeated, but they realize
there's something stronger behind that villain, and the main characters meet
again later in the year to board a ship.
<@SLViehl> larkin, when I planned StarDoc, I outlined five books right at
first. When I sold it, I had five more planned beyond that. The current
total is twenty-two and growing.
<@SLViehl> Sarah, you may smack me on the nose for that one, although I still
believe if you're really good at what you do, fans will come back for more no
matter how much you abuse them. And I'm not the only one who doe
s it -- I'm going to kill Janet Evanovich one of these days for what she does
to me.
<Sarah> Oh, definitely. I'm saying that's a good thing (I retrieved it
right after and read it again).
<Anne_Marble> Is there a limit to the number of cliffhanger endings you can
get away with? A lot of people have gotten annoyed with Janet Evanovich over
the most recent couple of books, but loved the first big cliffhanger
<Damon M. Lord> i hate it when a writer has a good concept for a
world/city/etc and just does it as a one-off - i want more of that world!
<@SLViehl> If you're writing for YA, you'll always have a new generation to
sell to, Diana. I think you should keep the ages fixed and progress the
storyline to new generations.
<@SLViehl> Amen, Damon.
<@SLViehl> You should write to the author, because they need to know what you
<@SLViehl> I've certainly written enough letters myself to certain authors
who shall remain nameless.

end 9/7 workshop transcript part one

 Respond to this message   

Writing a Successful Novel Series Part II 9/7/01

October 23 2001, 8:00 PM 

<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to block three.
<@SLViehl> How many books do you write?
<Pantalia> I think a problem with sci-fi fantasy is that the other books in
the series need to be foreshadowed in the first few, right SL?
<@SLViehl> At least foreshadowed by your HUB or CHRONICLE theme
<@SLViehl> The classic series has always and will forever be a trilogy --
three books.
<@SLViehl> We like threes.
<@SLViehl> With a trilogy, you must have control over the story. Tight
<@SLViehl> You've got three books to get it right, and that's all.
<@SLViehl> One of the best trilogies I've ever read is Holly's Secret Texts.
A beginning, a struggle, an end. Wham, you're done.
<@SLViehl> The mid-length series is, imho, a less than ten book series.
<@SLViehl> With the mid-length, you've got obviously, more time to play. You
can develop more characters and storylines. You can also develop a
readership from the loyal, mid-length loving audience out there.
<@SLViehl> But these people expect you to wrap it up, so you still have to
plan an end to it all.
<@SLViehl> With Blade Dancer, I've planned eight books. One set-up, seven
more based from the point of view of each of the seven protagonists.
<@SLViehl> It's not as tight as a trilogy, but I've got to end the story, so
planning is still really important.
<@SLViehl> The open series -- no end in sight.
<@SLViehl> I love the open series.:)
<@SLViehl> With an open-ended series, you can do whatever you want -- with
<@SLViehl> If your concept is epic enough to fuel twenty books, and twenty
more books after that, you've got an open-ender on your hands.
<@SLViehl> You get to have: steady employment, stay in a universe you love
(you MUST love) and you can even make that universe available to the next
generation of writers to come.
<@SLViehl> StarDoc began as the story of a fugitive. It has grown into
twenty more incarnations, not only for my series protagonist, but for
spin-offs -- I estimate I've got another thirty books I can write easily in
s universe and never even bring in my clone doc.
<@SLViehl> When you think open-ender, think BIG. Create a universe you want
to stay in, because once you get on for the ride, you can't yell "I'm bored"
and jump off at the top.
<Damon M. Lord> Is there a preferred number of books for hub or chronicle? I
presume open ended is more suited to chronicle
<june> Seems like authors often do smaller length series within the frame of
a single world. K. Kurtz comes to mind, or the earlier Pern books. Good
idea, or not?
<larkin> what went into creating a universe you knew you'd want to be in for
a long time?
<@SLViehl> I'd say hub goes well either very tight -- like a trilogy -- or an
open-ender. Most of the chronicle novel series I've read have been mid-length
<Crista> The idea I had for my work in progress was about three or four
trilogies. Is this a feasible plan or will that set-up make it harder to be
<@SLViehl> I think it's great to do a trilogy that will lend itself to future
incarnations (Holly did this with Secret Texts.)
<Pantalia> What would you consider three trilogies with different
protagonists but all linked by a special something (power, ability?)
<Rang> mercedes lackey's books in the valdemar universe are basically lots of
trilogies strung together into an open ended series
<Damon M. Lord> How on earth do you come up with such a big concept that
it'll run until you are dead and your successors write a hundred more? Or is
that the 64,000 dollar Q?
<@SLViehl> Larkin, eveything I loved to write about. Warriors and medicine
and mutations and adventure.
<stacy> What are some of the conditions one must consider when playing with
open-ended novels?
<@SLViehl> Crista, I think groups of trilogies are great. Remember to keep
them stand-alone enough that you can sell anyone of them to an editor.
<larkin> do you know philip pullman's trilogy golden compass is the first
one.? After reading the third it feels like it needs another book. but he
seems to be done.
<@SLViehl> Pantalia, that's like Crista's project in the works -- groups of
trilogies. Trilogies are EXTREMELY popular, remember that. If they're
linked, they're a series without seeming to be a series.
<@SLViehl> Good point, Rang. There's a published example of what Crista and
Pantalia are talking about.
<Crista> My other question is, when a writer gets into an open ended series,
can they still persue other projects or are they stuck in that world by
reader demand? I have alot of ideas and, while I love my fantasy world,
I also have hard sci-fi I want to play with.
<@SLViehl> Damon, I think there's a open-ender in all of us. It's in finding
it inside you. What have you always wanted to be, since you were a kid? For
me, it was a doctor, and have adventures -- Nancy Drew, for examp
le, got to do all the really cool stuff. So I combined my love of medicine
and my secret longing to be an adventurous type, and StarDoc came along.
<Damon M. Lord> I've always wanted to be a writer (shrug)
<@SLViehl> Stacy, the concept has to keep going if it's going to fuel a
series, and you have to really love to write about and in that concept's
<Anon_65> Crista, Terry Pratchett writes mostly in the discworld but also has
a number of successful novels outside it.
<@SLViehl> larkin, Pullman has done what Holly did with Secret Texts --
opened up a door to future incarnations. He's done with the "trilogy" but
not that world, imho..
<Anon_65> This is Jehane, but it doesn't want to acknowledge me for some
<larkin> hope so.
<@SLViehl> Crista, I know from experience that it can be difficult to get
readers into another universe once they like the one you've started off with.
I do alot with short stories on my site, to lure them into other wor
lds. I think you have to be determined not to be a one-universe writer, and
the rest will follow.
<Damon M. Lord> Truckers (or something like that - never was good at
remembering) trilogy by Pratchet springs to mind
<Anon_65> LIkewise, ANne McCAffrey has written some good non-Pern books
(Rowan, Killashandra)
<Rang> when writing an open-ended series...is it more important to change and
attempt different and newer things for variety in the series? or is it more
important to keep the same old, same old, so that readers will be
comfortable with what they expect?
<@SLViehl> Gary Jennings did a book on a guy who was a writer. Aztec. That
guy certainly didn't have a dull life, Damon.
<larkin> where are the short stories? where is your site?
<@SLViehl> For anyone who would like to visit:
http://www.sff.net/people/slviehl I post a new, free short story every
month. In return, readers tell me what they think of my ideas, and that's
how I know what to write n
ovels on.
<@SLViehl> Okay, teacher is calling a 5 minute bathroom break!
<Crista> That is a very, very good idea... about the posting short stories...
well, the bathroom, too.
<Cath> virtual paper airplane!
<Damon M. Lord> LOL
<Crista> LOL!
<@SLViehl> Sorry, I meant to do that at 10 pm but the time is slipping away
fast . . .
<Kaelle> virtual football
<Anne_Marble> Gonna play Dopewars for a few minutes.
<Damon M. Lord> Miss! Anne stole my notebook!
<Jenny> Virtual thumbwar with whoever's sitting next to me.
<Damon M. Lord> I'm telling the teacher! Jenny's poking me!
<Jenny> Am not!
<@SLViehl> Anne, give Damon back the notebook. Jenny, can you spell
<Cath> Um. Recess appears to be over.
<Anne_Marble> Hah, I retired a millionaire in the Caribbean!
<Pantalia> Have a great evening everyone. Suck her brain dry...She has more
to share than anyone I know.
<@SLViehl> No, I'm just hanging around. You've got three minutes.
<Crista> Ice cream time!
<@SLViehl> Hugs, Pantalia. Have fun tomorrow
<Pantalia> I scoff at that statement.
<Rang> take care, Pantalia....guess we shouldn't call you Panty, huh?
<Rang> goodnight
<@SLViehl> Okay, don't strangle Meg. I'd have to drive to prison to see you!
<Damon M. Lord> LOL@ Rang
<Pantalia> I was thinking more like poison. Harder to trace that way!
<Anne_Marble> Wow,the woman from "Nanny and the Professor" is now playing a
witch in the NBC soap "Passions"!
<Damon M. Lord> can't wait for the next part - i was reading about second
book syndrome the other day....
<Sarah> As long as we're not officially in session, Sheila, when does the
next book come out?
<@SLViehl> Shockball will be hitting the shelves November 9th.
<@SLViehl> Dream Mountain slightly before that -- October 10th, I think, for
your romance readers.
<jehane> HAve your novels been released in Australia?
<@SLViehl> No, darn it, but I'm working on overseas rights on the next
<@SLViehl> And now, back in session, everyone
<Damon M. Lord> SLV - when was your first book published?
<BJ Steeves> Any of your books make the SFBC?
<Damon M. Lord> oops back to class
<@SLViehl> Will answer you later on those, folks -- for now, the dreaded
<@SLViehl> (drum roll)
<@SLViehl> Everyone has seen this happen to very talented authors.
<@SLViehl> They write a great book, and it gets published, and everyone goes,
<@SLViehl> Meanwhile, the author, who is stunned and basking in the usual
booksigning/publicity blitz/rave reviews glows, doesn't think about the
second book.
<@SLViehl> Then the contract deadline on the second book approaches and
author usually says something like, "OH, SH*T"
<@SLViehl> Author trots out the second book in between booksignings and
interviews. Confident he/she can write anything now.
<@SLViehl> and the second book ---BOMBS
<@SLViehl> Why?
<@SLViehl> Two words: POOR PLANNING
<@SLViehl> Remember, I have ice for blood. I plan everything.
<@SLViehl> But when I wrote the second book in the StarDoc series, I missed
the second book syndrome only because of my own ignorance about it.
<@SLViehl> I just figured, okay, I did the planet thing, now let's do
something really different.
<@SLViehl> Voila, Cherijo becomes a star ship doctor.
<@SLViehl> When an author assumes that they are so good that they don't have
to think about their writing, they inevitably fall into second book syndrome.
<@SLViehl> My ignorance, and the fact that I wrote 23 novels before I ever
got published, saved me.
<@SLViehl> Now, how do you avoid this?
<@SLViehl> Well, you can do what I did, and write two books before you ever
try to sell anything.
<@SLViehl> You can plan for second book syndrome -- say to yourself, "I'd
really like to do something different."
<@SLViehl> But I think the key is to put on those hard cold glasses again,
and analyze your work.
<@SLViehl> What are your strengths and weaknesses? Force yourself to address
the weaknesses in your work.
<@SLViehl> I can write about medicine all day long. I have very little idea
of what it's like on the other side, the patient side.
<@SLViehl> And I certainly have never chopped up anyone with a sword.
<@SLViehl> So I am right now, forcing myself to address those weaknesses in
my work. I don't know what a military person would feel like, having to
become basically an interstellar ambulance driver. So I'm writing a boo
k about it.
<@SLViehl> I've never harmed anyone in my life with a weapon. I'm writing
eight books about seven people who do it for a living.
<@SLViehl> I refuse to get comfortable and sit on StarDoc and my medical
knowledge and say "That's all I can do, all I can write about."
<@SLViehl> Other methods, more conventional, to combat second book syndrome:
<@SLViehl> Write the second book first. I wrote SD6 before I wrote SD5
because I wasn't sure I could write it.
<@SLViehl> Drop everything, or almost everything, you've used in book one and
then write book two with a whole new cast of characters.
<@SLViehl> Take your brilliant concept for book one, and divide in half/
<@SLViehl> Use cliffhanger endings (carefully) -- give the reader some
hanging threads to pick up in the next book.
<Jenny> How do you divide a brilliant concept in half?
<Lynn> just that you just told me everything I'm doing currently. must mean
I'm doing something right.
<Sarah> Do you know if a character is going to die when you start, or does it
just happen?
<@SLViehl> Jenny, you stretch it out. If you've got a protagonist who enters
a new environment, struggles, and ends with having to move on or adjust,
stretch it out. Examine it more closely in your prose. Add timeline
-- as long as it remains interesting to the reader.
<@SLViehl> I plan to kill everyone who dies in my novels. I just don't let
the reader have any idea I'm going to kill them.
<Crista> Is there a danger in going in a completely new direction with the
second book from the first? Could you lose any readers from the first book
because the second is TOO different?
<Lynn> add another point of view....make things even messier.
<@SLViehl> Not if your writing style is consistent, Crista. If you've got
book one in you, you've got book two. You've got to not fall into the trap
of writing the same book over and over, or trading on the merits of th
e first.
<@SLViehl> What happened with me was weird -- timing is also everything in
publishing. Two months before my first novel was published, the only other
popular author of medical SF passed away.
<@SLViehl> So I get away with a lot because I write about a topic very few SF
authors can do with any knowledge or authority.
<@SLViehl> I'm also incorporating romance genre techniques into SF, which has
not been done with any great success before because of the universal contempt
toward romance in the SF genre.
<@SLViehl> But somehow, I get away with that, too.
<@SLViehl> The danger of using cliffhanger ending, I can't stress enough.
<@SLViehl> Editors hate them.
<@SLViehl> And you have to be really good at composing them.
<@SLViehl> But if there's enough momentum in the series, you will catch more
readers with that cliffhanger hook
<@SLViehl> than the usual standalone net.
<@SLViehl> I'm running out of time, so I will ask the class -- do you want to
continue this next month, same Friday, or should I do a quick runthrough on
the rest of the material?
<larkin> up to you
<Damon M. Lord> i'l go with what the majority says
<Rang> ditto
<Crista> Continue, if you can. I want more than a quick runthrough.
<june> I'd really like to take time with it, personally.
<James> I'd vote to continue next month...it's too interesting to rush
<Sarah> Ditto
<Jenny> Ditto.
<gayle> Doesn't matter to me.
<Kaelle> your choice, but I'd like same bat cave, etc
<@SLViehl> Okay. So I'm going back to Holly and ask for the first Friday in
October to continue our discussion. Overall, any questions on the material
we've covered?
<larkin> thank you. Learned alot.
<Rang> Thanks for giving so generously of your time, Sheila
<Jinx> Can we come to next class with questions on this part of the class?
<James> Not now -- I like time to stew on it, so I'll probably have a bunch
next time...
<june> No questions right now. Have to think about all this some, I think.
<Kaelle> It's been great, Sheila. Thank you.
<Crista> Thanks alot. This class has been better than most of my college
<@SLViehl> Sure. I've also set up an e-mail exclusively for this class:
<Rang> is it better to write six thin books, or 3 thick books in a series, if
it's the same amount of material?
<@SLViehl> (Sure on bringing on the questions from here to the next class, I
<BJ Steeves> Will transcripts be posted? Lost the connection at the break.
<june> Wonderful class. Thank you.
<Damon M. Lord> great class
<Diana> Thank you! You've opened some doors in my mind. That's a good thing!
<Damon M. Lord> TY
<gayle> thank you
<@SLViehl> Rang, I think it's best to write whatever works for you. Thick
books are harder to sell, though.:) "
<James> Yes -- thank you very much for the time and effort.
<@SLViehl> If this all works out with my friends, transcripts will be posted.
<jehane> thanks, will have to look again at my WIP
<Damon M. Lord> any one else taking a transcript? i'll cut and paste into the
body of the e-mail if you want me to take it, SLV
<@SLViehl> And thank you all for giving me this chance to talk shop. I
really enjoyed it.
<Cath> I add my thanks.
<Jenny> Thank you, very much.
<BJ Steeves> Looking fprward to the rest of the classes, many Thanks!!!
<@SLViehl> If someone could e-mail me the transcript, I'll post it on
my web site.
<Rang> Sheila...do u want an in text paste? or attachment?
<Rang> any format in particular if attachment?
<@SLViehl> Text paste would be best, Rang. My computer hates
<Rang> k
<@SLViehl> I'll also set up a class discussion thread for everyone to
exchange views.
<Jinx> I'll send a backup, but I lost some of mine through
<@SLViehl> Not sure where, but I'll let you know.
<@SLViehl> Thanks, Jinx
<Damon M. Lord> i got it all - sending as the body of text in e-mail
now to the address you gave
<larkin> until next time wonder if i'll have hub or chronicle dreams
<@SLViehl> Thank you, Damon.

end of transcript part two

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Romance Transcript Part I 9/14/01

October 23 2001, 8:04 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
9/14/01 -- How to Break into the Romance Novel Market

<Paul> oh I like tea but the coffee seems to work better, green tea isn't
that strong
<@SLViehl> I'm drinking decaf, hopefully I can sleep tonight. It's been
hard to turn off my head after the week's tragedies.
<Paul> I'll say now at the half point I'll reconnect or my ISP will auto
dissconnect me near the end of the class. 2 hour limit I'm afraid and I've
been on just over an hour
<larkin> i'm diringing an alchemical remedy of about 100 chinese herbs
<Paul> my scotch has kept me awake so far ^_^
<larkin> drinking
<@SLViehl> We'll wait for you, Paul, no problem.
<larkin> do more people read romances in times like these?
<@SLViehl> Romances are universally healing, in a lot of ways, I think. But
before we get off on a discussion, I'd better get the class started.
<@SLViehl> For those of you who don't know me, I'm Sheila, aka S.L. Viehl,
aka Gena Hale, a published SF and romance author
<@SLViehl> I've written 36 novels to date, and have sold 12 of them in the
past 18 months.
<@SLViehl> So I'm doing something right.
<@SLViehl> I have a bunch of material to go over, and how I'd like to do it
is present the material first, in blocks,
<@SLViehl> then open up the floor for questions. When you see this:
<@SLViehl> That's the time to throw things at me.
<@SLViehl> We'll have a five minute question period, and if time allows, an
open-ended question period at the end of the class.
<@SLViehl> A five minute question period at the end of each block, I should
<@SLViehl> Everyone ready?
<Gayle> yes!
<Paul> yep I'm ready
<BlairB> Good To Go!
<June> All set
<spring> me too!
<@SLViehl> Okay. Tonight's class is in How to Break into the Romance
Market -- Meaning YOU
<@SLViehl> We'll start with the basics -- What, exactly, is a romance novel?
<@SLViehl> A romance novel is a story about two people who, despite their
differences and /or many obstacles
<@SLViehl> fall in love and commit to each other. This is the main focus of
the story.
<@SLViehl> Examples: The Flame and The Flower, by Kathleen Woodiwiss.
<@SLViehl> First romance novel I ever read. Blew me away.
<@SLViehl> The Bride Finder, by Susan Carroll. Everyone who read that book
basically got blown away.
<@SLViehl> First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Broke sales records
across the US and has become one of the most beloved novels of recent times.
<@SLViehl> What do they all share? They're novels about a man and a woman
who fall in love. There's more, but that's the basic situation.
<@SLViehl> Now, what is NOT a romance novel?
<@SLViehl> The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert J. Waller.
<@SLViehl> Man meets married woman, has affair, leaves her.
<@SLViehl> That is not romance, that's wishful thinking.
<@SLViehl> Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks
<@SLViehl> Man meets woman, haunted by another, drowns.
<@SLViehl> Killing off the hero is a big NO-NO in romance.
<@SLViehl> The Burning Point by Mary Jo Putney
<@SLViehl> Man meets woman he used to beat.
<@SLViehl> And although this was widely touted as a romance, the hero CANNOT
beat up the heroine, even in the past.
<@SLViehl> Any novel that is about anything EXCEPT a successfully-concluding
love story is NOT a romance.
<@SLViehl> Why? Because 54% of the adult fiction market says so. That's
the bottom line.
<@SLViehl> There are many categories to romance -- historical, like The Wolf
and the Dover, again by Woodiwiss. A love story between a Saxon woman and a
Norman invader set in 1066 England.
<@SLViehl> Contemporary romance -- takes place in modern times, sometimes
slightly ahead of our time, like Mackenzie's Mission by Linda Howard.
<@SLViehl> Futuristic -- takes place far in the future, sometimes on an
alien world, Like Warrior Moon by Marilyn Jordan.
<@SLViehl> Classic romance -- twists on favorites, like fairytale
romances -- Into the Woods by Linda Winstead Jones was a twist on Hansel and
<@SLViehl> Mystery romances -- have a puzzle to be solved along with the
romance, as in Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart
<@SLViehl> And Suspense (which I write) that have a crime-solving element,
and generally dire straits, like my own Paradise Island and Hemlock Bay, by
Catherine Coulter.
<@SLViehl> All of these categories encompass romance novels.
<@SLViehl> But the big seller these days is what is referred to as
"mainstream" romance.
<@SLViehl> Mainstream romance takes place in the present, and has a strong
plot with a distinct lack of purple prose.
<@SLViehl> Purple prose, for those of you who aren't familiar with the term,
is overly-romantic adverb and adjective-ridden prose that revolves around
romantic encounters, sex, and little else.
<@SLViehl> Mainstream romance authors are enjoying their success because
their characters directly identify with the reader. Modern women and men
with modern problems. The pacing is generally very fast and exciting.
<@SLViehl> The dilemmas faced by characters in mainstream romance are
generally pretty monumental or extremely emotional
<@SLViehl> but the prose is very, very clean.
<@SLViehl> Authors who portray women as more than cringing, helpless
virginal ninnies, and men as more than muscle-bound hulks prepared to ravish
anything that moves
<@SLViehl> aren't very sucessful with today's reader market.
<@SLViehl> Now, what makes a romance novel breakout as a bestseller?
<@SLViehl> You start with a great story -- it must be at the top of what's
being written by your contemporaries.
<@SLViehl> Competent writing isn't going to cut it.
<@SLViehl> You then must have at least a 200,000 copy print run.
<@SLViehl> That's to just qualify for the NYTimes Best Seller list.
<@SLViehl> An established readership will get you there faster than
anything, so the first three novels you write and have published will
probably be the most important of your career.
<@SLViehl> This is make or break time. Think about that when you're putting
together your novels.
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, there are rare souls who seem to skip all the
hard part of getting to the bestseller list.
<@SLViehl> Michelle Jaffee was able to hop skip and jump there because she's
got a Phd in Renaissance Literature.
<@SLViehl> This impressed the publishers.
<@SLViehl> It didn't impress the readers.
<@SLViehl> Lisa Kleypas, who is a very competent romance writer, is now
trading off her former title as a beauty pagent winner.
<@SLViehl> While the lady is very pretty, and very photogenic, in the long
run? Won't matter.
<@SLViehl> Story sells books.
<@SLViehl> If you can catch the reader's attention, and keep it, you've got
a shot.
<@SLViehl> But what are the odds for getting into print?
<@SLViehl> Some 200,000 manuscripts are considered for publication by US
romance editors each year.
<@SLViehl> Less than 1% make it into print.
<@SLViehl> 2289 romances were published in the US in the year 2000.
<@SLViehl> Current multi-published authors in the world (these are authors
with more than 5 books in print): 1500
<@SLViehl> Number of unpublished writers belonging to Romance Writers of
America: more than 7,400
<@SLViehl> This is your competition, ladies and gentlemen. Be aware of the
<@SLViehl> Statistically speaking, you have less than a 1% chance of getting
a romance novel published.
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, if you write a great story, you can increase
those odds.
<@SLViehl> 75% of all romance authors do not make money for their
<@SLViehl> In the 80's, publishers were willing to go along with five or six
books to give the author a decent shot.
<@SLViehl> Today you have to do it in two books.
<@SLViehl> What this means is there is always going to be room for you
within the ranks.
<@SLViehl> By continuing to work on your craft, submitting, and moving on
when a novel doesn't sell, you increase your chances.
<@SLViehl> Be professional at all times -- I can't stree the importance of
this enough.
<@SLViehl> You will not get published by crying, begging, making phone
calls, having a nasty attitude, or any other negative or attention-drawing
<@SLViehl> stree=stress
<@SLViehl> Editors are going to invest their time and their budget in you if
you get a contract.
<@SLViehl> They don't want to play roulette with their time and money. They
want return for it.
<@SLViehl> Demonstrating you are steady, reliable, and a consistent producer
is the most valuable thing you can do in this business.
<@SLViehl> So you've done everything right, and still -- no contract. Why?
<@SLViehl> Look at the rejection letters you get.
<@SLViehl> If you see "Your writing style does not suit our needs" this is a
<@SLViehl> It means brush up on your basic writing style/skills.
<@SLViehl> "The story does not suit our line" generally means you've sent
the editor something they don't publish.
<@SLViehl> Keep adhering to the guidelines of the publishers you submit
to -- religiously.
<@SLViehl> If you see "I really like your writing" or "I'd like to see more
of your work" the editor is INTERESTED.
<@SLViehl> Submit something else to this person IMMEDIATELY if possible.
<@SLViehl> Don't fall into the trap of thinking you're a perfect writer.
<@SLViehl> There are no perfect writers. If you think you're perfect,
there's nothing I can teach you.
<@SLViehl> And you will probably never get published.
<@SLViehl> Writing 300 pages of double spaced words that make sense does not
entitle you to a contract.
<@SLViehl> You must reach your reader, stir their emotions, and hook them --
get them wanting to read more.
<@SLViehl> Otherwise, why would they bother paying you -- or the
publisher -- for the privilege?
<@SLViehl> If you believe in yourself, you won't stop writing. If you
believe you're good enough to get into print
<@SLViehl> you will get published. But remember, it will cost you.
<@SLViehl> Time, sacrifice, dedication, self-esteem sometimes. You have to
ask yourself "is it worth it to me?"
<June> Apart from the necessary happy ending, what is the most important
'must have' that's unique to Romance?
<Gayle> do your figures include small publishers that do ebooks and POD?
<@SLViehl> You must have a good, solid developing romance between a man and
woman, one that makes it despite the differences/obstacles, June
<larkin> any hints to writing a brilliant first book ?
<@SLViehl> My statistics involve major print publishers only, Gayle. I'll
have more to say about ebooks and POD later on.
<@SLViehl> I think the brilliant first book is in everyone, Larkin. Look to
what thrills you, and translate that into a romance.
<@SLViehl> I've always wanted to be stranded on a deserted island with
Harrison Ford.
<@SLViehl> Just for a little while.
<larkin> I find it challenging to keep the writing between the two
belllievable. hard to get out of the way , my cynicism about
<Id> Sorry, I got here late, so this might have been asked before or I might
just be stupid ^_^;; Does a writer have a better shot at getting published
with a small-time or big-time publisher?
<@SLViehl> The plot for my first romance, is me and Harrison Ford on a
deserted island.
<@SLViehl> You have to be a dreamer and a firm romantic to write convincing
love stories, imho.
<@SLViehl> ld, I think there are degrees of "shots". If you just want to
see your name in print, you can find someone who will do it -- for a fee.
<@SLViehl> If you want to have a professional career and live off your
earnings, as I do, you need to go with a major print publisher.
<larkin> i used to be. perhaps my characters used to believe too and are a
wee bit cynical but not irrevocably
<@SLViehl> Remember, the reader wants to be your heroine.
<@SLViehl> Is your heroine someone I'd like to be for a couple of hours?
<@SLViehl> Any other questions?
<June> Interesting that you mention the reader wanting to BE the heroine --
I find, when I read, I don't want to be her. I want her to be someone I'd
want for a best friend.
<Paul> whats the viewpoint on sexuality in romance? Hetrosexual
relationships are the main sellers I presume
<larkin> good point..depends how much scorpio is in your chart.
<@SLViehl> On this block?
<BlairB> when you tell the story of boy meets girl / boy falls in love with
girl, do you let the reader in on both
<BlairB> of the characters thoughts?
<@SLViehl> Interesting thought, June, but I think most readers want the
escape like me.
<larkin> why do you think two deep for tears sold so well and the other too
not so well?
<@SLViehl> Paul, heterosexual relationships are the main focus in romance
novels. You can have other, alternate relationships in the background, but
romance is still very backward in that department.
<June> Maybe I'm just wierd then
<@SLViehl> Blair, I always write both POVs, boy and girl. Some authors do
one, but we're moving toward multiple POVS and a lot of head-hopping in the
genre (I can't head-hop -- switch POVS in the middle of a scene -but Nora
Roberts does )
<Gayle> No, I don't think so, June...I read them for a good read not to be
the heroine...
<@SLViehl> No, June, you're probably just better adjusted.
<June> LOL
<larkin> do you switch pov each chapter?
<@SLViehl> Larkin, I'm not familiar with the novel you brought up.
<@SLViehl> I switch POVs within each chapter, and try to give the hero and
heroine both equal time.
<@SLViehl> Now I'm going to move on to Block 2, Slush Pile Versus Writer's
<Gayle> since it's almost the hour do you want to do the break first?
<@SLViehl> Good idea, Gayle. Everyone, we've got five minutes. Relax!
<@SLViehl> I'm going to go tuck the kids in. BRB
<Anon_21> I've already reconnected so don't worry about me disappearing ^_^
<Gayle> so what is everybody reading? Currently I've in the middle of In the
<June> At the moment, I'm between books. Thinking of buying another
Jennifer Cruise since I liked the last one I read.
<Paul> I just read like 3 sandman graphic novels and bioth the Death novels
by Neil Gaiman and read a contempory fiction called 5 photographs of my wife
and about to read Merrick by Anne Rice
<Jehane> In COnquest Born by CS Friedman
<larkin> Phillip Pullman Trilogy Golden Compass etc. loved them
<Paul> (funny I have a guys called Merrick in my WIP)
<@SLViehl> I'm back. Reading No Victor, No Vanquished by Edgar O'Ballance,
on the Arab-Israeli War of 1973
<June> I've got a few 'heavy' reads in my TBR, but I think I need something
light and funny in my life right now.
<@SLViehl> I need to read more fiction, but my brother just shipped out to
the middle east, so I'm researching.
<Gayle> I get to the point where I need a to read some fiction before I go
to bed so I'm not back up in about 15 minutes
<@SLViehl> Maybe that would work better than decaf for me, Gayle.
<Paul> I have to try to get through The silmarillion one day, it seems very
hard to read compared to the other tolkien works
<Jehane> I'm writing more and reading less.
<@SLViehl> Has anyone read Kushiel's Dart>
<Paul> no I've never heard of it
<@SLViehl> >=?
<June> No, but I've been thinking about getting it.
<Gayle> But then I'm "in" non-fiction all day long
<@SLViehl> It's good --harrowing, at times -- but good, June.
<Id> The silmarillion is pretty cool, Paul. But I didnt find it hard to
read. Just the writing style was hard to pay attention to, IMO
<June> Cool. I get nervous about a hardcover when I'm not sure I'm going to
like the thing, if you know what I mean?
<@SLViehl> Everyone have their bathroom/beverage/tuck the kids in break
<Gayle> yes.
<Paul> for fantasy fans I would recomend Elizabeth haydon very good debut
novel Rhapsody and the sequel is great too
<@SLViehl> If I'm not sure, I get it from the library, June. Saves $$$
<@SLViehl> I've heard that one was a good read. The only fantasy I read is
mostly Holly's stuff.
<June> My local library has nada -- and Detroit is a pain to get to. sigh.
<Gayle> all my books come from the library...if I renew it mulitple times I
know I need to get my own copy
<Jehane> Can't they get books in for you? I can get books from allover the
<@SLViehl> Okay, on to block 2 -- Slush Pile versus Writer's Conferences.
<@SLViehl> Submitting an unagented manuscript to a publisher -- what to
<@SLViehl> Make a positive first impression with your submission. ALWAYS.
<@SLViehl> Cover letters should be on white paper, nothing decorative or
tricky. Keep them brief and to the point.
<@SLViehl> Present your novel idea, andy major writing credits you have,
contact information, thank them for considering you, and end it.
<@SLViehl> That's all that goes into a cover/query letter.
<@SLViehl> If you also submit a synopsis and/or sample chapters, have them
on white paper, double-spaced, Courier 12 pt. print.
<@SLViehl> number the pages and put your name/title footer on every page.
<@SLViehl> Do not send your submission in a Pampers Box
<@SLViehl> Send a neat, clean copy in a plain box or reinforced envelope.
ALWAYS include an SASE with your submission, and enough postage if you want
to material back.
<@SLViehl> Research the publisher's guidelines first. If they only publish
inspirational (Christian) romances, they aren't going to want your latest
erotica novel.
<@SLViehl> Make sure your word length matches their guidelines (I always
include word count in my cover letter.)
<@SLViehl> Be respectful -- if you're writing to Jane Smith, start the
letter with Dear Ms. Smith.
<@SLViehl> Make sure your submission is proofed well for typos and errors.
Have a friend read it, that helps.
<@SLViehl> Now, what does the editor do when he/she gets your submission?
<@SLViehl> They say they read everything that is submitted to them.
<@SLViehl> And they're lying to you.
<@SLViehl> That's call PR.
<@SLViehl> Publishers hire college grads or other people willing to work for
lower wages as slush pile readers.
<@SLViehl> Sometimes, editors use their assistants and/or secretaries to do
<@SLViehl> The reader will actually read the cover letter and whatever else
they can read within one to two minutes.
<@SLViehl> If they like it, it goes to the editor.
<@SLViehl> If they don't like it, you get a pre-printed rejection form
<@SLViehl> An editor who gets a submission from the slush pile reader reads
one to five pages of the submission.
<@SLViehl> That is what makes or breaks the decision. Five pages.
<@SLViehl> Of the 1500 submissions an editor can expect to receive in a
calendar year
<@SLViehl> the actual number the editor reads with his/her own eyes is
around 150 at best.
<@SLViehl> So what can you do to get around this slush pile dilemma?
<@SLViehl> You can pitch an editor with a query letter and save some
<@SLViehl> You can pitch an editor at a writer's conference and see if your
idea appeals first.
<@SLViehl> You can enter contests with a winner guaranteed to have an editor
consider their work.
<@SLViehl> But what you really have to do is consider their market, and what
they're publishing, and write for it.
<@SLViehl> Why does it take so long to hear back from an editor?
<@SLViehl> Remember those statistics. Slush pile reading is the absolute
lowest priority for any publisher.
<@SLViehl> They're going to take care of their published authors and sales
lines first.
<@SLViehl> Keep track of your submissions and the response time specified in
the publisher's guidelines
<@SLViehl> If they promise a response in three months and you haven't heard
back in four, politely follow up with a letter inquiring as to the status of
your submission.
<@SLViehl> Editors get so many badly-packaged and/or written submissions
that they are very jaded toward the slush pile.
<@SLViehl> Don't expect a lot of sensitivity from them.
<@SLViehl> Consider submitting simultaneous submissions, but only to those
publishers who accept them.

end of part one

 Respond to this message   

Romance Transcript Part II 9/14/01

October 23 2001, 8:06 PM 

<@SLViehl> From the slush pile to the writer's conference -- what can you
<@SLViehl> RWA Nat'l Conference, the biggest in the US, will cost you
between $800 and $2000, depending on location.
<@SLViehl> Less if it's held in your home town.
<@SLViehl> Regional conferences go for about half of that, and local
(hometown) conference are even less.
<@SLViehl> What do you get for your money?
<@SLViehl> You get to listen to authors lecture.
<@SLViehl> You get to see how they promote their work. And brother, do they
<@SLViehl> You get -- maybe -- five minutes with an editor through reserving
an appt. Sometimes you can't get in to see the editor you want.
<@SLViehl> Is it worth it? If you've written a book you're convinced will
make it into print, yes.
<@SLViehl> But do yourself a favor -- try a local writer's conference first,
just to be sure.
<@SLViehl> Now you've got an appt. with an editor. What kind of first
impression will you make?
<@SLViehl> Editors do not want to work with someone who looks like they've
just scrubbed out the bathroom.
<@SLViehl> It shows a lack of professionalism because THEY'RE not dressed
like that.
<@SLViehl> Also a no-no -- dressing in outlandish or "costume" like garments
for an interview.
<@SLViehl> You may want to be Scarlett O'Hara, but keep the crinolines at
home. She's going to think you're nuts.
<@SLViehl> The pro author's "uniform" is very simple: a business suit or a
nice blouse and slacks, in conservative cut/style/pattern. Nothing too
tight and revealing. Treat this like a job interview, because it IS one.
<@SLViehl> Tone down the makeup and leave your ten pounds of jewelry at
<@SLViehl> I dress like an attorney, and I carry a briefcase. Most people
usually think I'm an editor.
<@SLViehl> I know it may sound trivial but if you're on a equal footing,
dress-wise, the editor will relax more with you, and be more receptive to
<@SLViehl> Keeping committments -- if you've promised an editor three
chapters and a synopsis, put them in the mail the day after you get home
from the conference. An interested editor = potential contract.
<@SLViehl> Remember to keep track of your submissions and politely follow-up
if you don't hear from the editor within the time specified.
<@SLViehl> I always recommend anyone who has an editor appt. have a business
card to give him/her, and should try to get a response time committment from
the editor.
<@SLViehl> Mention your appt. and the conference in your cover letter, they
see a lot of people and probably won't remember you.
<@SLViehl> And now . . . agents.
<@SLViehl> Good, bad, worse.
<@SLViehl> A good agent represents you for 15% of whatever he/she sells for
you. Nothing else.
<@SLViehl> They have contacts in the industry, a list of published
clientele, and maintain regular contact with you.
<@SLViehl> This is the agent you want. I have a whole list of names of good
agents I recommend to writers.
<@SLViehl> The bad agent.
<@SLViehl> this step-above the scam artist represents you, but charges you
fees. Reading, postage, phone calls, etc.
<@SLViehl> They have a huge list of clientele, and brag of their contacts
sometimes, but generally, make their money off your fees, not selling books.
<@SLViehl> This agent will contact you when he/she needs more money.
<@SLViehl> This is not the agent for you.
<@SLViehl> Then there is the WORSE agent, aka the scam artist.
<@SLViehl> They promise you the moon.
<@SLViehl> You'll get published, but we'll need a 1500.00 investment on your
part to see that you get in the right doors. . .
<@SLViehl> These people are not agents. They're criminals.
<@SLViehl> During the nine years I was pursuing a career, I encountered an
agent who referred me to a "literary consultant."
<@SLViehl> This man absolutely promised me I'd get into print. All I needed
to do was send him $1300.00 so he could get my manuscript "into shape"
<@SLViehl> He said all the right things
<@SLViehl> He was intelligent, articulate, and enthusiastic.
<@SLViehl> He played me perfectly, except for one thing.
<@SLViehl> I swore I'd never pay anyone to get published. They were going
to have to pay ME.
<@SLViehl> That man is currently serving ten years in a state prison.
<@SLViehl> And bilked other writers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
<@SLViehl> I, luckily, stuck to my rule and was not one of them . . . but
it was close.
<@SLViehl> When you meet one of these guys, you need to call the police.
<@SLViehl> Why have an agent, then? Well, because most of them live in New
York City, and we don't.
<@SLViehl> It's their business to know what editors are buying -- unlike
you, who can't make the rounds.
<@SLViehl> They will protect you from bad contracts, because bad contracts
threaten their 15%
<@SLViehl> Be very clear, an agent does nothing except for that 15%.
<@SLViehl> You can have a career without an agent. Plenty of authors do.
<@SLViehl> But it requires more time investment on your part.
<@SLViehl> You have to negotiate, you have to read the contracts (you should
anyway, even with an agent)
<@SLViehl> So it's a judgement call.
<BlairB> When you say an agent get 15% and thats it. What about incidental
costs like telephone calls. Shipping of manuscripts etc. is it a shared
<@SLViehl> A good agent will not charge you for anything. If they say they
have to, they are not worth your time.
<BlairB> okay
<spring> How can we get your list of good agents? Do you have it online
<@SLViehl> I'll e-mail the list to whoever would like a copy, along with
contact information. These are the agents that I know of who do not scam
<BlairB> Are agents genre specific?
<June> Should we e-mail you with that reques?
<@SLViehl> Some agents are, Blair. Russ Galen, Holly's agent, for example,
does a lot of SF author deals. But he's not exclusive to that genre, rarely
are any of them.
<@SLViehl> Yes, my e-mail for the class is SLViehlworkshop@aol.com
<@SLViehl> My agent, Robin Rue, has mainly romance authors. On the other
hand, she's been an agent for over 20 years, so she's comfortable with many
<larkin> how did you get yours? are you with the one you started with?
<@SLViehl> I had the contract offer before I had the agent -- a fluke,
really. I have been with Robin since my first contract, and although it
hasn't been all wine and roses, we work together well.
<@SLViehl> I went to her with the contract in hand, and she read my novels
before she agreed to become my agent. That's how tough she is.
<June> Isn't it easier to get a good agent after you get that contract offer
<@SLViehl> Absolutely. An agent is much more willing to take a walk-in deal
like that than someone who isn't published and has no offers . . . but --
<larkin> is anyone whose making a living working without an agent?
<@SLViehl> If you have writing credits, and write a convincing query letter,
a good agent may gamble and take you on.
<larkin> are writing credits essential?
<@SLViehl> There are a couple of pro authors who don't use agents. Not many
reach the bestseller list
<@SLViehl> Larkin, I think major writing credits can help a lot -- magazine
articles, newspaper articles, major contest wins.
<@SLViehl> Everything you've had in print since high school, though, no.
Just the major credits.
<@SLViehl> Okay, onto block 4 -- What's Selling and Why isn't it you?
<@SLViehl> The formula for a bestseller is NO FORMULA.
<@SLViehl> There are 2 kinds of bestsellers -- a novice author writes a book
so compelling and readable word of it spreads like wildfire
<@SLViehl> Or an established author is pushed by a publisher, judging
him/her to be at the right career point, and the volume print run and hype
sell a lot of books.
<@SLViehl> In between, there are authors who suddenly just "pop"
<@SLViehl> but it's usually one or the other.
<@SLViehl> Which author stays on the bestseller list? The one who wrote the
great story.
<@SLViehl> She/He wins readership.
<@SLViehl> The hyped author, while the book may be good, didn't earn it.
<@SLViehl> And you can't fool the readers with a lot of hype. Once, maybe.
Twice, nope.
<@SLViehl> So how do you get that great story? Keep it simple.
<@SLViehl> Go for universal romance themes to win those readers.
<@SLViehl> A man and woman fall in love, but then . . . . is the beginning
of a great romance.
<@SLViehl> Consider classic themes -- Beauty and the Beast. Snowbound
Strangers. Cinderella.
<@SLViehl> Take those classic story themes and give them your unique twist,
but stick to the theme.
<@SLViehl> Readers want new but familiar, if that makes sense.
<@SLViehl> You can't seriously pursue a writing career and not want success.
So how do you get it?
<@SLViehl> The time of the Faulkners and Hemingways are over.
<@SLViehl> Being artistic is great, but I'm not an artist. I'm a
businesswoman and I produce a product.
<@SLViehl> I want my shot at the best seller list, so I produce a product
that has mass appeal.
<@SLViehl> Not very artistic, but I made enough money to quit my day job.
<@SLViehl> And I have a very good shot at the romance BSL because I studied
the market first.
<@SLViehl> There are three key focus point the veteran bestselling authors
concentrate on:
<@SLViehl> Story -- well written, effortless prose.
<@SLViehl> Pacing -- smooth, easy to fast pacing that doesn't drag the
reader down.
<@SLViehl> The thrill factor -- include unexpected plot twists.
<@SLViehl> What's the difference between my book and say, Diana Galbaldon's
<@SLViehl> About 600 pages.
<@SLViehl> Diana writes in almost her own sub-genre category of romance.
<@SLViehl> There isn't much room in the market for 1000 page monster reads
like hers.
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, there's plenty of room for the shorter, faster
<@SLViehl> So consider carefully what you're writing, and write for the
market (When you're established, you can try your hand at those 1000 page
epics. Get in the door first)
<larkin> do you offer an ongoing workshop stage by stage?
<@SLViehl> I was going to suggest (since once again I've overshot my time
limit) we get back together on the second Friday night in October. Anyone
interested? Otherwise, I can e-mail you my notes on the remainder of the
outline and answer questions through e-mail.
<larkin> interested
<BlairB> Works for me
<Jehane> When you say shorter, are you talking about the Harlequin/MIlls and
BOon length?
<Paul> yes that would be great as it is now almost 4 am and I have a shift
at work at midday I need some rest ^_^
<June> I can come back. I'll be her for the first weekend continuation
<Gayle> yes...I would probably be there
<@SLViehl> Exactly, Jehane. Think between 75,000 to 100,000 words versus
<@SLViehl> Lord, Paul, go to bed!
<Paul> okay then I'll see you next week ^_^
<@SLViehl> I've also got a list of publishers submission guidelines
available to anyone who would like them.
<Gayle> bye paul
<@SLViehl> See you, Paul. Thanks for being here.
<BlairB> How important is it to actaully read the genre...I'm not really
interested in reading romance novels, but i know that being a hopless
romatic i've got stories to tell.
<Jehane> Are they US publishers only?
<@SLViehl> Blair, to get a feel for what readers want, I think you need to
read at least a few bestsellers, and see what's selling.
<@SLViehl> Jehane, I've got all the Harlequin publishers, who are based out
of England and Canada as well as the US, but the rest are pretty much US
<@SLViehl> You're in Australia, right?
<Jehane> Yep.
<Jehane> Do you know any Australian publishers?
<BlairB> can any of you recomend something for me to read then?
<Jehane> There are some Aussie writers for M&B, but otherwise have not seen
any Aussie romance writers
<@SLViehl> Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard.
<June> Well, Blair, can you give me a general range? Contemporary?
Historical? What would most interest you?
<@SLViehl> We need more like Miranda Lee, she's one of yours, isn't she?
<BlairB> June - I'm not sure...if i'm going to write mainstream, i guess
thats where i should start.
<Jehane> Yes
<@SLViehl> Ms. Lee is very popular over here -- she's got a nice, fast
style, very contemporary.
<BlairB> really i'm coming at this with my eyes open for the first time.
<larkin> are there other writers with a style similar to anne stuart?
<@SLViehl> Kinda scary, isn't it? lol
<June> Then I'd go with those mentioned above: Susan Elizabeth Philliips
writes funny contemporaries. Linda Howard is much loved. Nora Roberts is
practially her own industry.
<Gayle> what about Sandra Brown?
<@SLViehl> Anne Stuart is sort of out there on her own. She really pushes
the envelope.
<@SLViehl> I think Sandra Brown has strayed away from romance, imho
<larkin> did she do that when she first started?
<June> There is a newer one out called 'Darkling I Listen' which I've been
hearing very good things about. Can't remember the author's name.
<@SLViehl> Anne has been gradually developing this -- what I call -- the
"serial killer" hero type. Sometimes her books scare me.
<larkin> some i don't care for..some i find darkly quirky and quite fun.
<@SLViehl> I think Anne started out traditionally, then just got very dark,
<June> Anne Stuart is a cool lady -- met her at a conference once. But she
is 'one of a kind'
<@SLViehl> She's much loved in her own way, June.
<larkin> don't know if your interested in astrology. wonder if there have
been studies done relating the chart to the kind of romance one writes
<June> Oh, -I- adore her -- just agree that she's not for everyone
<larkin> listening to you i realize she has her own edge which imho she
sometimes goes over. i like her alot too thouogh.
<@SLViehl> I think polarities in romance are great, so most of my heroes and
heroines are astrological opposites (there, insider info into the mind of a
romance writer)
<larkin> merci
<@SLViehl> We like unique authors like Anne, but remember too, she's one
heck of a writer.
<@SLViehl> I'd love to read her grocery list.
<larkin> or her dreams
<@SLViehl> Kaelle, are you out there? Didn't see you join us.
<@SLViehl> And spring, too. Any questions?
<Kaelle> Hi. Yeah I just got here.
<@SLViehl> Well, it's detention for you, then.
<Kaelle> oops
<@SLViehl> just kidding.
<Kaelle> Hey detention with you might be um...interesting
<Anon_76> Sorry, computer crashed
<@SLViehl> No problem. For detention, I make you listen to Donald Maas.
<spring> still here. i will be emailing you for your guidelines and list of
agents. Thanks for the class.
<larkin> are you doing a romance series? thanks for a great class. really
appreciate that you do this.
<@SLViehl> Sure, spring, glad you could join us. Also, if anyone would like
to continue on, I'll schedule us on the calendar for the second Friday night
in October
<larkin> definitely
<June> Sure. I'll be there.
<spring> i'll be there
<@SLViehl> I've written a trilogy for Onyx, starting with Paradise Island.
Dream Mountain, the second novel is due out next month. Sun Valley in June
of 2002.
<Gayle> I'll probably be there
<BlairB> me three...though i'm kinda scared right now...:)
<June> Andi, btw, said sorry she couldn't make it -- major headache kicked
in and she couldn't look at a screen.
<@SLViehl> Don't be, Blair. This is a terrific genre and there are plenty
of opportunities to break in.
<@SLViehl> Oh, I'll have to send her an e-mail. Thanks for letting me know,
<larkin> are there books you recommend?
<@SLViehl> as in how-to writing books, larkin? Or romance fiction?
<June> No problem. She'll grill me tomorrow (we're housemates)
<larkin> how to,
<larkin> step by step, though i'd rather do it with thyself
<@SLViehl> Deborah Dixon wrote a very famous book titled GMC that everyone
swears by.
<Jehane2> I read one by Valerie Parv once.
<@SLViehl> I must confess, I don't read how-to books. I just muddle through
on my own.
<@SLViehl> Does anyone have any recommendations for larkin?
<larkin> maybe I'll muddle too,
<Gayle> Rita Clay Estrada & Rita Gallagher have one "You can write a
<June> Not really genre specific books, no, I can't think of any.
<June> To recommend, I mean.
<Gayle> Then there is one by Helene Schellenberg Barhart that's older called
"Writing Romance Fiction for love and money"
<June> Personally, I've found the 'how-to' books for Romance a touch too
'formulistic' -- but that could just be me.
<@SLViehl> Okay, folks, I'm going to close the session, any last questions?
My e-mail for the class is SLViehlworkshop@aol.com#
<@SLViehl> wait, delete that # at the end.
<larkin> thanks
<Jehane> Thanks for the class
<June> Thanks!
<Gayle> thank you
<@SLViehl> You all can stay and chat, I'm just old and have to crawl off to
bed. Thanks for letting me talk shop with you all. I really enjoyed it.
<BlairB> How would you like the transcript? attached? pasted into the
<BlairB> same email address?
<@SLViehl> Pasted if you would, Blair. My attachments thing never works.
Would you send it to TheStarDoc@aol.com?
<@SLViehl> You can all reach me at either address, the workshop one is just
private, for you guys alone.
<BlairB> it'll be there right away.

end of part two

 Respond to this message   

SF Market Transcript Part I 9/21/01

October 23 2001, 8:07 PM 

9/21 Workshop at HollyLisle.com
How To Break into the Science Fiction Novel Market

<@SLViehl> All right, I'm going to start the session. Anyone who comes in
late will just have to jump in where we are.
<@SLViehl> For those of you who haven't been at one of the earlier sessions,
this is how I run the class:
<@SLViehl> My material is in seven blocks, and I'll go over them one block
at a time.
<@SLViehl> At the end of a block, I'll put up this word: QUESTIONS
<@SLViehl> That's when you throw whatever you have at me.
<@SLViehl> We'll take a five minute break at 10pm, for
<@SLViehl> Ready to get started?
<BlairB> Good To Go.
<Jinx> Ready!
<Kaelle> yes!
<Jenny> And laundry. Yep.
<Valerie> Let's go!
<gayle> sure
<larkinhello> yes
<Paul> affirmative
<Andi> Let's go!
<Valerie> <thanks for the laundry reminder!>
<@SLViehl> Okay. I'm S.L. Viehl (Sheila), author of the SF series StarDoc
<@SLViehl> I have written 36 novels and have sold 12 in the past eighteen
<@SLViehl> So I'm doing something right here.
<@SLViehl> My first three SF novels have all debuted on the Locus SF
bestseller list
<@SLViehl> so I'm doing something right that readers apparently enjoy, too.
<@SLViehl> But what very few people realize is it took me 9 years to get
<@SLViehl> 9 years and 1,467 rejection letters (to date. Yes, I count.)
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to talk about breaking into the SF market
<@SLViehl> And I'd like to start with discussing the need to get back to
basics, and why
<@SLViehl> Here's the current state of the SF genre:
<@SLViehl> SF currently accounts for less that 7% of genre market sales.
<@SLViehl> That's opposed to romance (58.2%) mystery (24%) fantasy (11.3%)
and other (do the math)
<@SLViehl> SF has steadily been losing point from the genre market share
since the advent of media tie-in novels in the beginning of the 90's
<@SLViehl> and the rapid consolidation of publishers, which killed a lot of
SF imprints, over the past five years
<@SLViehl> Now, if SF is so popular in film & TV, why aren't we selling more
SF books?
<@SLViehl> I have a theory -- personal, but the numbers back me up
<@SLViehl> Unlike film and television producers/writers, SF authors are
almost unanimously uninterested in addressing the market audience
<@SLViehl> The prevailing opinion of pros in the SF genre is what I call the
"literati attitude" -- "I will write what I want and you will either
appreciate how brilliant I am, or get lost."
<@SLViehl> No wonder people are going to watch movies and the SCI-FI
<@SLViehl> And we've seen a similar drop-off happen before -- in the horror
<@SLViehl> After the advent of Stephen King into the small but relatively
stable horror market, there was a sudden explosion of new writers, trying to
capitalize on King's success.
<@SLViehl> Sadly, only a few were able to offer books that could even hope
to compete.
<@SLViehl> The glut cost the publishing industry millions.
<@SLViehl> To keep SF from going down the same drain, writers MUST address
the needs of the market.
<@SLViehl> But we've got a major problem already to deal with, even before
we hit the market.
<@SLViehl> What I call the Dead Writer Admiration Society.
<@SLViehl> It came out of fan-spawned worship of mainly male writers during
the 40's to 60's. These writers are mostly all dead now, or no longer
contribute significantly to the genre.
<@SLViehl> Yet they established "THE RULES"
<@SLViehl> "THE RULES" have done more to stifle creativity in the SF genre
than any other influence -- and this is the genre that is supposed to be
wide open to ideas about the future.
<@SLViehl> Imagine what would happen to the romance market if all romance
authors had to follow the example set by, say, Jane Austen.
<@SLViehl> Yet the prevailing opinion among the SF authorial community is
that only by writing variations on themes and ideas introduced by these
dead/inactive writers can one be acceptable.
<@SLViehl> Am I saying forget Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury?
<@SLViehl> No. While the Dead Writer Admiration Society continues to rule
the roost of the SF genre, it's probably politically wiser not to openly
challenge THE RULES.
<@SLViehl> Pay whatever deference you can stomach to the important dead
guys, but don't be a fan when you write.
<@SLViehl> Concentrate on developing your own, unique voice.
<@SLViehl> I also recommend aspiring writers STAY AWAY from published SF
authors on the web
<@SLViehl> You've probably run into their newsgroups and discussion areas,
God knows there are a million of them.
<@SLViehl> These are shark pools, and you are bait.
<@SLViehl> If you do venture in there, be careful. These people, I've found
from personal experience, are vicious.
<@SLViehl> So what new opportunities are out there?
<@SLViehl> Cross-over genres -- adding a subplot of romance, mytsery, and/or
action-adventure to you novel will bring new readers into the genre
<@SLViehl> Greg Bear's Nebula-award-winning novel, "Darwin's Radio" was not
marketed as a SF novel.
<@SLViehl> It broke sales records because it was presented as a
<@SLViehl> Anytime you offer a publisher something that can stretch beyond
the genre, you're going to have more appeal.
<@SLViehl> And for those of you scoffing at the idea of a romance subplot,
think about this:
<@SLViehl> Nearly 40% of ALL fiction sold is bought by romance readers.
<@SLViehl> There may be 200 SF novels published this year, mass-market. In
romance, there will be more than 2000 titles published.
<@SLViehl> Romance readers are hungry for new authors, and new genres. They
have strong inclinations toward SF because of the popularity of "futuristic"
romances, which are no longer being marketed.
<@SLViehl> And then there is the poor, beleaguered horror genre.
<@SLViehl> Writers are sneaking back into it every day, through the backdoor
of SF
<@SLViehl> Take Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher -- their books are often
marketed as SF, but they're basically soft horror.
<@SLViehl> And you can defy those daunting statistics about SF being
<@SLViehl> A great story will sell, every time. Publishers can't GET
decent, market-appealing novels from the established pros, or they'd be
publishing them.
<@SLViehl> Now some insider tips on finding the right editor.
<@SLViehl> Penguin Putnam is currently in upper management chaos after
Louise Burke left and went over to Pocket, but my imprint, (Roc) is taking
unagented manuscripts.
<@SLViehl> Roc tends to look for more youth-oriented, action/thriller novels
with literary flare.
<@SLViehl> Avon Eos had half of its line killed when HarperCollins acquired
William Morrow and Avon, but they take authors with strong fantasy
subplots/themes with the obstentacious, literati feel to them.
<@SLViehl> DAW goes for bigger series books, like the ones put out by Kate
Eliot and Tad Williams.
<@SLViehl> Warner Aspect has the most diverse line, while Baen seems to be
the most receptive to experimenting with new authors.
<@SLViehl> Baen does tend to conglomerate authors, and I understand Jim Baen
likes a lot of collaborating, so if you're not into that, skip Baen.
<@SLViehl> One final note on defying the statistics -- tone is everything.
<@SLViehl> If you present a novel that sounds like it was written by a stern
parent, that will educate your reader who is so obviously intellectually
inferior to you, then you've just jumped in the shark pool with the rest of
the losers.
<@SLViehl> If you invite the reader to come along for a joy ride, in the
middle of the night, to places you're not really supposed to be hanging out
at, and hand them a bottle of hooch from the back seat, then you're a
Partner in Crime writer.
<@SLViehl> Who would you rather spend a Saturday night with -- the stern
parent, or the partner in crime?
<Kaelle> Ok, what are THE RULES?
<Paul> brb
<Valerie> <Kaelle: you're fast, I had the same question.>
<Jehane> Who are some current writers not following the rules?
<@SLViehl> You must not violate science by writing prose that does not
"suspend disbelief" is one of the major ones.
<Andi> Lois McMaster Bujold doesn't.
<@SLViehl> I violate that one in every book I write. So does Anne
<@SLViehl> Another rule -- you must not have sex in a SF novel.
<James> If including a romance subplot, should the romance be central, or
simply something which happens between some of the characters while they do
something else?
<gayle> maybe that's why I like Anne so well
<James> Why do you imagine no one did emerge to rival
<James> Stephen King in horror?
<Andi> If the romance is central, then I, as a reader of both genres, will
expect it to be a Romance genre book. Those are two different animals
entirely, James.
<@SLViehl> James, I think the romance has to be VERY subplot at this point
in time. A relationship ongoing through the novel, with some developments,
but not integral to the main story line.
<@SLViehl> James, I think the only close contender he has is Dean Koontz,
and Dean is getting weird now.
<Diana> Hi! Sorry to be late. Any ideas on a publishing house for
romance-flavoured sci-fi or fantasy?
<James> Would you say Anne McCaffrey is a good example of how to sprinkle
romance through SF?
<Andi> Dean also doesn't write the same kind of stuff. Dean's more into
suspense than horror, IMHO.
<Valerie> James: you may also check out Catharine Asaro
<Anon_58> on the theme of cross genre. My work in progress is a kind of
futuristic fantasy, would I be better marketing it as a fantasy, SF,
<James> Thanks, Valerie, I will.
<@SLViehl> Roc has been receptive to a number of SF novels with subplot
romances. Also DAW, and Warner Aspect. Baen is a bit more traditional,
<@SLViehl> Anne McCaffrey is probably the most politically correct of SF
authors who incorporate romance subplots. Also Bujold.
<Anon_58> sorry forgot to log my name
<Andi> James, for a great current example, look at Holly's Secret Text
series. Perfectly balanced to be SF/F and not Romance.
<Andi> FYI McCaffrey started as a Romance writer. <G>
<larkin> why are futuristic romances no longer marketed??
<James> Thanks, Andi - I've got the Secret Texts, so I'll prioritize reading
<@SLViehl> Anon 58, on the work in progress, I would go for fantasy.
Tor/Forge is very interested in that kind of story.
<Andi> The distributors have decided no one buys them, Larkin.
<@SLViehl> Good example, Andi.
<Andi> We're talking Romance here, Sheila. The one I know about.
<@SLViehl> Larkin, futuristics took a dive because there were only a few
authors who were actually earning back their advance in sales. The numbers
didn't constitute the publisher's investment.
<larkin> interesting
<Andi> There are about 5 publishers for Futuristic Romances. Post a question
on the boards & I'll see if I can rustle up the list again.
<Robert> The Cold Spreadsheets...
<@SLViehl> Unfortunately, romance readers started grabbing them up -- but
only after the genre stopped offering them.
<Jehane> THe publishers you mentioned I assume are all US. Do they have
imprints elsewhere and will they have similar ideas?
<larkin> thanks
<Andi> JD Robb's done a lot to bring the back again. There's 3 more
publishers of them than there were 2 years ago, Sheila. It's been
interesting to watch.
<Jehane> Anon11, type your name in the name box and hit enter
<@SLViehl> The Australian SF market is very strong, from what I understand,
Jehane. I can post a list of the publishers I have info on for all of you
to look over.
<Valerie> Andi: isn't that Nora Roberts? (JD Robb)
<Andi> Yes it is, Valerie. Cool, huh?
<Jehane> Thanks
<@SLViehl> Someone should make Nora Roberts a saint, for what she's done for
romance, mystery, and SF.
<Kaelle> I really liked futuristics. They combined genres I liked.
<@SLViehl> Okay, ready to move on to block 2 -- any last questions?
<James> A lot of authors seem critical/wary of media tie-in fiction - do you
see it as a problem, and would you recommend starting writers to avoid it?
<Anon_11> any chance of info on the UK market, I here we have a few good
writers here, Geoff Ryman is an interesting writer who works in SF
<Andi> On top it all, she's a really great lady to talk to, Sheila. <G>
<@SLViehl> James, media tie-ins are universally hated because they snatched
away 50% of the publishing slots available for SF, and they're keeping it.
<Anon_11> sorry (this is Paul my Name isn't being logged in)
<Diana> what did you mean by the SF writers being sharks?
<@SLViehl> To me, a job is more important than critical acclaim, so I would
write a media tie-in novel in a heartbeat.
<Diana> with their web sites
<Andi> That's because we already have a Paul in the room, Anon. Add your
last initial and you should be fine.
<@SLViehl> Anon 11, I'll see what I have on the UK market, and post that,
<PaulA> thnaks
<@SLViehl> Diana, SF writers are very clique-y, and they aren't nice to
newcomers or aspiring writers. I could name some examples of what I've seen
and been subjected to over the last two years, but . . .
<Andi> I don't know about their websites, Diana, but they're some of the
most unhelpful, vicious people I've worked with. I learned more about
publishing & writing in 3 years in Romance than I did in 20 years in SF/F.
<@SLViehl> my advice is to be very careful when dealing with published SF
<Andi> Holly & Sheila being notable exceptions, of course. <G>
<@SLViehl> I don't consider myself a SF author. I'm a romance writer who
writes SF once in awhile.
<Andi> That explains it! LOL!
<@SLViehl> Holly is a very MAJOR exception to this warning of mine. She's a
wonderful advocate of new writers.
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to block 2
<PirotessNo> No... but I'm here. shrug
<@SLViehl> What's Hot in Hard SF?G
<@SLViehl> Strike that G.
<@SLViehl> Vernor Vinge's publisher, Tor, packaged the mass market editor of
"A Deepness in the Sky" as its mainstream fiction lead, sending out the
message (like Bear) that this isn't JUST a SF novel, despite the fact the
story is set thousands of years in the future.
<@SLViehl> Vinge trades heavily on his critical acclaim, science background,
and works the SF fandom circuits to a consummate degree.
<@SLViehl> You want a role model in hard SF, watch Vernor Vinge.
<@SLViehl> Orson Scott Card reached the top 15 on the NYT BSL with "Ender's
Shadow", a parallel novel to capitalize on the glowing success of "Ender's
Game" He targets his audience with precision -- males 17 to 35 -- and
serves them well-written military SF.
<@SLViehl> Card's massive ego and abrasiveness with fans and the media have
oddly only enhanced his career. Maybe he's doing the Hemingway thing.
<@SLViehl> And while he's not writing hard SF, Terry Pratchett deserves a
<@SLViehl> According to Publisher's Weekly, Pratchett sold more hardcover
novels in the 90's than any other living writer. That includes Grisham and
<@SLViehl> His last 7 novels have been #1 bestsellers in the UK, and
HarperCollins is aggressively marketing him in the US now.
<@SLViehl> So how do you jump on the hard SF wagon?
<@SLViehl> Consider the general themes: We've seen the alien
invasion/universal dominion/space ship planetary odyssey stories done to
<@SLViehl> Yet these are proven, popular themes which will appeal to editors
looking for safer bets.
<@SLViehl> Who wouldn't want to publish a variation of Ender's Game?
<@SLViehl> Just remember, there are about 20 thousand other aspiring (and
published) SF writers going for the same themes in their work.
<@SLViehl> You can join the herd, or can break out the theme by twisting
it -- how about Earth invades someone else's planet?
<@SLViehl> The "suspension of disbelief" RULE has been tatooed on my
forehead, and I still can't figure it out.
<Robert> Or just colonizes it and the locals there decide to throw 1776 all
over again.
<@SLViehl> However, despite my personal success in dodging that rule,
scientific accuracy is at present a vital necessity to maintain vaidation
with the SF critics and authorial community.
<@SLViehl> I write romances so I don't care.
<@SLViehl> I make ten times the money off my romances than I do the SF --
romance I worry about.
<@SLViehl> The big problem with investing all this deadly accurate SF info
in your work is losing readers. I tell everyone if the average American
housewife can't understand or follow your story, you're not going to make it
in this business.
<@SLViehl> Why?
<@SLViehl> Because the average American housewife buys the books.
<@SLViehl> SF/Fantasy crossovers -- Anne McCaffrey, with her tech/fantasy
Pern novels. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. Sheri S. Tepper's
Family Tree. All examples of what I call "sci-fantasy"F
<@SLViehl> If you're working in the direction with your story, consider
balancing the aspects of science and fantasy in your work
<@SLViehl> lean heavier toward fantasy, as these authors have done.
<@SLViehl> The fantasy audience is much bigger and more receptive than the
SF traditionalists, anyway.
<@SLViehl> Isaac Asimov said the fundamental difference between SF and
fantasy is SF is possible, and fantasy isn't.
<@SLViehl> People don't care what's possible.
<@SLViehl> They want to be entertained.
<@SLViehl> Onto Space Opera
<@SLViehl> This term was coined from "soap opera" the popular daytime dramas
on television.
<@SLViehl> It's a derisive term, meant to slap a "romance -stupid" label on
the writer.
<@SLViehl> When someone calls my books space opera, it's offensive to me.
<@SLViehl> But it is what your work will be called if you have a romance
subplot, so be prepared.
<@SLViehl> Remember that romance readers dominate the market. They want
thrilling stories with romance and adventure and intrigue blended into the
SF setting.
<@SLViehl> The 17 to 35 male market will read "space opera" because it so
obviously NOT a romance.
<@SLViehl> I recommend if you'd like to go this direction with your work,
you create your own universe, and a strong central theme.
<@SLViehl> I use future medicine as the foundation of my series.
<@SLViehl> Lee & Miller's Liaden novels are all about intricate politcal
intrigues among a handful of races.
<@SLViehl> McCaffrey uses Pern, and the dragonriders, as her central theme.
<@SLViehl> Find that same core idea in your book, and develop it. Work from
that as a base.
<@SLViehl> As for Alternate History, I've just finished a brief fling in
that sub-genre.
<@SLViehl> Alternate history is a parallel/alternate universe story where
history is changed.
<@SLViehl> And before we get into that, I'm going to call a five minute
<@SLViehl> Everyone have a drink, run to the bathroom, take your pills.

end of part one

 Respond to this message   

SF Market Transcript Part II 9/21/01

October 23 2001, 8:09 PM 

<@SLViehl> Thanks for hanging in with us, Andi. E-mail if you need
<PaulA> I'm gonna try to hang till the end but if I go just assume I've gone
to bed
<Jehane> Sheila, how do SF thrillers sell?
<Andi> Thanks, Sheila, but unless you do want a classroom full of zzzzzz's,
I'd best get going.
<Andi> Night all!
<PaulA> night Andi
<Robert> Night, Andi
<Kaelle> Night Andi. Sleep well.
<Valerie> Hope you're feeling better soon, Andi.
<Jehane> NIght Andi
<PaulA> (coffee and classical music are keeping me away at these ungodly
hours ^_^)
<@SLViehl> Jehane, I think SF thrillers do very well, as long as they aren't
science info-dumps. Only a few authors, like Greg Bear, can really pull off
a novel like Darwin's Radio.
<Robert> It's only ten here for me, a little late per my current schedule
but this is waking me up.
<@SLViehl> Which, BTW, was #1 last July, when I was #2.
<PaulA> 3am here ^_^
<Jehane> Haven't read it yet, but intend to
<Valerie> I'm the lucky one; it's only 7.
<Jehane> 11:30am for me
<Robert> And odd she mentioned Space Opera... I have one planned, literally
a libretto set in outer space, my comment on the old tag.
<Kaelle> I like Robert Asprin & Linda Evans' time travel series.
<Jehane> I like space opera
<Valerie> Question during the break: Terry Pratchett has about a billion
books on the store shelves; any recommendations on which to start with?
<Jehane> GUards Guards
<PaulA> I heard Neil Gaiman has writen a Sci fi type story called American
Gods I'm a fan of Gaiman has anyone read this yet?
<Jehane> Or the colour of magic
<@SLViehl> I don't read Pratchett, can anyone answer this one?
<Valerie> Thanks, Jehane!
<Jehane> I've read all of them!
<Robert> They're all good and they're all that funny. I loved Guards Guards
<@SLViehl> Gaiman's American Gods is being very heavily marketed over here.
<gayle> Val--another west coast person?
<Jehane> But you do need to start int he right place, because some of the
threads are confusing otherwise
<Valerie> oh, yeah! Up north in Seattle. You?
<Jenny> The Fifth Elephant was great.
<gayle> Santa Rosa Cal
<gayle> near SF
<Jehane> Yeah, but if you haven't read the previous guards novels it can be
<Valerie> Jehane: so Guards! Guards! first? I'm adding it to my library
list now.
<PaulA> I'll check out GFaiman's novel when i get the chance I think his
graphic novels are very good, much more mature than the usual comic type
works. Death and Sandman are great but his Lucifer GN was something else
<Jehane> Valerie: yes, then read the Guards series in order - Men at arms,
feet of clay, jingo and fifth elephant
<Jehane> check out the pratchett/gaiman good omens - my favourite
<Valerie> Awesome. Thanks Jehane!
<Jehane> no worries
<@SLViehl> Okay, are we all back and ready to hit Alternate History?
<Robert> Aye
<Valerie> yes, ma'am.
<James> Yep
<Kaelle> yes
<PaulA> roger
<larkin> more or less yes
<Jenny> Yes.
<Jinx> Ready!
<@SLViehl> The idea behind parallel/alternate universe SF is that history
changes from our own recorded events.
<gayle> almost
<@SLViehl> Whoops, we'll wait, gayle
<Diana> yep, ready
<gayle> okay...now I am sticky fingers and all
<@SLViehl> For example, Robert Harris's "Fatherland" in which Hitler is
victorious, Eric Flint's 1632, in which a 21st century mining town is
dropped into 17th century Germany, during the 30 Year War
<@SLViehl> or Harrison's "Eden" series, where the dinosaurs don't get wiped
out, but become the dominant humanoid life form on the planet.
<Robert> The Hammer and the Cross was very good.
<@SLViehl> I recently wrote a story for Eric Flint's 1632 anthology, due out
in 2003, and knew the research had to be meticulous.
<@SLViehl> Thus I went to town on archaic medical practices and now know
more about 17th century anatomist William Harvey than I ever, ever wanted to
<@SLViehl> I missed two small details in the story -- the size of a
returning character's hands, and whether period farmers would actually burn
witches at the stake with firewood.
<@SLViehl> Eric called me on them, because he knew he fans would.
<@SLViehl> These readers are all heavily invested history buffs, and you
CANNOT fudge your way through the research.
<@SLViehl> But alternate history is a marvelous way to shake the dust off
the history books and explore new worlds within our own.
<@SLViehl> If you love Barbara Tuchman, spend all year getting ready for Ren
Faires, and own a replica sword, alternate history may be your baby and you
just don't realize it.
<@SLViehl> There are very lucrative ways to raid the past for potential AH
<@SLViehl> The Civil War, WWII, and the American/Indian conflicts have been
done to death.
<@SLViehl> Yet there are so many centuries of history left to explore.
<@SLViehl> What would have happened if Rome hadn't bee n overrun by the
Goths? What if the Aztecs had imprisoned Cortez, learned Spanish
technology, and go on over to conquer Europe?
<@SLViehl> Think of all the major events that have shaped our world --
they're yours for the taking, through AH.
<@SLViehl> Now on to SF Magazine Markets
<@SLViehl> Published authors are generally selling short stories (up to 5K
words) and novellas (up to 10K words) to four leading SF periodicals:
<@SLViehl> Analog
<@SLViehl> Asimov's
<@SLViehl> Fantasy and Science Fiction
<@SLViehl> Realms of Fantasy.
<@SLViehl> They're selling because the arena of the SF short story has
become as important, if not more, than the novel market, on the awards
<@SLViehl> Oh, and they can't seem to sell their novels, either.
<@SLViehl> Why?
<@SLViehl> Novelists write novels. Publishers buy them because they're
marketable. These are the two rules the dead guys forgot to teach these
<@SLViehl> I've been told by several multi-published novelists that SF
authors view the current market as "aggressively aimed at the idiots out
there." They blame media tie-ins for polluting the literary quality of the
genre and taking up half the market slots.
<@SLViehl> This is how they perpetuate their inner mythology that they are,
in reality, SF novelists.
<@SLViehl> The readers are simply "the rabble" who don't appreciate their
<@SLViehl> However, here's the reality of the situation: writing for the
market, as unpleasant as that seems to the SF authorial community, means
writing books that people want to read.
<@SLViehl> Not writing books about how brilliant you are and sneering at
your audience in the process.
<@SLViehl> SF authors and SF magazine editors are using survival tactics and
indulging in very unhealthy desperation, imho.
<@SLViehl> Naturally a pro wants to keep their name in print, and certainly
writing short stories is nothing to be ashamed of.
<@SLViehl> I write about 25 a year myself.
<@SLViehl> However, these magazines are shutting down.
<@SLViehl> Science Fiction Age and Amazing Stories, just last year.
<@SLViehl> The top four mags are down 10% in circulation.
<@SLViehl> Even SF-affiliated tie in mags, like Cinescape (for sale) and SCI
FI (changed ownership) and Starlog (financial trouble) are headed for the
<@SLViehl> Here's my take on why published authors can't sell their novels
<@SLViehl> They don't know when to cut their losses and admit the genre of
the 60's and 70's is gone. The dead writers are dead. We have to move on.
<@SLViehl> Your actual chances of getting magazine published --
<@SLViehl> At the present, one of the four magazines I mentioned has a 2
year backlog of bought stories to publish. That's inventory of over 120
pieces already bought and paid for that haven't made it into print.
<@SLViehl> They do not need you.
<@SLViehl> There is an inner circle, even tighter, in the short story
circles. They don't want upstart writers, they want safe, traditional
<@SLViehl> Think homogenized SF.
<@SLViehl> As aspiring writers, it is in your best interest to become
politically motivated. Look at what toeing the line has done for writers
like Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold. I don't have to worship at the
SF shrine, because I have another genre to earn my bucks from. I also post
my short stories for free, on my web site, as a draw for readers.
<@SLViehl> I don't have to act like most SF authors, so you can't imitate
what I'm doing. I can say I'm not a fan of SF and get away with it, because
I'm a dumb romance author.
<@SLViehl> You do not want to do this if you're only going to write SF
<@SLViehl> Actual circulation and payment rates from SF mags:
<@SLViehl> Analog -- claims 48K circulation. Less, according to other
figures. They pay an average of $500 per story.
<@SLViehl> Asimov's -- circulation 31K. Average pay is $450 -- $500 per
<@SLViehl> F& SF -- circulation 30K, Pays about $500 average per story
<@SLViehl> Now, I'm going to show you why that's important.
<@SLViehl> If you write 24 stories every year (one every 2 weeks) with a
time investment of 12 hours per story, that's 288 hours. If an editor buys
one story (and you'll be very lucky if he/she does) you make, roughly $1.04
per hour for your pains.
<@SLViehl> You also have 23 unsold stories sitting on a shelf.
<@SLViehl> Now, take the same time -- 288 hours -- and write a novel.
<@SLViehl> Standard contract advance on a SF novel -- $5000.00
<@SLViehl> That's $17.36 per hour for your work.
<@SLViehl> Admittedly, selling a novel is tougher, but which would you
rather earn in a year? $500.00 or $5000.00
<@SLViehl> It's very easy to get caught up in the hype about how important
short stories are validating the pros in the SF genre.
<@SLViehl> They've been unable to sell their novels for so long it is the
only game in town for some of them, now.
<@SLViehl> Critical acclaim and SFWA membership is now being showered on
these short story writers, and some of them have never even attempted to
write a novel.
<@SLViehl> However cruel and heartless this sounds, here's the reality
<@SLViehl> If you're not writing novels, you're not a novelist. You can't
compete with me. You can't call yourself a novelist until you're selling
<@SLViehl> It's up to you to decide which direction you want to go. I say,
go for the novels, go for the contracts, go for the real money.
<@SLViehl> Forget the piddly stuff.
<Valerie> I'm not familiar with the writers you've mentioned: are you using
Bujold and Willis as good or bad examples?
<@SLViehl> Bujold and Willis, in my opinion, are two very smart ladies. Any
writer would do well to follow their example, especially in the political
end of things.
<@SLViehl> I do not recommend anyone follow MY example.
<Jenny> What do you mean, the political end?
<PaulA> central themes to novels, could a series of books be based around
the same world and yet change in the central theme each time, e.g history of
world in one. Religion in another.
<larkin> i'm very interested in alchemy. Would that fit into alternate
<@SLViehl> Going to SF conferences, writing politically acceptable SF,
toeing the line, worshipping at the SF shrine, Jenny. That kind of thing.
Willis is also a master at campaigning for awards, and wins a lot of them
that way.
<@SLViehl> Sure Paul, that would work. Change itself would be the central
<gayle> what if someone is into science fantasy than science fiction?
Especially if science isn't their strong subject
<@SLViehl> Alchemy had a big place in many points in history, larkin. I
think it would work in fine.
<@SLViehl> Gayle, I'm a complete moron when it comes to Science, but very
savvy in medicine. I focused on what I know, so I'm able to dodge or fudge
my way through the details.
<@SLViehl> Sharon Lee told me "Never explain how the ship works unless you
have to" and I made that my golden rule.
<gayle> I was thinking along the lines of McCaffrey, Bradley, and Lackey...
<@SLViehl> McCaffrey has gotten a lot of criticism for the lack of
"believable science" in her books.
<Kaelle> Huh. and how many books did those criticizers publish?
<gayle> that may be true BUT she sells her books!!!
<BlairB> When editors look at novel submissions, is the author more likely
to be published with magazine publishing credits?
<Jehane> Wondering the same thing myself, Blair
<Jehane> Ok, we've lost Sheila
<Kaelle> apparently Sheila got kicked off
<larkin> i did to...
<BlairB> I didn't think that question was offensive...
<Kaelle> lol
<Jehane> HAs anyone read Ice Station by MAtthew Reilly?
<BlairB> nope
<Jehane> It's a thriller, not my usual sort of thing but it's very good so
<BlairB> cool, might have to check it out.
<PaulA> more a fantasy guy really...
<gayle> No, but I am reading Diplomacy of Wolves by Holly. pretty good but
personally would call it a fantasy
<BlairB> WB Sheila
<Kaelle> wb Sheila
<PaulA> wb
<Jehane> Same, usually, but this one's set in Anatractica so...
<@SLViehl> Sorry, guys, got knocked off line
<Jehane> wb sheila
<Kaelle> BlairB thought he offended you..
<gayle> yeah...we noticed.....
<@SLViehl> Offend away! :0
<@SLViehl> What questions did I miss?
<Valerie> I'm sorry; I have to skedaddle. Thank you so much, Sheila. Great
info! I'll catch the rest in the transcript.
<gayle> Blair asked if magazine submisssioned helped get you published.
<@SLViehl> Thanks for joining us, Valerie
<gayle> bye Valerie
<BlairB> When an editor looks at a novel submission, is the author more
likely to be published if he has prior magazine credits?
<Jehane> Bye VAlerie
<@SLViehl> I didn't get magazine published until after my first 2 novels
were accepted, Blair.
<@SLViehl> I think a SF editor will give more weight to an author who is
published in short stories than one who isn't, too.
<@SLViehl> So many authors can't get published any other way these days.
<Kaelle> So, what you might be saying then, is write what you like, but
target the market?
<@SLViehl> Always target the market when you're writing what you like.
Adapt yourself and your story to the market needs.
<@SLViehl> This isn't hard. I was able to cut out a lot of the romance in
my SF novels (though it hurt) because the market wouldn't stand for that
much mush.
<@SLViehl> According to my editor, anyway.
<@SLViehl> Compromising now means a career in the future when you CAN write
whatever you like.
<gayle> but what about the sub genre of Science fiction romance?
<PaulA> and if the market changes you adapt too even if it isn't what you
are used to writing you learn to change with it right
<@SLViehl> Gayle, there are two categories of SF romance -- futuristic, and
"space opera" -- space opera sells. Futuristics would, but they aren't
being published because publishers don't believe the market will justify
<@SLViehl> We have to be adaptable, Paul, or SF is going to die out, just
like horror did. It's really teetering on the brink right now, with
publishers marketing Bear and other big names as NOT SF but mainstream or
thriller novels. It's like SF is a bad name.
<gayle> then what would you call Catherine Asaro?
<@SLViehl> Catherine Asaro is definitely hard SF with romance subplot.
She's got an established rep, and although she's doing more romance in some
of her releases, she's still consider hard SF by the establishment.
<gayle> I have a 12 year old shadow wondering if class is over so we can do
our movie night...,
<@SLViehl> I'd like to see more writers getting submissions out to Baen and
Warner Aspect, and more SF romance writers hitting Tor/Forge
<@SLViehl> I'm just going to do Q&A from here on out, if that's okay with
<BlairB> sure
<James> No worries
<larkin> have to run, thank you Shiela
<@SLViehl> So go have movie night, Gayle, and thanks for joining us. You,
too, larkin.
<Jehane> bye gayle and larkin
<Kaelle> Section IV - are you continuing this sometime?
<PaulA> that is okay I'm really awake even though it is so late/early
<gayle> I will...Star Trek first contact...the Patriot...fifth
element...'night all
<Robert> Night, gayle
<@SLViehl> I'm forever running out of time, aren't I? Yes, if everyone is
interested, I'll pick this up on the third Friday night in October.
<Kaelle> ooh Fifth Element, nite gayle
<James> Bye Gayle
<BlairB> lol, sure
<Jinx> That's fine with me. I'd like to hear it all. It's a lot of
material to cover.
<gayle> I'll be there...
<Kaelle> yep
<@SLViehl> I keep meaning to cut things short but there's so much I want to
discuss. Obsessed with writing, that's me.
<Kaelle> nah...lol
<@SLViehl> Any last questions?
<PaulA> IS Alternative history really worth it? I mean the time compared to
writing say a fantasy with minimal research must be much greater
<@SLViehl> Paul, if you hit on a fantastic twist, yes, I think its worth it.
<@SLViehl> But the run-of-the-mill, been done before ideas aren't going to
cut it on the AH market
<BlairB> are there short story markets for other genres?
<James> Sheila, may I ask a question that relates more to your novel series
development class?
<@SLViehl> Sure, Blair, which genre are you interested in -- I've probably
tried them all.
<@SLViehl> Go ahead, James.
<BlairB> well, i think Romance, Mystery/Thriller.
<PaulA> I ws think ing SE Asia, lots of historical conflict lots of scope
for development but I would need to reaserch a lot because I have no idea
where I would start. I have 2 novels in the pipeline so the time would be
too much, maybe in a year or so
<@SLViehl> Mary Higgins Clark quarterly collection mystery periodical --
300K circulation. Excellent opportunity for a short mystery story.
<@SLViehl> Romance mags, I have to think about for a minute. Usually
women's periodicals, like Good Housekeeping, like short romance pieces.
Also excellent circulation and payment rates.
<James> Thanks - I was wondering about the development phase. If you're
worried you haven't developed a universe rich enough to last for many
novels, what should you check to see if you've left it out? Character
diversity? Diversity of rival interest groups?
<@SLViehl> Paul, with SE Asia, you'd have to pick an epic event in their
history, and give it a major twist. Like, what if Gengis Khan took over
Eastern Europe and was never defeated? That kind of twist.
<PaulA> I was thinking the opium wars
<@SLViehl> On creation of universe to last the length of a series, you have
to have running threads that can remain unresolved through the course of
many novels. Strong, central-theme type threads that adhere also to your
hub or chronicle theme.
<@SLViehl> These can be character-oriented or plot-oriented.
<Jehane> Paul - try and get hold of histories written by non-westerners as
<James> So a richly developed timeline, big sweeps of political movements,
large scale conflicts, that sort of thing?
<@SLViehl> Paul, on the opium wars, would your twist have a major effect on
our history record? Think big impact, like Hitler winning WWII. That's
what AH readers really like.
<@SLViehl> Exactly, James. All marching alongside your central core theme,
stewing and simmering, ready to explode at any given moment.
<@SLViehl> Usually at the worst possible moment.
<PaulA> Yes great. I have so many ideas and so little time to write them all
<James> Thanks for that - I've been playing at Universe creation since your
last class, and that will help
<@SLViehl> Hit the notes and save them. I have an entire filing cabinet of
novels YET to be written idea stuff.
<Jinx> Is the fantasy genre more open to new ideas, moreso that SF seems to
<@SLViehl> Just one more thing on that subject James -- when you're creating
your timeline, remembering the reader will have to juggle everything in
his/her head. Keep your threads strong, easy to remember.
<PaulA> I think there are new ideas in everything you just have to have a
twisted outlook on life
<@SLViehl> Jinx, fantasy is extremely open compared to SF. Fantasy
continues to gain market points every year, so publishers are naturally more
inclined to buy it.
<@SLViehl> There you go, Paul. You've just exposed the novelists' deep,
dark secret -- we're all twisted!
<James> Gotcha - don't focus on the ripples of history, but the tides?
<BlairB> Okay i have to know... after so many rejection letters, do they get
easier to receive? Did you keep them all?
<@SLViehl> Right, James. We remember the tidal waves better.
<@SLViehl> It was never easy to open those rejection letters. I hated them.
They ticked me off. But I never got depressed as much as more determined to
make it.
<@SLViehl> I meant to burn all those letters when I got published, but I
decided to keep them. Every time I get a little too cocky, I take out the
boxes and look at them.
<@SLViehl> The trick is to separate your self-esteem from your work.
<@SLViehl> They aren't rejecting you, they're rejecting a thing you did.
<@SLViehl> You can always do another thing.
<@SLViehl> It helps to be as stubborn as a mule, too.
<PaulA> At my stage I would be pleased to just be submitting work even if I
were getting rejections, after a wile I may get slightly peeved I was not
bieng recognised
<James> Does it help that you have so many projects on the go - too busy
with the new to worry overmuch about the old?
<PaulA> okay I'm gonna get some sleep 4am is way too late, g'night
<Jenny> Good night, Paul.
<Kaelle> 'night!
<BlairB> g'nite paul
<Robert> G'night Paul
<James> See you Paul
<@SLViehl> I've always worked on five or six novels at once (goodnight,
Paul!) James. I've always sent out a bunch of submissions
<Jehane> I had that problem, then I decided to focus on a couple of projects
only and store my other ideas for later.
<Jehane> Bye Paul
<@SLViehl> and always had something out there. I also sent out new
submissions whenever rejections came in.
<James> Do you skip between your five or six projects, or work at them
<@SLViehl> It depends on how much you can juggle.
<@SLViehl> At the moment, I'm writing three novels simultaneously -- but I
don't recommend that to anyone who isn't suffering from multiple personality
disorder, like me. <g>
<Jinx> Sheesh. I'm having trouble just figuring out one.
<Jenny> How long will it take you to finish them all?
<@SLViehl> I write a book in about eight weeks now, Jenny, but remember I
work 12 to 16 hours a day.
<@SLViehl> I'll have all 3 finished by December 1st.
<Kaelle> eek
<BlairB> 7days a week?
<James> Does experience make that sort of thing (keeping multiple novels
straight) easier? Or is it a skill you just have or don't?
<@SLViehl> Seven days a week, 48 weeks a year. I take December off.
<Robert> Sounds like a cool schedule...
<@SLViehl> I get bored easily, I think that's what keeps me bouncing between
projects. I live working on SF in the morning, romance in the afternoon,
editing at night.
<Kaelle> With a kidlet too?
<@SLViehl> Last year I wrote over a million words. With two kids in
elementary school.
<Kaelle> yeesh
<James> Yow - you've earned your success.
<BlairB> how long does it take to go from acceptance to print?
<Jinx> Excuse me a moment while I pick my jaw up off the floor....
<@SLViehl> It's been my dream, all my life, to do this. I love the work.
<@SLViehl> Blair, I got my first contract in late '98. The first book of
that contract didn't get released until 1/2000.
<@SLViehl> So figure abuot 12 to 18 months.
<@SLViehl> abuot=about
<Kaelle> which reminds me - when is StarDoc 4 going to be out?
<@SLViehl> I'm also a mercenary harpy who intends to be on the NYT BSL
within the next five years.
<@SLViehl> Shockball, SD4, is due to be released 11/9/01
<Kaelle> woohoo
<@SLViehl> If you want success, you have to hunt it down and jump on it,
<Kaelle> Dang, but I'm glad you're such a speedy writer!
<Jehane> what's the first one called?
<@SLViehl> The first SF?
<Jehane> the first stsardoc
<Jehane> stardoc
<@SLViehl> "StarDoc" was the title of the first book.
<Jehane> thanks, might see if my bookseller can get it in
<@SLViehl> I'm working on those Australian rights, Jehane.
<Jehane> great!
<@SLViehl> Well, folks, any last questions?
<Kaelle> Oh, and I wanted to tell, that I just had to agree with your editor
on the title of "Endurance" because, boy, did she endure!
<@SLViehl> Yep, got a lot of flack for that book. Wait 'til they get hold
of Shockball. The fertilizer is going to fly. <g>
<Kaelle> <rubbing hands in anticipation>
<BlairB> I could bombard you with questions all night, but i think i've
leeched all i can for now..
<@SLViehl> You're all welcome to e-mail me, anytime.
<Jinx> Sheila, thank you again for your time, and for sharing your knowledge
with us.
<@SLViehl> I've got a class e-mail set up: SLViehlworkshop@aol.com
<Kaelle> Thank you, tons!
<Jenny> Ditto what Jinx said. Thank you.
<Jehane> thanks, Sheila!
<Robert> Thanks for the class, Sheila... it helped a lot !
<@SLViehl> Thanks for talking shop with me, ladies and gentleman. I love
doing this!
<James> Seconding the thanks- these classes have been brilliant.
<Kaelle> Night, everybody!
<@SLViehl> Hope to see you all again. Next week we're doing SF
Worldbuilding, if you're interested.
<Jinx> Night, all. See you next time.
<@SLViehl> Goodnight all!
<James> I'll be there! Goodnight all!
<Robert> G'night all oooh yeah, one of my favorite hobbies that... hub
theme is exploration...
<Kaelle> Til next week, then.
<Jehane> bye everyone

end of part two

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World Building Transcript, Part I 9/28/01

October 23 2001, 8:11 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
9/28/01 -- SF World Building

<Keener> Wow, boredom does weird things to people...
<gayle> especially when you're extra early to class
<Keener> lol, yup
<Jinx> Evening!
<@SLViehl> Hi everyone!
<BJ Steeves> Evening All!
<BlairB> good evening
<gayle> hello
<@SLViehl> I'm going to start my chamomile IV, before the session gets going
. . .
<@SLViehl> BRB
<James> Hi All
<gayle> hello
<Jenny> Hello.
<@SLViehl> It's storming where I am, folks, so if I get knocked off wait for
me to return.
<BJ Steeves> I'm sitting in a middle of an electrical storm right now.
<BlairB> want me to take transcript again?
<@SLViehl> Would you, Blair? (I'm going to have to name you in my will)
<BlairB> yup, can do
<Jinx> Will there be transcripts available for the last two classes as well?
<@SLViehl> My web master just got them posted on my site.
<Jinx> Oh, great, thank you. I hadn't checked yet today.
<@SLViehl> I'd post them on Holly's site but I can't do cut and paste for
some reason
<@SLViehl> One question for the group -- it's pretty much a given this
workshop will take more than one session,
<@SLViehl> so would you all be interested in continuing it on the fourth
Friday in October?
<BlairB> lol, history repeats?
<gayle> yes
<James> Absolutely, yes.
<Kae> Sure
<Jenny> Yes.
<Jinx> Yes, please
<@SLViehl> I also want to try something different tonight, give you the
opportunity to ask more questions.
<larkincreating_> yes. it takes centuries to create worlds
<BlairB> fer shur
<@SLViehl> This is also one of my most favorite subjects, so I'm extremely
long-winded on it.
<BJ Steeves> You're the Boss
<larkincreating_> good
<larkincreating_> how do i get creating off of larkin?
<@SLViehl> Great, thanks. I'm going to wait a few more minutes, then we'll
have at it.
<BlairB> delete it in the name box - hit enter
<larkin> did it work?
<larkin> thanks
<BlairB> no problemo
<@SLViehl> Blair is our Net God
<larkin> muchas gracias
<BlairB> denada
<larkin> of all the worlds or just this one?
<BlairB> I do it all day too...
<@SLViehl> the worlds my computer won't conquer, anyway
<BlairB> do we need any art supplies for this?
<@SLViehl> Just a strong back and lots of elbow grease
<larkin> mental ambuscades with a twist of cobalt blue
<BlairB> <looking for back brace>
<@SLViehl> world building is tough. Okay, I'm going to hand out tardy slips
from here on out . . .
<@SLViehl> but let's get moving.
<Diana> (oops, I tried to be quiet. Sorry!)
<@SLViehl> Welcome to Science Fiction/Fantasy World Building
<@SLViehl> I'm S.L. (Sheila) Viehl, and you've heard the rest of the speech,
I'm sure.
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to talk about one of the most critical areas
of SF/Fantasy
<@SLViehl> so I want to give everyone a chance to ask whatever questions
they may have.
<@SLViehl> I'll be going over the material, but calling for questions more
<@SLViehl> so when you see QUESTIONS, fire away.
<@SLViehl> Let's start with Playing God
<@SLViehl> I set myself up as God and have created a couple of universes
that work very well for me.
<@SLViehl> They're all based on my S.E.E. theory
<@SLViehl> Simple, Enjoyable, and Expandable
<@SLViehl> By keeping the details relatively simple and epic, and based on
what I think would be the universe of the future, I can set up mental house
in this place.
<@SLViehl> That's the simple part.
<@SLViehl> Enjoyable means populating the universe with things I love -- in
my case, the color blue, medicine, large men with long hair . . .
<@SLViehl> they all make it fun for me to stay in my universe.
<@SLViehl> The expandable part comes into play by creative application of
the elemnts -- making sure I give the reader some, but not all of the plot
line, details, destinies,etc.
<@SLViehl> These are the 3 things that will aid you greatly in making your
universe work for you, imho
<@SLViehl> Other author's universes --
<@SLViehl> Holly Lisle, imo, is the Frank Lloyd Wright of worldbuilding.
<@SLViehl> Best example of this (to date) -- The Byzantine/Renaissance world
of Matrin in The Secret Texts.
<@SLViehl> Anne Bishop rewired social hierarchy with the gender-bending
magic of her Black Jewels trilogy, although to a much simpler degree.
<@SLViehl> J.D. Robb takes us to the immediate Earth future with her "In
Death" series, and it's both a rough and idealized ride.
<@SLViehl> What struck me the most about these three authors is the unique
qualities they've invested in their universes. These places are well-known
and very personal to them, but also have great appeal to their audiences.
<@SLViehl> So, what do you keep, or scrap, when building your universe?
<@SLViehl> I think it's always a good thing for an author to know TOO much
about their universe.
<@SLViehl> You don't have to put it in the book, but you need to live in
this place. Thus, everything matters to you.
<@SLViehl> The reader, on the other hand, needs the headlines of what you
<@SLViehl> With characters, think triple play -- occupational, situational,
and emotional.
<@SLViehl> Duncan Reever is a telepathic linguist on the run from the
Hsktskt and has never learned human emotions.
<@SLViehl> I've just covered Duncan's entire personal development in one
book, in one sentence.
<@SLViehl> with setting and plot, keep as much minute detail to a minimum.
Think big picture.
<@SLViehl> Select the most dramatic, easily remembered aspects of your
setting and plot, and present those. Weave the details in the background.
<@SLViehl> Ack, no questions?
<Kae> So you do your worldbuilding before you write the story? All of it?
<@SLViehl> <g>
<@SLViehl> I do the basic world building first, then I add on, Kae.
<Kae> ah
<@SLViehl> Like starting with a ranch house and making it into a mansion
<Kae> Or like a salad <g>
<larkin> do you just start writing it down and then see what works and what
<BJ Steeves> Do you do the building by hand? Or do you use any software
tools for help?
<@SLViehl> I had an idea of what I thought the future would be, larkin. I
started there, and began adding things I liked to write about.
<larkin> what i mean is how do you make it congruent?
<@SLViehl> BJ, I use plain old pen and paper. I know there are some great
software programs out there, though.
<BlairB> is the idea for the Author to know too much, and to give the reader
just enough to keep them coming back? or do you want to provide all the
details to the reader too?
<@SLViehl> larkin, I think consistency comes as you're editing and
re-editing, if that's what you mean.
<Robert> If you set it down for a while, do you have to reread it again from
page one to remember where you were?
<larkin> maybe i'm thinking more of creating a fantasy world? what works and
what's over the top?
<@SLViehl> Blair, you should never give too much detail to the reader too
soon. Hold back as much as you can in a standalone, and carry over threads
to the next book, if a series.
<Diana> how much do you need to know about the big stuff in your world, like
society, politics, technology..?
<@SLViehl> With fantasy, larkin, you have much more room to spread your
wings. Science and logic break down in the fantasy world. You're still
required to make sense of it all, but only limited in creative ways by the
boundaries of imagination.
<Jinx> I'm not sure I understand what you were saying about the world vs.
the characters -- can you elaborate a bit for me, please?
<@SLViehl> Diana, I have whole blocks on social structure, religion, etc --
we'll be tackling those directly.
<@SLViehl> Jinx, when you flesh out a character for the reader, depending on
how many characters you have, you have to present info that the reader can
carry through the story in memory.
<Diana> thanks
<@SLViehl> With characters, it's usually that threesome I mentioned -- what
they do for a living, what's their immediate problem, and what's their
emotional state.
<gayle> what about those of us who 'see' the story first and a rough outline
of the planet/universe. That's where I am right now...filling in the holes
<@SLViehl> With setting and plot you can be more detailed -- deliver more
information to the reader, because the setting doesn't have to have dialogue
and action and decision-maker moments, etc.
<@SLViehl> Gayle, I think your perspective works too. You start out with
the dilemma, and now you have to frame it, rather than the other way around.
<@SLViehl> In some ways, Gayle's tackling the story more logically than
someone like me, who invents the universe first then goes and plays in it.
<gayle> yeah, but sometimes it gets so overwhelming
<@SLViehl> Worldbuilding is an ocean. You've got to relax and keep moving.

<@SLViehl> Now on to scope and scaling --
<@SLViehl> Sheila's first rule of writing: readers are not writers.
<@SLViehl> Readers don't care about how many centimeters the fuller of a
thrusting sword extends from blade to tip/
<@SLViehl> They don't care what a fuller is.
<@SLViehl> I do, because I know it lends structural strength to the blade,
and blood tends to run down it onto the hand of the guy who is sticking the
blade into someone's abdomen.
<@SLViehl> My task is to get my fascinating info across without boring my
<@SLViehl> I have a secret weapon I use to do this.
<@SLViehl> I tell my kids about a particular scene or chapter.
<@SLViehl> If their eyes start to glaze over, I know I'm being way too
<@SLViehl> Another way to curb your enthusiasm for the details is to write a
mock-up cover copy on the scene or chapter in question.
<@SLViehl> This is what your reader wants to know.
<@SLViehl> Not fifty pages on the depth, length, and tensile effectiveness
of your sword's fuller.
<@SLViehl> On managing the details -- you have to get organized.
<@SLViehl> There is no other way to juggle the tasks involved with
<@SLViehl> Use a notebook, or a Palm pilot, or both, but get things in
accessible order for yourself.
<@SLViehl> Tagging the info you collect -- I have a bookcase devoted to
topics in non-fiction -- one for medicine, one for history, one for science,
<@SLViehl> I create tab-divided notebooks on every book I write, others on
series plans, ideas for future novels, names I've used, etc.
<@SLViehl> Discarding or dropping details or info -- this is my weak point.
I save everything.
<@SLViehl> But I've started eliminating the clutter by transferring things
onto disc or electronic format.
<@SLViehl> This includes ten novels I will probably never get published.
Don't want to throw them away, but 60 pounds of paper is a lot to store.
<@SLViehl> And just how much universe do you need, anyway?
<@SLViehl> Think of yourself as a real estate agent for a minute.
<@SLViehl> If you're selling a single family home, you're going to walk your
potential buyers through it, right?
<@SLViehl> If you're selling a thousand room hotel, you're not. You show
them the property, maybe some plans, layout, but you don't haul them through
1000 rooms.
<@SLViehl> The same logic applies to what you show your reader.
<@SLViehl> If you're sticking to one planet for the entire book, give them a
good tour.
<@SLViehl> If you're including three to five worlds in the book, draw back a
little. They don't need to know so much detail. Give them a broader view,
show how the worlds relate to each other.
<@SLViehl> If you're writing a galactic epic involving hundreds of worlds,
you might be able to tag a few of them, but your task is to focus on what
affects all these worlds, not what inhabits them.
<Robert> Would that focus also go down to different cities or villages on a
world, like if there's one village in the story you know everyone in it, if
it's a city it's just the main cast?
<Jenny> Is there a good way to test the level of detail when you don't have
kids/nonwriter housemates?
<@SLViehl> Robert, if your population is large, you can't cover descriptions
for all of the people. You have to quantify them -- the poor, the rich, the
shop owners, etc. Use them more as a backdrop. For a village of maybe
fifty farmers, you can get more into names and who they are and
<larkin> do you pretty much hold it all in your head even though you have
<@SLViehl> Jenny, you can try it out on a friend through e-mail -- tell them
about it. E-mail me and tell me about it.
<@SLViehl> larkin, I'm finding with the more books I write, the more I
forget and have to go back and reference my notes. I'm just creating so
many characters I can't keep track of the minor ones. The major ones I
revisit, so I've got them memorized, they're old friends. It's sort of like
telephone numbers -- the ones you call all the time, you remember. The ones
you don't, you write in your address boo
<larkin> that helps . thanks
<@SLViehl> boo=book
<Robert> That helps a lot
<@SLViehl> Also, when you make it big, you can sell your notes as an
<BJ Steeves> Thoght you were referencing ghost writing for a minute!
<@SLViehl> ha
<@SLViehl> Onto environmental themes now --
<@SLViehl> Earth in the future.
<@SLViehl> I always think John Travolta in dreadlocks. Not a pretty sight.
<@SLViehl> Seriously, throughout history, our planet has always been in
<@SLViehl> There are a number of well-established avenues you can pursue if
you want to write the future or alternative Earth novel.
<@SLViehl> But please, do me a personal favor and do not make homo sapiens
these incredibly enlightened ambassadors of peace and good will.
<@SLViehl> We're not a peaceful people, we're tribal.
<@SLViehl> We don't have a real good track record toward people outside the
tribe, either.
<@SLViehl> On the other extreme end of the spectrum, I never bought the
man-made Armageddon scenario.
<@SLViehl> Terminator, the Matrix, all the techno-apocalyptic movies are
wrong, I think.
<@SLViehl> Man is way too greedy to blow up the earth (though we might do it
by accident, that I can buy.)
<@SLViehl> Nature, as the third player, does exactly what she wants.
<@SLViehl> This is all SF. With fantasy, you can really let down your hair.
<@SLViehl> Magic changes everything -- all the rules. You can follow the
development of religion (which I will get to, later on) and see how belief
systems change and fluctuate.
<@SLViehl> Since worlds of magic are based on belief in tangible, accessible
power, I think it would be interesting to see more fantasy writers attack
their world building from that direction -- developing it as a reliigion,
and allowing it to have the same affect on their worlds.
<@SLViehl> Other than earth worlds and environments --
<@SLViehl> In SF, the moon and Mars and the moons of Jupiter have been done.
To death.
<@SLViehl> We've pretty much terraformed everything that has a rotational
axis, too.
<@SLViehl> There are some interesting roads still open -- like Planet X, the
alleged roving world in our solar syste, we've not yet been able to detect.
<@SLViehl> syste=system.
<@SLViehl> Nemesis, the "sister" sun to ours, just might have some planets
whirling around her.
<@SLViehl> The further out you travel in actual distance from the earth, the
more leeway you have.
<@SLViehl> Artificial environments, such as space ships, space stations,
drifting cluster colonies, or asteroid colonies have also been done.
<@SLViehl> But what about dimensional and quantum spacial realities? What
about worm holes? What if someone is living in there?
<@SLViehl> In Fantasy, there are as many possibilities, if not more. One of
the better ideas I've seen from one of the writers I mentor is a fantasy
world based on the Egyptian pyramid builder's civilization.
<@SLViehl> Totally fantasy, with living gods and goddesses based on those
real deities in history.
<@SLViehl> Fantasy writers tend to gravitate toward feudal Western Europe
stereotypes. Why not build a world similar to the many Asian cultures?
<@SLViehl> Then there are places no one has been.
<@SLViehl> In SF, black holes have been visited frequently, but brown drawf
stars haven't.
<@SLViehl> Cosmic strings hang unnoticed.
<@SLViehl> Neutrinos -- subatomic particles with no electrical charge and no
mass, which can still penetrate any substance -- don't they stir your
<@SLViehl> What if there are traveling worlds out there we can't detect?
<@SLViehl> In the realm of magic, think about skipping the elves and witches
and dragons and stuff.
<@SLViehl> How abouta feline culture? A marsupial culture? A bat culture?
<@SLViehl> Go beyond the stereotypes again. Don't think medieval England,
think Eskimos in the Arctic. Go in different directions.
<larkin> what is involved in having you as a mentor?
<James> Do you think a cliche world like Mars, Europa, can be redeemed if
populated with a unique culture?
<@SLViehl> Larkin, I would love to mentor more people, but right now I'm
booked. I am going to try to get into some of the crit groups here on
Holly's site soon.
<Jehane> I have to go (I'm at work). Thanks for the discussion. I'll read
the transcript.
<gayle> bye jehane
<@SLViehl> Absolutely, James. Your original spin on things can (bye
Jehane!) can always blow away what's been done before.
<James> Bye Jehane.
<Robert> Bye Jehane
<Jenny> 'Bye, Jehane.
<Robert> What about fusing SF and fantasy - if aliens have their own
mythologies and magic coexisting with elves and dragons, or are reason for
dragon legends?
<@SLViehl> What I try to do is get writers thinking in different directions
because so many are writing the same, tired, old book.
<James> You've give me a great idea for magic in a world populated by a
bat-culture, by the way
<@SLViehl> I think you can do it, but you need to lean more on the fantasy
side, Robert. The tech has to work with the magic, too, as in being well
woven into the fantasy elements.
<@SLViehl> I love bats. I've got one in Shockball.
<Robert> I've got little flying bat like people as refugees in one of my
later books, a whole family like boat people
<James> Mind you, I'm doing SF at the moment, so I'll just have to note it
and get back to it.
<@SLViehl> Also, Robert -- just a note on the SF/Fantasy fusion -- if your
tech is really integral, you start heading in a cyberpunk direction.
<@SLViehl> Does everyone want to take five minutes for a break now>
<@SLViehl> .=?
<larkin> what xactly is cycber punk..a break is fine
<BJ Steeves> Sounds Good
<Jinx> Yes, please
<gayle> yes please ...
<Kae> yes, brb
<James> Yep, thanks.
<Jenny> Yes--I need to brush and floss.
<Robert> Toast... coffeee....
<@SLViehl> Cyberpunk is the fusion between man and machine, larkin. And
I'll BRB myself, I need more tea!
<@SLViehl> Okay, the kettle's on. To add to that explanation, larkin,
cyberpunk usually takes place in an urban setting, ala William Gibson, where
life is so dependent on technology that it becomes like hair or skin or
<@SLViehl> A courier who downloads confidential information into a storage
bank in his skull -- Johnny Mnemonic.
<Diana> brb
<Robert> If telepathy were marketable would AOL put popup Xcam ads in your
<Jinx> Now that's a nasty thought.
<larkin> think i get it.
<@SLViehl> There are already implants being widely used in our society --
pacemakers, for example.
<@SLViehl> The more we learn about the human brain, the more we can apply
technology to it. Eventually, the two will merge at some points, and there
you have the potential for a cyberpunk plot.
<larkin> are there romantic cyber punk fantasy/s that work as a series?
<Jinx> So are publishers going to be open to all these new ideas? Not the
same old stuff that sells....
<@SLViehl> Cyberpunk is generally very dark and nihilistic, larkin. Sort of
an offshoot of SF horror. I don't see romance in its future.
<@SLViehl> I think it's more taking new approaches on established themes
that will catch the editor's eye.
<Kae> (I'm back)
<@SLViehl> You can find a dozen Mars manuscripts on an editor's slush pile
at any given moment
<larkin> do you know eric daavis book techgnosis?
<@SLViehl> But if you have Mars collide with a mega asteroid and blow up to
form another bunch of moons around the earth, then you've jumped to the head
of the class.
<@SLViehl> no, larkin, I'm not familiar with that book. Brb, the kettle's
<@SLViehl> Now I have my fix <g>. We'll give everyone a few more minutes.
<larkin> it's about myth, magic, mysticism in the age of information. very
interesting. Are there less nihiistic catergories realted to this?
<James> How do you feel about mixing old and new? I'm using mental powers
in a very conservative way, but in a fairly new (I think) context...
<@SLViehl> Hard SF is still very conservative. I really think fantasy is
more receptive, larkin.
<larkin> thanks
<@SLViehl> James, whenever you can teach an old dog new tricks, this is a
good thing.
<James> Thanks - I was worried. Start of book jitters
<@SLViehl> Go boldly. No jitters.
<James> I can only promise to try.
<@SLViehl> Is everyone back and ready to dive back in?
<Robert> Yep
<larkin> yes
<Kae> here
<BlairB> good to go
<gayle> yes
<James> Yes.
<Jenny> Ready.
<Diana> yes
<@SLViehl> Okay, organizing your world building information
<@SLViehl> I live in notebooks, that's just me and this really intimate
relationship I have with my fountain pens.
<@SLViehl> Its obsessive, but it's mine.
<@SLViehl> I've been torn away from them by my new Palm Pilot and its
folding, full-sized keyboard.
<@SLViehl> I love this thing.
<@SLViehl> It fits in my purse and I take it to the library or seminars.
<@SLViehl> Then whatever I type, I zap into my computer. Costs about
$150.00 with a rebate from palm for the basic, starter model.
<@SLViehl> This is great if you want to try one and don't want to spend $500
on the cadillac model.
<@SLViehl> There's also online communities where you can start storing your
ideas, files, plans.
<@SLViehl> This is especially good for crit groups, and collaborators.
Holly has a number of them.
<@SLViehl> The other weird thing I do is dictate into a tape recorder. Just
random thoughts and ideas.

--end of part one--

 Respond to this message   

World Building Transcript, Part II 9/28/01

October 23 2001, 8:12 PM 

Kae> Sheila...are you still there?
<James> Thank heavens you asked - I was starting to wonder if Iwas still
there (having been disconnected once already)
<BJ Steeves> Did everone disappear?
<Diana> nope, still here!
<BlairB> still here
<Jinx> I'm here
<Robert> I'm still here and see Sheila listed on the side
<gayle> no..but I think the storm finally got shelia
<BJ Steeves> Been storming here too.
<Kae> Got steady rain here, but no storm.
<gayle> she warned us that she might be cut off but that we were to stay
<Robert> Sounds good.
<gayle> sun...moon shine here in my part of california
<James> Hot, dry summer day in Australia's northern pointy bit
<Robert> Dark here in my hole and no apparent weather
<Jenny> Dark, and noisy from people randomly honking as they pass my
<Robert> I think it's interesting what she said about cyberpunk that it's
expected to be that dark and nihilistic.
<James> You mean wondering if you can do light, fluffy cyberpunk just to be
<Kae> All right, then. On the topic: I have a variety of places where my
work is stored. Notebooks, cds, disks, but not online yet.
<Robert> The thought did cross my mind. C-punk, I've read a lot, rests a lot
on a Robin Hood haves and have nots ethic and Magic Punk picks that right
<gayle> I have a notebook and loose papers for my main planet/universe
<Jenny> I have a "random facts that are interesting and may be useful
someday" notebook, a scribble notebook, and a computer file.
<Jenny> I have a story notebook for outlines, character lists, and such for
novel ideas.
<James> I've just switched from storing online to hardcopy in a folder
because it feels more convenient than having dozens of files open when I
<Robert> I have random disorganized paper notes and lots and lots and lots
of files I periodically sweep onto floppies.
<gayle> attempted to pin down my second world and found the story stopped
dead in the water...gave up planning the world and the words just flowed
<BlairB> i use hanging folders, notebooks, and my PalmPilot.
<James> Magic punk? I'd not encountered that - could you name some samples?
<Robert> Shadowrun the roleplaying game spawned a book series, there are
others like it.
<Jenny> I'd love a Palm--actually, I want a specific Visor--but not until
after I move.
<James> Any you'd recommend as a starting place?
<Robert> Neil Stephenson drifts in that direction sometimes with neural
research and also uses a lot of contemporary humor.
<gayle> We had a couple of false alarms with the fire alarm system in my
building...got me thinking about how 'unsaved' every thing is...I would lose
a LOT so need
<James> Sounds like an excuse to finally tackle Cryptonomicon
<gayle> to come up with an offsite system.
<James> I created a Yahoo account for my current WIP, and mail off regular
backups to myself...
<Kae> gayle: yes, that worry about loss gets me, too.
<Robert> James, that's so cool. I FTP ed my backups to Texas to my friends'
<Jenny> That's a neat idea, James.
<Kae> James, cool!
<BJ Steeves> I keep most of my stuff on the PC and back it up to re-writable
CD Roms.
<James> It's certainly been very fast and convenient since I started - and
less nervousness.
<gayle> from what I read you should have at least one copy of all your work
elsewhere...well...at least I'm thinking about it...
<Robert> Good idea, Gayle
<Kae> James, your email account is just for your WIP?
<Diana> I just got a free text database program today at
http://www.softcircuits.com/snippets/ Haven't tried it yet, but it looks
good for organizing bits of information--a free-form database
<James> I also keep my idea file there, and a short story that I'm working
on, but mostly just the WIP, yes.
>James< I can recomend a couple pretty good shadowrun books if you would
<Kae> So you know everything on that account has to do with your writing.
<gayle> James...so did you go for the 25 megs?
<James> Thanks, Blair, that'd be great.
<James> Exactly, Kae
<Robert> I want a laptop and I'm planning to get one and just copy My
Documents unorganized into its hard drive
<James> Not yet, Gayle - but I keep deleting redundant material, so I
haven't filled a regular account yet.
<gayle> okay...I was just wondering
<gayle> so how far is everybody in their worldbuilding?
<BlairB> Robert N. Charrette (Secrets of Power series) Never Deal with a
dragon, Choose your enemies carefully, and Find your own truth
<Robert> About thirty books into it for Piarra series (including spinoffs)
one book into it and scattered notes for space series
<James> Thanks, Blair.
<BlairB> 2XS by Nigel Findley is also pretty good.
<Jinx> I'm not that far, Gayle. Like you've mentioned, I also tend to get a
bit overwhelmed at it all. <g>
<Kae> ditto
<larkin> just got back on. Mine keeps shapeshifting. can't seem to make it
cohesive yet.
<James> I'm far enough along that I'm confident of starting the book for
Zette's novel dare, Monday - but I'll add a bit more as I go.
<Robert> We missed you, SLV
<Robert> er, larkin
<gayle> who's Zette? and what is her novel dare?
<larkin> that's o.k.
<BlairB> you are lucky James, i am not that far along yet... it's going to
be an intersting dare.
<Jinx> I'm doing the dare too. Hopefully, it will motivate me a bit.
<larkin> haven't found my way into these places on holly's site..where are
<Kae> zette, Vision editor, HollyLisle site moderator, etc.
<James> On the Holly Lisle site, Gayle - Zette runs a regular novel (and
other) dare where everyone agrees to write a certain amount in a certain
time. Looks like a good motivator.
<Robert> I either couldn't do that much on novel dare or would do the whole
book, took short story dare
<gayle> oh...something like a book in a week challenge.
<James> Yep, but you have three months.
<BlairB> Larkin look for 'What's hot and who's on" in the navagation bar.
that will link you to the message boards.
<Jinx> I think the board is Games and Contests?
<Robert> Chapter a week is what master level boils to but if I only did
achapter a week I'd lose immersion and not finish.
<James> I'm being a coward and starting at apprentice level
<larkin> thanks. i'll try to find it..only had computer bout six
weeks..still a bit lost in all these worlds.
<Robert> I'm trying Master and not flogging myself if I get halfway and
drop, like 6 instead of 8
<James> Oh, definitely, I'm definitely planning on being happy with whatever
I get done.
<BJ Steeves> I'll have to pass, my wife's been ill and I can't spare the
time just yet.
<Jenny> I did apprentice last time. I'm doing Master this time because I
have to finish my WIP before Christmas anyway.
<Robert> You go, Jenny! I'm cheering!
<James> And then you can do the rewrite dare
<gayle> so is it a closed list or can you join anytime?
<Kae> anyone can join
<Robert> Join up! Two more days before it starts and zette's flogging it on
the main discussion board
<James> You have to post a sign-up message on the Games and Contest board,
though, I think.
<larkin> Is there a map for entering into all this?
<gayle> cool...need something to get me motivated on the fiction
again....non is my bread and butter
<Robert> Top of the site menu bar, three categories
<larkin> hmmmm o.k.
<Robert> which one of those you click shows you all the boards in its
<James> And there are some really good ones - it's a brilliant site.
<Jenny> Games and Contests is here: http://network54.com/Hide/Forum/70750
<Robert> Exercises is why I'm taking Short Story Master Dare, they are so
stimulating I know once a week at least I'll get a story idea off one.
<larkin> thanks..for some reason thus far it hasn't let me in. II'll keep
<Jenny> My next novel's coming from a past Zettercise.
<Jenny> That's odd. What does it say?
<Robert> Cool, Jenny!
<larkin> you don't exist or something like that.
<Jinx> You have to be logged in to get to that board.
<James> Larkin, do you have a Network 54 membership? I think you might need
one to log into the G&C board.
<Robert> If you're not logged in or haven't created an account yet you can't
see all the boards
<larkin> did the log in thing..still it doesn't recognize me..is this cyber
punk material?
<Jenny> My labmate says in 200 years we'll look back and realize that
computers were sentient all this time--and they hate us.
<Robert> It can be anything you want. Three of mine will be horror stories
to fill out Graveyard Shift horror collection
<Kae> Hi Sheila!
<@SLViehl> Sorry about that, folks
<BlairB> welcome back!
<@SLViehl> Thing bounced me three times!
<Robert> Hi Shiela! WB
<James> No worries... Welcome back.
<larkin> must be quite a storm
<Kae> there she went
<James> Oops - gone again.
<@SLViehl> I think Network 54 hates me.
>@SLViehl< lol, i think it hates everyone.
<@SLViehl> Maybe one of my ex husbands works there.
<Kae> a lot of people have said that. lol
<Robert> That is spooky given Jenny's comment, SLV...
<Kae> One of ...?
<@SLViehl> Yeah, I've got a couple. Jenny's comment?
<Robert> That computers are sentient and might hate us? <G>
<BlairB> <Jenny> My labmate says in 200 years we'll look back and realize
that computers were sentient all this time--and they hate us.
<@SLViehl> This computer doesn't hate me. It pities me.
<@SLViehl> lol
<Robert> Ema loves me. I trust Ema.
<@SLViehl> You know what else, I keep making up these drawings and then I
forget to load them. Watch.
<gayle> robert...is that the name of your computer?
<Robert> Yes.
<@SLViehl> That was half an hour ago drawing #1.
<Robert> Oooh like that one
<Kae> lol
<BlairB> lol@handicapped
<BJ Steeves> Zette wouldn't like it, I hear she HATES smileys
<Robert> I have no face but I must write...
<@SLViehl> I got to stick post it notes on my head or something -- anyway,
why don't we wrap it up with general Q&A?
<BlairB> you would be impressed... we've kept the chat on topic while you
were away.
<@SLViehl> You people always impress me. Honestly.
<Robert> And I've been transcribing but I think I missed a little at the
beginning, came late...
<Kae> Yes, James gave a brilliant idea.
<gayle> yeah...and some of us learned about the challenge coming up
<James> But we weren't able to get Larkin onto the Games and Contest board -
Larkin, did you try again?
<@SLViehl> I'll have to read the transcript, this sounds cool.
<Robert> I'll mail it to you?
<larkin> not yet.. can i do that from here?
<larkin> i really am still lost in cyber world unfortunately
<@SLViehl> You should be able to access it from the drop down menus, larkin.
<James> Should be able to direct your browser window to go to the site while
you chat here. I just tried and it let me log in.
<larkin> don't have a clue how. appreciate your trying to help though.
<James> Can you get to the discussion board -
http://network54.com/Hide/Forum/64272 - you could probably get Zette's
attention there.
<BlairB> larkin - do you have MSN messenger or ICQ at all?
<larkin> don't know what they are? have e-mail...and a tarot deck
<Jinx> We were talking about the different ways we kept our info. Do you
keep things off-site, Sheila?
<@SLViehl> I have my data in four states and two countries, at the moment
<BlairB> if you want, when this is done, stay here, and i'll help you out
<Jinx> Wow.
<Robert> Oooh, helps to have friends with hard drives
<@SLViehl> but then, I've been hit with five viruses and had two meltdowns.
<Kae> eek
<Jinx> Ouch.
<gayle> the voice of experence then...
<BlairB> how often do you update that info sheila?
<@SLViehl> Yeah, SF fans aren't all THAT nice.
<@SLViehl> I backup twice a day. I have to, I usually produce about thirty
new pages of work, and get about 100 e-mails per day.
<Robert> Cool... I'm planning on doing airlock firewall, have a cheap
separate computer that doesn't go online and just produces books.
<Kae> I just got hit with a virus that sent out my stuff to the address
book. I hope you didn't get any from me, Sheila.
<BJ Steeves> Backup to what? Tape, CDROM?
<@SLViehl> I also run off three computers now, for the same reason, Robert
<Robert> Makes really good sense, Sheila.
<Jenny> Why three?
<@SLViehl> No, Kae, I've got custom software now that zaps everything.
<@SLViehl> One is total unconnected to anything. That's my work computer.
<@SLViehl> One is hooked up to the web with my work, so I can transmit stuff
to my editor and web designer.
<@SLViehl> One is the backup to the hooked-up computer, in case that
<@SLViehl> And I'm getting one for my son this Christmas to handle his stuff
<Robert> Cool
<gayle> how old is your son?
<@SLViehl> I've been targeted by a really nasty group of hackers, so I had
to do all this. My middle son is 9.
<larkin> why were you targeted?
<BJ Steeves> For your system on the net, download a free personal firewall
called ZoneAlarm. I use it my self.
<gayle> I'll second that...it really works great.
<@SLViehl> Thanks, BJ. As for the hackers, apparently they object to my
<Kae> thanks, I'll look at that BJ
<larkin> good lord that's terrible
<Kae> What!!!
<Robert> That's sick coming from SF fans.
<gayle> why?
<Jinx> Sheesh. You'd think people would have better things to do with their
time and efforts.
<@SLViehl> Happens. You have to be really careful when you become a
semi-public figure now.
<BJ Steeves> If anyone needs computer help, that's what I do for a living.
For over 30 years.
<Kae> cool, thanks for the offer, BJ
<larkin> where are you located?
<Robert> Thanks, BJ!
<BJ Steeves> Larkin, I'm in Conecticut.
<larkin> i'm in los angeles
<BJ Steeves> Figures
<@SLViehl> Bit of a commute, larkin.
<larkin> a wee bit
<BlairB> pah, just hop on the bus...
<larkin> i can hire a cyberpunk to drive me
<gayle> there is always the phone...
<BJ Steeves> No problem, I have a login on Hooly's site and my email address
is there. Just drop me a line.
<BJ Steeves> Holly's sire
<gayle> it's a bit more of a challenge but can work....
<BJ Steeves> Site
<@SLViehl> There you go, that'll work.
<Kae> rofl
<Jinx> hee hee
<Robert> Holly as vampire is a terrifying thought
<larkin> think i can find it?
<@SLViehl> I have a question for the group --
<gayle> yes...
<BJ Steeves> See if I have an answer...
<@SLViehl> where can I be of the most help on the site? Board-wise,
chat-wise, conference-room-wise, I mean?
<Kae> hmmm
<@SLViehl> I want to do more but I don't want to step on anyone's toes.
<Robert> Worldbuilding, rants, critiquing, I'd appreciate posts from you
anywhere. Even rants would have useful information, often do.
<BJ Steeves> My first thought would be the discussion board.
<BlairB> mine too.
<larkin> i can find the chat room
<Kae> Well, I look forward to these Friday nights. Any posts anywhere.
<@SLViehl> Would anyone be interested in industry updates? What I hear
about publishers, editors, etc?
<Kae> yes
<Robert> I hang in the chat a lot and I've enjoyed this. YES, Please!
<gayle> yes!!!
<Diana> yes
<larkin> yes'
<BJ Steeves> That way the whole community would get a chance to see your
pearls of wisdom.
<Jinx> That would be great!
<Jenny> Yes, please.
<@SLViehl> Because I get a lot of info from just working in the industry,
and I'd like to pass it along to people who are submitting or looking for a
<larkin> have to go teach Yoga..thank you all..
<BlairB> These Workshops have been great so far too...
<@SLViehl> Bye Larkin!
<gayle> bye larkin
<BJ Steeves> Bye larkin
<Kae> bye larkin
<Robert> Bye Larkin
<Jinx> Night, Larkin
<Jenny> 'Bye, larkin.
<larkin> goodnight..you've been great.
<James> Bye Larkin.
<James> I've just noticed I've only been sending to Larkin for the last five
<James> So, Sheila, can I second the support of any further chats you
offer - these last few have been fantastic, and a greater presence on the
discussion board.
<Robert> Yes, please do more of these!
<@SLViehl> What about something less formal? Like we just all get together
and talk, as well as the sessions here?
<Kae> sure
<Robert> Fantastic...
<James> Sounds brilliant.
<BJ Steeves> Works for me too.
<gayle> that sounds cool as long as we know when they are going to
<Jenny> Sounds great.
<BlairB> you could do kinda 'theme chats'
<@SLViehl> As for the insider publisher thing, I could start a general
thread on the discussion board, I think.
<Robert> Industry question: are they rigid about Cyberpunk must be
Nihilistic the way some romance rigidities work?
<@SLViehl> Theme chats would be great, good idea, Blair.
<@SLViehl> I'm going to find out myself, Robert -- I've got a cyberpunk
novel that isn't nihilistic to pitch next month.
<Robert> Hope it sells! Break some ground! I like cyberpunk but get tired of
<@SLViehl> Man fusing with machine isn't necessarily a bad thing, despite
what Gibson thinks
<@SLViehl> And China Mieville just ticked me off.
<@SLViehl> Although he's probably steampunk rather than cyberpunk
<Kae> I'm not a fan of doom and gloom, myself.
<Robert> And longevity isn't necessarily bad and it's what you do with it,
not what the tools are...
<Jenny> What's steampunk?
<James> Oh, how - I keep meaning to read him?
<@SLViehl> Steampunk is like medieval cyberpunk
<@SLViehl> He's an extremely gifted young writer, I'll say that much.
<James> Is he too grim?
<@SLViehl> I wrote a review on the book review board about Perdido Street
Station. That book upset me so much Ican't describe it to you.
<@SLViehl> But I did in the review.
<James> Ah - I'll track down the review and read it.
<Robert> Likewise.
<@SLViehl> I was so mad I mailed the book back to him.
<gayle> ouch!
<Kae> rofl
<Robert> Now my curiosity's up.
<BJ Steeves> Maybe my age is showing, but I think you lost me on this
<@SLViehl> I wasn't going to take the chance that some poor, unsuspecting
sanitation worker might pick it up.
<@SLViehl> I just really disliked this book by Mieville, BJ. It hurt to
read this book.
<BlairB> thats how i feel about the movie 8mm.
<@SLViehl> That's an incredibly accurate analogy, Blair.
<James> That's it. When I get to work on Monday I'm getting that book (the
only virtue of working in a library).
<BJ Steeves> I don't know that author.
<Robert> I never heard of it but if it makes me that mad I will be obliged
to refute it in a novel.
<@SLViehl> He won the Arthur C. Clarke award for it. And something else
recently, the British SF or Fantasy Award
<@SLViehl> That's why I'm writing a cyberpunk novel. To get back at China
<Robert> Go for it!
<BJ Steeves> I'd like to see that!
<@SLViehl> Woman's got to do what a woman's got to do. Ha.
<Kae> yeah!
<@SLViehl> Anyway, any last questions before we wrap this up?
<James> I was going to mention, Sheila - someone was asking about getting
your books in Australia - I've been able to order Stardoc from Ozbooks.com,
though they don't have any of the later books.
<gayle> Gotta go...Nathan has been real patience with me but he wants to
watch the movies
<@SLViehl> I'm working on getting a list of booksellers who are importing
it, James -- a couple are.
<BlairB> ahhh.. movie night!
<@SLViehl> goodnight, gayle
<Kae> Bye gayle, have fun
<Robert> G'night, Gayle
<Jinx> Night, Gayle
<gayle> later
<James> Which means, by the way, that it has to be a bad book or I'll have
to pay $50 Australian per book to get the rest of the series
<James> See you, Gayle.
<BlairB> 'nite gayle
<gayle> will do
<Jenny> 'Night, gayle.
<@SLViehl> One day we all have to go to gayle's house for popcorn
<BJ Steeves> Sorry I missed the last two sessions. I will look at the
<@SLViehl> No problem, we can talk about things in chat. Should I post a
notice on the discussion board for an informal get-together?
<Kae> that should work
<James> That would be great.
<BlairB> sure.
<BJ Steeves> Good idea.
<Robert> Yes, please! Also drop by chat if you're not busy?
<@SLViehl> We'll call it a FreeForAll
<Robert> Cool
<@SLViehl> I'll stop in chat when I'm online, see who's there.
<BlairB> yes, chat can get quite goofy at times, but were mostly harmless..
<Kae> erm...mostly
<@SLViehl> Goofy is good. These days we need lots of goofy
<Robert> I got confused the first few times seeing mysterious posts of
<James> I don't think I've use the normal chat room yet - is it a java based
thing, like this?
<Robert> Now I make mysteirous posts of numbers
<Jenny> Yes, it's Java-based.
<BlairB> its called CATO....and its evil...
<Kae> It eats posts.
<@SLViehl> I haven't been in chat for a year or two, should be interesting.
<Robert> Cato the word vampire will eat all your words
<James> Oooh, evil. Sounds fun.
<Kae> It gets...interesting
<James> So what are the mysterious number posts about?
<BlairB> we usually sacrifice vegetables or sims.... keeps us safe
<BJ Steeves> I don't get there often, have to try and change that.
<@SLViehl> Poor vegetables. But those SIMS have got to go.
<Robert> Wordcount wars. I shall overtake zette of borg someday, came within
300 words once, hit The End and she had the advantage of a novel
<Jinx> Well, I'm off. Thank you, Sheila. Night, all!
<@SLViehl> zette's been assimilated? No wonder she doesn't like smiley
<James> Ah, I don't see myself being a threat to Zette-like wordcounts.
<@SLViehl> Goodnight, Jinx.
<Robert> Bye Jinx
<BJ Steeves> That lady can write, can she?
<Kae> lol. night jinx\
<Jenny> Zette-level is the lofty goal we all strive for.
<James> See you, Jinx
<@SLViehl> and my thanks to everyone for letting me spend Friday night with
<Jenny> 'Bye, Jinx.
<BJ Steeves> Thanks for everything Shiela
<@SLViehl> wait, Saturday for James.
<BlairB> yes, thanks so much for the wisdom...
<Kae> I love these sessions, Sheila.
<James> Again, what they said, Sheila - thanks.
<Jenny> Second that. Thanks.
<Robert> Thanks, Sheila!
<@SLViehl> You all have preserved my sanity, thank YOU!
<James> Not that it's over - we have the follow ups to each of the courses
next month
<Kae> yay
<Jenny> Good point.
<@SLViehl> Yes, and if momentum keeps going, Holly will give us regular
<Kae> cool
<@SLViehl> So we will OWN Friday night.
<James> Excellent.
<BJ Steeves> I'm sure she will.
<Robert> All right!
<BlairB> i'll open up my calendar
<James> I've always wanted to own a night...
<Kae> me too
<@SLViehl> Also, remember if you have any questions, the e-mail is
SLViehlworkshop@aol.com. This is just for you guys.
<BJ Steeves> Sheila, have any of your books been in the SFBC? I've been a
member for a long time but don't remeber seeing them.
<@SLViehl> And my author copies of Shockball should be here in a few weeks,
so I'll send that along, too.
<Jenny> What's a library's funding body?
<@SLViehl> What is SFBC, BJ?
<BJ Steeves> Science Fiction Book Club
<Kae> Oh, Sheila, it's a great book club
<@SLViehl> (see how dumb the SF writer is?)
<James> Well, in Australia it's the local Council - but I don't know who
does it in the US.
<@SLViehl> Probably not.
<Kae> It's hardcovers sold at about half store price
<@SLViehl> I'm not in hardcover yet, though I have hopes for Blade Dancer.
<@SLViehl> Depends on if I hit #1 with Shockball.
<@SLViehl> on Locus, that is.
<Robert> I love your titles. I hate titling.
<James> Agree - titles hurt.
<@SLViehl> We should do a titles chat. I love titles.
<Robert> That would be a good main discussion thread
<Robert> As well as chat
<Kae> I don't know if the book has to be in hardcover first. They may put
paperbacks in their own hardcovers.
<Jenny> Definitely a good topic.
<BlairB> theme chat #1 - titles...
<James> For the current WIP, I'm blatantly stealing the feeling of Stardoc
and going with Wormworld. I think.
<Kae> James, that has a hook.
<@SLViehl> That's a provocative image -- Wormworld.
<Kae> ha
<Robert> I lucked doing "Rites of Chavateykar" because at least there was a
nice coined term to throw in
<@SLViehl> Ex-husband world.
<James> Thought it had connotations of wormwood and rue, and other
delightfully depressing things, as well as being literal.
<BlairB> lol
<@SLViehl> No, no, don't get me started down that road . . .
<Robert> I'm picturing this cartoon graphic not unlike Hitchhikers
<BlairB> i know a few Ex's and i think that is insulting to Worms...
<Kae> Sheila, check out sfbc.com for info.
<@SLViehl> Will do, Kae, thanks.
<@SLViehl> True, Blair. True.
<@SLViehl> Well, y'all want to call it a night?
<Kae> Okay. It's been great, as always.
<James> I should flee and have lunch...
<BJ Steeves> SFBC is cool because they sometimes reprint classics which have
been out of print for a long time.
<Robert> Sure, I should write, I still haven't done El Dorado
<James> But it has been another absolute hoot.
<Robert> Oh yes, it has!
<@SLViehl> I thank you all for an entirely enjoyable, if somewhat
interrupted, session.
<BJ Steeves> Super session!
<Robert> Stimulating!
<@SLViehl> We'll pick this up on the fourth Friday in October, to be posted
on the class sign-up board as soon as Holly okays it.

--end of part two--

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World Building (Stand-in) Transcript, Part I 9/30/01

October 23 2001, 8:13 PM 

Workshops at HollyLisle.com
9/30/01 -- Worldbuilding (S.L. Viehl as substitute host)

<Robert> Settle for S. L. Viehl? The one who really brought real medical
goop into SF? Don't think that's settling...
<@SLViehl> Hey Robert. Just having some fun.
<Robert> I had a friend in New Orleans who was an ICU nurse, if I had to
wound anyone I told her the scene. <G> Love that intro drawing.
<@SLViehl> Everyone does that with me here. I get calls like "Sheila, my
hero just got shot in the chest, now what?"
<Anon_77> BlairB
<Robert> I'm also transcribing again as backup since I've got all kinds of
stuff up. Cooool. Thanks for the help, if I need to torture characters I
know who to bug. <G>
<@SLViehl> Yo Blair!
<BlairB> silly... if i type in the correct box, my name changes...<G>
<@SLViehl> My specialties are cardio-thoracic surgery, obstetrics, and
orthopedic replacements
<@SLViehl> So if you're having a heart attack, a baby, or a hip replaced,
I'm you're girl.
<Robert> Obstetrics would be a great help. I have fudged a couple of births
by asking women who gave birth but I don't like to do the same complications
<BlairB> not all at the same time i hope <g>
<Robert> Well, could a female charcter survive that, Shiela?
<@SLViehl> I had a patient who broke both her legs when she was 7 months
<BlairB> owch.
<@SLViehl> Generally, the more systems involved, the lower the % survival
rate is. Heart is serious, you're looking at killing the baby from lack of
blood supply.
<@SLViehl> At the very least.
<@SLViehl> So what do Doug and James usually do on Sunday nights?
<BlairB> dunno, this is my first night, your world building class piqued my
<@SLViehl> Hi Jinx
<Jinx> Evening!
<Robert> I read the transcripts but usually something happens on Sunday
nights. This time I was watching for it, went for chapter break, stopped and
came. Hi, Jinx
<BlairB> and since that is what i'm doing now. I figured it would be a good
thing to attend.
<@SLViehl> We'll have to make it worth your while.
<Jehane> Hello everyone
<@SLViehl> Hi Jehane
<Robert> Hi Jehane
<Jehane> Usually Jim just asks if anyone has worldbuilding questions
<Jinx> I don't usually get to play on Sunday evenings, so this is my first
worldbuilding workshop.
<@SLViehl> I figured we'd do that tonight -- keep it open Q&A
<BlairB> you're the boss
<Robert> Do you ever deliberately say 'here be dragons' about some part of a
world, drop veiled hints and fill in on later volumes?
<@SLViehl> I've had to do a lot of that with my reptilian species, the
Hsktskt. I whisk 'em in and out of books most of the time, dropping hints
about their culture but never hitting the home world. That's going to be
book seven, so I had to wait to get there.
<@SLViehl> Although I did get a bit more in book three, with their slaver
depot world.
<@SLViehl> Sort of like visiting them at work.
<Robert> Cool. That's intriguing in itself (picturing Sheila casually
sharing a coffee break with reptilian slavers...)
<Robert> So you plan the series sometimes.
<@SLViehl> I'm hoping to get over to Australia one day and hang out with the
Crococile Hunter. I love reptiles.
<@SLViehl> StarDoc was planned out to 10 books first. It's now gone past
<@SLViehl> Being an open-ended series, I can go as long or short as I want.
I know what the last book will be.
<@SLViehl> But let's not talk about me, what are you all working on?
<Robert> Explorers is working title, I'm almost 10,000 words into it and the
clones are on the move. They just landed in a place they have a reputation
in that they don't know about.
<@SLViehl> Hard SF, Robert?
<Robert> No, fantasy with a lot of hard SF underpinnings, fusion stuff,
depends how you look at it and occasionally some stuff wanders outside realm
of 'can be described in science terms'
<@SLViehl> Hi Sarah
<Robert> Hi Sarah
<Sarah> Hi. Surfacing for air. (That's really funny if you've read
my project proposal and you're as frazzled and in need of a break as I am)
<@SLViehl> Everyone, hit Sarah with questions about biodiversity, let's put
her to work. <g>
<Jinx> I wrote a short story about 2 months ago that refused to stay within
bounds of a short story. It's insisting on becoming a novel, so I've been
slowly working on its development.
<Jinx> Evening, Sarah
<Sarah> Lol! Yeah, though my answers may be heavily Cetacean biased at the
moment. Or seaweed. I've written a ton about seaweed...
<@SLViehl> Don't you love/hate it when that happens?
<Robert> Now she's a nonhumanoid female with a broken hip and a heart
problem trying to give birth...
<@SLViehl> All my novels start out as short stories gone wild.
<Sarah> Ditto that. Which sucks when you're trying to win a short story
<@SLViehl> Hi Jenny, welcome
<Robert> Hi Jenny!
<Jinx> It was NOT a good short story (although I think the scenes were ok),
mainly because it kept "going wild", as you put it. <g> All these little
facts kept surfacing.
<Jenny> Hi there. (I was trying to slink in late, unnoticed. )
<BlairB> looks at watch... not late by mine...
<@SLViehl> Jinx, I always pick a few of the best and consign the rest
(ruthlessly) to the "Write the Novel LATER" notebook.
<Jinx> Yes, but you're organized! ;-D
<Robert> I got so many short story rejection slips that said "Great novel.
Finish it and send synopsis and three chapters."
<@SLViehl> lol
<@SLViehl> I like Gordon Van Gelder's rejection slips. He always writes
something like, "Love the world, plague was great, have too many stories
like this in inventory."
<Sarah> You forgot to put the "alas" in.
<Robert> Cool! Yeah, there's as many writer in jokes as doctor ones, same
sick humor. <G>
<@SLViehl> Always, ALWAYS with the alas, yes
<@SLViehl> Jenny, what are you working on right now, world-building wise?
<Jenny> Well. There's this Zettercise I did in June and want to develop as
my next novel project. Unfortunately I'm really not sure what happens after
the scene I wrote for the exercise.
<@SLViehl> Kill someone, maim someone, or blow something up. That's my
<Jenny> The concept of "experimental history" is core--people can view/alter
time, but only do it for research. Which sounds highly implausible.
<Jenny> Hmm. That's always a possibility.
<Robert> Thanks for the advice, Sheila. I think I have to take that for this
<@SLViehl> Have them sucked into the viewing machine, then blow it up.
<Sarah> Suddenly, so much of Stardoc becomes clear...
<@SLViehl> My nickname among the Florida Romance Writers is Demolition
<Jehane> Maybe it's not so much experimenting with history, as in getting a
chance to look into alternate worlds, but the window doesn't stay open for
<@SLViehl> I like the contrast between them dispassionately viewing history
and then (suddenly) having to deal with it, in their faces, up close and
<@SLViehl> personl=personal
<Robert> I'm doing alternate histories in my open series, but I'm doing
alternates of a world not Earth for a lot of them, which helps. So right,
<Robert> That's a hook, Jenny. That's a gotta
<Jenny> Those are neat ideas. Thanks. Did anyone ever read Asimov's story
"The Dead Past"?
<Jinx> Perhaps it's outlawed, except for research, or perhaps it's one of
those things that no one but the researchers know about. Then along comes a
renegade who decides that he/she can use this ability for
bigger/better/badder things.
<Jinx> Not that it's my story or anything <g>
<Robert> whoops Jehane
<Robert> getting my J's mixed up there
<@SLViehl> while I'm sitting here with Jakol and Jericho working on a novel
with a heroine named Jadaira
<@SLViehl> there's something abot the letter J . . .
<Jenny> Jiinx--one of my concerns is building up to a point where this
technology would be only used for research. It might well be outlawed...I'm
just not sure.
<@SLViehl> I didn't read the Asimov story, tho
<Jehane> No problem. I was in chat yesterday with Jim and James
<@SLViehl> Wouldn't there be a big temptation to use the tech otherwise?
<Sarah> <was once in a theatre group with five Sarahs)
<@SLViehl> Black market?
<Jenny> The story's about building a machine to view the past. And the Bad
Guys try to stop the protagonists from doing it, because it'll be used for
spying, for mothers obsessed with their dead children, etc.
<Robert> Or is it something about the process itself that screws up if it's
used for anything but research - like, by tamperers later up the road, a
time police?
<@SLViehl> More emotional black market, then
<Jenny> Well, viewing someone's past would be pretty powerful stuff. I was
thinking earlier it might be more useful than viewing the future.
<Jenny> In other words, this may turn out to be totally impracticable.
<Jinx> It could be the story begins when the technology is first
discovered... it's possible at that point that most of the population
outside the researchers wouldn't know about it, yet.
<Robert> Spies sometimes find out what they don't want to know, like that
grieving mother discovering the dead kid was closet gay.
<Sarah> Could be very useful technology for police investigations
<@SLViehl> Or their grandmother died from a disease they're going to get
when they're fifty
<@SLViehl> There you go, Sarah -- what a way to view a crime scene.
<Robert> Denial is such a powerfully human thing. <G>
<@SLViehl> Then, like a polygraph, have it be inadmissible to court.
<Robert> Or the court battle to make it admissable as photography.
<Jenny> Hmm. What about evidence that was only obtained by being able to
view the crime scene that way?
<Robert> That's the case that it would have to stand up in! This looks like
a core premise, a major McGuffin with more stories hanging out of it than I
could count.
<@SLViehl> doesn't get into court because there was no physical "discovery".
Boy, you could have fun with that.
<Jehane> It could be argued that what was seen was what might have
happened, not necessarily what did happen in your universe.
<@SLViehl> time displacement errors -- they're not sure what timeline
they're viewing.
<Jinx> Oohhh... and then who has the burden of proof? And what happens if
you have two sides with two different scenes?
<@SLViehl> That's where the investigating officers have to pull in physical
evidence to back up the time window version.
<@SLViehl> while the defendent tries to discredit it, like any
<@SLViehl> I've got one thing to throw out to the group, idea-spinning wise
<@SLViehl> relates to nutrtional relationships between organisms, but can be
applied to characters.
<@SLViehl> anyone interested in hearing this?
<Jinx> Sure
<Jenny> Yes.
<Robert> Very much, at the moment I need to develop 'new place on map' and
this is cool.
<Jehane> yes
<@SLViehl> Most animals, including man, are what we call bulk-feeders --
they consume tissues in bulk as whole organisms or parts of them.
<@SLViehl> (This is where Sarah starts hitting me for bringing up biology)
<Sarah> The subject I'm nattering on about, no less (in part, at least)
<@SLViehl> but I've been trying to explore other associations and
relationships, like symbiosis and saprophytic dependency
<@SLViehl> There are like 3 subdivisions of symbiosis -- parasitism,
mutualism, and commensalism.
<Robert> I have too. Vampires are parasitical, predatory or symbiotic
depending on their social interrelationship with mortals.
<Sarah> (There's actually some debate about that now, but those are the
basic three)
<@SLViehl> Examples -- tapeworms have parasitic relationships with their
hosts. They take, don't give back, and usually harm or kill
<Robert> Okay, I used 'symbiotic' meaning 'mutualism'
<@SLViehl> mutualism means they usually depend on each other to the extent
they can't live without each other
<Jehane> There's the trill(sp?) in Star Trek, and another lot in Stargate
with mutualism
<@SLViehl> and commensalism means one benefits but doesn't harm the other
<@SLViehl> I'd like to see more characters -- humanoid or otherwise -- who
aren't of the bulk feeder variety
<@SLViehl> I can't live without my kids or my cats, so there's a mutualism
in the works.
<Robert> Saprophytic dependency is an interesting one too..
<@SLViehl> Robert, imagine a protagonist who has to live off dead stuff.
Eee-aah, the possibilities
<Robert> It wouldn't seem grotesque to him and might not to the humans. "Oh,
we need to cook everything Kgreabe eats."
<@SLViehl> What if he has to burrow into the body to absorb the nutrients
through his pores? Be kind of hard to set a dinner table for that. <g>
<Robert> It could even be a religious vow - kill nothing for food, wait till
a plant or animal dies, wait for fruit to drop.
<Robert> Well, yeah. Dinner with nonhumanoids is always socially awkward.
<Jenny> They'd worship windstorms.
<@SLViehl> They'd worship highway pileups.
<Robert> If it's a philosophical extrapolation off Hindu "ahimsa" practice
of harming no living thing, they have to have some local food source that
blossoms and dies real fast. A sort of 'manna plant'
<Jinx> That's a whole new way of looking at road kill.
<@SLViehl> I feel a short story brewing all ready . . . title: The Cleanup
<Robert> Sure is. And that brings us to whether there is really any taboo
about eating other sapients not your species.
<Sarah> Yeah, tapeworms have a solid interior - no gut. Many parasites live
internally so they can absorb stuff directly rather than having to eat it.
Think outside the tetrapod box...
<@SLViehl> Or like lampreys, they have to attach themselves (more along the
lines of your vampiric comment, Robert)
<Robert> And if cetaceans are sentient, wouldn't the extinction of some
whales and the canned whale meat industry say something about humans?
<Robert> Or how would a sapient race that peacefully and harmlessly lived on
human excrement be viewed ?
<Jehane> Like if flies were sentient?
<Jinx> ewwww
<Robert> I have a plant race that loves it. Plants like nitrogenous
<Jenny> Makes me think of "I wish I were a fly on the wall."
<Jinx> We just had our septic tank pumped the other day. Now I'm having
icky thoughts. <g>
<@SLViehl> Would sure save me some money on water & sewer bills -- but would
you want one in your bathroom?
<@SLViehl> I can hear it now -- "Mom! Mike left the seat up on the Yarg
<Robert> Umm, I know them too well and it would depend a lot on which one.
<Sarah> Better than not having anything that processes waste...
<Robert> Some are carnivorous. Others like practical jokes. I'd have to know
it well enough to trust it. And they're hermaphroditic, 'it' is the right
gender pronoun for something with both stamen and pistil
<Jenny> What would you do with them when you left on vacation?
<BlairB> let the neighbors watch them of course...
<Robert> Good point. Any symbiotic relationship involves some inconvenience.
<Jehane> In many of our more remote national parks there are recycling
toilets, where everything just goes down into a tank and the bacteria
process it into fertiliser.
<@SLViehl> You'd have to drop them off at the Yarg vet.
<Jenny> Someone who eats a lot?
<BlairB> rent them out to porta potties..
<@SLViehl> Port-a-Yargs
<BlairB> lol
<Jinx> And then there are those rogue Yargs...
<Jenny> Attack of the wild Yarg! Eww...
<@SLViehl> running around the streets, biting humans on the butt . . .
<Jinx> lol
<Robert> Then again there's the race whose idea of interspecies diplomacy is
flatworm learning. Puts a whole new spin on "To Serve Man"
<BlairB> or stalking people as they walk their dogs...
<@SLViehl> you could have mini-curb Yargs swarming around NYC
<Robert> That would be cool for NYC... dog focused ones
<@SLViehl> Inevitably, the saprophyte would be exploited, then they'd simply
have to take over the planet.
<Sarah> Might be good for towns where beasts of burden are the main methods
of transportation.
<@SLViehl> "I saw vast fields where humans were being made . . . to go to
the bathroom . . . "
<Jinx> they'd have to feed us a lot of fiber.....
<@SLViehl> Good point -- agricultural community would definitely benefit.
<Robert> They did. That's one way to look at it, that they domesticated all
the humanoids on the planet and are somewhat breeding them for flavor and
<Jenny> An alien would see them being force-fed and draw the wrong
<@SLViehl> We're sick people, we writers . .

--end of part one--

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World Building (Stand-in) Transcript, Part II 9/30/01

October 23 2001, 8:14 PM 

Workshops at HollyLisle.com
9/30/01 -- Worldbuilding (S.L. Viehl as substitute host) Part two

<Robert> That we are. Let's see. I haven't explored sapient filter feeders
yet, or sessiles. Marine life is cool.
<Sarah> Human colonists can really bung up an established ecosystem. In
comes a great source of waste, humans find the Yarg predators a great food
source, or just kill them off so there's more Yargs, Yarg population
explodes, then there are too many yargs and not enough waste being
<@SLViehl> And then comes the bulk fiber missiles
<Jinx> And I wonder, would the Yarg's have preferences? Ok, ok... that's
too much to think about, even for me...
<@SLViehl> The point is, we're all wondering now, "Gee, would I be
considered breakfast, lunch, dinner?"
<Jenny> Oh, dessert, of course.
<@SLViehl> lol
<Robert> It makes social interaction with your typical vampires something
really interesting from the viewpoint of mortals who've lived with them for
<@SLViehl> I started getting into communal-sentient bacteria with one story,
where they thought of us as food. Can really put a spin on relationships.
<@SLViehl> Do you want to negotiate with your dinner? That kind of thing.
<BlairB> sure could make punishment for crimes interesting if they were
<Sarah> (Sheila does great biology stuff, speaking as a biologist)
<@SLViehl> I love biology, it lends itself so perfectly to the work.
<Robert> Biodiversity is something I've speculated a lot on, in both series.
<@SLViehl> And we tend to forget so much after we get out of school.
<Jenny> <nods guiltily>
<Sarah> That's why working at the biodeversity gallery is so much fun --
kids come up with the strangest questions that give you great ideas.
<@SLViehl> Mine are constantly challenging me with their ideas -- my
daughter is nuts about bugs.
<Robert> Sarah: what about hypercomplex ecosystems that absorb repeated
invasions gracefully?
<@SLViehl> Like -- the sea? <g>
<Robert> Yeah. Very much, the sea, since I do a lot in the high fantasy
series with sailors that sail between worlds. Little fish and barnacles and
who knows what is following them every single time.
<Sarah> Actually, the ocean's not that resilliant. There are some places
where species that come over in ballast water outcompete the native species
very fast and then turn out to be ill-equipped to cope with, say, season
change, die, and leave great empty spaces.
<Sarah> It's worse in freshwater systems, but the ocean's so darn big it's
hard to see the results as clearly.
<@SLViehl> I've been working to take the aquatics out of their environment
and putting them in a like/unlike biosphere -- dolphin-like beings as pilots
in deep space.
<Robert> They would do so well at that, Sheila.
<@SLViehl> I imagine the long-term effects won't show for a few centuries,
either, right Sarah?
<Robert> David Brin did a very interesting hard SF future history where
chimps and dolphins and humanity were the main three sapients offworlders
admitted to an intersp. civilization - on equal terms.
<Sarah> Depends. If the gravity's high, you'd see osteoporosis effect
within a few years.
<@SLViehl> The dolphins said, "We'd like to talk to you about the tuna
industry, you jerks."
<Robert> I look at the mass beachings and wonder sometimes if that's a
massive nonviolent protest.
<@SLViehl> My trick is to keep them in water -- the ship cockpits are
flooded and pressurized, to compensate
<Sarah> (trying to divide attention between chat and a boring report on
seaweed). It's unlikely Robert. We screw with underwater acoustics and
magnetics an awful lot.
<Robert> I didn't think of that and their directional senses. Ouch.
<Sarah> A passing speedboat may translate into "lots of fish this way" to
some cetaceans, who knows. Or change one cetacean's communication from
"there's land over there" to "go over there"
<@SLViehl> If there was some way to ping them away from shore -- set up
transmitters along all the coastlines. Would save so many.
<Sarah> And really screw with their sonar.
<Sarah> That's one area I want to go into, maybe for doctoral work. Work on
communications, so we can broadcast a "danger, go away" signal from boats,
dams, drift nets, etc.
<@SLViehl> That sounds terrific
<Robert> I'd be all for that. I'd want to help support that and I know so
many would.
<@SLViehl> The Killer Whale signal box -- "Keep away or I'll eat you."
<Robert> Yeah. And doing so would also be a start on figuring out what
they're saying.
<Sarah> But there you might run into the problem of other orcas going, "oh,
hey, there's a buddy over there."
<Robert> I still someday want to rewrite Moby Dick from the whale's point of
<@SLViehl> Right, didn't think of that.
<Robert> "This is a predatory trap line, this is nto the Greenpeace
<@SLViehl> BRB, folks, have to throw my kids in the bath.
<Jenny> That reminds me--I have to go put clothes in the laundry.
<@SLViehl> Sorry. The ex was supposed to take them tonight, but as usual. .
<Robert> That reminds me, I have to throw these boys off the map fast for
arcane reasons and to keep readers from getting bored.
<@SLViehl> Well, then, we should wrap it up. Any last questions out there?
<Jinx> Not from me. I'm still back with the Yargs.... <g>
<Robert> What kind of bioengineered organisms would help buffer the effects
of biological invasion and smoothly integrate old and new populations? Given
some advanced species is doing that to save species.
<@SLViehl> Bio-built organisms, to me, are like boyfriends. The
relationship starts out ideal, but then you find out they're not your dream
<@SLViehl> Like with like -- if the organisms are predisposed to getting
along with the creator host, it would work.
<Robert> So you'd look at its 'boy next door' connections and try to
rearrange without new organisms.
<Sarah> The problem is ecological interactions are so incredibly complex
that it's hard to know what's going to happen until we screw things up,
something explodes in population or goes extinct, and we're left thinking
"wups". Look at the cane toad.
<Robert> I'm working on the ecosystem(s) of dimensional crossroads worlds
that demonstrably haven't died and have biodiversity.
<@SLViehl> We tend to be so short-sighted with introducing foreign organisms
to non-native environments
<@SLViehl> Look at kudzu
<Sarah> Darn, they don't share the same habitat as cane grubs. <thwack>
<Robert> The people who originally set them up weren't short sighted.
Something keeps the crossroads worlds from dying.
<Robert> If I know what that is (or generally types) then I have a better
depth realism to them.
<@SLViehl> Sarah, make a biologist's call on this one -- I'm woefully
short-educated on the subject.
<Jehane> Are you looking at maintaining native populations or assimilating
them with invading species?
<Robert> Both probably, some backlog or eddy areas just isolated but for the
crossroads themselves, integrating and maintaining the ones that would
normally be wiped out in balance.
<Robert> And the beings that did it are so longlived it's geological,
they're not short sighted.
<Sarah> It's hard to say -- it's a very complex problem. It depends on the
habitat and the organisms in it. I don't think it's possible to have one
"type" of organism unless it's incredibly phenotypically plastic and
resillient, and then you have the problem of the buffer taking over.
<Robert> So you think the solution would be a really complex one - not
simple at all, more specific to each and every situation.
<Sarah> Yeah. You can't generalize nature. It's too weird.
<Sarah> (look at the platypus)
<@SLViehl> You're messing with the nature evolution of symbiotic
relationships, too, never a good thing. If it was meant to be there, it
would have evolved.
<Robert> I'm generalizing culture and the ideas that culture would apply,
what they'd think of doing.
<Jehane> Well, if you could maintain the reserves and keep them free of all
contaminants (not easy) the your buffer zones could be ever-changing as
species evolved.
<@SLViehl> Dome worlds.
<Jehane> Also, species rarely interbreed, they['d have to be very similar
<@SLViehl> Ah, well, that's it for me, folks. My daughter is throwing water
at the cats, got to go.
<Jehane> So you'd end up with a whole lot of competing species in your
buffer zones
<Jehane> Bye Sheila, thanks
<Sarah> And be careful with "evolution". It happens randomly, there's no
"goal". If something changes, they survive or die. THe thing that lets
them survive is selected for and strengthened. If fish hadn't had a swim
bladder, we wouldn't be breathing the way we do.
<Robert> Bye, Sheila
<@SLViehl> Please continue on, if you like. I really enjoyed tonight
<Jenny> 'Bye, Sheila. Thanks for the help.
<Jinx> Night, Sheila
<Sarah> Bye Sheila! (Is anyone logging the chat?)
<@SLViehl> I forgot to ask -- has anyone logged it?
<Robert> I am logging it right now, did from moment I showed up. Will mail,
<@SLViehl> Bless you, Robert.
<BlairB> i have too
<Robert> Purr snuggle Shiela, this time got it all.
<Sarah> Great.
<@SLViehl> And Blair, as always -- you're a peach.
<@SLViehl> (Didn't know Blair was a peach, did you?)
<Robert> So Sarah, what would happen would be readers would see incredible
biodiversity IN buffer zones
<@SLViehl> lol
<BlairB> i didn't know i was a peach
<@SLViehl> Goodnight all. See you again soon.
<Robert> Goodnight, Shiela! Thanks!
<BlairB> g'nite
<Sarah> I think so. I'm a little too focused on this application to really
think clearly.
<Robert> Sorry. That's about what I did anyway, so far, I'll pick away at it
till they tell me the 'how'
<Jehane> Robert, the biodiversity wouldn't last for long because they are
limited by resources, so the weaker species would become extinct.
<Jinx> I need to go, too. Windows is trying to crash on me again. Night,
<Jenny> 'Night, Jinx.
<Robert> Ouch. G'night, Jinx
<Jehane> Unless there was some mechanism to protect each species.
<Jehane> Bye Jinx
<Jenny> What do you mean by buffer zones?
<Jehane> But then you'd end up with populations too small to maintain.
<Robert> I mean the actual gateway dimensions, the places a lot of planets'
worldgates are.
<Sarah> Jehane's right. I've got to go -- I've hit a part of this that
requires full attention. I may show up to lurk in chat later.
<Robert> Cool! Luck with it, Sarah!
<Jenny> Good luck, Sarah.
<Jehane> Bye SArah
<Sarah> Thanks. Bye everyone!
<Jehane> You could have quarantine - it's not perfect but makes for easier
management of the buffer zones.
<Jenny> I don't think I fully understand what you're trying to do, Robert.
Do your advanced beings want to save the species as they are in perpetuity,
or give them a chance to survive/speciate elsewhere as they will?
<Robert> Okay. In the crosstimer series, it's something that's been around
so long no one notices that does operate on 'crossroads' worlds and filter -
quarantine is one of its strategies.
<Robert> There's two species I wrote that have done things like that and
one is local to a pretty specific planet and weirdly it is patchy, there are
a lot of places it just refuses to settle.
<Robert> Then there's the original gatebuilders, whose defenses may keep
that secondary sapient species out - which does relocate endangerd species
all the time.
<Jenny> Why are they endangered?
<Robert> It's got a moral imperative toward preserving any, any genotype, it
wouldn't matter what, with another level that makes it value anything
sentient more that's rather self interested.
<Robert> They're preserving non sapient types because it might evolve.
<Robert> They get competitive about it among themselves like collectors do
<Jehane> Do they allow them to evolve? Perhaps evolution needs the
competition of other species
<Jenny> Okay...but if a species is kept in a constant environment, it won't
evolve sapience.
<Jenny> Great minds think alike.
<Robert> Oh yeah. They do experiment. They're kind of status driven on that.
<Robert> So their particualr zones are getting sentient selection on them
along with natural evolution.
<Jenny> If they have a moral imperative to save genotypes, what about failed
experiments? Do they only use part of the population?
<Robert> They clone a lot and only ever use part of hte population. They
went to hideous lengths in Blood Junkie to revive an extinct species of
vampire seeking the right host for its transformation.
<Jehane> What about the genotypes that are lost when a species evolves into
a more advanced one?
<Robert> They get moved. Just the way rose growers will keep root stock of
something that's spawned numerous hybrids.
<Jenny> It sounds like an utterly useless hobby to me.
<Jenny> maybe not useless. Not worth the effort.
<Jehane> Where is the space for all these different populations?
<Robert> My view of that is instinct gratification is usually worth the
<Jenny> I said to me.
<Robert> True, Jenny. <G> You have a point. They're not human or even
<Robert> But I'm looking at what I've got with them and seeing evidence that
maybe someone beyond them tampered with them or set them up.
<Jenny> Why?
<Jenny> I mean, why would someone beyond them do that.
<Robert> They're coming back along a really , really long migration route
and want to breathe the air and eat the local food when they get back.
<Jehane> species will evolve naturally, unless someone forcibly
culls/separates mutations
<Jenny> If they live geological timespans, I wonder how they had the time to
evolve, themselves.
<Robert> They're the ones who haven't changed much.
<Jenny> Why not bring it with them?
<Robert> Thank you. Thank you for a really important point. This stuff along
their migration route is related to the number of times they went that
<Robert> They are among other literary necessities a reason for humans to
have migrated all along significant chunks of their path.
<Robert> They bring what's important to them and what they just can't manage
to scrape off.
<Jehane> So if they take all the important stuffwith them, why do they need
the things back home to not change?
<Robert> The things back home do change. A lot. I was working with ...
geological time frames and on only one planet I did manage to come up with
something stable enough to stay civilized for about as long as the
<Robert> They have probably forgotten where 'home' was by now. They migrate,
that race is migratory.
<Jenny> Then...where is this zoo of every extant genotype?
<Jehane> gmta, Jenny
<Robert> There's a big one on that planet wtih the Mesozoic length
civilization, and it gates. G'night Jehane
<Jenny> And so do ours.
<Jehane> Ummm...I said gmta, not bye!
<Jenny> Does gating mean instantaneous access to another place? In that
case, why migrate?
<Robert> That's how they get from world to world sometimes, they have
several modes of transportation.
<Jehane> What's wrong with gates, that they don't use it all the time?
<Robert> They do but the migration thing is something other than whether
they have transportation, it comes from within and is probably instinct.
<Jehane> They still need a reason to migrate. Animals migrate because they
follow the food source.
<Jehane> Animals that normally migrate but have a constant food source won't
<Robert> Other than that it's a cultural thing. Hm. I really need to take a
close look at them for that, because I'm looking at 'what does it look like
before that planet came along'?
<Jenny> That planet?
<Robert> The one I've so far got all those books on, Piarra
<Jenny> Oh. I thought you meant this advanced race migrated with their
planet or somesuch.
<Robert> No. They leave in smallish bands and they tend to return to the
same worlds and they have a lot of variation sometimes.
<Jehane> where did the planet come from?
<Robert> I'm sort of worldbuilding some prehistory of elder races in this
because the Piarran 'crossroads mecahnisms' are in place and Piarra was
deliberate. Piarra was ... guided, very guided.
<Robert> Life on it came out of a known event. And was very guided
<Jenny> <Hearing the theme from "2001" in my head>
<Jehane> lol
<Robert> Grin. Okay, so I loved 2001. It's not Earth, it's itself and the
more I explore it the more everything on it interconnects that solidly.
<Jenny> That's cool. I wasn't trying to say you were imitating anything. I
just remembered the monolith.
<Robert> I know. I only laughed because I've got so many different
inspirations and hadn't thought of the monolith but I loved that movie.
<Jenny> Me, too. The book was better, though.
<Robert> Yeah, and I'm used to that with 'book and movie' can think of only
one exception: Bladerunner.
<Jenny> I haven't read or seen it.
<Robert> Based on "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" it was a very great
movie, very gorgeous cinematically, good plot and characters and acting,
very cyberpunk pre cyberpunk.
<Jehane> Thanks for an interesting chat guys, but I'm going to have to go.
Bye everyone
<Jenny> Me, too--laundry time again. 'Night, Jehane.
<Robert> G'night Jehane! Thanks for all the help - and food for thought...
<Robert> Night Jenny... thanks to you too!
<Jenny> And thanks for the help. 'Bye!
<Jehane> No problem Robert

-end of part two-

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Writing the Novel Series (Conclusion) Transcript, Part I 10/05/01

October 24 2001, 7:35 PM 

<@SLViehl> Hey Blair
<BlairB> greetings!
<@SLViehl> Hi Gayle
<gayle> hello everyone.
<@SLViehl> My daughter is playing Bejewelled on my Palm Pilot and has
already whipped my top score. And she's six.
<@SLViehl> That'
<@SLViehl> That's really sad.:
<BlairB> never heard of that game...
<gayle> no..it's depressing
<@SLViehl> Hi Kae
<@SLViehl> And the nine year old bails me out when the computer locks up.
<Kae> I like Bejewelled. Hi, there!
<@SLViehl> My mother used to roll her eyes when I hauled out my Royal
Academy -- said "I never learned to type and I've done just fine."
<BlairB> A Royal Academy is a typewriter i assume?
<@SLViehl> The first typewriter. The CroMagnon of typewriters.
<BlairB> okay
<@SLViehl> I wrote three books on it, and now shudder to think of all the
hours . . . and whiteout . . .
<BlairB> lol, i can't imagine.
<gayle> I was happy when my mom brought the old 1923 model from her 2nd job
home because they updated to a 'newer' model
<@SLViehl> Whew, that is stone age, gayle
<@SLViehl> I worked on one of the first Texas Instrument commercial
computers -- it didn't have a screen.
<@SLViehl> It printed out everything you input simultaneously
<BlairB> was that the TI88?
<@SLViehl> Lord, I am old.
<gayle> It was replaced by a 'new' portable my junior year in high school.
Both were servicable for treports and term papers though
<Anne_Marble> Yo!
<Kae> I typed in articles for a summer newspaper on a computer that spit out
tape with holes in it. Interesting how quickly I was able to read the
<@SLViehl> I can't remember the model number but that sounds familiar,
Blair. Hey, Anne!
<Kae> Hi Anne!
<gayle> Hey Anne Marble...congraulations on the column at writing-world.
<@SLViehl> Anne has news?
<Anne_Marble> Thanks! Now I have to think of more stuff to say! :->
<Kae> Hey, you're mentioned in ... yeah what gayle said. lol
<gayle> that's reports and term papers
<Anne_Marble> I'll be the romance columnist for writing-world.com. And she's
reprinting a couple of my Vision articles, too.
<@SLViehl> All right, way to go!
<gayle> cool
<Kae> way cool
<Anne_Marble> And she pays!!!
<@SLViehl> (okay, all us romance writers have to suck up to Anne now.)
<Kae> yippee!
<@SLViehl> don't you love that ca-ching?
<BlairB> Great job Anne!
<Anne_Marble> Yup
<Anne_Marble> Sell a couple more, and I'll pay more my new shortwave radio.
<Kae> Hi, BJ
<@SLViehl> Plus it's great as a writing credit. Hi BJ
<Kae> Hi, Jenny
<Jenny> Hello, all.
<@SLViehl> Hola Jenny
<Jinx> Evening!
<gayle> Hello Jinx
<Jenny> Hi, Jinx.
<Kae> Hi, Jinx
<@SLViehl> Hey Jinx
<@SLViehl> Hi James
<James> Hi All
<Kae> Hi, James
<Jenny> Hi, James.
<gayle> hi james
<Anne_Marble> Whoops. Bye James. :-<
<James> I'm back - hello again - looks like I might be dropping in and out
again today
<@SLViehl> I'm going to give the stragglers a few more minutes, then we'll
get started. James, hang in there if you can.
<Anne_Marble> James, here's a rope.
<@SLViehl> Blair, can I impose on you to make another transcript
<James> I'll hang on with claws and fingernails, server permitting
<BlairB> no problem
<@SLViehl> Blair is surpassing a peach and approaching an orchard.
<BlairB> <blush>
<@SLViehl> Okay, a brief review of the topics we covered in the first
session -- and feel free to ask questions about these, time permitting at
the end of the session:
<@SLViehl> We discussed types of series -- the "hub" versus "chronicle"
<@SLViehl> How to determine if your idea is epic enough to suit a series
<@SLViehl> how many books constitute a series
<@SLViehl> and the always popular, ever-dreaded second book syndrome
<@SLViehl> Tonight I'm going to pick up where we left off, with Ways to
Expand Story lines
<@SLViehl> but I'm going to break more frequently and throw out the
<@SLViehl> that's when you throw stuff at me, and I want to give you all
more opportunity to do that.
<@SLViehl> Everyone ready?
<Jenny> <stuffs chocolate in mouth> Ready.
<gayle> yes
<Anne_Marble> Yes
<Kae> gtg
<James> Sure am...
<Anne_Marble> <Anne stares at Jenny's chocolate and whimpers>
<BJ Steeves> As the Ferengi say, I'm all ears
<@SLViehl> Okay, you've got a great cast of characters, a wonderful plot,
and still you can't seem to see beyond that first book
<@SLViehl> Think of yourself as a farmer -- you're going to seed your first
book in order to grow some more
<@SLViehl> You do this with plot threads -- not the main plot, but aspects
of the story that are revealed (or not) as the main plot progresses.
<@SLViehl> These are your future book seeds.
<@SLViehl> There are two kinds of seeds -- character, and event
<@SLViehl> something happens to a character that isn't resolved, or comes
back to haunt them. Instant main plot for next book.
<@SLViehl> an event happens that isn't resolved, or has reprecussions in the
future -- another route to take.
<@SLViehl> When you seed a story, you have to think like a farmer -- too
much seed, and you're going to choke everything
<@SLViehl> too little, and you'll lose sight of what grows.
<@SLViehl> I try to have at least three but no more than five open plot
threads in a series. It's just a manageable amount for me, and I think the
reader can keep track of that.
<@SLViehl> How you seed -- very subtly. You don't want the reader to know
you're setting them up.
<@SLViehl> But you want them to know they've been set up when they read the
next book.
<@SLViehl> so you feed what you seed, especially if it carries on through a
couple of books as an open thread.
<@SLViehl> feed the reader just enough to keep them interested, but not able
to guess what you've got coming up.
<@SLViehl> To be consistent -- and this is important, at least as far as
series style -- I came up with a plot thred schematic
<@SLViehl> If you've got a copy of the discussion outline, I detailed the
StarDoc Loop Schematic
<@SLViehl> I like the one-two-THREE punch when I write, and it translates
well in each volume of the series.
<@SLViehl> but what most readers don't realize is my running schematic for
open threads is basically the same.
<@SLViehl> One -- I feed them something they probably don't notice
<@SLViehl> Two -- I smack them in the face in another book as further (but
not all details) are revealed
<@SLViehl> THREE -- I drop the big-boom revelation on them
<@SLViehl> And this is also where your "hub" or "Chronicle" theme comes into
play. Remember your hub stays consistent, while your chronicle advances.
<@SLViehl> They determine, more than anything, what your open threads can
be. How long you stretch them out is up to you, but some advice --
<@SLViehl> don't torture readers for more than two books. They get cranky.

<Sarah> What are a few of the open threads in StarDoc?
<James> In the case of a hub universe, about how much change to the Universe
do you think you can get away with between books without alienating readers?
<@SLViehl> Maggie is probably the biggest. What is Cherijo -- human, alien,
other? is another.
<Anne_Marble> So if you know your character is, say, half-elf, you might be
better off not revealing the whole story yet? (Sort of like Montel going to
a commercial before he heads the paternity test results.)
<@SLViehl> You can do major changes, I would think, James, because your hub
theme is usually character driven. With a chronicle theme, you have
problems with flow in time and setting, whereas characters can be bounced
all over the place and retain their basic hub situation
<James> Can you get away with moving to other milieus within the Universe,
where the majority of characters and even some social stuff won't be
familiar to the reader, do you think?
<@SLViehl> Anne, if its a major revelation that's not only going to change
the character's life but have a deep and lasting effect on the story, I'd
hold off. I'd play it out at least a book or two.
<@SLViehl> Sure, James. Have your reader discover it along with your
characters, that's the fun part of drastically changing locales.
<Anne_Marble> Oooooh. :->
<@SLViehl> I had to wait three books to drop one of the most major bombs in
StarDoc, and it was tempting to give away some more details.
<@SLViehl> But the first person who read the fourth book called me and said
"You are an absolute maniac, I had no idea!"
<@SLViehl> Was worth waiting for. <g>
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to artiste versus manipulator, and the
supporting cast
<@SLViehl> I get chided for having ice for blood, the way I plan everything.
<@SLViehl> Some writers have claimed they can't create within the
restrictions of a detailed plot outline.
<@SLViehl> And I respect that.
<@SLViehl> But.
<@SLViehl> If you're looking to have a commercially successful career, you
need to think about marketing.
<@SLViehl> marketing isn't artistic, it's statistic.
<@SLViehl> Also, rewriting -- I generally don't rewrite very much.
<@SLViehl> So the time I spend writing is minimal, considering the volume.
<@SLViehl> I do basically one draft, and one rewrite.
<@SLViehl> It's because I've planned everything very carefully before I ever
start to write. Artistic types who do this seat-of-the-pants stuff tend to
spend a lot more time rewriting.
<@SLViehl> In my opinion.
<@SLViehl> Time is money to me. If I can produce six books a year, I don't
have to work for anyone but myself.
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, artistic people generally don't have much
choice about being artistic, they just are.
<@SLViehl> If you can plan ahead, try to. I think it will save you a lot of
time.<@SLViehl> Now -- your supporting cast of characters. Very important
people in your novel.
<@SLViehl> They aren't part of the setting, or there to make your
protagonist look good/bad/silly/whatever
<@SLViehl> Supporting characters are tools. Use them.
<@SLViehl> Make them as interesting, if not as prominent in the story, as
your protagonist.
<@SLViehl> The first benefit is, you've got a potential main character for a
future book .
<@SLViehl> The second is to avoid something my editor calls the "Mary Sue"
syndrome -- the protagonist is so wonderful, flawless, beautiful, perfect,
etc. that he/she makes everyone sick.
<@SLViehl> Use your support/tool characters to expose some of the weaknesses
in your protagonist.
<@SLViehl> I.E. the hero or heroine isn't heroic twenty four hours a day.
<@SLViehl> And that is another sore point with me --
<@SLViehl> people aren't perfect, and we don't want to read about perfect
<@SLViehl> It makes us want to run over them with our cars.
<@SLViehl> Let yorur protagonist mess up, make bad judgements, even ruin
someone's life. The protagonist has to grow and progress as a person, and
the only way we really do that is by making mistakes.
<@SLViehl> My favorite supporting character is what I call "the dark horse."
<@SLViehl> This is the character who never does what the reader expects them
<@SLViehl> You set up a dark horse the way you would a villain -- generally
at odds with your protagonist -- and have them go at each other.
<@SLViehl> The process of conflict between these two (or more characters)
creates change, and its during major change that the dark horse "flips"
<@SLViehl> Suddenly, the dark horse isn't a villain, for whatever reason --
he/she has become an ally of the protagonist, or has reversed a prior
<@SLViehl> You can do it the other way, too -- a "good" dark horse turns out
to be a bad guy in the end.
<@SLViehl> And then there are some who just bounce between the two -- Reever
is a good example of a "galloping" dark horse. I wonder if I'll ever know
whose side that guy is on (probably his own)
<BlairB> Generally, How long is a plot outline? How detailed do you make
<James> Do you rewrite as you go, or are your first drafts simply pretty
<Anne_Marble> There was a "debate" about secondary characters in an SF
newsgroup. (A writer criticized Eric Flint because he admitted he didn't
characterize Simpson in 1632 well.) How much detail do you give a secondary
character? How much is too much?
<@SLViehl> I do a ten block, three to six sentence per block outline, Blair.
I'm thinking of doing a session just on creating that.
<BlairB> Sign me up now!
<Jehane> <sneaking out of class to go back to work>
<Jenny> 'Bye, Jehane.<gayle> bye Jehane
<Anne_Marble> Bye Jehane!
<James> See you Jehane
<@SLViehl> James, I try to produce a high-quality first draft, but I put a
lot of thought into the novel before I even write the outline.
<@SLViehl> Bye Jehan
<@SLViehl> Jehane, Imean
<Kae> I'd be interested in the outline session.
<gayle> I'd be interested too
<James> Ditto, if you need more encouragement
<James> How much time would you say you spend in preparation before a given
novel (not counting initial universe creation)?
<BJ Steeves> Is that 10 blocks for your plot outline enough to cover a
<@SLViehl> Eric's book didn't toe the line in alot of ways, Anne. (One of
the reasons I loved it. Secondary characters are hard to scale unless I
know the size of the cast. I run between ten to fifteen prominant secondary
characters in every SF novel, but only about five in romance. As for
detail, think about friends and family -- your family is with you every day,
like your protagonist is in the nov
<Kae> You said you can write a book in 8 weeks. How long do you take to do
the Pre-writing?
<@SLViehl> I spend about two months preparing to write a novel -- that's
concept, research, outlining, and finishing touches -- before I ever commit
a single word to manuscript page.
<James> What would you describe as a 'finishing touch?'
<@SLViehl> The ten block method can accomodate any size novel, and the
blocks can individually be expanded to include more detail. It's more the
ten steps of telling the story, beginning, middle, end, and what happens in
<BJ Steeves> Thanks
<@SLViehl> Finishing touches are when I step back and look at the whole
picture -- I analyze the idea, look for plot flaws, problems that will crop
up in the flow, have I got enough balance between humor and drama and
action, etc.
<@SLViehl> I snip here and there to trim off the excess, that's what I think
of as finishing touches.
<James> Ah - thanks.
<@SLViehl> Can you tell I sew?
<Kae> quilts, I'd guess
<@SLViehl> Major quilts.
<@SLViehl> As for pre-writing, I also tend to plot more than one book at a
time. That comes with my multiple personality disorder, lol
<BJ Steeves> A little on the "crazy" side maybe?
<@SLViehl> At the moment I'm restoring a 1940s dresden fan quilt I picked up
at a auction for a song.
<James> Gee - what sort of condition is a fifty year old quilt usually in?
<@SLViehl> Excellent, in this case -- the maker never quilted in, and kept
in a closet for sixty years.
<Kae> Are you using vintage materials or modern?
<gayle> that depends on how used it was or if it sat in a closet or not
<@SLViehl> I'm simply constructing it and quilting it. The handwork is
absolutely gorgeous.
<Kae> Lucky you.
<James> I had a vague prejudice that fabric would rot to rags in that time

<gayle> do you know it's history?
<@SLViehl> but to get back on topic -- I'll run a proposal for a plot
outlining session past Holly, see if she'll give us some calendar space for
<@SLViehl> Not if it's cared for, as this was, and I spoke to the daughter
of the woman who made it at the auction.
<James> Excellent.
<BJ Steeves> I'm sure she will.
<gayle> cool
<@SLViehl> I'll warn you, I did this plotting workshop in front of 100
people in New Orleans, and everyone stayed up all night to try it out.
<Cath> So we should get some sleep before that one, then.
<Kae> What a great response!
<BJ Steeves> I probably will too.
<Sarah> Some of us could use the kick-start.
<James> I'm safe - your night is my day
<@SLViehl> It's also been responsible for 3 book sales, so far, for other
<@SLViehl> My secret weapon
<@SLViehl> hee hee
<Kae> wow
<BJ Steeves> I'll take all the ammo I can get.
<BlairB> me too
<@SLViehl> Tell you what, would you mind if we take a five minute break? I
need to put my kids to bed.
<Kae> sure
<James> No worries.
<gayle> sure
<@SLViehl> okay, brb.
<BJ Steeves> Will be here.
<Anne_Marble> OK, I need to get some more pepperoni ;->
<Jenny> Eww.
<BJ Steeves> Or a pizza to go under it.
<Diana> ok
<Kae> Ah, pepperoni. I'm just now able to eat a little of it 20 years later
after a horrible new year's eve when I didn't know I had the flu.
<Cath> That happened to me with eggs long ago, Kae. Even now I don't like
to dwell on it.
<Kae> Kind of turns the stomach, right?
<Cath> Oh yeah.
<Anne_Marble> I got hard salami instead.
<Kae> Oh, sorry, Anne.
<Sarah> Rats. Emily's still not back with food.
<Cath> So. . . anybody got a salami horror story?
<Sarah> No, but I could tell you some great ones involving fast food
breakfasts. <g>
<Cath> And you're looking forward to eating? I think I'll pass, thanks.
<Kae> lol
<Cath> Since I already ate.
<Sarah> I'm a life sci major. Hard to gross out. Though this WOULD be the
first solid thing I've eaten in three days...
<Anne_Marble> My coworker went to the deli, and she asked if there was
anything she could get for me. I asked for a sandwhich with hard salami. She
looked at me funny. Then, she came back with a sandwhich for me and told me
the guy at the deli looked at her funny, I ended up with a Genoa salami
sandwhich instead. (Same thing)

-end of part one-

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Writing the Novel Series (Conclusion) Transcript, Part II 10/05/01

October 24 2001, 7:37 PM 

<@SLViehl> Okay, the small demons are tucked in, I'm back.
<Jinx> These classes just aren't complete if I don't get booted by
<@SLViehl> Sarah, Cath, Hi!
<@SLViehl> Diana and Robert too!
<Kae> Hey Robert!
<@SLViehl> (Sorry if I didn't see you all before.)
<Anne_Marble> Hello Robert.
<Diana> Hi!
<Sarah> That's okay. You answered my questions even if you didn't see me.

<@SLViehl> We need a bigger chat to box, is what.
<Robert> Hi
<BlairB> mine is full screen...
<Kae> Uh, drag it to whatever size you want?
<Cath> (waves)
<Anne_Marble> I double-clicked the title bar thingie to make it bigger.
<Robert> That would work
<@SLViehl> If I double click anything, it throws me off.
<gayle> I pull it out so I still see some of the groupboard
<Kae> If you put the pointer at the bottom right corner, click and drag it
to a larger size.
<Cath> Well, leave room, like, you know, for the, um, you know, tardy
people. To, like, sneak in. ahem
<Sarah> <just glad I woke up in time>
<Robert> I just got here physically, a fairly literal reason to sneak in
<@SLViehl> No sneaking required. You do, however, have to listen to three
hours of Donald Maas narrating his last book.
<@SLViehl> hahaha
<@SLViehl> I met Donald (briefly) in New Orleans. Short man, trim beard,
much cologne.
<Cath> (resigned sigh) Such torture.
<@SLViehl> Or maybe that was David Shenk. Anyway.
<Robert> He sent me a nice rejection slip when I queried if he was taking
<@SLViehl> On to Surprise Parties!
<@SLViehl> These involve the dark horse (supporting characters who change
allegiance/affiliations partway through the book)
<@SLViehl> not always, but they're fun to mess with.
<@SLViehl> What happens, happens to every writer. With me, it was a
one-time-only single use disposable character named Squilyp.
<@SLViehl> Squilyp was supposed to a pain in Cherijo's backside for one
<@SLViehl> He's now in three books and wants his own.
<Robert> That sounds so familiar.
<@SLViehl> Characters sometimes come up on your blind side and surprise you
with how they become so integral to your story.
<@SLViehl> Let them.
<@SLViehl> There is nothing that you outline that is set in stone, and it's
worth a few storyline adjustments to discover a Squilyp in your story.
<@SLViehl> I wish I could give you a rational, scientific reason some
supporting characters become almost as beloved as the protagonist, but it
just happens. You fall in love with them.
<@SLViehl> And sometimes you have to kill them off, which is even worse.
<@SLViehl> I still get e-mail for killing off the love interest in my first
<@SLViehl> Nasty e-mail.
<@SLViehl> The main point is, be organized, be prepared, but allow yourself
to be surprised, and go with it.
<@SLViehl> Common Problems with writing the novel series.
<@SLViehl> Not enough juice -- let's face it, there are some storylines that
just don't have enough punch to carry the reader through five or six novels.
<@SLViehl> These are generally narrowly plotted and not well thought out.
<@SLViehl> There's also a tendency on the author's part to "fall in love"
with their subject.
<@SLViehl> I love John Keats, but I'm not going to write five books about
him. Move on.
<@SLViehl> There are just so many ways you can write a battle scene, or a
fight scene, or a death scene. If you have the same scenes in every book,
with just the names changed, the reader is going to give up on the series.
<@SLViehl> So what has juice?
<@SLViehl> Universal themes.
<Robert> Consequences? Every time the heroes win anything they're stuck with
<@SLViehl> Remember those really lame conflict labels they made us memorize
in high school?
<@SLViehl> Man versus man
<@SLViehl> Man versus nature
<@SLViehl> Man versus Joseph Conrad
<@SLViehl> always made me wonder what Woman was doing
<Robert> I thought Man v. Woman was the guts of romance genre
<@SLViehl> But they do apply when you're searching for juice. Think epic,
think basic, and you're halfway there.
<@SLViehl> The ying and yang of the universe are always good
<@SLViehl> weak versus powerful, greedy versus generous, etc.
<@SLViehl> Then there's the trouble in paradise scenario -- garden of Eden.
Sins of the father revisited (again, mother never sins, apparently.)
Skeletons fallings suddenly out of the family closet.
<@SLViehl> Or the Underdog variety -- Liberty or Death. Flash Dance. To
Kill a Mockingbird.
<@SLViehl> Take one of those universal, epic themes and run with it.
<@SLViehl> At the same time, think epic but focused.
<@SLViehl> Star Wars is successful because it's huge, but focused. You've
got a universe at war but you only get it one or two planet doses at a time.
<@SLViehl> So once you've got that huge, epic, major idea, concentrate on a
very small portion of it for your story.
<@SLViehl> Two-D characters. SF and Fantasy are chock full of them.
<@SLViehl> It ties in with the wallpaper supporting characters, when I
talked about making your protagonist mess up.
<@SLViehl> So many writers have characters, especially protagonists, who are
just "angels" or just "demons"
<@SLViehl> Avoid the Mary Sues and the Adolf Hitlers. No one is pure evil
or pure good, imho.
<@SLViehl> And you'll know when you need to invest more flaws in your
protagonist (or positive attributes in villains) -- if by page 50, even you
are sick of reading their dialogue, then you need to reshape the character.
<James> In my WIP, I plan to turn the love interest into something that's
not, strictly, available for romantic attention - if that's the sort of
thing that upsets readers, will it annoy an editor?
<@SLViehl> Sometimes it's good to upset the readers -- I do all the time.
You need to tread the line carefully. Does the end justify the means, is
there a solid reason for this transformation? Then go for it. If it's just
to manipulate the reader, then yes, I think it will annoy the editor.
<James> So, as long as the plot justifies it, people won't feel cheated that
a romance is set up and then not carried through?
<@SLViehl> Oh, they'll feel cheated, but getting a response from the reader
isn't about getting approval, I think. You stir emotions, that reader is
going to come back for more.
<@SLViehl> I killed off the hero in StarDoc book one.
<James> Oh, I see - thanks for that.
<@SLViehl> Because although everyone thought he was the hero, he wasn't.
<Anne_Marble> In a Hub series, do readers get annoyed if you have a central
"quest" that isn't achieved through numerous books? (Sort of like the way
The Fugitive was looking for the one-armed man and took four years to find
<Sarah> <reading back> Just tell me you're not going to hurt Squil.
<James> So that was the punch in one of your one , two, three punches?
<@SLViehl> Anne, if you use the same excuse over and over to keep your quest
from being completed, I think they'll get annoyed. If you can find
different ways to run interference, it becomes fascinating to the reader.
<Sarah> <sigh of relief>
<Anne_Marble> I have a similar conflict to the Fugitive. :-> She's running
from a pursuer. But I've thought of oodles of things she can do in between.
<James> When you say select a big theme, do you attach that to the Universe,
so it becomes the theme of the series, or to each novel, so that each novel
is attached to a different grand theme?
<@SLViehl> Definitely part of the THREE knockout punch in that book.
<Robert> From what you said, it sounds more like predictability is the main
thing to avoid.
<Sarah> Unpredictability is good. Makes reading a workout.
<Anne_Marble> Right, she could find the real killer -- and then find out he
didn't do it! Or that he was justified.
<@SLViehl> James, if you're going for a big, open-ended type series, you
need huge, epic, lasting theme. If you're looking at a mid-length, say five
to seven books, I think you can go with related themes that add up to the
big picture, if that makes sense.
<@SLViehl> Robert, I live to be unpredictable.
<gayle> makes you want to read the next book...unless it takes forever to
get published and you forget the plot and finer points of the characters
<James> Thanks, it does. I'll have to think about it a bit to apply it, but
it does make sense.
<@SLViehl> There you go, Anne.
<@SLViehl> Gayle, I think that's why the hub and chronicle themes have to be
very big and epic, to be easily remembered.
<@SLViehl> Think about a series you've read, what do you remember about it?
<@SLViehl> Acorna, by Anne McCaffrey -- Unicorn girl with healing powers
tries to find her place in the universe.
<gayle> but even with it big and epic if the books are years in the making
you forget where the author left off...and yes I'm thinking about a
particular author
<@SLViehl> Powers That Be, McCaffrey & Scarborough -- Something strange is
going on with the transplanted lifeforms on a remote, desolate ice world.
<Anne_Marble> Miles Vorkosigan books, short manic man with brittle bones and
his own secret army :->
<@SLViehl> That's when the pick up comes into play, gayle -- someone picks
up a third or fourth volume, becomes fascinated by the continually running
theme, goes to get the previous volumes.
<@SLViehl> In a perfect world, that would happen with every author's series,
but alas, not always.
<Anne_Marble> How do you make the books self-contained?
<@SLViehl> Present the same problem, advanced in timeline, in a completely
different situation/setting
<gayle> but if you have read all the previous and pick up the 'new' book and
find out you can't pick up the threads then you either reread the whole
series or wait until it's completed.
<@SLViehl> Present, investigate, and resolve a local puzzle or problem
without bringing an end to the epic theme
<@SLViehl> If the author is doing his/her job, that won't happen.
<Kae> It can be fun to reread all the books, imho.
<Sarah> Ditto, Kae.
<Robert> Agreed, I can remember doing that with more than one series.
<gayle> not when they are between 500-700 pages and there are more than 7 of
them it's not
<Cath> Matter of opinion.
<Sarah> With the series I like enough to stay with, I can reread the books
any number of times. <ashamed to admit how fast she goes through a 500 page
<Cath> If it bothers you, Gayle, make sure you don't have such large time
gaps between your own books.
<gayle> definitely!!
<Kae> ditto, Sarah. lol
<@SLViehl> Or keep the number of books in the series to a minimum, say five
<@SLViehl> or do a trilogy!
<Robert> In writing a series like that, Sheila, does it make sense to comb
earlier books for odd random tidbits of background and develop those into
whole plots that when written, give reader a different view of book one on
<Sarah> Plus, once you hit book three or so, it doesn't take as long to read
them cause you can start skimming.
<gayle> that is probably what will happen... either a trilogy or a series of
4 or 5
<@SLViehl> Ala Orson Scott Card, Robert? (That man pulled off a real beauty
with his "parallel" novel, Ender's Shadow.)
<@SLViehl> I don't believe in rehashing, as I think of it, but I have done a
couple of dialogue flash-backs here and there, where my protagonist finds
out someone else's view of what's happened in the past.
<@SLViehl> Usually Reever.
<Robert> Haven't read that and would love to. I did it by accident in my
Piarra series, had a lot of Court intrigue and didn't know who all the
foreign spies were but filled them in background, just by mention. Then
later in the series reread with "I don't believe those guys survived that.
With what COULD have happened..."
<Sarah> Sharon Shinn does it a lot in the Samaria books
<@SLViehl> Readers tend to feel bilked if you do it too often, Robert,
unless it reveals some major difference in perspective and interpretation.
<@SLViehl> But let me move on now, because I'm determine to finish this
outline tonight.
<Robert> I had way too much backstory for one book, it's more after doing a
lot of them the reader's got more pieces of the puzzle.
<@SLViehl> On to the Info dump -- How to show without showing off
<@SLViehl> (this actually ties in with backstory, in a way.)
<@SLViehl> This is a particular problem in SF, not so much in Fantasy. The
temptation to show how brilliant you are.
<@SLViehl> Some authors spend years composing an extremely technically
academically flawless work that should really replace most of the textbooks
in colleges around the world.
<@SLViehl> The author, and a couple of professors from MIT will enjoy this
<@SLViehl> The average reader will skim the first page, say "Ick" and put it
back on the shelf.
<@SLViehl> I have met so many brilliant people in this field, and at first
it intimidated me, because I'm not particularly brilliant.
<@SLViehl> Then I read their books, and winced.
<@SLViehl> We'll revisit the main reason we write novels to be published:
<@SLViehl> The average reader is not a professor at MIT.
<@SLViehl> The average reader is a 35 to 45 year old white female with a
high school to college education.
<@SLViehl> In other words, the average American housewife is the average
reader -- and she reads a lot.
<@SLViehl> She's not stupid, but she doesn't need to be lectured to.
<@SLViehl> If you can't write to hook this reader, you've just lost 58.4% of
the market.
<@SLViehl> Don't insult her, don't talk down to her, and don't ignore her.
Know this woman, this average reader.
<@SLViehl> Talk to her in bookstores, see what she's reading.
<@SLViehl> You need to be writing what she's reading.
<@SLViehl> Or writing what's going to lure her away from it.
<@SLViehl> Which leads into Tone.
<@SLViehl> And I covered this a bit durng another session -- writers have a
tendency to come across as the Stern Parent when writing.
<@SLViehl> I should say, certain writers.
<@SLViehl> They believe their books will educate the reader, who is so
obviously intellectually inferior to them. They aim to enlighten and set
this reader on the road to heightened awareness.
<@SLViehl> Do not be this writer.
<@SLViehl> If you invite the reader to come along for a ride with you, a joy
ride, in the middle of the night, to places you're really not supposed to
go, and offer them increased awareness via an open bottle of hooch in the
backseat, then you're a Partner in Crime writer.
<@SLViehl> You've got a choice -- who would you rather spend a Saturday
night with? Your partner in crime, or your mother?
<@SLViehl> And finally, when it's time to go out and play.
<@SLViehl> You love poets. You've written ten novels on the trials and
tribulations of super intellectual alien poets dukking it out with combat
sonnets in the drawing rooms on Regency Mars.
<@SLViehl> You have base 1 million lines of dialogue on actual conversations
held between Keats, Byron, and Shelley.
<@SLViehl> Your research is meticulous.
<@SLViehl> You've buffed this baby until it blinds the eye.
<@SLViehl> You can't sell it for bird cage liner. Why?
<@SLViehl> You've spent the last five or six years writing about something
you love, and you've lost touch.
<@SLViehl> People change. Times change. Reading preferences change.
<@SLViehl> Sometimes, in a single moment.
<@SLViehl> Take the ten books and shelf them.
<@SLViehl> Go outside of your inner world, and play.
<@SLViehl> Talk to people -- real people, not just pals on the Internet.
<@SLViehl> Fine out what they're reading, and why.
<@SLViehl> Find out what they'd like to read, and why.
<@SLViehl> Make lists of these things.
<@SLViehl> Do this for a long time. Don't come in until you've got a good
idea of what's going on out there.
<@SLViehl> Then come home, and look at those ten books on the shelf.
<@SLViehl> If what is on those lists is in your novels, then get back to
<@SLViehl> If its not, start over.
<Cath> Isn't anyone going to ask, "What are you reading?"
<@SLViehl> Me?
<James> Holly mentioned on one of the boards that her editor had discouraged
her from pursuing a new Cadence Drake book - what would make an editor
choose not to pursue the second book in a series that way?
<gayle> courage of falcons and daughter of the blood
<@SLViehl> Death of a backlist, I think, James. Baen will probably never
reprint the first book.
<James> And another editor or company won't go for someone else's series?
<@SLViehl> The other thing is Holly is doing some incredibly high fantasy
now, she really shines, and going back to Cadence Drake may seem like a step
in the wrong direction to the editor.
<James> Do they generally take a dim view of a writer doing something other
than what they're best known for?
<@SLViehl> The editor can't get the rights to the first book, James, and
generally they want the whole package
<@SLViehl> If a writer sticks to one genre, and one particular sub category
for an established time period (say three to five years) then publishers are
very reluctant to accept new directions from that author.
<James> It's a scary thought - get your universe together, get the first
book out, and an editor shuts it down on you.
<@SLViehl> Its always a gamble, but my philosophy is, if I came up with that
idea, I can come up with a better one.
<Jinx> Would pen names come in handy in that particular instance?
<Cath> James, I think the problem there is that it's more than one
publisher. If you change publishers before finishing a series, the 2nd
publisher won't want the next book.
<@SLViehl> That's one way to combat the problem, Jinx, but generally you
can't bring the universe you established under a new pen name.
<James> Does that mean in career terms, if you see yourself doing quite
different things over your career, that you establish that your interests
are varied in that 3-5 year period by trying to sell one of everything
you're interested in doing?
<@SLViehl> For example, let's say I leave Roc. The StarDoc series would
die, immediately. The universe, I might be able to take with me.
<@SLViehl> But Roc gets first offer on any StarDoc novel I write, which
could be construed as any novel I write in the StarDoc universe.
<Anne_Marble> Isn't that what happened to Lawrence Watt-Evans? He left Del
Rey for Tor, and all the Esthar books went out of print at Del Rey.
<@SLViehl> I've been trying to spread myself out in as many directions as
they'll let me, James, as sort of insurance for future employment.
<James> So, mental note: the next one's a fantasy!
<@SLViehl> Generally that happens to most writers, Anne (I'm not sure about
LWE) unless they're very big names when they leave.
<@SLViehl> I think it's a good thing to stay flexible, and it makes you a
better writer, too.
<Kae> Could you give any, or more, examples of generic plot schematics?
<James> Which raises another thought - if you publish the first book in an
SF series, can you generally make your next one, say, a fantasy series,
making the editor and public wait for your third book to get the next book
in the series?
<@SLViehl> Sure, Kae, I can post a generic outline on the discussion board,
the all-purpose one I use for a lot of novel plotting parties.
<Kae> thanks
<@SLViehl> There are a few authors, James, who do that kind of juggling.
Generally you're looking at one release per twelve months in the beginning,
so if your series can handle a two year lag, it might work.
<James> So it would have to be a hub series?
<@SLViehl> My answer would be to have as many manucripts ready to go as
possible, and to keep your inventory of novels stocked.
<@SLViehl> Major hub, like Anne Rice used to do with her vampire novels, I
<Cath> I hate waiting two years between books of a series.
<Jinx> Although, as a reader, I tend to get mildly annoyed at those authors
who are promoting the next series instead of immediately finishing the one
I'm reading. <g>
<@SLViehl> Those pen names do come in handy for that, Jinx.
<Kae> that's why we love Sheila's quick fingers.
<Anne_Marble> Sharon Green ended up with lots of unfinished series because
she ended up going from publisher to publisher.
<@SLViehl> Publisher hopping is dangerous, for that reason.
<Cath> You can always come out of the closet later, right? and add to the
cover "writing as Lub Lenox" or something.
<Anne_Marble> I don't think she hopped on purpose. :-<
<James> And then it's a good excuse for the publisher to re-release all your
Lub Lenox books
<@SLViehl> On my first romance, they put "Gena Hale is the pseudonym for a
nationally bestselling SF author" but didn't say it was me, for some reason.
Drove the readers crazy.
<Anne_Marble> Do you know who Josie Litton is? ;->
<@SLViehl> Sometimes you don't have a choice about publishers -- imprints
shut down, big houses conglomerate, and writers are left out in the cold.
<James> Betcha that was the reason - generate a buzz of curiosity, get
everyone buying the book to see if they could work it out from your style.
<@SLViehl> No, but I want to know who Josie Litton is. Everybody does!
<@SLViehl> It's not Rebecca Brandywine, is it?
<BlairB> who is Josie Litton?
<Anne_Marble> That's a possibility. She wrote historicals and is no longer
<Anne_Marble> A romance writer who is openly using a pseudonym but not
revealing who she used to be.
<@SLViehl> Josie Litton is a notorious debut author make-over -- she was
writing romances under another name, and is now hiding behind a pen name.
<James> Is she still doing romances?
<BlairB> oh, okay thanks
<@SLViehl> Yeah, and they're pushing her like she's Nora Roberts. Oh,
Lord, what if she is? <g>
<Anne_Marble> Ooh, someone on one of AAR's board has heard it's Maura Seger.
Cool, I liked her.
<Jinx> Why would she do that? For mystique? Sales?
<Anne_Marble> Yup yup
<@SLViehl> I think the hype is going to sell a lot of books for Ms. Unknown
<@SLViehl> As to whether she can keep the readers remains to be seen.
<Jinx> I was just thinking that it could backfire on her big time.
<@SLViehl> Whoops, yes, we should wrap it up.
<@SLViehl> Any last questions?
<Robert> When will we weirdos meet again? <G>
<gayle> next week for the second part of romance writing
<James> When the hurly burly's done?
<Anne_Marble> Only should I let my werewolf heroine have a fling with her
pursuer, the man she used to love? ;->
<Anne_Marble> I'll have to attend! Hope I remember.
<James> Sheila, may I turn up for the romance chat, having missed the first
<@SLViehl> If you all want to talk series again, I'd like to also do a
series plotting focus session
<Cath> Anne - yes, if it'll cause mayhem and stress.
<@SLViehl> Sure James, all the sessions are open, please do.
<gayle> I have the dates for classes I want to attend on a post it note
taped to the monitor
<Robert> I'd love that, Sheila
<Kae> You bet, Sheila.
<James> A series plotting session sounds brilliant.
<BlairB> yup yup
<Jenny> Definitely.
<gayle> yes
<James> Ah, thanks - I'm keen not to embarrass myself with my romantic
<@SLViehl> We can concentrate on running threads, how to stretch them out,
<@SLViehl> Maybe do a generic series plot outline, that would be fun.
<James> It sounds like a total hoot. I love that sort of thing.
<gayle> gotta go...see you all next week
<@SLViehl> Do you all think template-type outlines help? 'night, gayle
<Anne_Marble> Wow, now I've found the product I want. Sunglasses that
actually contain an itsy bitsy monitor.
<James> See you, Gayle.
<Kae> see ya!
<Jenny> Bye, gayle.
<Jinx> Night, Gayle
<@SLViehl> You'll go blind, Anne. lol
<Anne_Marble> Bye Gayle
<Jenny> Sunglasses with a monitor? Attached to what?
<Kae> Sheila, yes, for me. If I have something to build on I do wonders.
<James> I do, Sheila - it gives you something to think about, a chance to
come up with questions, that sort of thing.
<Robert> G'night, Sheila, thanks so much for the class! It's great and I'm
looking forward to series plotting thingy you mentioned.
<Anne_Marble> You can wear them and read stuff, I guess. Except my boss
would wonder why I was wearing sunglasses indoors and why my editing was so
<Jinx> At this point, I love templates. Anything to help get me started in
the right direction.
<@SLViehl> Goodnight, Robert
<Cath> Thank you, Sheila.
<Anne_Marble> <clap, clap, clap, clap>
<@SLViehl> Thanks for letting me brow beat you all for another Friday night.

<Kae> What fun brow beating. <g>
<Sarah> <g>
<Jinx> Is that what this is? ;-P
<@SLViehl> I'll get to work on those outlines, and talk to Holly about a
series plotting session
<Kae> cool
<James> Thanks again, it was another interesting and informative sessions
(and I've taken a dozen plot notes throughout for later today)
<Jenny> Sounds great. Thanks.
<Kae> I agree, James. I've got notes all over the session outline.
<@SLViehl> All right, then, good night folks. See you around the site, and
stop in at the sessions when you can.
<James> Bye all!
<Kae> Good Night, and many thanks, Sheila.
<Jinx> Thank you, Sheila. Night, all!
<Jenny> Good night. 'Bye, everyone.
<@SLViehl> Bye!
<BlairB> gnite
<Anne_Marble> Bye

-end of part two-

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Romance Market (Continuation) Transcript, Part I 10/12/01

October 24 2001, 7:39 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
10/12/01 -- How to Break into the Romance Novel Market (Continuation)
<@SLViehl> Welcome to "How to Break into the Romance Novel Market" with
yours truly, S.L. Viehl, aka Gena Hale, aka Sheila
<@SLViehl> you've all heard the rest of the intro so we'll skip that
<@SLViehl> The last time we met, we discussed a number of topics
<@SLViehl> covering the basics of what is and is NOT a romance novel
<@SLViehl> the statistics of getting into print
<@SLViehl> how to present your work and yourself to an editor
<@SLViehl> the pros and cons of unagented submissions versus attending
romance writer conferences
<@SLViehl> Why you should -- or shouldn't -- consider getting an agent
<@SLViehl> and a little about what's selling, and what bestselling authors
are doing
<@SLViehl> Welcome, Natalie.
<Natalie> Thanks. Sorry I'm late.
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to pick up where we left off, with Networking
<@SLViehl> No problem
<@SLViehl> I'll cover the material, then put up the word QUESTIONS
<@SLViehl> and that's when I'd like you to throw everything at me.
<@SLViehl> I'm going to try to break more frequently so you have a chance to
ask more questions
<@SLViehl> ready to get started?
<BlairB> ready
<Gayle> yes
<June> All set
<Anne_Marble> Sure
<Kae> gtg
<spring> ready!
<Natalie> yes
<James> yes...
<@SLViehl> Romance writers are probably the most consummate networkers in
the publishing industry
<@SLViehl> we are a force to be recokoned with in this department, starting
with RWA, which is over 8000 members strong
<@SLViehl> trickling down to your local writing and critique groups
<Gayle> sorry, got go maybe back later
<@SLViehl> bye Gayle
<James> See you Gayle.
<@SLViehl> With all these men and women writing romance, and obvious open to
networking, this should be a good thing for you, right?
<@SLViehl> Sometimes it is, and sometimes it can work against you. Remember
that writers are basically lone wolves.
<@SLViehl> When you enter into a group -- just like this one here, that
we're having tonight -- there are different levels of competency.
<@SLViehl> People who are less competent than you are going to recognize
that pretty quickly.
<@SLViehl> Be cautious when networking. Try to find out if you fit in with
the group before you commit yourself to their chapter, critique sessions,
<@SLViehl> If they're all unpublished and have only written one or two
novels, and you're on your tenth and getting your first contract, there may
be resentment and even worse.
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, the group may be totally supportive.
<@SLViehl> Published authors you meet in these groups can also go both ways.
Some will take an interest in you. Some will take an interest in how many
of their books you're going to buy.
<@SLViehl> Published authors are good for advice, but don't expect them to
get warm and fuzzy with you right away.
<@SLViehl> Go to their booksignings, talk to them casually, show an interest
in their work. Most will return the favor.
<@SLViehl> Anyone who knocks you and/or your work constantly is not worth
your time.
<@SLViehl> You need to, in the words of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, always
<@SLViehl> You can get swept up in the mystique of being an author,
especially after you land a contract, and this slows or stops your
<@SLViehl> Money you should have been investing back into the work goes down
the drain with promotion and conferencing.
<@SLViehl> Groups, activities, community -- all these things are fun. If
you have time after you're done writing.
<@SLViehl> On the flip side, getting into a group or community gives you an
opportunity to make contacts.
<@SLViehl> Right now, you're in contact with me. I'm published. I'm a good
contact to have.
<@SLViehl> Can I get you published? No. Can I give you advice? Yes.
<@SLViehl> Can I be your best friend? Sorry, not enough time on my end.
<@SLViehl> The best you can hope for from networking is making contacts,
getting educated on the industry, and a mixture of advice.
<@SLViehl> Go with what your heart (or your stomach) tells you works best
for you.
<June> Promotional materials -- good idea?
<June> or not?
<Anne_Marble> What about joining reader lists? I know (of course) a lot of
writers who do that. Some because they love to discuss books, others because
they want to send out promos. (That's not always allowed.)
<@SLViehl> I have completely stopped doing my own promotions after a year of
trying them out. My books are selling just as well, actually, better now.
<James> As an Australian aiming at the US market - therefore, also an
optimist - can a career be built without making lots of contacts in the
market you're aiming at?
<@SLViehl> Most authors are shameless self-promoters. You've got to do what
you're comfortable with. I was never comfortable with promotion stuff
<@SLViehl> I think so, James -- you have to take a different approach to
making contacts. Like being here -- doesn't matter geographically where we
are, we can meet and discuss things.
<@SLViehl> A career should be built on the strength of your writing first,
<@SLViehl> I also don't think most of the promotion stuff works. All those
give aways at RWA Nat'l, for example. Who could buy all the books for every
piece of promo they pick up?
<James> Thanks - that does away with a small worry I've been carrying
<Anne_Marble> Someone on my list recently asked which promotional material
got people to read books, bookmarks, magnets, or something else. People
pointed out that it was recommendations, reviews, writing...
<@SLViehl> If I read a great article by a writer, I'll go buy his/her books.
I agree with that/
<@SLViehl> the bookmark/postcard thing is a vanity, again, imho, it just
doesn't work.
<@SLViehl> I also like reading stories in magazines, and will buy books by
authors who do that.
<@SLViehl> Remember one thing -- Nora Roberts never promoted her work,
according to rumor. And I know for a fact Linda Howard never did either.
<@SLViehl> 'cause Linda told me.
<@SLViehl> Onto contests -- enter ? don't enter?
<BJ Steeves> Sheila,although I missed the first half of this class, these
all seem to apply to most genres of righting. True?
<@SLViehl> Yes, BJ. I think it does apply across the genre board.
<BJ Steeves> Thanks
<@SLViehl> RWA contests have become a minefield of controversy. You need to
be aware of the politics involved.
<@SLViehl> These are the top contests to get into, btw -- the Golden Heart,
the Maggie, etc.
<@SLViehl> I've always considered contests a waste of my time.
<@SLViehl> Never entered one except a screenplay writing contest which I
semi-finaled in.
<@SLViehl> didn't do a thing for my career.
<@SLViehl> I've heard some shadowy things go on -- contests are fixed,
people award places to PC writers, etc.
<@SLViehl> But let's look at the facts: what do you get out of a contest?
A pin, some money, and maybe a chance for an editor to look at your work.
<@SLViehl> Average contest fees range between $10 -- $40
<@SLViehl> Imagine how many submissions you could produce and mail using the
same money.
<@SLViehl> Instead of one editor looking at your work, you might be able to
send submissions to ten or fifteen or twenty.
<@SLViehl> Losing a contest is sometimes worse than being rejected by a
<@SLViehl> because you feel like you've been measured up to the competition
and found wanting
<@SLViehl> and you really don't know who is judging it, and what's going on
in their heads.
<@SLViehl> Entrance fees go into the bank accounts of RWA and the
chapters/organizations who run these contests, so of course they're going to
push them as great things.
<@SLViehl> They are great. They make these organizations a lot of money.
<@SLViehl> But if you think it's worth a shot, investigate the contest
first. Who's judging it? What do you get if you win?
<@SLViehl> You must, of course, follow their guidelines to the letter, or
you can't complain if you lose.
<@SLViehl> And expecting to win has to be realistic. I entered a contest
with 3000 other screenwriters, and made the top 90.
<@SLViehl> I didn't advance any further than that, and that's what I got for
my $45
<@SLViehl> There's also the danger of what I call contest junkie fever.
<@SLViehl> Writers get caught up in these contests, and seem to forget their
ultimate goal -- getting published, instead of winning.
<@SLViehl> And make no mistake, winning a contest does not put you on equal
professional footing with the published authors out there.
<@SLViehl> Glory can be fun, but you can't deposit it.
<@SLViehl> I'd go for the contests that give you an open door into an
editor's office. That's the best advice I can offer.
<@SLViehl> Everything else is just not worth the trouble, cost, and heart
<BlairB> What happens to the rights of the story if you enter it in a
<@SLViehl> You retain the rights to your story unless you sign them away in
the contest application. This was a problem with the recent Red Dress Inc.
contest -- Harlequin wanted first rights signed off to them
<@SLViehl> or was it worldwide rights? I forget.
<@SLViehl> Read these applications and the rules involved carefully when you
consider entering a contest.
<Anne_Marble> I've heard that a contest the rules for the contests can be
really... anal. There was a huge controversy with a major contest recently.
So many entrants were rejected because of margins and the like that there
were contests for manuscripts rejected by that contest!
<@SLViehl> My friend, Carol Stephenson, went through an experience like
<Anne_Marble> (Remind me to edit my sentences before posting.)
<@SLViehl> Welcome back, Gayle
<Anne_Marble> I've also heard that novels that take chances -- that don't
follow a certain model -- don't have as much of a chance of winning. :-<
<Gayle> Hello...sorry about that I had an unexpected visitor about something
I'm doing next weekend
<@SLViehl> The contest is all about the pack, and the pack have a "herd"
<@SLViehl> Also, I am very leery about contests being judged by other
authors. Too much personal stuff there.
<@SLViehl> I'd go for contests being judged by real editors.
<June> Hard to get editors to judge
<June> my housemate ran an
<June> RWA contest and had a
<@SLViehl> Hard to get editors to do anything these days, June
<June> terrible time finding editors
<June> good point, Shiela
<@SLViehl> Contests can really mess up the self-esteem, that's what I don't
<@SLViehl> And writing has never been about competition and winning for me.
I compete only with myself.
<@SLViehl> And, on occasion, Orson Scott Card. Ha.
<Anne_Marble> Also, from what I've seen, publishers don't seem to care much
about contests, is that true? (I mean, they don't publicize award winners,
<@SLViehl> They will slap a "Rita" or "Golden Heart" cameo on the cover of a
book that won and gets published down the road
<@SLViehl> but it really doesn't matter to my editors. I asked both if I
should enter contests, and they said it was up to me.
<@SLViehl> Since the next section is about sex, does everyone want to take a
5 minute break now?
<Gayle> yes please
<@SLViehl> Wouldn't want to interrupt that topic in the middle of things.
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's take five.
<Anne_Marble> <fanning self>
<June> please, yes
<@SLViehl> brb, I'm going to need another cup of tea for this. lol
<@SLViehl> maybe I should lower the lights and put on some music . . .
<June> How about 'vivere' from
<June> Andrea Bocelli's Romanza
<@SLViehl> Should get everyone in the mood
<June> My favorite 'love scene' music
<Gayle> That sounds cool...
<Gayle> actually right now I'm listening to Brahms,Beethoven and Mozart
<Anne_Marble> I'll put on the Glenn Gould. ;->
<@SLViehl> Alot of husbands and wives and significant others may thank me
later on tonight
<@SLViehl> (evil laugh)
<June> Mine's out of town
<@SLViehl> Phone, June. Phone!
<BlairB> lol
<Gayle> ...and burning my dinner
<June> To his TRUCK? He'll crash!

-end of part one-

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Romance Market (Continuation) Transcript, Part II 10/12/01

October 24 2001, 7:40 PM 

<@SLViehl> Okay, is everyone back and ready to, um, go?
<Kae> yep
<@SLViehl> Eek, scratch the phone.
<June> ready
<Anne_Marble> Uh-huh
<James> Ready.
<BlairB> sure
<Gayle> yes...even with burnt dinner...
<@SLViehl> This is the section about Breaking away from the pack, but I'd
like to talk about sex first.
<Anne_Marble> Got my Kid's Kitchen Pizza Wedges with Cheese
<@SLViehl> A lot lot LOT of people think writing a romance means writing a
story with tons of sex scenes in it.
<@SLViehl> And, if you're writing for Kensington's new Brava line, they'd be
right. But mainly, no.
<@SLViehl> Romance is not about sex. It's about love.
<@SLViehl> Lynn Kurland wrote a novel that had one of the most erotic loves
scenes I've ever read, and the hero and heroine were just talking.
<@SLViehl> If you're forcing yourself to write explicit love scenes because
you think it's expected, stop.
<@SLViehl> Write what you're comfortable reading about.
<@SLViehl> Write what you're interested in. Is it important to you? --
that's what you have to ask yourself, not just about the physical part of
your romance, but every aspect of the story.
<@SLViehl> I like writing sensual, sexual stories. I am very comfortable
with it.
<@SLViehl> But I've also been in the medical field and there isn't anything
I haven't seen, touched, shaved, stitched or bandaged.
<@SLViehl> I also like to explore how my hero and heroine relate to each
other inside and outside the bedroom.
<@SLViehl> That's my comfort level. It's not a rule and I don't expect
anyone here to write like me.
<@SLViehl> However, if you are targeting a publisher who wants explicit love
scenes in their romances, you can't skip the sex.
<@SLViehl> Be grown up about it. Remember too, that you're writing about
two people who care about each other. Respect that.
<@SLViehl> Erotica right now is the hottest ticket in town. So hot my agent
asked me to consider writing one.
<@SLViehl> Erotica I consider the hard side of romance, and I really don't
like it, personally.
<@SLViehl> There is a tone to it, I guess, that I don't like. An anti-love
tone, to me.
<@SLViehl> However, if you're into erotica, this market is expanding by the
<@SLViehl> and I define erotica not only by the sexual content -- which is
huge, like 75% of the story -- but by that tone.
<@SLViehl> The hero and heroine use language that you wouldn't find in the
average Harlequin romance. They get really creative sexually, everything
from light bondage to verbal abuse of each other.
<@SLViehl> Some authors veil erotica in historic events, but it's basically
about the hero and heroine doing it in a variety of positions and places
every ten pages or so.
<@SLViehl> And as much as I enjoy sex, I find that very unrealistic. Not
even Superman could keep up with some of these heroines.
<@SLViehl> Keeping in mind the balance of romance and sex is important. For
90% of the publishers out there, it's the story that matters, not the sexual
<@SLViehl> Now, how do you find the diamond within -- your own, unique
<@SLViehl> First, stop imitating your favorite author. You're going to
become your own favorite author.
<@SLViehl> Think about what you love to read -- romances with angst, humor,
<@SLViehl> Then ask a friend to tell you what's unique about you
personally -- are you dramatic, funny, empathetic to others?
<@SLViehl> These are the qualities you need to invest in your writing. This
is your voice. It's who you are.
<@SLViehl> When you write, imagine you are your heroine. Make her do and
say what you'd do in that situation.
<@SLViehl> Imagine your hero is a man you'd fall in love with -- what do you
want to see him do, hear him say?
<@SLViehl> You -- not Nora Roberts, not Linda Howard -- you are the
bestselling author now.
<@SLViehl> Take a scene and write it, without editing or stopping, between
these two characters.
<@SLViehl> Write the same scene every week for six weeks (one scene per
week). If you have more time to write, do the same in six days.
<@SLViehl> Don't reread anything you've written before.
<@SLViehl> When you come to the end of the six weeks, compare the first
scene you wrote to the last one you wrote.
<@SLViehl> You'll see how you've honed it, just by repetition.
<@SLViehl> You do the same thing with voice.
<@SLViehl> How unique can you be? As unique as the genre will tolerate, and
boundaries are changing.
<@SLViehl> In the old days, it was Barbara Cartland and the "don't do it
until you're married" school of romance.
<@SLViehl> Today, the hero and heroine don't have to be married.
<@SLViehl> They don't even have to get married.
<@SLViehl> Although we'd like to think they will, eventually.
<@SLViehl> Read what's out there. What is being done in romance is what you
can do.
<@SLViehl> Can you push the envelope? Yes, with conditions.
<@SLViehl> As an unpublished writer, you cannot generally break new ground.
So you can write a story that equals something that has already been
<@SLViehl> i.e. a book with a handicapped heroine who has a hook instead of
hand. Been done.
<@SLViehl> You cannot write a book about a heroine who has been lesbian.
Has not, to my knowledge, been done.
<@SLViehl> I have a romance written about 2 handicapped people who do not
get better during the course of the romance. One's a paraplegic, the other
is blind.
<@SLViehl> My editor is considering it right now.
<@SLViehl> Will I get it published, a double-handicapped love story?
Probably not, but I have a shot because I'm already established. I can
break new ground now.
<@SLViehl> Not fair, certainly, but that's the way it is.
<@SLViehl> Think unique as in twisting the classic romance story.
<@SLViehl> Norman knight storms Saxon castle, wins Saxon daughter's heart.
<@SLViehl> Been done a million times.
<@SLViehl> How about a Norman lady storms Saxon castle, wins Saxon knight's
heart? Haven't read too many of those.
<@SLViehl> Do role reversals. A stay at home Dad meets a tycoon heroine.
<@SLViehl> A sherriff locks up a drifter -- sherriff's a lady, drifter's the
<@SLViehl> Wildcat heroine falls for Librarian hero.
<@SLViehl> Just remember to keep thinking in new directions while following
the established signposts.
<June> My problem goes the other way
<June> I want to write MORE sex
<June> than probably should be in there
<June> but it's NOT erotica
<@SLViehl> Try to explore the intimacy in a non-sexual way, June. Let them
express their desires without consummation -- builds great tension.
<@SLViehl> Like hand-feeding each other, or bathing together.
<@SLViehl> Readers love tension.
<Anne_Marble> A sex question... What about safe sex (in contemporaries)? How
do you fit that condom in? (Well you know what I mean.) Some readers hate
contemp. novels without safe sex.
<@SLViehl> I always address safe sex, because a lot of my readers are
teenagers. I feel a certain responsibility toward educating them.
<James> Is there a romantic subgenre in which the setting can be fantastic
in nature, even other-worldy? If so, how fantastic can you be before it
ceases to be romance and becomes fantasy?
<@SLViehl> Sometimes it's not possible for my hero and heroine to have
access to condoms, just like in life, but they still talk about the risks.
<Anne_Marble> It's the health field experience.
<@SLViehl> James, for that type of story, I think you need to focus on the
futuristic publishers. The fantasy elements have to be pretty background to
the relationship. On the other hand, pure fantasy is becoming more open to
romantic stories.
<James> Would you be able to recommend some pure romance with fantastic
<@SLViehl> I think the balance is 75-25% romance/fantasy for futuristics,
and 20-80% romance/fantasy for straight fantasy.
<june> Computer crashed
<Kae> If I have my heroine say and do things I'd say & do, do I run the risk
of every heroine sounding the same?
<@SLViehl> Nora Roberts has been incorporating a lot of magic/fantasy in her
otherwise straight romances.
<James> Ah, thanks - I'll add her to my reading list.
<@SLViehl> Not if your heroines are in different situations, Kae. You don't
react the same to different people in different places. You've got to
really immerse yourself in your character, though.
<Kae> hmm. ok.
<@SLViehl> There is a certain amount of role-playing involved, but the voice
that comes out will still be you.
<BJ Steeves> Seemed I got dropped too. Hope someones taking "minutes".
<Anne_Marble> I once read an article where a romance editor said that many,
many romances are rejected because the main characters turn out to be
brother and sister as the end! So already, you all have a jump on the
compeition as you are not perverted. ;->
<Kae> eww
<@SLViehl> Ick, really? (making gross sounds)
<James> Has anyone read male-written romance? Are there common
male-romance-writer mistakes that drive you crazy?
<Anne_Marble> This morning, someone posted on one of AAR's boards, asking
for suggestions of love stories between their sons. :-/ The post was
<@SLViehl> Assuming women are like men, James. We're not.
<june> The prez of RWA is a man
<june> writes ad Leigh Greenwood, I believe
<Anne_Marble> Does Clarissa Ross count? It's been a while since I read one
of "hers."
<@SLViehl> Some male romance writers, like Nicholas Sparks, assume women
will put up with a lot of nonsense that we don't.
<James> Do you mean low level violence, verbal abuse, that sort of thing?
<Anne_Marble> And the best-selling male romance novelists almost always kill
the woman off at the end!
<@SLViehl> Adultery, slap-fests, yes that sort of thing, and Anne is
absolutely right.
<june> Non-fulfillment of the romance
<@SLViehl> On the other hand, to be fair, some women writers turn their
heroes into complete wimps.
<Anne_Marble> Diana Palmer!
<@SLViehl> trying to make a man who is really their girlfriend
<june> Romance is about
<James> That's all so interesting, the differences. I'll bear all that in
<june> committment between the man
<june> and the woman
<june> men seem to 'miss' that a lot
<@SLViehl> We should celebrate the differences between the genders, as well
as respect them in our writing. Men and women are not interchangeable, and
we act and speak and do thing differently. It's not a competition, and we
don't want to invalidate either gender as writers.
<Kae> And I can't stand the heroine and hero saying mean things to each
other and then all of a sudden they're in love.
<@SLViehl> Excellent point, Kae
<James> Sheila, I just peeked at Mrs Giggles review of Paradise Island, and
noticed that she mocks the fact that Luke gets erections from looking at the
heroine - does that mean describing male sexual response can be a problem in
<june> Not for me!!!
<@SLViehl> For Mrs. Giggle, apparently it is. (What's wrong with Luke
having an erection? Sheesh.)
<june> I'm all for erections, personally.
<Kae> sounds like a good reaction to have
<@SLViehl> I'm counting now -- he gets two. See what these reviewers do to
<Anne_Marble> The only time I got annoyed with the erection thing is when
the guy kept getting erections every time he thought of her, in numerous
scenes. zzz
<James> I must admit, she seemed to go over the top about it - but I worried
it might be a general problem for the readership.
<@SLViehl> Men have penises. They get erections. I have no problem with
<Anne_Marble> I mean, she wasn't even there, and he was ... well, happy.
<BlairB> kinda shows his true feelings.
<@SLViehl> Men get hard thinking about women. I have two brothers and two
sons, and two ex-husbands. I know what I'm talking about.
<Anne_Marble> That might have been interesting a couple of times. But it
happened a lot, and yet, he was using her, so I dind't like him.
<@SLViehl> It's the emasculation of the male hero that Mrs. Giggles wants.
He can have an erection when she thinks it's okay, when in reality, it
happens when it happens.
<James> So it won't alarm readers so long as it's not going on every ten
seconds? And so long as it grows naturally (erm, so to speak) from the
characters and the surrounding story?
<@SLViehl> Erections, to my understanding, are not timeable.
<june> Anything that's repetitive in a story
<june> is boring, I think.
<Anne_Marble> And she usually seems to like only sexy romances. Maybe she
only wants sex when they're together.
<june> I don't think it's erections, per say
<@SLViehl> I think men tend to be physically reactive to women. But June's
right, repetition does get dull.
<june> I mean, even if he has a
<june> constant erection the author
<june> doesn't have to mention it
<june> every four pages
<@SLViehl> True, June.
<James> So, as with everything else, sketch that sort of response in, so the
reader knows what you mean but you're not clubbing them over the head with
<@SLViehl> You got it, James.
<june> what an 'interesting' image, James
<Kae> lol
<James> Possibly I should have added a "so to speak..."
<Anne_Marble> Snicker
<@SLViehl> That I'll have stuck in my dirty mind for a while. Let's move on
to Opposites Attract.
<James> Thanks all.
<@SLViehl> We love it when an arson investigator falls for an alleged
arsonist. Or a bad boy takes a dive for a preacher's daughter.
<BJ Steeves> James, all you can say is that they went to bat for you.
<@SLViehl> Opposites attracting means different worlds are set on a
collision course.
<@SLViehl> Behave, Bj, I'm laughing too hard to type this
<BlairB> He's never going to live this down.
<James> lol
<@SLViehl> Tell me if they tease you, James, and I'll give them detention.
<@SLViehl> back to opposites attracting -- when characters in opposition to
each other fall in love, they inevitably face extreme personal dilemmas.
<James> Fear not, I'm remarkably durable to teasing
<@SLViehl> When love conquers that, it renews our faith and trust in the
power of love and romance.
<@SLViehl> and, let's face it, conflict scenes are much more fun to write
than housekeeping scenes.
<@SLViehl> However, there are lines that still may not be crossed with
romance publishers.
<@SLViehl> They're easy to spot -- no incest
<@SLViehl> no homosexual relationships for either the hero or heroine.
<@SLViehl> No threesomes.
<@SLViehl> This may change in the future, but for now, alternative
lifestyles, abusive relationships, or anything that could get your hero and
heroine convicted of a felony is out.
<@SLViehl> The book of your heart versus the book that gets published
<@SLViehl> everyone writes a book from their heart that becomes the book of
their heart.
<@SLViehl> Its usually one of the first books we write, and we invest so
much in it, time, emotion, struggle, that we can't accept that no one will
publish it.
<@SLViehl> generally it doesn't get published because we wrote for
ourselves, and not for the market.
<@SLViehl> You've got to get past this book, or it will strangle you.
<@SLViehl> When you consider the market before you start writing, you're on
your way to getting published
<@SLViehl> so if you can't get it accepted after a reasonable amount of
time, put this book of your heart away
<@SLViehl> and write another book.
<@SLViehl> and write another book after that one.
<@SLViehl> and keep writing.
<@SLViehl> The more books you write, the better you get at writing them.
<@SLViehl> The better writer you become, the closer you get to publication.
That's plain fact.
<Anne_Marble> How do you make your hero/heroine different enough if they
have similar interests or a similar profession?
<@SLViehl> Give them different backgrounds, Anne. Poor girl, Rich boy.
<Kae> I've seen a lot of couples of different skin color around the area
where I live. Is there anyone writing romances for them?
<@SLViehl> Of the ethnic romances I've read, there are still same-race
lines -- no interracial relationships. Anne, have you seen any? June?
<june> One Silhouette Shadows had
<june> a black heroine and a white hero
<june> that's the only one I recall seeing
<Anne_Marble> I've heard of a few of interracial ones in the ethnic lines.
<@SLViehl> Wait, I've read one Harlequin Presents where the hero was
descended from Island blacks, but was in appearance white.
<@SLViehl> That was a few years ago.
<Anne_Marble> You can't tell from the covers, most of them use those
stylized covers.
<Anne_Marble> There are a more hispanic/white romances. And Indian/white
romances, though many of those are corny noble savage books.
<june> Well Native American heroes is
<june> practically it's own sub-genre
<@SLViehl> I thought I might run over again tonight, would everyone like to
have one more session?
<Anne_Marble> OK
<Kae> sure
<june> sure
<Gayle> okay
<James> Yes, thanks.
<BlairB> sure
<Kae> And thanks for a very (fast) entertaining two hours!
<Kae> How do I save this chat?
<june> Great fun. Thanks Sheila
<Anne_Marble> Thanks! <clap clap clap>
<@SLViehl> I'll ask Holly if we can have the second Friday in November for
part III.
<BlairB> Kae - i have a copy, i can email to you if you want
<@SLViehl> Any other last questions on tonight's material?
<spring> thank you!
<Kae> I just thought if It was needed, I could save the entire chat.
<BJ Steeves> Highlight the address and press CTRL-C for copy, then in your
email program press CTRL-V to paste.
<Anne_Marble> What are your thoughts about "villain sex scenes"
<@SLViehl> I kind of whisk in and out of them, Anne. Maybe because
subconsciously, I don't want the villain to have a good time.
<Anne_Marble> That's a good idea. Some writers seem to save them for the
kinky stuff. Euww.
<@SLViehl> I have a mild villain sex scene in Dream Mountain, you can see
how I did it in that book.
<James> If I actually try a romance (as I'm kind of thinking I might),
should I pseudonym, because of being, you know, male?
<@SLViehl> James, I personally think men should not take female pseudonyms.
I like to know it's a guy who wrote it.
<James> So you can forgive them their errors?
<@SLViehl> Unfortunately, publishers do not feel the same.
<@SLViehl> I try not to be biased, but I haven't found a male writer I
really like who does romance
<@SLViehl> True. So hurry up and write, James! <g>
<Gayle> that's the spirit James!
<James> Mind you, I've got to do the SF one, yet...
<Anne_Marble> I probably did the kiss of death myself. I wrote my romantic
suspense novel in first person. But it wouldn't come out any other way.
<june> I really liked the Curtis's -- 1/2 male
<@SLViehl> Haven't read too many romances in first person, I have to admit,
<Anne_Marble> Oh good. The weirdo who sprayed passengers on a Metro station
was denied bail.
<@SLViehl> Okay, folks, I think that wraps it up. Shall we call it a night?
<Kae> Ok, it's a night. ;-0
<Gayle> sounds good...my shadow just came out wondering...not that we have
any really good movies tonight...
<Anne_Marble> OK, it's a night. Oh, darn! You beat me!
<Kae> heehee
<june> Thanks, Sheila. Have a good night all.
<James> Sure - see everyone next week. Thanks again, Sheila, for a great
<@SLViehl> You guys are such comedians
<Anne_Marble> Bye
<@SLViehl> Good night all.
<Gayle> night everyone...see you in a couple of weeks...
<Kae> Thanks, good night
<@SLViehl> Thanks for letting me spend another Friday night with you!
<BJ Steeves> Getting late here 11:20PM and I'm on 24 hour call all this week
until Monday Morning.
<Anne_Marble> Any time!
<@SLViehl> Thanks, Anne.
<@SLViehl> Go get some sleep, BJ
<BlairB> g'nite all
<@SLViehl> goodnight and see you again soon!
<BJ Steeves> Yeah, and as soon as my eyes are closed, the damned pager will
go off!
<Gayle> oh and if anyone wants to come over for movie night ...you gotta
bring your own soda...I can get the airpopper from my neighbor for popcorn
<Kae> Here's hoping for some good sleep, BJ
<BJ Steeves> Thanks you all, have a good night!

-end of part two-

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Names/Titles Workshop Transcript, Part I 10/17/01

October 24 2001, 7:41 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
October 17, 2001 -- How to Create Names and Titles

<@SLViehl> Welcome to the Names/Title Workshop, I'm your host, Elizabeth
Sheila Lynn Kelly Gray Chapman Viehl Kelly.
<@SLViehl> Wait, there's an Agnes in there somewhere.
<Grr> Lol.
<Robert> I didn't know you were British royalty...
<Jenny> Amethyst Araminta Adelaide...can't remember the rest. The Ordinary
<@SLViehl> This will be an informal, Q&A session on ways and resources to
naming characters, places, and things, as well as how to come up with a
great title for your novel.
<june> If I typed my full name, I'd crash.
<Grr> I'm sticking with this one, since it looks like I'm really here three
<Grr> Titles are my favorites!
<Anne Marble> I sucketh at both names and titles.
<@SLViehl> I thought we'd do names from 9 to 10, and titles from 10 to 11.
Sound good to everyone?
<june> I can do names -- titles are problems
<Grr> Sounds good to me.
<june> okay
<Robert> I have a lot of trouble coming up with titles, but character names
come easy. How do you get those short Eyeball Kicks, Sheila?
<Grr> Hey, that's a record. I've posted four times.
<Gayle> Problem with titles mainly
<Anne Marble> OK
<@SLViehl> Keep hanging in there, Jen.
<Grr> I'll have to remember this name. <g>
<@SLViehl> Names for characters -- the stuff we agonize over probably as
much as the title for the book -- can be as easy or as hard as you want it
to be.
<@SLViehl> One thing I keep noticing is how other writers always want the
name to have an appropriate meaning, when most people don't know what names
<@SLViehl> Like Sheila -- it means blind.
<@SLViehl> I didn't know that.
<@SLViehl> I know in every book I've read, Sheilas are always secondary
characters, and inevitable bitchy villains.
<Grr> Good point.
<Anne Marble> I used to do that, then I realized my characters were winding
up with stupid names or names that didn't fit the character, like Krysta.
<Robert> Remind me to change that, Sheila...
<@SLViehl> So I think putting the actual historical meaning of a name on the
back burner is a good idea.
<Grr> Like all the romance novels with St.Clair as one of the characters'
last names?
<Sarah> (The hero in my favourite kid's series was a Sheila)
<june> Sound is what's important to me.
<@SLViehl> Finally, I'm a hero! <g>
<Sarah> <g>
<Gayle> as in sheila the great?
<Sarah> Sheila McCarthy, I think...
<@SLViehl> That's how I feel, June -- sound is more important to me than
<Robert> Sounds like queen to me
<Grr> Gayle, that's the one I was thinking of.
<Gayle> by Judith Blum
<Robert> Sheila often comes up slang for 'only female in a hundred miles'
<@SLViehl> I'll have to move to Australia. I've always wanted to be a
popular girl.
<Robert> You're giving me ideas, want to be tuckerized in November? <G>
<Jenny> Tuckerized?
<@SLViehl> Tuckerizing is naming a character after someone you know, btw,
and sure Robert. Go for it.
<Grr> Aha. I wondered if there was a term for that.
<june> Read a book recently with a
<Robert> Wow, it was on topic.
<@SLViehl> I'm the villain in Carol Lucas's Silhouette novel, due out next
spring, "Connor's Homecoming."
<june> heroine named Britta
<june> I kept thinking 'water softener'
<Grr> Lke the water filter?
<@SLViehl> Britta is a water filter, isn't t?
<Robert> I'm wondering "Poisoner?
<Grr> Lol
<@SLViehl> See, June, we all had the same reaction
<Jenny> Brita. Good stuff.
<Grr> Yep!
<june> I think that can be a problem
<@SLViehl> Names mostly feel right, when I'm working on creating them
<Anne Marble> When I was young and didn't have a great vocabulary yet, I
ended up with a character living in the Land of Clout. Well, it sounded like
a fake word... And his name was Gorok!
<june> How do you mean 'feel', Sheila?
<Grr> My first land was called Cairbre.
<@SLViehl> I try it out by yelling at my character. I.E. "Cherijo, get your
butt in here! Now!"
<@SLViehl> If it sounds right, June, it feels right.
<june> I agree. They also have to
<Robert> Naming cats is dangerous. Name one after a fictional master thief
and he'll get in the fridge. Or anything.
<Anne Marble> If you can't pronounce it, you probably don't want to use it.
If readers will have a hard time pronouncing it, ditto.
<june> look good on paper, I think.
<@SLViehl> One thing I do is keep a continuous name notebook. Every time I
hear or read a cool name, it goes in the notebook.
<Grr> I used to have one of those. Gave it up when it got to be 400 pages
<@SLViehl> Good point, Anne -- if the reader can't pronounce it, they aren't
going to retain it in their mind.
<Gayle> Had a roommate name my cat....got into lots of trouble over that
when someone was at the door and I was attempting to keep the silly cat
<Robert> Sometimes I look at my bookshelves and jumble author names.
<@SLViehl> I have a few very sly tricks I use which aren't in any of the
how-to books I've read.
<Anne Marble> Whoops, might have Explorer problems.
<Anne Marble> Am I still here?
<june> Tricks? Cool.
<june> yes Anne
<@SLViehl> I can see you, Anne.
<Robert> Yes, I see you. Sheila, the tricks!
<@SLViehl> Okay. Trick #1: take a common word and spell it backwards.
<Grr> I do that.
<@SLViehl> Lor-Etselock in StarDoc is cholesterol, slightly corrupted,
spelled backwards
<Grr> And names too.
<Anne Marble> Cool!
<@SLViehl> Why? Because he was fat.
<Grr> Great!
<Anne Marble> How come when I do that, I end up with characters named Siwel?

<@SLViehl> You've got to play with other-than-name words, like platinum =
<Gayle> that's happening in gasoline ally right now with one of the
<@SLViehl> And you can switch and insert letters as necessary to modify the
end product spelling.
<Grr> I can't remember the one I really liked.
<Grr> I always thought Piers Anthony did good with Natasha .
<@SLViehl> Trick #2 -- Use a personal metaphor
<Anne Marble> laerec -- it works!
<Grr> There you go!
<@SLViehl> There you go, Anne -- that sounds good.
<Robert> When I named the wind god Ahassh I was just going for 'sounds like
wind sighing'
<Grr> To me, that would be hard to pronounce, Robert.
<Grr> I am still here. ::shakes head in wonderment::
<Anne Marble> So am I, though I keep being told that IE has crashed.
<Robert> Point taken and if I do things like that I should put
pronounciation guides in.
<Jenny> Shh. Don't jinx it.
<@SLViehl> I had a celebrity in mind when I named Kao, the hero I killed off
in my first novel. I made his name out of the first letter of the
celebrity's first name, and the last letter of his last name, and spelled it
<@SLViehl> K.O. for Kevin Sorbo, and as it happens, K.O. also means
<Robert> Dean Koontz did a character who changed his name constantly during
Dark Rivers of the Heart and eventually explained it was jumbling first and
last names of old movie stars.
<@SLViehl> That's about as complicated as I get with naming characters.
<Grr> Yep, I remember that.
<Anne Marble> I sometimes do lists of neat names and see which ones fit
together. That'
<@SLViehl> I think SF and fantasy writers have much more room to operate in
versus romance writers.
<Anne Marble> s how I got Sebastian Gregoire. Fantasy has been harder for me
because that's where I can create some stupid names.
<june> I want fantasy names to
<Grr> Really? I'd think they'd be about the same.
<@SLViehl> I like Sebastian -- I like the shortened form, Bastian, too.
<june> sound like they could come from
<june> the same world
<@SLViehl> Sounds like a guy with fangs.
<Robert> It does and one I wrote years ago IS Sebastian - fanged
<Jenny> It's the kid from The Neverending Story.
<Grr> I had a vampire Sebastian too.
<BlairB> his friends could call him Baz
<Anne Marble> No, just a cloud of suspicion over his head.
<@SLViehl> June, what I tried to do with the Jorenians in StarDoc was
pattern the names after the Hawaiian alphabet -- I limited the number of
letters I could use, and juggled them.
<june> My only vampire was named
<@SLViehl> So they all end up sounding like they're from the same planet.
<june> Savario Visconti
<Grr> He sounds Italian, June.
<Anne Marble> I called his former mother-in-law Constance Wynter. It fit her
personality. Shudder.
<Robert> A title for a last name. Sounds like Lady de Winter from
Musketeers, fits.
<@SLViehl> That's an incredible imagery name, Anne.
<Anne Marble> But the heroine of the novel is boring old Laurel (named after
a place in Maryland). zzz
<Robert> Ragnarok as a woman, yah. Constantly Wintry.
<Grr> That is a good name!
<Grr> Every-woman?
<june> He was Italian, Jen
<@SLViehl> Trick #3 -- and this may help you, Anne -- give the character an
ordinary name, then refer to them by a nickname throughout most of the
<Grr> Cool, June. Just checking.
<@SLViehl> Kathryn Anne Tremayne in Paradise Island spends 95% of the book
being called Jade because she's lost her memory and all she has on her is a
jade ring.
<Anne Marble> That could work! Laurel is an artist. Maybe she could get
named after a favorite paint...
<Grr> Webster in Second Coming is called Webster because he carries around a
<@SLViehl> In Blade Dancer, I have seven main characters -- Sajora, Jakol,
Nalek, Osrea, Danea, Renor, and Galena
<@SLViehl> No way are you going to be able to remember those names.
<@SLViehl> But you might remember Jory, Kol, Nal, Snake-Boy, Sparky,
Plas-Face and Birdie.
<@SLViehl> If I had an artist character, Anne, I'd nickname her something
like Picasso
<BlairB> or pica
<Anne Marble> Oooh, that would work.
<@SLViehl> It reinforces the character's occupation, and lets the reader
have some fun.
<Robert> Article on hobos, one of the guys said "Anyone who can read gets
called Doc."
<@SLViehl> Plus Laurel doesn't have to like it.
<Grr> Grandma Moses... <g>
<Robert> So my hobo character who didn't like Doc got a tattoo and became
Steamboat Willy.
<Anne Marble> I named several of my secondary characters after musicians,
primarily keyboardists. Koopman, Bernstein, Brendel, etc.
<@SLViehl> I've read a couple of articles that recommend giving your
secondary characters memorable names because often the name is 75% of what
the reader gets to know about them.
<Grr> True.
<Anne Marble> I read about a writer who gave secondary characters
"temporary names" to make it easier to write the first draft. He named all
the cops after types of cheese! "Look, here comes Officer Brie!"
<Anne Marble> In the final draft, only Officer Camebert retained his cheesy
<@SLViehl> One more recommendation -- keep an alphabetical list of names
you've already used for the novel, so you don't end up with five characters
whose first names all start with the letter "S" or "J"
<Anne Marble> Do you recommend doing that, or is it too hard to come up with
new names in the later drafts?
<Anne Marble> Oooh, good idea, I once ended up with a Lila Laural and Lane
in one draft.
<@SLViehl> That's good for outlining, but I think when you get into writing
you really need to know the character's names.
<Jenny> I noticed recently I have four A names in my WIP. Blechh.
<Grr> I don't have that problem, usually.
<Robert> I noticed recently I have a disturbing tendency to Empress Z. in
different periods.
<Anne Marble> What about characters whose names end with the letter "S"?
<Grr> Or rhyme...
<Jenny> Or -a for girls.
<@SLViehl> I can't tear myself away from the letter "J" so I have to do the
alphabetical thing.
<Sarah> I have the same problem with K
<@SLViehl> Name endings, syllable length, all of that you have to keep an
eye on.
<Grr> You don't want to end up like my Grandma who named all her kids Jerry,
Larry, Harry, etc.
<Anne Marble> I once had a chacter named Demas, and while it's a cool name,
writing possessives takes forever! "Demas' sword? Demas's sword? Argh!"
<Robert> I started deliberately using some odd letters to start names and
with that much written, am going to weave in the Z Empresses to where
'that's culturally kind of a power name for a girl'
<@SLViehl> I recently discovered I name almost all my romance villains with
double-consonant syllable breaks.
<Anne Marble> Hee hee, now we'll be able to guess who did it.
<Grr> Just as long as you haven't used St.Clair
<Robert> Oh my villain for many books was in my notes Lecter Moriarty Flagg
and I kept his initials when I named him.
<Anne Marble> I've been on St. Claire Avenue.
<@SLViehl> Whenever you see a Willis or a Trammer or a Cutton in my books,
that's the bad guy.
<Robert> When I do you Jen, it has to be in an herbal. "The St. Clair bush
is a flowering shrub with the following medicinal properties..."
<Grr> So have I. And I've been to St.Clairsville, but I keep finding
Sinclairs and St.Clairs in romance novels.
<@SLViehl> Jen, I did use a St. name in my most recent romance -- and this
was a cool way to come up with a name, too. Valence St. Charles -- an
orphan from New Orleans who was found on the corner of Valence and St.
Charles in the Garden District.
<Grr> It's like a whole branch of the family I never knew about. <g>
<@SLViehl> But generally I stay away from the Saints.
<Anne Marble> Valence! A postitive charge? Or a negative charge? Or a little
<Grr> Cool!
<Robert> So do I, too many drunks from Bourbon following them.
<Grr> Or if it had an ia on the end... an orange!
<@SLViehl> So check out a city map -- you might find some interresting
<Robert> Though that brings up a fantasy world I want to do, city, where all
the French Quarter street names just translate to English and I eliminate
electricity, then use the real Quarter denizens for a city like Lankhmar
<Sarah> People have to stop naming villains after elements...
<Sarah> Xenon, Boron, Argon...
<@SLViehl> (I call her Val throughout the book. Valence makes me think of
Prince Valiant, for some reason.)
<Robert> The Street of the Young Prince, the Street of Dark Wine, it sounds
like a fantasy city.
<@SLViehl> lol, Sarah
<Anne Marble> I told someone at work I was going to name my characters after
scientists whose papers drove me nuts, and she told me I'd have too many
<Grr> Lol, Anne.
<@SLViehl> Trick #4 -- Name things after your friends, ala the Tuckerisms.
<Grr> One of my favorite character names I haven't used yet came from a
forwarded email I got.
<@SLViehl> I name space ships after my friends -- once I have their
<Grr> Did that too!
<Robert> You've got mine, just don't do a cancer center after me, there's a
real one.
<Gayle> well...I was playing with Valence and came up with V'lence,
V'len...and so on and so forth
<@SLViehl> E-mail handles can be interesting sources -- who wouldn't want to
write about a Marijor?
<Grr> Yep.
<Robert> Reminds me of memorable character name George Orr or jorjor as
aliens prnounced it...
<@SLViehl> Acronyms -- Cherijo stands for Comprehensive Human Enhancement
Research ID "J" Organism.
<Sarah> I pull a lot of ship names from songs... (eg, the submersible
<Anne Marble> (Hmmm, the spaceship Falco. <g>)
<@SLViehl> But I had to make up the acronym meaning, because there really is
a Cherijo out there who graciously allowed me to borrow her beautiful name.
<Grr> That works well!
<Robert> I name ships in character. Aida was named after opera. Aristarchus
and a bunch of them Moon craters. Demeter, Hecate, Diana a colony trio
<Sarah> Asclepuis is a medship...
<@SLViehl> You don't know how LONG it took me to figure out what the letters
of Cherijo should stand for as an acronym!
<Grr> And make it fit into the story... yes. I can imagine!
<Anne Marble> That's one thing that's harder to do in fantasy, naming stuff
after characters from our opera or mythology. :-/
<@SLViehl> Those are great names, Robert. I named the ancient Chinese ships
in PI after actual Chinese words for "sandcastle" and "seashell"
<Robert> Brings a lot of backstory onstage, Anne, but if you're doing the
centuries leap thing means you can reuse a name.
<Robert> Coool... really neat, Sheila. I can see I need a Chinese
dictionary. I do anyway.
<Grr> I collect dictionaries.
<@SLViehl> Why not take myth names, Anne, and alter them a little? Like
Aphrodite becomes, with a little fiddling . . .Erodytii
<Anne Marble> Did anybody here read the Deeds of Paksinarrion (sp?)??
Elizabeth Moon recycled names for secondary characters. It made sense
because if you were in the military, a lot of people would have common
<Robert> I named the main goddess Vala not realizing a "vala" was a Norse
seer or wisewoman.
<@SLViehl> I have a dictionary I use more than anything -- it lists common
words and phrases in seventeen languages. Really helps.
<Grr> Or you could do what John Uri Lloyd did, and spell it backwards...
<Robert> And with it that short started doing derivations like Valderin or
Valdera meaning "kid no one knows the parents" or gift of the Goddess.
<@SLViehl> I like balance in naming, though -- great and interesting names I
make up, along with classic, well known names, seem to work better for me.
<Anne Marble> My local library's summer reading mascot one year was Nrocinu
the Backwards Unicorn. Actually the pronounciation they used (Norokinu)
wasn't that bad. (the kids came up with it.)
<@SLViehl> Tell you what, why don't we take a five minute break, and go for
<Robert> Ahassh isn't that hard to pronounce - Aha - shh
<Grr> I spent an entire summer speaking and writing in mirror-language, so
I'm pretty good at that. <g>
<Anne Marble> I'll restart Internet Explorer.
<@SLViehl> Oh, that's pretty Anne. I like that.
<Anne Marble> Might use it sometime..
<Grr> Works for me!
<Anne Marble> Wish me luck!
<@SLViehl> BRB, off to heat up the kettle. Luck, Anne!
<Robert> brb
<Grr> brb
<Sarah> The two really unpronouncable names I have are done so intentionally
<Sarah> Ceratythithinovar, who hates her name and won't answer to anything
but Cera most of the time
<@SLViehl> I'd hate to be her Mom and have to call her into dinne.
<@SLViehl> dinne=dinner
<Sarah> and Xannachbyllbharwyddian, who is the demi-god of chaos and uses it
on purpose. (Her mother called her Cera, her father picked the name and
<@SLViehl> T'Nliqinara was about the worst I've done to my readers.
<Sarah> How do you pronounce that?
<Robert> Demons need REALLY unpronounceable names.
<@SLViehl> Tin-ah-leek-ah-nah-rah
<Sarah> (Zanna - kvill - var - wythian)
<@SLViehl> I wanted something large and in charge, like she was.
<Sarah> <g> Cool! It'll be easier to read now.
<@SLViehl> Whew, what a mouthful, Sarah.
<Sarah> <g> Yup. He enjoys watching people struggle with it.
<@SLViehl> I'd call him Xan and tell him to get over it.
<@SLViehl> I borrowed a pair of beautiful names for StarDoc book six --
Teulon and Resa
<Sarah> Yeah, but then he'd probably take an interest in throwing chaos into
your life, which is driving my MC nuts.
<Sarah> <waiting impatienly for book 4 to come out>
<@SLViehl> I'd make him watch my kids. Teach him a thing or two about
<@SLViehl> BRB

--end of part one--

 Respond to this message   

Names/Titles Workshop Transcript, Part II 10/17/01

October 24 2001, 7:43 PM 

And part two.


<Sarah> He'd encourage it. He's like that.
<Robert> Or my cat. Kittens are all agents of chaos.
<@SLViehl> Sounds like my first husband. AKA the Pond Scum
<Gayle> No, cats think we have our world to organized...and sometimes I
agree...but I'm catless right now
<Robert> (ari has just chirped to let everyone know he's here, now he's
<@SLViehl> My cats have me organized. They're like drill sergeants.
<Robert> Aww, look upon your unchewed cords and remember...
<Sarah> X was perfectly willing to ruin his daughter's life because when
she's upset, she spreads chaos more than normal people.
<Sarah> I miss my cat...
<Robert> I was catless a long time and understand completely.
<@SLViehl> Rush is now purring and meowing in this little teeny voice -- he
didn't have one until a month ago, when his throat finally healed. I went
ten years without cats after Jenner died.
<Gayle> I had so many at one time that I was burnt out....won't happen again
until we live in a pets allowed enviorment
<Anon_59> Grrrr.
<@SLViehl> Sounds like Jen
<Anon_59> No, Anne.
<Anne_Marble> Greaet, now there's two of me!
<@SLViehl> IE still giving you grief?
<Anne_Marble> I clicked the Report button, and it froze. Had to restart the
whole bloody computer.
<@SLViehl> Shame the things that happen when the chainsaw is out in the
shed, right?
<Grr> Okay, I'm back.
<@SLViehl> There's our other Grrr.
<Anne_Marble> Right.
<Grr> Had to make lunch, get tea, put pizza away.
<Jenny> Does that mean you had pizza for breakfast?
<Grr> I never eat pizza for breakfast.
<Grr> That was supper.
<Anne_Marble> I do.
<Robert> Pizza makes a good breakfast! Eggs and toast for supper.
<Sarah> Mmmm, pizza. That was my coming-off-mono-diet reward.
<Gayle> cold pizza for breakfast is cool
<Anne_Marble> And I just had Lucky Chamrs for dinner.
<@SLViehl> The nutritionist in me is quietly fainting over here.
<Grr> It has to be the right kind of pizza, and Pizza Hut just doesn't cut
<Grr> Quick, fan her with a pizza slice!
<Sarah> Spurred on by the fact that there was no other food in the house...
<Jenny> What's wrong with Pizza Hut?
<@SLViehl> No, no cheese, puleeze
<Gayle> Well, Sheila we all have our weak moments...don't we?
<Grr> It's a chain. <g>I make my own when I have the ingredients.
<@SLViehl> (hiding my raspberry cookies) I don't know what you're talking
about, Gayle. Snicker.
<Grr> Sarah--DG?
<Sarah> Yup.
<Jenny> Oh. I come from a Pizza Hut-addicted family.
<Grr> Oh! Well, then. <g> I trust you're feeling better?
<Sarah> Ditto on the chains. It's all about Naples pizza. (Semi-better.
Not half-dead, at any rate)
<Grr> Good to hear. Semi is better than half-dead by any means.
<Grr> Yeah. The best pizza I've ever tasted comes from Grammas in Bethel,
OH. <g>
<Sarah> all the rest tastes like cheese-covered cardboard
<Gayle> There is a couple of good local pizza shops here in Santa
Rosa...both are local chains
<Anne_Marble> I like that Buffalo Wing pizza I got, but the bones were so
crunchy... <Anne ducks and runs>
<@SLViehl> My thighs are getting bigger, just reading this screen.
<Sarah> Lol!
<Gayle> actually the best pizza I had was in the 80's when I lived in Motta
<Grr> Gee, I hope not. Think of what happened to those of us who actually
ate some!
<Robert> I'll eat any pizza that has more meats on it than crust and lots of
bell peppers, mushrooms, olives.
<Grr> We should start talking about chocolate right about now...
<@SLViehl> Wave that pizza slice over me again, and you may lose some
<@SLViehl> No. No chocolate. Absolutely not.
<Sarah> Still can't handle the real thing, chocolate-wise.
<BlairB> i just had 2 chocolate brownies
<Gayle> chocolate like godiva?
<@SLViehl> That would stray into the realm of torturing the host.
<Robert> Chocolate is one ingredient that like pineapple doesn't go on
<Grr> Oh, that would be bad, Sarah!
<Jenny> I bet you've never tried it.
<Grr> Sure it can, Robert. Haven't you ever had a dessert pizza?
<Grr> Uh-oh. I've crashed again.
<Gayle> Especially their milk chocolate with almonds
<Grr> Oh, maybe not!
<Anne_Marble> My gummy worms are gonna feel jealous.
<Sarah> I love pineapple on pizza.
<Robert> Nope, never have - the tomato would ruin the sweets wouldn't it?
<Grr> No tomato.
<Jenny> Probably. I like fruit and chocolate, though.
<Robert> Oh now that would be good if it's all sweets and cheeses that go
with sweets.
<Gayle> haven't had chocolate in such a long time...think I'll treat myself
when the check arrives in Dec.
<Grr> Yup.
<@SLViehl> Folks, I'm having some power flutters here, so if I disappear,
hang on, I'll be back if possible.
<Anne_Marble> Ulp
<Grr> Ok!
<Jenny> (You're really just heading for the corner store to get Hershey's,
<Grr> Lol, Jenny.
<Gayle> okay
<@SLViehl> I'd better move on while I'm still here (and womanfully resisting
the temptations of chocolate.)
<Grr> Cocoa sounds so good right now...
<Grr> Yes, let's move on.
<Robert> I don't quite understand the appeal of chocolate and women but
accept it and write about it.
<Anne_Marble> <Anne covers her ears>
<BlairB> <happily muching on rice cakes>
<Gayle> actually chocolate dessert pizza IS good
<Grr> It sure is.
<Gayle> Robert it's mainly a woman thing...
<Grr> I like apple dessert pizza too.
<@SLViehl> Just one more comment on naming things -- with places, you need
to be consistent. If you've got a city named Niceville, you don't want it
parked next to Byzantiuminum.
<Grr> My hubby is allergic to chocolate, so I ahve to eat it all.
<Robert> Cool - then it's believable when I make woman characters crazy
about chocolate, female readers empathize?
<Grr> Unless that's the tone of the whole book.
<Anne_Marble> Good point. I once ended up with a Machiavellian place called
Havenworld! Had to change that.
<Gayle> how sad...;-)
<Grr> I think it's a generalization, Robert.
<Grr> stereotype.
<Jenny> My (female) cousin hates chocolate.
<Robert> It's an individual character thing I throw in sometimes.
<@SLViehl> My brothers love chocolate more than I do.
<Anne_Marble> Romance readers often complain about heroines who stop eating
when they're under stress. It's too unrealistic.
<Robert> Coffee though? Coffee means manhood, is Daddy's black coffee. I
don't drink it black except under real stress.
<Grr> I much prefer (if I had a choice) orange sherbert or sunflower seeds
as my snack of choice.
<@SLViehl> True. I like food when I'm stressed -- comfort foods
<BlairB> i think i'm going to have to create a character named Rolo.
<Grr> Olor, maybe...
<@SLViehl> Olor sounds like a badass, Jen.
<Jenny> Coming from Seattle, I don't think coffee is gender-specific.
<Grr> Yeah. Reminds me of Odor, though.
<Robert> It's a personal thing, Dad loved it, mom disapproved.
<@SLViehl> Does anyone have any problems to bring up with naming stuff
before we slide on to titles?
<Anne_Marble> There was a toy robot named Tobor.
<Jenny> What if you can't decide between names?
<Anne_Marble> What do you do if you name a character and then realize the
name sucks, but it has sort of stuck?
<Grr> And the Mirror of Erised in HP.
<@SLViehl> Ask the pickiest person you know, Jenny, to choose.
<Robert> Titles! Yes, titles are a cool thing, Sheila! What in native
language in fantasy world is Mister and Miz, noble and more noble, landed
and unlanded, et cetera...
<@SLViehl> Dump it. Even if it hurts, Anne. Sucky names are sucky names
even when you get used to them.
<Sarah> <ashamed of how long it took her to figure out Erised>
<Grr> The summer of mirror-language paid off. I knew it from the start. <g>
<Robert> I got inspired by Julian May's descriptive titles in Pliocene Exile
and decided Piarrans didn't worry about what the title was, that was sort of
nickname or occupational, but how MANY for status up to nine.
<Anne_Marble> You know you're in trouble when someone reads your first
chapter and makes fun of the name. Hey, Nohan looks great until you
pronounce it...
<Grr> What's wrong with it?
<@SLViehl> No hand. That's my immediate take.
<Robert> Nohan was here. Nohan was responsible. Nohan poked the eye out on
that Cyclops...
<Anne_Marble> He asked, "Is he an amputee?"
<Grr> I'd pronounce it like Johann.
<Sarah> That's what I was thinking
<Grr> But use it backwards... Nahon.
<Robert> I wound up pronouncing it like noone
<Anne_Marble> He eventually became Merik. Maybe I'll call him Laraec.
<Grr> There you go.
<@SLViehl> I like Merik. Laraec, too.
<Anne_Marble> Machiavellian warrior type. Laraec suits him better, I guess.
But Merik is more ruthless.
<@SLViehl> My latest hero is named Drefan. I love that name 'cause I get to
call him "Dre", and it means "trouble"
<Robert> I need to do other titling systems though and not always derive 'em
from 'pick a nationality' or worse, mix common Euro titles in same fairy
kingdom English and French
<Robert> Oh Drefan sounds cool! So does 'it means trouble.'
<Grr> Cool, Sheila.
<@SLViehl> Anglo Saxon. Any man with a name that means trouble is okay by
<@SLViehl> But we should push on to titles, before we turn into pumpkins.
<Grr> Yes
<@SLViehl> On titles -- and I am a radically, pushy, opinionated title
person -- I think it should absolutely define the book.
<@SLViehl> or story or whatever
<Sarah> My stories usually end up being called whatever they're saved as
because I can't think of anything else.
<Grr> I agree!
<Grr> Or have a large part in the story, at least.
<@SLViehl> I boil it down -- what's the story about? A doctor who travels
the stars. Then I start trimming words.
<Robert> Sometime late in series I have to do a fantasy novel with Untitled
Mixed Media as the title.
<@SLViehl> You want a punchy title to sell it to the readers.
<Robert> They find out he's an artwork who became sapient.
<Grr> One of my next WIPs is titled "Absolutely Nothing".
<@SLViehl> Grubby and mercenary as that sounds, people are going to remember
StarDoc a lot easier than they'd remember the working title of the book --
Border FreeClinic.
<Anne_Marble> My first novel was called "Trail of the Bullet." zzz zzz zzz

<Grr> That's okay, Anne. One of mine was "Wizards of Despair". I think mine
is worse.
<Anne_Marble> I like that one.
<@SLViehl> That one, Anne, I'd call "Impact" or "Heart Shot", something like
<@SLViehl> (thinking contemporary suspense here.)
<Anne_Marble> Or Horny Spies in Love
<Sarah> roflmao!
<@SLViehl> I really like one-word titles.
<Robert> Horny Spies in Love sounds like a good comedy though.
<@SLViehl> lol, Anne
<Grr> One of my favorite titles was "Island of the Sequined Love Nuns". That
was fun to order at B&N.
<@SLViehl> A title for a book about art forgery -- "Masterpiece"
<@SLViehl> A book about telepaths -- "Mindlink"
<Anne_Marble> One-word titles make it easier for the art dept. to design the
<@SLViehl> And the print is way larger.
<Robert> Chazho
<Robert> How is using a coined alien term for it if that fits?
<@SLViehl> No one knows what it means but you.
<Anne_Marble> Unless that word is antidisestablishmentarianism...
<Robert> And whoever reads the blurb, it would need the definitiion in the
blurb. But I've seen it on SF things.
<Anne_Marble> Chton
<Sarah> Kichani.... <g>
<Grr> Mine usually run either really long (So You Want to be a Vampire) or
two words or so (Heart's Desire, Second Coming)
<@SLViehl> SF Authors try so hard to be literary with their titles.
<Grr> Yeah, Sarah.
<Sarah> (yet another 'this is what it's saved as title)
<@SLViehl> Well, let's work on it -- what's the story about, Sarah?
<Grr> I have "Untitled (Misty)" open right now, but it has a title, really.
<Sarah> Girl commits treason by releasing captured griffin, griffin rescues
her from execution, they spend the rest of the book trying to find a place
where people aren't trying to kill one or the other.
<Robert> Griffin's Peace
<@SLViehl> Runaways
<Sarah> (Kichani is what he calls her for the remainder of the book)
<@SLViehl> Outcasts
<@SLViehl> Fugitives
<@SLViehl> I'm just throwing words out. The key to the story is the
diversity between the characters and them being on the run
<Anne_Marble> My werewolf novel has a fugitive. If Sarah doesn't use one of
those titles, I might borrow...
<Robert> Isn't there a problem using titles with such common words? I was
going to do a novel titled Lockdown and that's what it's about - and you did
a short story with that title, Sheila.
<@SLViehl> Actually, Robert, I thought I coined the term Shockball, and just
found out someone else is using it.
<@SLViehl> Coincidences happen. Lockdown is a generic term, but I bet our
stories are really different
<Robert> The devil turns off the power in a jail and spooky supernatural
things happen while no electronic locks work, guards are prisoners too,
black magic horror novel.
<@SLViehl> While mine is about a ship of escaped prisoners taking hostages
on the moon.
<Robert> With the most nondenominational exorcism in fiction as all the
believers and good people have to pull together to solve it. Cool! Very
different stories - would it hurt that they have same title?
<Anne_Marble> For either story, the title fits. Short and you know there's a
prison in it.
<@SLViehl> Exactly, Anne. But you can also modify the common words and come
up with new ones. Like DomeBreak instead of Prison Break
<Anne_Marble> The working title of my werewolf novel is "All's Fair" because
it takes place at a fair, and there's conflict and her former lover is
chasing her.
<@SLViehl> I like using provocative titles -- I was really disappointed when
my editor killed SD3's original title -- Skin Games -- because she thought
it sounded pornographic
<Robert> I wouldn't assume that in SF...
<@SLViehl> Is she the wolf, or is he?
<Anne_Marble> Well look at what happened to "Harsh Mistress" magazine. it
kept getting misshelved.
<Anne_Marble> She is the wolf. She's the fugitive, he's like Lieutenant
Gerard in Th Fugitive.
<Robert> Gahh... I can see that if no one knew anything about SF.
<@SLViehl> Irish slang for "friend" is skin, hence skin games. I never
thought about the porno angle.
<@SLViehl> That one I'd probably title "Hunted"
<Anne_Marble> OOoh, that would work.
<Robert> She-Wolf
<@SLViehl> or something to invoke the image of desire and chase, if you know
what I mean.
<Robert> Heat of the Chase
<@SLViehl> Titles should be exciting, they should convey something of your
story to the reader, draw them in, get them interested in buying the book.
<Anne_Marble> Heart Quest.... No, that sounds like something about a witch
who's pursued by the Inquisition. Heart Chase?
<@SLViehl> Night Chase. Night Hunt.
<Gayle> that sounds interesting..heart chase that is
<@SLViehl> Dark. I think werewolf, I think night, full moon, disembowelling
<@SLViehl> but then, I'm a ghoul
<BlairB> heart seeker
<Gayle> heart hunter
<Anne_Marble> She turns into a wolf whenever she wants, which is cool.
Furry Love. Uck, no. heart Seeker, yeah, that's cool.
<Anne_Marble> Or I could name it after the events in that book, which is
about a murderer on the loose in a village. The Fitch Slasher or something.
(Gotta rename that village.)
<@SLViehl> Night Slasher
<Anne_Marble> Yeah, that would work!
<Anne_Marble> BTW Marylanders and ex-Marylanders would be interested to know
that the name of the hero is... Jessup!!! originally, he was a jailor, and I
thought that was the perfect name for a jailor.
<@SLViehl> It's a good point -- place titles work, too. I've got Paradise
Island, Dream Mountain, and Sun Valley
<Jenny> I like it.
<@SLViehl> Good name
<Robert> Utopia - it's not but people get that idea real fast.
<@SLViehl> Or the aim of the heroine or hero in the book -- Melting the
Iceman, for example.
<Anne_Marble> I was driving to work one day, and there was his name, right
in front of my eyes. (On the Route 175 exit sign.)
<@SLViehl> Sometimes it's as simple as that. I had no idea what to call
StarDoc. I played with the words. I switched them around. One night, I'm
standing in the shower, and boom. Title hits me out of nowhere.
<@SLViehl> I was so excited I ran out of the shower, dripping wet, and
nearly broke my neck.
<Grr> I've done that before. Almost.
<Sarah> That happened to me with "Jory's Song" (aside from the neck
<@SLViehl> It's as if the title for any book waits inside us, and when it's
right, it can hit you like a freight train out of nowhere.
<Robert> When I was three quarters done with book 3 I realized "Timeweed"
was the perfect title and it was fantastic, fortunately I wasn't moving at
the time.
<Anne_Marble> I titled my romantic suspense novel after a type of rose. I
was looking for a suitable rose to use as a symbol of something mysterious,
and when I found Deep Secret, I realized I had my title, too.
<@SLViehl> Oooo, nice one, Anne
<@SLViehl> (and she says she's having trouble naming stuff. Yeah, right.)
<Grr> I got the title for The Tenth Ghost in chat.
<Sarah> I think my favourite title is still "She Who Treads on Velvet Paws"
<Robert> Sometimes the good titles come fast. Blood Junkie did because too
many nurses were taking blood so I had to write a vampire novel.
<Anne_Marble> Yeah, but I still have to work on... Laurel and Talia and
Lara. (My heroines need work.)
<Robert> Sarah, that is a good title. I love cats, I'm hooked.
<Sarah> I got "To Soothe the Savage Beast" and "With a Dying Fall" out of
<Grr> Second Coming was Second Coming from the beginning, but I changed it
halfway through, then changed it back.
<Grr> And the cover art really tells you what it's about.
<@SLViehl> Sarah, you've got that lyrical tone to your titles, that's
something I can't do.
<Robert> Book 4 was Death and Paths and Paths of the Dead and finally became
Riftrunner three volumes later.
<@SLViehl> I love them, but I'm just not lyrical.
<Anne_Marble> When I hit Bartlett's, I usually end up with titles like "Wild
Justice" (great but very common) and obscure stuff.
<Sarah> It's only those three. The others are things like "The Mural"
<@SLViehl> Don't rush yourself on a title. Have a working title, and let it
percolate in your head. Talk to people in chat, they can really help.
<Sarah> and "Mirror, Mirror"
<@SLViehl> I wrote one a ways back titled "Mirror Talk" that I never did
anything with.
<Grr> My Brother, Bigfoot...
<@SLViehl> Loved the title. The story was lame, but the title.
<Anne_Marble> I have a paperback called "Naked Came the Sasquatch."
<@SLViehl> The title sang to me.
<Robert> Explorers (WIP) is a working title, the guys are really clones bred
by aliens, they escape a terrarium and I don't know where they're going so I
don't yet know where they'll wind up. Love that one, Anne.
<Grr> Like "Naked Came the Manatee"?
<@SLViehl> I don't think Sasquatch come clothesd, do they?
<Anne_Marble> Not sure if I still have it, the book might have ended up
being shipped off to the troops.
<@SLViehl> Anyone have any last questions on titling? We're running low on
the clock.
<Anne_Marble> "Naked Came the Stranger" was the original to use that format.
That book was a sort of in-joke in itself, written by several reporters as a
sort of send-up of popular sexy novels.
<Grr> I'm still here!
<Gayle> Not really, came up with some ideas while you guys were talking for
a couple of the short stories I think need re-titling...among other things
<@SLViehl> Round of applause for Jen, please. YAAAAAAY, she stuck with us!
<Sarah> Yay Jen!
<Grr> I think I'll stick with Grr.
<Anne_Marble> Is there anything we should avoid in titles? (Besides obvious
things such as pornography and 25-letter words...)
<Robert> Yeah! Yay Jen!
<@SLViehl> Large unpronounceable words.
<Robert> Naked Pussy would get misfiled even if the cat was on the cover.
<@SLViehl> Anything that indicates gratuitous sex in romance novels
<Robert> And even if the cat was a sphinx
<@SLViehl> Silly comic book type titles. The Avenging Knight.
<Anne_Marble> Oh, yeah, I heard of a mystery called "She Let Him Continue"
that had low sales because mystery fans thought it was a sexy novel.
<@SLViehl> The Heartless Widow
<Sarah> The Sword of Arak-thal
<@SLViehl> Obscure titles
<@SLViehl> Primordial and the Purple Supernova
<Anne_Marble> Like the one I was outlining in freshman high school... What
Thy Quest, Fair Rover?
<Anne_Marble> :f
<Grr> Shouldn't that be "Wot", Anne? <g>
<@SLViehl> You put fair rover in a title, people are going to think it's
about gay men
<Grr> ROTFL.
<Anne_Marble> Or a blond dog.
<BlairB> <groan>
<Robert> Then again if it's a fantasy about a gay bard's quest to find his
lost blond dog...
<@SLViehl> No curse words, obviously. The Stainless Steel Bitch may suit
your story, but it won't pass the editor.
<@SLViehl> And for romance, I think we've pretty much exhausted variations
of The Flame and The Flower in titles.
<Anne_Marble> Just think, "Gone with the Wind" was almost called "Tomorrow
Is Another Day."
<@SLViehl> Or heroine name titles, like "Shanna"
<Anne_Marble> Yeah, I read The Flower and the Shield, or was that the Flower
and the Sword, or was that the Sword and the Flower?...
<Grr> Or The Sword Through the Flower...
<Sarah> Ewww...
<Robert> But "The Hammer and the Cross" by Ken whatsisname the historical
novelist stuck in my head so well.
<Anne_Marble> That was more like it, Jen.
<@SLViehl> Please, no more Flowers, no more Wind
<@SLViehl> I liked Pillars of the Earth. Very cool title.
<Grr> Yeah, that's a good title.
<Sarah> I like the Thief of Always.
<Robert> Yeah, I read it and that DID describe it perfectly. So did Jack of
Shadows by Zelazny for that fantasy novel.
<@SLViehl> That's another good one.
<Grr> I like Gun, With Occasional Music, but I didn't like the book.
<@SLViehl> Occupational titles are good.
<Anne_Marble> Gothic titles were often great, even the bad ones. Brooding
Manor... House of the Closing Doors. (Shrieking Shadows of Penforth Island
was too much, though. But that was Zebra...)
<@SLViehl> Zebra's titles, I find, often match the quality of the prose.
<Grr> Barbara Michaels has some good 'gothic' titles...
<@SLViehl> Look at titles out there all the time. See what's going on the
covers, because that's your best barometer.
<Robert> Then there's the long but good ones like Delany's "Time considered
as a helix of semiprecious stones" - almost longer than the story but it
<@SLViehl> SF titles tend to be a little weird. Fantasy titles are very
poetic. Romance titles are romantic.
<Grr> The Thread that Binds the Bones is one of my favorite titles.
<Anne_Marble> I think looking at titles (esp. in other genres) can help
create ideas. I've seen some young adult titles that would make great
SF/fantasy novels. The Light in the Forest, etc.
<@SLViehl> I don't think long titles cut it on the mass market anymore.
Those are for magazine stories.
<Robert> I like that one, Grr
<Robert> Wow, insight - you're right, the memorable long titles are on short
stories and good short titles on novels...
<Anne_Marble> 'The Hill of Dreams' by Arthur Machen -- cool except it makes
me think of Hill of Beans.
<@SLViehl> Think brief, think descriptive, think punchy. That's my best
<@SLViehl> If someone was going to make a movie out of your book, imagine
the title on a marquee.
<@SLViehl> STAR WARS is exciting
<@SLViehl> The Clash of The Empire and The Jedi is not.
<Sarah> Attack of the Clones <shudders>
<@SLViehl> Remember, the average attention span gets shorter every year.
<Grr> snicker yeah.
<Anne_Marble> 'The Man Whom the Trees Loved' by Algernon Blackwood; 'At the
Mountains of Madness' by H. P. Lovecraft; would not work on a novel this
<@SLViehl> Clone Wars, on the other hand, would work for me, Sarah
<Grr> I don't see why the second one wouldn't work.
<Sarah> Are you listening, George Lucas???
<@SLViehl> I'd make it Madness Mountain.
<Robert> So I could retitle Explorers to Escape and let it go at that and
they can read it to find out what they're escaping.
<Anne_Marble> The second one would be too long.
<Anne_Marble> 'The Ducks of Doom' by Robert Arthur Smith -- I think we can
tell that he's marketing his own work.
<Grr> Of course, then we have "Nibbled to Death By Ducks"
<Robert> Duck!
<@SLViehl> Sure, Robert. Or a variation of Escape.
<@SLViehl> A Quandry of Quackers.
<june> My Romance is
<june> Escape Me Never
<june> Which I found out was
<june> a movie in the 40s or something
<june> but I've never seen it
<Robert> I'd use that for a stalker horror thing.
<@SLViehl> Why not Never Escape Me?
<june> I like it better the other way
<june> Shrug
<@SLViehl> then that's what you go with. What feels right to you.
<june> anyway
<@SLViehl> Editors will change it. Inevitably.
<Robert> I can see Escape Me Never having the last beat on Never as more
<Anne_Marble> Looks like June is having
<Anne_Marble> problems with the computer
<Anne_Marble> again
<june> always have problems Anne
<june> can't type more than a few words
<Grr> So do I, usually.
<june> unless I want to crash
<Grr> So
<@SLViehl> Well, folks, I'm going to call it a night. Any last questions?
<Grr> You
<Anne_Marble> That could be an idea for a character in an SF novel...
<Anne_Marble> Not that I can think of.
<Gayle> no, thank you Sheila
<Grr> Nope.
<BlairB> nothing here.
<Grr> Glad I got to stick around!
<Robert> Thanks for a great class, Sheila!
<Anne_Marble> Yay!!! <Applause Sign Blinks>
<Sarah> Thanks Sheila!
<june> Thanks Sheila, interesting
<@SLViehl> I'm going to post some name resources on the Discussion Board
thread, stuff I found over the years.
<Jenny> Thanks for the class.
<@SLViehl> and thanks for getting together with me, this was fun.
<Anne_Marble> Cool!
<@SLViehl> Take care -- bye!

--end of part two--

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SF Market (Conclusion) Transcript Part I 10/19/01

October 24 2001, 7:45 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
10/19/01 -- How to Break into the Science Fiction Novel Market (Continuation)
<@SLViehl> Well, let me intro here and get started, since I've made you all
<@SLViehl> Welcome to How to Break into the Science Fiction Novel Market,
I'm your host, S.L. Viehl (Sheila)
<@SLViehl> This session is a continuation of the workshop we had on 9/21,
and the transcript of the first class is available, on the transcript board.
Info is
posted on the discussion board.
<BklynWriter> hello everyone
<@SLViehl> Welcome, we're just getting started, BklynWriter
<@SLViehl> To give you a brief rundown of what we talked about last time:
<BklynWriter> i had a little trouble getting in, but everything is fine now
<@SLViehl> Me too, must be a system thing, then.
<@SLViehl> At the last session, we discussed the state of the SF/F genre
<@SLViehl> What's being written, and what needs to be written, before we
write ourselves out of the market
<@SLViehl> Some ways to defy the daunting statistics
<@SLViehl> Who's buying what, and what they want to buy
@SLViehl> The pros and cons of the short story markets, along with stats on
the top three mags out there
<@SLViehl> What's hot, what's not, and how to target the market.
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to discuss SF convention circuits, and
submitting your work effectively.
<@SLViehl> Also, if you have any questions that are holdovers from the last
session, feel free to bring them up.
<@SLViehl> I have two announcements for people who are writing SF short
stories -- two anthology opportunities are open, and you should consider
<@SLViehl> One is Beyond the Last Star, edited by Sherwood Smith. Details
are available on SFF.net, and I also posted a link on the markets board.
<@SLViehl> The other is Low Port anthology, edited by Sharon Lee and Steve
Miller, published by Meisha Merlin. Details are available on Locus mag
online site, and I will be posting a link on the market board after the
<@SLViehl> Both anthologies are open to submissions from unagented and
unpublished writers, so if you've got a story that fits the guidelines, or
want to write for them, go for it.
<@SLViehl> These are paying gigs.
<@SLViehl> Welcome, Jinx!
<Jinx> Hello! Sorry I'm late.
<@SLViehl> No problem. Is everyone ready to dive into SF conventioning?
<Cailin> Yep.
<Kaelle> yep
<BklynWriter> Yes. Where do you begin???
<James> Yep!
<@SLViehl> SF conventions are very popular among published and unpublished
SF writers. They are like the Kentucky Derby is to a guy who bets on
<@SLViehl> These are, without exception, fan-targeted. The reason they have
them is for SF fans.
<@SLViehl> But what's in it for you, the SF writer?
<@SLViehl> Some opportunities are out there. A chance to meet an editor in
person, for example.
<@SLViehl> A chance to network with other aspiring writers, and possibly,
published authors.
<@SLViehl> But never forget that the SF convention is geared toward the fan,
and a showcase for the published author.
<@SLViehl> If you are unpublished, this is not you.
<@SLViehl> Many, many, MANY authors present workshops and participate on
discussion panels at these events. Attending these workshops and panels
provides a semi-educational opportunity.
<BklynWriter> ..
<@SLViehl> Mostly, it provides an opportunity for the author to sell you on
their book.
<@SLViehl> or themselves.
<@SLViehl> I've had the chance to see two kinds of conventions -- romance,
and SF.
<@SLViehl> The romance conferences are well attended by mainly professional
type writers interested in pursuing a career, or promoting what they have.
<@SLViehl> The SF conventions are, at times, three ring circuses. There's a
lot of unprofessional behavior going on, by people who are in very tight
cliques, so if you decide to attend, be cautious.
<@SLViehl> If you'd like to contact a particular author at one of these
events, I suggest you go to their booksigning.
<@SLViehl> Buy a book, and you buy about two to five minutes of conversation
with them.
<BklynWriter> i was just about to ask you about the clique-ish atmosphere.
if I were to attend, as a newbie, would i be "shunned"?
<@SLViehl> It's pretty cheap, considering you only pay $6.99 to 25.99 for
the honor.
<@SLViehl> It depends on who you talk to, and how you present yourself, BW.
Generally, they want acolytes who pay lip service, not upstarts who want to
rock the boat.
<@SLViehl> You can ask authors general questions, and they will, according
to their personalities, respond in various ways.
<@SLViehl> I'd pitch my idea for a book in ten words or less, then ask the
author if they happen to know an editor who would be interested in looking
at it.
<@SLViehl> This is the kind of info you need to get, and the kind of contact
you want to make.
<@SLViehl> Editors who attend SF conv. usually hang out at the bar and hold
<@SLViehl> Go there, drink soda, and watch name tags.
<@SLViehl> Be familiar with the latest releases of that editor's imprint.
If you wanted to talk to Laura Anne Gilman of Roc, for example, you should
know she edits me, Anne Bishop, Dennis McKiernan, etc. You should at least
know what we write to get an idea of what she likes.
<@SLViehl> You don't have to buy the books -- just go to the bookstore, pick
up the latest Roc releases and read the first page, or the cover copy.
<@SLViehl> When you approach the editor, be subtle. Get them to talk about
themselves and what they're publishing.
<Jenny> Don't they have people coming up and being subtle all the time?
<@SLViehl> Look for an "in" while they're talking about their work. If
Laura Anne brings up a line of medical SF she's working on, that would be
the time to mention you've got a medical thriller.
<@SLViehl> Editors attract writers like honey attracts flies. You've got to
be really low-key about it, Jenny.
<@SLViehl> Be interested in them. It's always good to know an editor, and
they love to talk about themselves.
<Sarah> I think a lot of it depends on the atmosphere of the con, too.
Everyone at the ICFA was great (granted, that's a conference, not a
<@SLViehl> Have a business card you can hand him or her if you've gotten to
the end of the conversation, in case they ask for one.
<James> Have I disappeared, or has everyone else?
<@SLViehl> Hi James, we can see you
<Cailin> I see you, James.
<Kaelle> What should the business card say?
<BklynWriter> I was under the impression that writers with biz cards
was...um ... tacky
<@SLViehl> Nothing fancy, Kaelle -- your name, contact info, e-mail, phone,
address, and a one liner on what you write.
<Kaelle> ok, thanks
<@SLViehl> Mine says novelist, because I work in more than one genre.
<@SLViehl> I should throw a QUESTIONS up here, just to be official about it.

<Sarah> BW - I got asked for them all the time at ICFA -- I really wish I'd
known beforehand to have them.
<@SLViehl> Not if an editor asks you for one, BK. If you don't have one on
hand, you look like a rookie.
<Sarah> Ahem...
<James> Is "What did I miss?" a question?
<Anne_Marble> Which magazine is better for learning editor names and the
like? SF Chronicle? Or Locus?
<@SLViehl> And you don't have to invest a lot of money in business cards --
you can buy the forms and make them yourself on the printer.
<@SLViehl> Sorry, Sarah.
<BklynWriter> ok...contact info, nothing fancy, right?
<Sarah> That's okay, I WAS a rookie.
<Anne_Marble> How about "Anybody want some Tandoor Chicken?"
<BklynWriter> I can do that! <g>
<@SLViehl> We'll get you a transcript, James/
<@SLViehl> Anne, I think either can be helpful, but Locus probably has the
most uptodate info.
<Anne_Marble> SFC has more book reviews, though. :->
<James> Thanks
<@SLViehl> Nothing fancy, Bk, no pictures or cutesy stuff on the card.
Plain, a discreet color like white or ivory, with easy to read print.
<BklynWriter> I like the tone of SF Chronicle. Don [i wont try to spell his
last name] doesn't try to "talk down" to his readers
<@SLViehl> I like that Don guy, he named my book as the best debut novel of
2000. <g>
<BklynWriter> and he's from Brooklyn <g>
<Blair> I've never heard of either of those mags... are they available
<@SLViehl> Sure. SF Chronicle you can subscribe to online, as well as
locus. I'll send you the links, Blair, I can't remember them off the top of
my head.
<Blair> thanks
<Anne_Marble> Usually just in really big bookstores or in speciality shops.
And mail order -- sometimesthe publisher of SF Chronicle has free
<Sarah> Blair - I had to find Locus at the SF specialty bookstore in
<BklynWriter> SF chronicle can be hard to find sometimes. Don did it all on
his own - i applied for a job as his assistant a few years ago
<Sarah> (They were impressed that I was in it. <g>)
<Jinx> There are no doubt some of us <raises her hand> who would have no
interest in "doing" the con circuits, should we ever get published. Is this
a hindrance in any way?
<@SLViehl> Ah, so you already have a contact, Bk
<Anne_Marble> They have a new publisher now and might be easier to find. DNA
Publications publishes SFC.
<@SLViehl> No, Jinx. I don't go to SF conventions anymore. I have no
problem selling books.
<@SLViehl> In fact, I've never gone to any since I've been published.
<Anne_Marble> Yeah, I just bought two more tonight!
<Jinx> Oh, good. :-}
<Sarah> I'm not published, but I've been asked to speak at one in February,
and I have NO idea what I'm in for....
<@SLViehl> Okay, on to how to present yourself at these events --
<@SLViehl> Kissing butt or maintaining distance? Which is the worse evil?
<BklynWriter> re: your comment about pubbed SF authors.....I emailed Mike
Resnick out of the blue, and he was terribly nice, I was surprised
<@SLViehl> There are exceptional people out there. Most, however (and this
is my opinion) are not nice to aspiring writers.
<@SLViehl> Unless you purchase a book.
<Sarah> (For an idea of those who are, check out the attendace of the ICFA)
<James> ICFA?
<@SLViehl> Sarah, give us the info on this one
<Sarah> International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts
(www.iafa.org). Everyone there was really supportive of the tensors (Asimov
Award Winners). Especially Sean Stewart. <g>
<Sarah> And Ellen Datlow is amazing.
<@SLViehl> Thanks, Sarah, it's good to know there are some supportive-type
<Jinx> Oooh.. someone I actually know (my husband used to work with Sean's
<@SLViehl> When you're presenting yourself at these events, try to maintain
a healthy distance, but talk to people -- and not just editors and pubbed
writers. You never know whose wife or husband you may be talking to.
<@SLViehl> Don't be pushy, don't gush, don't act like a fan or a hopeful.
Act like you're among peers.
<@SLViehl> Because you are. Being published and being an editor does not
make someone better than you.
<@SLViehl> Always remember that.
<@SLViehl> You can also make contacts by volunteering at a convention. They
always need people to help out.
<@SLViehl> If you volunteer to be a room moderator, for example, you'll
probably get a few minutes before and after a workshop/panel to talk with
the author(s).
<@SLViehl> Again, keep it very low key and subtle.
<@SLViehl> Then there are the local SF writer associations, clubs, groups,
etc. who herd together at these events.
<@SLViehl> These are mostly made up of fans, or short story writers.
<@SLViehl> If there is one that happens to be close to your hometown at the
convention, it won't hurt to introduce yourself.
<@SLViehl> Again, you're making contacts. I just wouldn't expect too much.
<@SLViehl> Agents -- rarely do you get an opportunity to pitch an agent at a
SF convention, unless you've arranged to meet them there ahead of time.
<@SLViehl> Check out who is planning to attend the convention you're going
to, and write to the agent ahead of time.
<@SLViehl> Ask if you can meet there, and talk about possible
<@SLViehl> It's very difficult to get any hard work done at the standard
convention, but with some judicious politicking, you may be able to
establish some contacts. Try out a local con before you go for something
big like WorldCon, because it can be really expensive.
<@SLViehl> strike that last N
<@SLViehl> No questions? Shall we press on?
<Cailin> Okay.
<Blair> sure
<BklynWrite> yes
<Anne_Marble> Sure. <gloat>This bread is still warm.</gloat>
<James> Sure - I feel I ought to have questions but I can't think what they

<Jenny> I don't know enough to have questions.
<@SLViehl> Hey, just means I'm explaining this stuff okay, to me, anyway.
<@SLViehl> Common and uncommon mistakes to avoid when submitting
<Sarah> Oh, I think I have one!
<BklynWrite> i agree with Jenny
<@SLViehl> go ahead Sarah
<Sarah> Do you have any idea what I can expect at Ad Astra? I know Russell
wants me to speak on something (since I'm listed on the program participant
list), but I'm not sure what. Probably the Asimov Award.
<Sarah> Ad Astra is a local con, somewhere above Toronto Trek (according to
Rob Sawyer)
<Jenny> Cool, Sarah.
<@SLViehl> I've heard some good things about that one, it's on the small
side, and the smaller cons tend to be a lot friendlier.
<@SLViehl> It's also good to start out with small cons and work your way up
to the huge ones.
<James> As an observation - I'm not sure I want to run the risk of being
gutted by a Harlan Ellison for his amusement, or to spend a day subtly
stroking writers and editors for tips. It sounds too predatory... You may
have just talked me out of ever attending a convention!
<Kaelle> Oy. The only two SF conventions I went to were WorldCons. <g.
<@SLViehl> I'd rather see you spend your money on writing and submitting,
James. I just don't think cons are cost effect for the aspiring writer.
<James> Just another red herring scattered by the side of a wise career
<@SLViehl> Think of it this way -- if you spend $500 on attending WorldCon,
you can spend the same on getting a better printer. Or sending out 50
<Sarah> ICFA was fairly small, too.
<Sarah> (wishes she were as good at schmoozing as Lena DeTar)
<Anne_Marble> Oooh, laser printer. Faster.
<@SLViehl> Some people think you have to get into cons and cliques to be
successful in SF. I haven't, I don't, and I'm hitting the Locus BSL.
<BklynWrite> i think i'd much rather attend a con as a fan, as opposed to as
a writer
<@SLViehl> I think that's best, Bk. You'll have more fun that way, believe
<James> Cliques tend to send me into a rage, I'm afraid, so I don't think
I'd be fun...
<Kaelle> I attended as many panels as I could. I learned a lot.
<@SLViehl> If it helps you as a writer, I'm all for it, Kaelle.
<Kaelle> I enjoyed myself immensely.
<@SLViehl> And remember, this is all my opinion. If you want to try out
going to a small con, you may find, like Kaelle, it really helps you. Then
you can come back and tell me to jump in a lake. <g>
<BklynWrite> what is your opinion of gen. writing conferences
<@SLViehl> I went to my last conference in July, Bk. I've sworn off them
for good.
<@SLViehl> For all genres.
<BklynWrite> lol
<@SLViehl> I've also stopped doing booksignings and making speeches. I do
teach kids, though, because I love that.
<@SLViehl> But that has a lot to do with my personal comfort level with the
whole author business.
<Sarah> I'm trying to win the Asimov award again so I can go back to the
ICFA (cause affording the registration is hard), but I'd probably go again
even If I don't win.
<@SLViehl> I'd like to see more cons give memberships and waive fees for
aspiring writers.
<Sarah> I think that's half the reason Rick wants me to plug the award at Ad
<@SLViehl> Shall we take a five minute break, folks?
<James> Sure.
<Blair> sure
<Kaelle> yes
<Cailin> Sure.
<@SLViehl> BRB, I'm making some tea.
<Anne_Marble> OK, I can finish my nice warm Indian bread and get some milk
to go with my nice, warm Indian bread...
<Sarah> <wishes they'd update the Ad Astra website...>
<BklynWrite> gotta go play Mom for a minute....the tribe is restless and
wants to play Diablo II
<@SLViehl> I want to move in with Anne so she'll feed me. :)\
<Jinx> <glares at Ann for good measure about the nice warm Indian bread>
<Kaelle> She does mention a lot of interesting food, doesn't she?
<Jenny> My brother just sent me a message on ICQ that his girlfriend's
cooking him dinner.
<Anne_Marble> Bwah hah hah.
<@SLViehl> Now I want to go make bread.
<Kaelle> yeah....
<Sarah> Wow, I'm almost glad my appetite's gone again...
<@SLViehl> Honey whole wheat with a little oatmeal sprinkled on top.
<Kaelle> mmmm
<Blair> i just had a chocolate brownie
<@SLViehl> or cornbread. I love cornbread in the morning. Anne, I'm going
to bake tomorrow, because of you. <g>
<Anne_Marble> And for desert, I have more Indian bread stuffed with fruit &
nuts. (I wanted to explore the cuisine.) I left the wine in the car, though.
<@SLViehl> Blair is a chocoholic, I think.
<Kaelle> ooh, cornbread. And chili. I have to cook tomorrow. !
<BklynWrite> mmmmm....chili
<Jinx> I suppose I could make cinnamon bread.....
<Kaelle> lol
<Sarah> There's a breadmaker downstairs that I fully intend to exploit when
I'm better.
<Anne_Marble> Whoops, that container was rice. Maybe I left the desert bread
in the car, too.
<@SLViehl> I love my breadmaker.
<Anne_Marble> My mother has a dough hook but no breadmaker. She's a rebel.
<Jinx> <agrees with Sheila> I don't use mine nearly enough.
<@SLViehl> I have kids, so I had to have a breadmaker.
<Anne_Marble> Ooooh, I just found the desert bread.
<@SLViehl> Now she's going to torture us with descriptions of this bread.
<@SLViehl> Bread sadist.
<Blair> <covers eyes>
<Anne_Marble> <ducking from the paper clips everyone is throwing at me>
<Jenny> Why do these conversations always turn to food?
<Cailin> ~likewise covers her eyes~
<Blair> <peeking>
<@SLViehl> I was just thinking that, Jenny. We always end up talking about
food during the break.
<Jinx> <doesn't mention her Old South Fudge Pie ice cream she's eating>
<Blair> <scoff>
<Cailin> ~lobs a pen lid at Jinx~
<Kaelle> I think Anne always starts it, too. <g>
<@SLViehl> Yep, Anne's an instigator.
<Sarah> Aw nuts. It looks like I'm riceless for the weekend again.
<@SLViehl> Send out for Chinese.
<Anne_Marble> I'm eeeevil. You know, maybe I should start a new trend,
fantasy novels with recipes. It worked for what's-her-face with the food
<@SLViehl> Or is it bug-related?>
<Jenny> You'd have to come up with some exotic recipes...but that could be
<Kaelle> great idea, Anne
<Jenny> Or maybe just gruel, if it's a novel about peasants.
<Sarah> There's a rice meal from Loblaws that's great when I'm nauseated,
but Emily forgot to pick it up before she left.
<BklynWrite> are they difficult to use [breadmakers]
<Anne_Marble> If the Dragonlance people can put out recipes...
<@SLViehl> Okay, I'm determined to finish this workshop tonight, so let's
get back to work.
<Anne_Marble> (They had to make some adjustments to Raistlin's brew...)
<@SLViehl> Breadmakers aren't hard to use at all, Bk, they're a blessing.

-end of part one-

 Respond to this message   

SF Market (Conclusion) Transcript Part II 10/19/01

October 24 2001, 7:46 PM 

<@SLViehl> But on to submitting, and how not to mess that up.
<Kaelle> common and uncommon mistakes, I think you left off at
<@SLViehl> Right on track, Kaelle. We'll start with common composition
<@SLViehl> First, always check out the guidelines of the publisher you are
submitting to. Follow them religiously.
<@SLViehl> If they want a 100K minimum, don't send them a 50K manuscript.
<@SLViehl> This is just common sense.
<@SLViehl> If the publisher mainlines with hard SF and maybe puts out one
fantasy novel every blue moon, your fantasy novel will probably do better
somewhere else.
<@SLViehl> Do not send fanfic to a publisher.
<@SLViehl> Fanfic is what fans write. You are a pro in the making. Send
original, non-plagerized fiction you came up with.
<@SLViehl> Again, look at the line of books the publisher is putting out.
See if your manuscript fits in, and not just category or sub-genre type.
Look at the voices of the writers being published by this imprint
<@SLViehl> If you check out Avon Eos, you'll find a very high amount of what
I think of as literary fantasy.
<@SLViehl> High-brow, high concept, extremely lyrical stuff.
<@SLViehl> Obviously, your experimental science-fantasy hardcore steampunk
novel won't impress Eos.
<@SLViehl> Once you've got a list of potential publishers, get the query
letters and partial chapter submissions out to them as specified in the
<@SLViehl> If they don't want simultaneous submissions (meaning they don't
want something you're sending out to other publishers at the same time)
don't send it to them and fifteen other publishers.
<@SLViehl> Make a submission plan.
<@SLViehl> Pick first the publishers who accept simultaneous submissions.
Send your query or partial to these publishers first.
<@SLViehl> Mark the response time on your calendar. If they say they will
respond in three months, and you don't hear from them, politely follow up
with a letter to check on your submission.
<@SLViehl> When you get a response, and inevitably, there will be rejection
letters, have a submission waiting to send out the very same day.
<@SLViehl> It's like combatting anti-matter with matter. You're taking a
positive action against a negative action.
<@SLViehl> The SF/F market is limited, so you may run out of publishers to
send your submission to. This is not the end of the world.
<@SLViehl> You are not a one-book writer. While those submissions are out
there, get started on the next book. Don't wait.
<@SLViehl> Always, ALWAYS think positive. Read the responses you get.
Generally, they'll be form letters, but if the editor writes to you
personally, see what they're saying.
<@SLViehl> Then apply that to your ongoing work.
<@SLViehl> Voice is something a lot of writers have a problem with in the
<@SLViehl> We read so many books that we often unconsciously imitate our
favorite author(s).
<@SLViehl> This is a beginner's mistake, and the editor will reject your
novel for it.
<@SLViehl> One editor told me she got so many submissions from Heinlein
wannabes that she could pick out phrases lifted from the man's work in the
<@SLViehl> So how do you create a unique voice?
<@SLViehl> You are unique. Heinlein was unique. I'm unique.
<@SLViehl> Put aside all your favorite books and concentrate on you. The
writer in you, of you, that uses you and what you think about and how you
speak and what you love.
<@SLViehl> Anne has a great sense of humor. I'd love to see some of her
bread-taunting lines in her work.
<@SLViehl> Blair, on the other hand, has a very sly, witty way of
deprecating something. Cherijo would love to meet Blair.
<@SLViehl> Sarah is lyrical -- I can tell from her e-mails, and her titles.
<@SLViehl> James is wonderfully wry.
<@SLViehl> I could go on and on about each of you, but the point is you are
all unique individuals. Don't shove that aside to imitate someone else. Be
<@SLViehl> And if you're stuck on what it unique about you, ask someone.
Ask a spouse or a friend, ask your Mom.
<@SLViehl> What do you do best? What's the coolest thing about you?
<@SLViehl> That needs to go into your writing, above all else.
<@SLViehl> And I can't give you a conversion formula. Someone once said to
me, if you wrote books the way you write letters, I know you'd get
<@SLViehl> That was a magic moment for me. I realized I had more fun
writing letters than torturing myself writing novels the way I thought they
should be written (like I was some intellectual)
<@SLViehl> I'm not particularly intellectual. I'm funny, in a sarcastic
way, so I worked on that.
<@SLViehl> Motivation -- the hardest part of the job for all of us.
<@SLViehl> It takes some nerve to sit down and do this writing that we do.
<@SLViehl> When you finish writing a book, you've just passed up about a
hundred thousand writers who start books and never finish them. That's a
major accomplishment, but no one's there to tell you that.
<@SLViehl> You've just got a six pound stack of paper sitting on your desk.
<@SLViehl> So it's up to you to reward yourself, to motivate yourself, and
to keep turning out those six pound stacks of paper.
<Jenny> (I could start weight training...)
<@SLViehl> #1 priority -- stop thinking of publication as validation. You
are a writer.
<Robert> And here I thought I was just whistling in the dark saying that to
myself at the shelter.
<@SLViehl> #2 priority -- until you get published, you have to provide the
impetuous to keep yourself writing. Do whatever it takes.
<@SLViehl> When I finished a book back before I got my first contract, I had
a reward set up for myself. The carrot in front of the donkey kind of
<BklynWrite> I know i have a strong voice---but is it a voice that will
sell? How do I figure that one out?
<@SLViehl> Sometimes it was just buying myself a hardcover novel, or taking
an hour-long bubble bath. But it was payment.
<@SLViehl> On figuring out if your voice will sell, Bk, the only way to know
is to submit,and see what happens. Critique groups can help, but other
writers don't publish books. Editors do. You've got to get your work out
there, and see what kind of response you get.
<@SLViehl> In spite of the best self-motivation in the world, you're going
to end up in the pits sometimes.
<@SLViehl> I have a condo in the pits. That's how often I've been there.
<Cailin> ~looks up from the bottom of the pit and waves~
<Robert> Hi neighbor
<@SLViehl> You're alone, you're depressed, you're about to give up because
you really don't need this nonsense in your life.
<@SLViehl> Sound like familiar territory?
<Robert> Very, and friends not writers don't get it.
<@SLViehl> It is, and get used to it. Because it doesn't go away after
you're published. The pit gets deeper.
<Cailin> Joy......
<BklynWrite> but i cant NOT write....so i have to learn to live in the pits
i guess lol
<@SLViehl> Reviewers who slam your book, professionals who rip you apart,
editors who gut you plot, they all have shovels.
<@SLViehl> This is part of the job. Being in the pit, is part of the job
<Blair> sounds like a good motivator to me.
<@SLViehl> Just don't stay down there forever. Climb back out. Do whatever
it takes, but get out of the pit.
<@SLViehl> I have a pit-book that I read when I get depressed. It's a book
about a woman whose life is so wretched mine looks like Beverly Hills in
<@SLViehl> I cry, every time I read that book. It HURTS to read that book.
<@SLViehl> Then I feel better and I go back to work. I don't know why it
pulls me out of the pit, but it does.
<James> 'Cause it reminds you our pits are in the side of a mountain, that
there are pits down in the valley that aspire to be our pits...
<@SLViehl> If you can't get out of the pit, you can't go forward.
<@SLViehl> Exactly, James.
<@SLViehl> Which leads me to the final, wrap-up of this session
<@SLViehl> Are you cut out for the SF/F genre?
<@SLViehl> Here are the realities, as I see them:
<@SLViehl> This is a genre that is in trouble. It needs good writers, new
<@SLViehl> There are a lot of prejudices and preconceived ideas about what
should be written.
<@SLViehl> We need to get rid of these, and the only way we can is by
writing the books we would love to read.
<BklynWrite> isn't this already starting to happen in a small way?
<@SLViehl> There isn't a lot of money in writing SF/F. I'm considered high
midlist, and I've had a lot of good luck and excellent numbers.
<@SLViehl> I am paid at the very lowest scale in genre fiction.
<BklynWrite> there are more african-american writers of sf/f than years
before....Nalo H., steven Barnes. Octavia butler
<@SLViehl> You're not going to become a millionaire, doing this.
<@SLViehl> And you're likely to butt heads with the SF butthead authors
already dug in and established.
<Jenny> How do you know that, Bklyn?
<@SLViehl> But if you've got faith in yourself, and believe in your work,
you can achieve something very, very few authors do.
<@SLViehl> You can break into a very narrow genre and establish yourself.
<@SLViehl> Is it worth it? Absolutely. I'd do it again, in a heartbeat.
And that is after nine years of struggling to get someone to publish my
<Anne_Marble> Besides needing new writers, does SF need more new (younger)
readers? Is there a way to tap into them, and if so, could that be
<James> Is your natural voice something to bear in mind when creating a main
character - choose one likely to think in your natural voice?
<Kaelle> Ditto James.
<Robert> Is it statistically likelier to sell a novel of good quality than a
short story same quality?
<@SLViehl> Anne, I think JK Rowling has opened a huge door into the YA
market with her Harry Potter books. RL Stine did it with horror. They're
out there, and they want books to read.
<Anne_Marble> Just have to find the right tap.
<BklynWrite> i know my son does!!
<James> In my library, most common children's question is "I've just
finished the last Harry Potter, who can I read now?"
<@SLViehl> James, I think a main character is such a part of you that you
almost have to incorporate yourself, your voice, into the character.
<@SLViehl> Given the current state of the genre, Robert, it is statistically
easier to sell a short story. Otherwise, all these SF authors would be
publishing books, not stories in magazines.
<Anne_Marble> Unrelated question, why do small press publishers put out
trade paperbacks instead of mass market? (Sorry, I'm trying to write a post
in answer to a romance reader...)
<James> I just worry that I'm never seeding my characters with my most
entertaining side... (current main is fairly stuffy at present)
<@SLViehl> Small press publishers make more money on trades versus mass
market, that's got to be the motivation, Anne.
<@SLViehl> Let your characters mess up, James. Let them laugh at
themselves. Let them breathe. I don't know how to convert that into
precise writing instructions, but it's sort of like being at a party. Would
your character have a good time, or would everyone move into the next room?
If that makes sense
<BklynWrite> I was told that based on the success of Nalo H. & Tananrive Due
& Octavia Butler, publishers want more SF/F/H from african american
authors......on the other hand, I've also heard the opposite. Any comments?
<Anne_Marble> Thanks, that must be it (plus they don't have to share shelf
space with all the mass market stuff).
<BklynWrite> am i expected to write SF with an all-white cast? [no offense
<@SLViehl> I would like to believe that publishers are not accepting
manuscripts based on the color of the author's skin. That's what I would
really like to believe.
<James> Thanks, it does make sense. Again, I'll need to think about it to
turn it into something I can put on paper, but it does make sense.
<Jenny> I'd like to know how they can tell.
<Robert> Thanks, Sheila... Bklyn, I read a lot of SFF that has nonwhite
<@SLViehl> Mine come in all assorted shades, colors, and textures, Bk. I
don't think anyone should have to stick to a particular skin color with
<Blair> especially in SF where skin colours should be shades of green <G>
<BklynWrite> well i sent off a manuscript [non SF] and the pub. asked me if
I was african-american...BEFORE even reading it, because if I wasn't...she
wouldn't read it.
<Robert> Not in the genre where half the memorable characters are green or
<Robert> Wish you'd taped that call, sounds like lawsuit time.
<Cailin> (:-O At Brooklyn)
<@SLViehl> I wouldn't submit to that publisher, Bk, but I've got a real
problem with racial prejudice.
<Cailin> You have got to be kidding.........
<Jenny> Oh my.
<Cailin> ~goes up in flames~
<BklynWrite> her excuse was that non-African Americans cannot write African
american characters....needless to say that was the last she heard from me.
<Kaelle> I'm ...speechless
<Blair> I would think that even African American people would be offended by
<@SLViehl> Sounds like the lady is a bigot.
<Robert> Roland was. He loved the way I handled the black characters.
<@SLViehl> There are white bigots and black bigots and yellow and red and
every other color
<James> I remember wanting to die watching an interview between Toni
Morrison and a local journalist, who asked her if it worried her that she
didn't have enough white characters...
<BklynWrite> ironically bigotry has no prejudice...it runs across the board
<Anne_Marble> That sounds like something the woman I heard on the call-in
show today would've said. I only listened to her because my annoyance kept
me alert.
<Robert> It was hilarious one day at the shelter where two of them got going
agreeing wiht each other obscneely at top volume.
<BklynWrite> i can do ethnic characters.....my biggest problem is the most
alien creature I've ever encountered.....the MALE species LOL
<Anne_Marble> I want polka dots.
<Jinx> Hrmm...
<@SLViehl> We're all mutts and mongrels, when you think about it.
<James> Or stripes - they're slimming.
<Blair> I'd like to think i'm not quite human sometimes <g>
<Kaelle> James. LOL
<Robert> I'm bi, alien to straights and gays alike sometimes. Yeah, Blair,
sme here! I'm an alien diplomat.
<Anne_Marble> That's true, Cro Magnon came from Asia and/or Africa. The less
advanced Neanderthal was from Europe.
<James> We're all aliens - the sad thing about SF fandom is that it forgets
that, and it is the group that should remember...
<Blair> I'll just let my stories speak for themselves.
<Anne_Marble> Hey, that would be a great concept for a novel, Robert. A bi
character becomes a diplomat to gay aliens...
<BklynWrite> i agree James
<@SLViehl> Exactly, Blair.
<Robert> Yes. That was the point of SF and why the Emperor's black and the
little black girl adores his LOOKS.
<Robert> Little black American teenager one of the most memorable side
characters I ever did, middle class, bright, high achiever like a lot of
friends I had in New Orleans. I love that kid.
<@SLViehl> If anyone does come at you with a demand on what your skin color,
I'd recommend you tell them what tree they can go climb.
<@SLViehl> As is related to your manuscript, of course. Other situations
are up to your personal discretion.
<Anne_Marble> One with lots of thorns and leaking sap...
<@SLViehl> There you go, Anne.
<James> Read an article on, I think, the Salon website that said publishers
are increasingly interested in attractive writers - they're easier to
market, apparently.
<Robert> Urk
<Blair> is it okay NOT to specify a skin colour for a character, I mean if
its not essential to the plot does it really matter?
<Robert> A friend of mine did a short steamy vamp romance in which she did
not specify gender or race of the seduced at all, was careful not to cue, to
let reader experience the hot little scene however they imagine themselves.
<Kaelle> I like combining attributes. Like black skin with white hair and
blue eyes.
<Jenny> I wonder if there'll ever be jobs as writer stand-ins. Not that I'd
qualify, but it would be neat to have a publicity double.
<@SLViehl> It's hard to say, Blair. Unless everyone in the novel has the
same color skin, maybe . . .
<BklynWrite> I like using multicultural names and characters so as to NOT
pigeonhole my characters
<Anne_Marble> I've heard of readers who get annoyed because they imagine the
character looking a certain way (usually their own race) and they're
suddenly told the person is another race.
<Robert> Niven, an old one, used to do cool things like that with naming
mixes showing mixed ethnicity.
<@SLViehl> I make mine pretty colorful, so I like to describe what my
characters look like. They're blue and pink and spiny and scaly and I have
a lot of fun with it.
<BklynWrite> Like Javier O'Brien
<Anne_Marble> Robert Heinlein subtly revealed the race of the guy in
"Starship Invaders."
<James> Javier O'brien is pink and spiny?
<Robert> I was going to say that. <G> You make sure I know that colonial
race character is a big sentient coralllike colonial organizm.
<@SLViehl> But I don't concentrate on segregating characters by color.
Species, maybe.
<@SLViehl> All the lizards hang out with lizards.
<Robert> Species can affect habits and living conditions a lot.
<BklynWrite> Lt. Uhura wrote a novel that included several multiethnic
characters, and included a interspecies romance. i enjoyed it.
<BklynWrite> i forget her name
<Kaelle> Nichelle Nichols.
<Robert> Nichelle Nichols
<Robert> I adore her, she's also a singer and loves opera.
<@SLViehl> You know you're in with a bunch of SF writers when they can
produce Lt. Uhura's real name in two seconds flat.
<James> I'd rather think it was actually Uhura, during the long hours she
had nothing to do while everyone else got storylines...
<Kaelle> lol
<Robert> Uhura was writing novels. Actually if I did a ST novel I could
see that...
<Anne_Marble> I remember a great scene in "Windhaven" where the heroine
(from the first part) encountered all the other groups on her planet. Each
ranged from a little bit different to very different. It was short but
interestingly done.
<Blair> Just once i wanted her to throw that earpiece at Kirk for being such
a dolt...
<James> "Dammit, Captain, I just about had that paragraph nailed!"
<Anne_Marble> Now that would make a great fanfic.
<@SLViehl> Bk, you made the comment about Mike Resnick before, I think --
doesn't he write a lot of his books with African and African-American
characters? And he's a white guy, far as I know.
<@SLViehl> My point is, I'd submit to his publisher.
<BklynWrite> Yeah. My son read WidowMaker, and I couldn't find the rest of
the series [its out of print] and he mailed them out to my son the same day
I inquired about buying them from him
<BklynWrite> I thought that was the coolest thing
<@SLViehl> That is cool.
<Kaelle> way cool
<Robert> Yeah...
<Anne_Marble> If you want Resnick stuff, you might want to try
Fictionwise.com. At least for electronic copies. Most of his stuff in print
through them now.
<@SLViehl> Mike Resnick immediately goes on my good-guy list.
<Anne_Marble> He also put out a book on rewriting recently.
<Kaelle> Oh really ? know the title?
<BklynWrite> "Putting it together" or something like that
<BklynWrite> it has gone to the top of the "to buy" list
<@SLViehl> So, now everyone is going to get out there and submit, submit,
submit, right?
<@SLViehl> (cracking whip)
<Anne_Marble> I joined the Fictionwise "BuyWise" club when it first started,
and I was able to buy it for free.
<Robert> Oh yeah. Short story blitz when my anthology's done.
<Jenny> Or at least write, edit, write, edit.
<Jinx> Yes!! Well, as soon as I write the derned thing....
<BklynWrite> Yes ma'am
<James> I submit that I will submit, eventually...
<Kaelle> Of course.
<Anne_Marble> Yes, have Palm, will travel.
<@SLViehl> Remember, when you make the Nebula acceptance speech, it's
pronounced "Veel"
<Kaelle> lol
<BklynWrite> of course I need to finish first
<Cailin> ~laughs~
<@SLViehl> You may call me your personal goddess, I won't mind at all.
<Robert> Yes! I will remember that, Veel the Healer...
<Jinx> <writes that down> <g>
<Robert> (you might not get tuckerized human in that version)
<Anne_Marble> Oh, I meant to ask that!
<BklynWrite> I've been writing my "acknowledgements" page ever since I
started writing LOL
<James> I s hall sacrifice a goat immediately...
<Kaelle> personal goddess/cheerleader. same thing
<Robert> Okay, you stuck your appendages up for that one, Veel...
<Cailin> ~rolls laughing~
<Robert> I didn't ask your phylum...
<Blair> how about 'Saviour of the Pit?'
<@SLViehl> And if you have any questions that come up, remember the class
e-mail addy is SLViehlworkshop@aol.com. I'm here for you all.
<@SLViehl> No making me a snake.
<Anne_Marble> Thanks!
<@SLViehl> I'm already a snake in at least three books.
<Kaelle> sssss..
<Jinx> <scratches out what she just wrote down>
<James> I have a wormgod going begging...
<Robert> Something pink and blue and spiny?
<@SLViehl> You'd think they'd make me a blond princess type, but
<Anne_Marble> You can't be the villager healer, I named her after my former
neighbor who was a school nurse.
<@SLViehl> I've got to be a villain, with scales and fangs
<Blair> how bout a firey redhead with whip-like whit?
<@SLViehl> I'm starting to get a complex.
<Robert> Archosauria aren't reptiles, more avian, very intelligent, spiny
and brightly colored...
<@SLViehl> This is why I love Blair so much. He gives me whips.
<Anne_Marble> I think all the villains in my werewolf novel were male.
Probably the result of dealing with Don the Bad Manager at my old job.
<Anne_Marble> Hint: If you're ever in a job where they hire a guy called Don
Rexrode as your new manager.... RUN!!!....
<@SLViehl> Rexrode? Are you serious?
<@SLViehl> <snicker>
<James> Rexrode? I can see how he acquired his personality...
<Anne_Marble> (Hoping no one says, "That's my father!")
<@SLViehl> Oh, I could have FUN with that name.
<Anne_Marble> Be my guest.
<James> It makes you want to use it, doesn't it - it's just perfect...
<BklynWrite> rexrode i gotta use that one. i have a particularly nasty boy
to use it for
<Anne_Marble> He liked me, and that was scary. He gave me the best review
I ever got and told me I should go into project management. Which probably
means I would suck at it.
<James> Poor man will wonder why he's suddenly villain in half the SF of the
western world.
<Blair> rofl
<Cailin> Sounds to me like something you need a vaccine to prevent.
<@SLViehl> There'll be a whole crop of stories and books about this Rexrode
guy -- it'll be a phenomenon
<Robert> I'm still working on Veel the Healer, Saviour of the Pit
<Jenny> Anyone who offends this group is in trouble.
<@SLViehl> We are savages, aren't we? <g>
<Kaelle> nail 'em in print
<Robert> Blonde and blue, blonde hair blue skin
<Cailin> You should see the transcripts from Holly's first plotting class.
It was gruesome.
<@SLViehl> Well, folks, I'd better call it a night. Any last questions.
<James> Where do you get ideas
<Cailin> ~dives into her foxhole~
<Kaelle> rotfl
<@SLViehl> I lead a very sedate, dull and boring life, James. I Walter
Mitty all the time.
<BklynWrite> how do you format a manuscript
<James> Don't we all!
<Anne_Marble> Hee hee hee
<Anne_Marble> Just don't format your hard disk drive...
<@SLViehl> Carefully, Bk.
<James> What's the formula for publishable fiction?
<Robert> Eeep. "Hi, this is my new submission format. I'm sending you my
hard drive...."
<@SLViehl> Write your butt off and pray. That's my formula.
<Cailin> ~claps on her helmet~
<BklynWrite> can u read my manscript? all 1600 pages of it
<Anne_Marble> Someone e-mailed her manuscript to me! :-O
<Cailin> Eep!
<@SLViehl> in 2060, Bk. Right after I get through with my sister's.
<James> What a time to losy my connection!
<@SLViehl> I actually get about 5-10 manuscripts a month.
<Robert> "Oh, you're an accountant. Right after you do my taxes for free for
next ten years..."
<Anne_Marble> Her publisher gave her that horrid advice. :-O
<@SLViehl> unsolicited.
<Kaelle> No! You do?
<Anne_Marble> Eeek.
<Cailin> Gak! That's absurd, Anne. I hope you told them both off!
<BklynWrite> OMG
<@SLViehl> I feel bad so I mail them back with an apologetic letter, so I
don't hurt their feelings.
<Anne_Marble> I think she picked my name because I was a reviewer, and she
was hoping for a cover quote. My quote would've read "Don't e-mail your
manuscript to complete strangers, you twit!"
<Kaelle> lol, Anne
<@SLViehl> And for some reason, even though I don't belong to SFWA, everyone
STILL sends me books around Neb nominating time.
<Cailin> :-O
<Kaelle> Huh. You're popular, Sheila. <g>
<BklynWrite> i love that word "twit" it is so simple, yet so insulting lol
<Blair> and it stings...
<Anne_Marble> I was polite to her becuase I felt sorry for her, but I drew a
line. I told her it was a bad idea and told her what I'd heard of her
publisher, and told her she should get a lawyer to get out of the contract.
But I wasn't go to do any more than that. After all!...
<@SLViehl> I'm too nice. All the other authors just throw what they get in
the garbage.
<@SLViehl> You have to be careful, Anne, that's like tiptoeing through a
minefield, there.
<Anne_Marble> At least she listened (to most of it) and was nicer than Gene
Steinberg. :->
<BklynWrite> We're glad you're nice
<BklynWrite> <-- sucking up
<Kaelle> Very glad.
<Cailin> Yup.
<Anne_Marble> I have a program that creates fake "bounce" messages when I
get e-mail I don't want. ;->
<@SLViehl> I know how hard it is to get any real answers. Hopefully, I give
<Cailin> You do, Anne? Can I have it?
<@SLViehl> And I love to talk shop with you guys. You're wonderful.
<Robert> So are you, Sheila.
<Kaelle> ah <blushing>
<BklynWrite> oooh Anne, you can make a mint with that one!!
<Kaelle> so are you
<Cailin> ~nods in agreement with Robert~
<Anne_Marble> Sure, if I can find a copy. (It's freeware.)
<@SLViehl> And on that high note, I'm going to call it a night. Thank you
all for making this a terrific experience.
<Cailin> Cool. What's it called?
<Jinx> Great class, Sheila! Thank you!
<Kaelle> Good night, Sheila. Thanks!
<Cailin> Sonos ort, Shiela cara.
<Robert> Thanks Sheila - sorry I was late, I didn't transcribe this time.
<Anne_Marble> BSM18.exe or something, but I can't find the latest copy
<Jenny> Good night, thanks.
<Anne_Marble> Thanks Sheila!!!
<Blair> Thanks again Sheila. Great as usual!
<BklynWrite> 'nite Sheila. thanks for everything
<@SLViehl> Thanks again, and goodnight all!

-end of part two-

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World Building (Conclusion) Transcript 10/26/01

October 28 2001, 7:37 PM 

<@SLViehl> But I digress. Welcome to SF World Building. I'm your host, S.L. Viehl (Sheila), responsible for the StarDoc universe.
<@SLViehl> Got me some little reefs down here, James.
<Blair> 7am yesterday it was roughtly -7 (or 20ish degrees)
<James> Oh, little bitty things...
<Jehane> We've got mins of 25,26 C
<@SLViehl> Last time we met, back on 9/28, we talked about universal genesis -- why and how universes work
<@SLViehl> deciding what to put in your universe, and on what scale.
<@SLViehl> How to manage the details -- and just how much universe you need
<@SLViehl> Environmental themes -- future earth, other worlds, what's been done, what hasn't
<@SLViehl> and just got started on getting your world building tools and data together when the storm bounced me off.
<@SLViehl> The transcript for the last session is available on the transcripts board, and questions on anything we covered before are always welcome.
<@SLViehl> Tonight I'd like to cover a few more ideas for organization, then jump into civilization and social structure
<@SLViehl> I'll present what I've got, then put up QUESTIONS, and that's when to throw stuff at me.
<@SLViehl> Everyone ready?
<James> Yep!
<Jenny> Ready.
<Robert> Ready as ever!
<gayle> yes
<Kaelle> yep
<Jehane> yes
<Sarah> yup
<@SLViehl> To be an effective world builder, you need to manage your research and data, and make it easily accessible for yourself.
<@SLViehl> We talked about notebooks and Palm pilots, but there's another alternative, one that lends itself well to collaborations -- setting up an online resource/community type area
<@SLViehl> You can do this on any number of sites that offer free web page/forum/community hosting, and invite other writers you know to add their work, offer exchange critiques, whatever works for you.
<@SLViehl> We do a lot of crit exchanges here on Holly's site, for example.
<@SLViehl> But think about setting up your own. Even if it's just a list-serv through yahoo e-groups, where you can exchange ideas.
<@SLViehl> It's also a great way to store data off site, in the event of a power surge or other damage to your equipment.
<@SLViehl> And most offer safeguard and restriction features so that if you don't want someone accessing it without your permission, you can arrange that.
<@SLViehl> On to When in Rome -- Civilization and Social Structure
<@SLViehl> No world is inhabited by 2 billion John Smiths.
<@SLViehl> Although I tend to focus on one sentient race per planet (which I get plenty of flack for) you do need to populate your world(s) with a number of different races, and/or species.
<@SLViehl> Obviously if the races/species have developed differently, they're going to have some kind of problem with each other.
<@SLViehl> Or they interbred and create a third party race/species who doesn't belong to either parent stock
<@SLViehl> I recommend handling between two to four separate species in a one-planet story.
<@SLViehl> Give them enemies and allies. The more you have, the less detail about the race/species you can get into.
<@SLViehl> Don't make the mistake of crafting your race/species as wholly good, or wholly evil, because no society is pure and unadulterated. Let them mess up. Let them do terrible things, either in the present or past. Every race/species does.
<@SLViehl> Remember that in order to have progress, races/species have to grow, war, raid, make treaties, pacts, conquer, die out, etc.
<@SLViehl> Evolution always points to survival of the fittest, or whoever can survive what they do to each other.
<@SLViehl> There are separate considerations in fantasy, especially when magic is involved.
<@SLViehl> Magic upsets (at least temporarily) the balance of nature and evolution. I like to think the best fantasy novels are when nature has a hand in putting things back in balance. That's what nature does.
<James> I'm curious why you received flak for having one sentient species per planet...?
<Crista> In fantasy, will having only one sentient race get the same criticism?
<@SLViehl> Because my doc travels in most of my books, I narrowed my focus. Peers and reviewers accused me of having one-species/race planets, when actually I was just stopping in during the story for a brief visit
<@SLViehl> Crista, I think you have to have some strong cultural divisions when you're writing a one-race fantasy novel.
<James> It seems a curious thing for a reviewer to focus on -- but then, I'm not a reviewer.
<Robert> Cherijo didn't visit the other continent where the others lived, right? Besides, there were the Chakacats and another race that enslaved them. That's a two species world.
<Jehane> But what's wrong with just one sentient species per planet? Ours has only one obvious (to us) sentient species
<Kaelle> ditto, Jehane
<@SLViehl> For example, on K-2 there's an entire civilization of aquatics that I didn't have time in the story to visit. I think the reviewers missed them.
<@SLViehl> I'm repeating what I got a ton of e-mail on, and God knows I'm not an expert. My first book had tons of different aliens living together, and they said that would never work, either.
<Robert> Planets like K-2 had so many species of immigrants you couldn't tell if it was a one species planet to start.
<@SLViehl> But I generally do focus on one race or species per planet, unless its a conglomerate like K-2.
<@SLViehl> If you look at humans, we are all the same species, but have many cultural divisions (the next thing I'm going to get into, in fact.)
<Crista> Cool, because I have lots of questions about that. <g>
<@SLViehl> To wrap up diversity, I think you should do what feels right, but is also what the reader can follow. Obviously, if you have a hundred different races, they're going to get mixed up.
<@SLViehl> If you have a lot, make them different enough to be memorable.
<@SLViehl> On to composing believable alliances and conflicts.
<@SLViehl> Composing and developing interaction between a planet's inhabitants depends almost entirely on culture.
<@SLViehl> Set up the right cultures, and you have inevitable conflict and resolution
<@SLViehl> Cultural collisions, for example -- attempts to assert cultural identity can be viewed as abuse from outsider perspectives.
<@SLViehl> Case in point -- an African tribal woman who cut her son's face and rubbed charcoal in the wounds was arrested in London for child abuse.
<@SLViehl> Yet without the facial scarification, her son would not be allowed to participate as an adult in various aspects of her native culture, to which they were returning.
<@SLViehl> You can present these types of collisions for your reader, and create realistic conflict.
<@SLViehl> Another very frequent cultural conflict comes from ethnocentrism -- the belief that one's own culture is superior to all others.
<@SLViehl> AKA the fuse for war.
<@SLViehl> Hilter believed Aryans were superior and killed a lot of people trying to bend the world to that view.
<@SLViehl> An extreme example of ethnocentrism.
<@SLViehl> Culture shock -- encountering people who do not share your world view. This leads to feelings of disorientation, frustration, and often revulsion.
<@SLViehl> Imagine being dropped in the middle of Afghanistan and being told you had to walk around in a veil, escorted by a male family member, for the rest of your life.
<@SLViehl> Then there are the countercultures -- minority groups whose members share values, norms, and ways of life that contradict the fundamental beliefs and lifestyles of the larger, more dominant portion of society
<@SLViehl> white supremicist militia groups are a good example of counterculture.
<@SLViehl> and then you have cultural lag -- one aspect of a society's culture changes faster than another to which it is related. Creates perpetual maladjustment.
<@SLViehl> One continuing cultural lag in our own society is the effort to sustain life after brain death.
<@SLViehl> All of these are conflict creators, tools to be used and applied to your races/species.
<Robert> You mentioned earlier races that progress will raid, etc. What about cultures that reach a point of relative stability and hang onto it for really long periods of time?
<@SLViehl> Those would be the empire builders and treaty makers. As we see with the example of democracy, the builders inevitably inherit the earth, not the war mongers.
<@SLViehl> At least, in my opinion.
<Robert> Oh thank you for validating my Emperor. <G>
<James> You ethnocentrist
<Crista> Could you give a magical of example perhaps of a cultural lag? I think I might have such a thing in my WIP, but I'm not sure.
<@SLViehl> Crista, I think anything technical (or magical) that directly opposes a spiritual belief, creates cultural lag. The issue of abortion, for example. Technically possible and often necessary, yet diametrically opposed to most spiritual beliefs.
<@SLViehl> The necessity of life versus the spirituality of life is always good for a cultural lag.
<@SLViehl> Also, Robert, be cautious in having too benevolent an empire -- benevolent can be boring.
<@SLViehl> For the reader, if not the inhabitants of your world.
<Robert> It's been to war already once, in a big way.
<@SLViehl> Now, on to alliances -- yes, you can have those as well as conflicts.
<@SLViehl> Integration of one subculture into a larger culture is the foundation of alliances.
<@SLViehl> Whether it's establishing trade or interbreeding, incorporation is what helps people learn to accept and live with each other.
<@SLViehl> Compromises often have to be made, generally on the part of the minority group, prior to and during integration.
<@SLViehl> Eventually, the cultures merge and cooperate. In the optimistic long-term, that is.
<@SLViehl> Symbiotic partnerships between two roughly equivalent cultures also creates alliances.
<@SLViehl> The "I'll watch your back, you watch mine" type.
<@SLViehl> But not all alliances are friendly, or even willing.
<@SLViehl> Slavery integrates. Occupying forces integrate.
<@SLViehl> Conquered people often are absorbed into a larger culture, to the point of losing their original cultural identity.
<@SLViehl> This generally works better with small, isolated pockets versus large populations of enslaved or conquered peoples.
<@SLViehl> Often several cultures will form cooperatives, much like the two-equal-party alliances, but with much more power.
<@SLViehl> Just remember, the more folks you have at the decision-making table, the more potential there will be for conflict.
<James> Do you see integration as inevitable when one party to the alliance is "superior?"
<Robert> I've run into something often in real life where a person will culturally have much more in common wiht an adopted culture than their own.
<@SLViehl> Not necessarily, James. Jews throughout history have preserved their belief system and culture despite living under many different "conquerors"
<James> Which makes you wonder if refusal to integrate leads inevitably to persecution?
<@SLViehl> But I think an element of hiding has to be worked in to bring about what the Jewish nation has preserved.
<@SLViehl> Outsiders are always outsiders, and people want to feel secure in their neighbors, James. Then there's the always welcome scape goat for whatever goes wrong. Minorities almost always end up getting the blame, because they're different from the majority, who wants to feel safe.
<James> Do you mean hiding in the sense of maintaining a geographical distance from everyone else?
<@SLViehl> And persecution can work, peversely enough, to preserve a minority culture, by creating martyrs.
<@SLViehl> No, I think more hiding cultural practices -- like religious services being held in secret.
<Robert> And secrecy traditions, like most of the pagan groups now gain their traditions from ..
<James> Oh, I get you - which would probably make people even more suspicious of you.
<@SLViehl> It can be balanced by obtaining some semblance of power over the majority -- the Jews for centuries have been the unofficial bankers in many cultures
<@SLViehl> Not that having the power always saved them, but it helped.
<Robert> A lot of that was researched by a Jewish freind of mine, Sheila, and in medieval Europe that had to do with religious sanctions against making loans. Then they'd persecute the Jews if they needed money.
<@SLViehl> Sure. The majority doesn't have to play fair, remember -- they're the majority.
<James> Would the cultural battlefield then shift to the family? The children want to integrate into the larger culture for whatever advantages they see it offering, the parents want to preserve the old ways.
<James> That's a really interesting snippet, Robert.
<Robert> I don't even know that the power group is always the majority, but they usually have the best military capabilities.
<Robert> I think of Rome and frankly, Roman citizens were not a majority by any stretch of imagination.
<@SLViehl> Strain within the family often reflects what's happening in society. Children who did not grow up in the "mother country" for example, and who were persecuted, often find themselves at odds with their traditionalist parents, especially if they are well integrated into another society.
<@SLViehl> One writer I read said it was whoever had the biggest army, trying to remember . . . Albert Hourani, I think.
<@SLViehl> Rome had military superiority and terrific organization, against which the barbarian hordes were practically defenseless (in the beginning. The barbarians got smarter.)
<@SLViehl> A typo on the children paragraph above -- I meant to say, children who were NOT persecuted, as their parents likely were.
<@SLViehl> I'm going to call a five minute break now, so I can tuck my kids in, okay?
<Kaelle> 'kay
<@SLViehl> brb
<James> No worries.
<Robert> I'm still transcribing, have from "Hi, Jinx"
<@SLViehl> Right, the kiddies are horizontal.
<Blair> wow, aren't we a talkative bunch <G>
<Robert> One of the ways cultures blend at the edges is so obvious every time there's a Romeo and Juliet who get away with it.
<gayle> personally working on dinner...in addition to class
<James> They didn't really get away with it, surely...
<@SLViehl> I always wanted Romeo and Juliet to get away with it.
<Robert> And a lot of times the white girl and black boy will or whatever two groups it is, in real life they don't always die.
<gayle> No, but they have different problems because they are going against two different cultures
<James> Sorry, I was actually being silly.
<@SLViehl> They have difficult lives, and certainly their children often become caught between two worlds, but interracial relationships often do survive and thrive
<@SLViehl> You're allowed to be silly, James.
<@SLViehl> We're just being too serious!
<gayle> and eventually become acceptable to both cultures...but it does take time.
<James> Permission to be silly! Look out
<Jehane> Assimilation by interbreeding was one of the most common methods of merging two cultures wasn't it?
<Kaelle> rape of the sabines
<@SLViehl> Certainly. The English attempted to force interbreeding on the Scots, for example, with the droit du seigneur laws
<@SLViehl> (and I know I probably spelled the french wrong, but it's the bride goes to the local lord first for deflowering.)
<Jehane> eg Europe - Norsemen who went a-viking into France, became Normans then went into England, who then colonised half the world
<@SLViehl> Good example, Jehane.
<@SLViehl> James, how many convicts were dumped in your country by the English?
<James> Australia had a crack at integrating aboriginal culture out of existence by removing children from their birth homes - which we'll probably regret forever.
<@SLViehl> They did it here to the Navajo
<James> I'm horrified to say I don't know, Sheila. But respect for anti-authoritarians has remained a low-key part of our culture to the present day...
<gayle> not just the Navajos but most of the Indian tribes...
<@SLViehl> While I'm partly descended from starving Irish who came over during the potato famine . . .
<Kaelle> me, too, Sheila
<@SLViehl> We can find a lot of valuable culture-building-changing tools in our personal family histories.
<gayle> yep
<James> I'm a quarter Irish - from an irish woman married to an englishman thrown out of his family for not hating Irish people, relevant to the Romeo and Juliet thread.
<@SLViehl> On to the impact of religion and other beliefs systems now, if everyone's back and ready to go?
<gayle> I have a great grandfather who was one of the first white children born in Oregon
<@SLViehl> Oh, James, that sounds like a great story.
<Kaelle> He should write it.
<@SLViehl> Great romance (hint, hint)
<James> It's one of those stories my family treasures.
<James> Eek - hadn't thought of that!
<Kaelle> Sounds like a tv mini series.
<@SLViehl> Forbidden Love.
<James> My secret is out - I'm really Danielle Steele.
<@SLViehl> I knew it.
<@SLViehl> lol
<James> It's my incoherent writing style gave it away, right?
<Kaelle> rofl
<@SLViehl> ha
<@SLViehl> Don't get me started on Ms. Steele, I beg you.
<James> I actually wrote another saga while you were tucking the kids in - it should be in the shops by lunch time...
<@SLViehl> Let's talk about God . . . behave, James.
<Kaelle> roflmao
<James> Ahem. Sorry...
<@SLViehl> Our need to deal with those extraordinary elements of life that inspire a sense of reverence, awe, and fear create religions.
<@SLViehl> We also need a sense of meaning and purpose, which religion definitely provides.
<@SLViehl> These needs are and have been present in every society we've ever had here on earth.
<@SLViehl> What all that boils down to is we need to believe in something.
<@SLViehl> Doesn't have to be a god, but it has to be larger than we are.
<Robert> Ari's vote is for cat worship.
<@SLViehl> Science decreases the need for supernatural interpretations, and so the amount of religion a society practices directly relates to the amount of practical development in their stage of civilization, with the acknowledgement that religion can still dominate highly rational, highly secular societies.
<@SLViehl> What that means is, thunder strikes a tree, we don't drop on our knees and pray to the thunder god, but we might go home and muttered a prayer thanking another God for not letting it hit us.
<@SLViehl> So religion of some type should exist in your cultures and societies. Even if it is an atheist's religion of non-belief.
<@SLViehl> How much you invest in your work depends on your comfort level, and how much religion relates to your plot. But it should be there.
<Jenny> Do you think it's possible to have societies that don't have a need to believe in something bigger than themselves?
<@SLViehl> And remember religions, like an aspect of culture, undergo changes.
<@SLViehl> Sure, Jehane. But what replaces it? There is still the need for meaning and purpose in life.
<James> At the very least, Jenny, wouldn't they need a belief in the society?
<James> I mean that society was better than anarchy.
<Robert> The idea that religion is "belief" is something drawn from a lot of mystical religions. I'm a member of a very empirical one.
<@SLViehl> Absolutely right, Robert. There are many forms of religion that don't require belief as you define it.
<Robert> I like that point you made about meaning - because most of my pagan thought and the philosophers I appreciate will look for meaning in the natural world as it is.
<Robert> It was part of my early training that "knowing" is different from "believing" and we had a lot of comparative religion at that point.
<James> Worldbuilding-wise, I love the sound of a religion that subjects its beliefs to rigorous testing - a god who says I am - now seek to understand me.
<Crista> In my outlines for my Nanowrimo, I have a few notes about Gods actually being able to visits their worshippers and be a more active part of the world. Do the same sort of rules apply to a culture where faith isn't required, since the "Gods" can visit?
<Robert> That's powerful stuff if you're doing it in a fantasy world where gods literally show up - they're then accountable for competence!
<James> Oh, terrific! The Church calling god in for regular performance appraisals!
<@SLViehl> Actual intervention in a society would tend to humanize the gods -- like the mythological claims of the Romans and Greeks -- yet they were still worshipped.
<@SLViehl> If the Gods wield superior power, they maintain their deification.
<Robert> Yes. It's a specific branch of Christian thought that a god's infallible or perfect.
<Jenny> And Islamic.
<@SLViehl> Crista, your culture faces different problems from a culture participating in a completely mystical, belief-oriented religion.
<@SLViehl> The Gods walk among them, so they must have actual ritual contact of some kind with them. For purposes of crowd control, even, you'd have to have some strict disciplines, I'm thinking.
<Robert> My high magic culture, the Empeor gets deified and is supposed to hold the line and there's a sort of compact about godsnot going too far with the interventions, he's supposed to keep both sides reasonably at truce.
<Robert> He doesn't have to get mystical but he does have to do all the ceremonial duties to appease, including enemy gods and foreign gods, to maintain that division.
<James> That sounds interesting, Robert.
<@SLViehl> The Egyptians believed most of the dynastic leaders became deities upon assuming the throne. Yet Pharaohs were routinely assassinated. There has to be an inner circle, I think, who are so intimate with the "Gods" that they become aware of their weaknesses. Does that apply to your culture, Crista?
<Crista> Yes! The Gods in my story choose Favorites in each generation and one of the Gods Favorites thinks the Gods are fakes and intends to expose them.
<Crista> This is just outline type stuff. I'm working on sorting it out. I have some gaps to fill in.
<Robert> Don't tell me if they are! That's plot material either way! Cool!
<@SLViehl> Then you've already got the rules down, I think. Go with it, you're headed in the right directions.
<@SLViehl> Which also leads right into my next topic -- religious reformation
<@SLViehl> Crista's God deposers are one way of reforming religion -- if the Gods can be killed, they aren't Gods in the way that the people thought of them before the assassination.
<Robert> Heresies! I love heresies. I'm working on heresies for my major religions...
<@SLViehl> Believe it or not, economic changes are what usually incur religious reformation among most societies.
<@SLViehl> The burgeoning European system of capitalism was blamed for the sweeping Protestant Reformation in Western Europe through the 16th and 17th centuries.
<@SLViehl> The Roman Catholic church operated better with the feudal system before this time, and discouraged economic expansion.
<@SLViehl> Martin Luther's break from the church lead to the development of several new religions that supported rational economic activity and encouraged the accumulation of wealth.
<@SLViehl> Point of this is, religion must be able to grow with your culture and society, or it becomes oppressive, and open to radical reformation.
<@SLViehl> Fundamentalism, on the other hand, is often born of periodic tragedy or response to antiethical developments in society, and can give birth to fanaticism.
<@SLViehl> People desire a return to "the old ways" as a measure of security in troubled times.
<@SLViehl> When that desire becomes more important than any other consideration, it turns fundamentalists into fanatics.
<@SLViehl> Fanatics, as we sadly know in the US and around the world, are dangerous people.
<@SLViehl> There's an old saying -- the more we learn, the more we find we don't know. We can look out into the universe now, and the more we look at it, the more questions we have.
<@SLViehl> Religion will always play some part in society. Its importance in maintaining structure and discipline among communities is undeniable. Its role in conflict is also well known.
<Crista> Some of what you just said gave me a neat idea for a twist in my plot idea. Thanks!
<@SLViehl> Glad to be of help.
<Robert> When I write up alien scripture I try to make it embed all the day to day customs of the people whose scripture it is. Is that overdoing it?
<@SLViehl> Well, let me put it to you this way -- do you want to listen to the bible every day?
<Robert> No, but I have, frighteningly, known people who do and sometimes draw characters from them.
<@SLViehl> That's the way to do it, Robert -- have a mixture. Some characters who live completely ruled by ritual and custom according to religion, and others who don't
<Robert> I more meant, that it might get quoted once in the book but on a reread a reader who's into anthropology would start seeing echoes of their way of life in everything from the meter to the underlying philosophy.
<Jehane> Much of the bible and other religious scripture does detail how people should live their lives
<@SLViehl> Religion should be like setting, unless it is integral to plot development. In the background, part of the world, but never dominating unless the plot requires it incorporated in the action.
<@SLViehl> I think the vast majority of religion is concerned with daily life, and governs a good part of how one lives it.
<Kaelle> Yeah, an example could be like one of my aunts. She needed to wear warm pants for her outdoor job, but was required to wear skirts. She wore both.
<@SLViehl> The amounts depend on the religion you develop.
<@SLViehl> Just remember that the average reader isn't looking for a sermon on every page, if you know what I mean.
<Robert> I was more speaking in depth of research, treating the religious development like the science background - less is more onstage but having a lot of it worked out in notes.
<@SLViehl> Work your religion into the action, make it part of the life process of your character, but don't lecture to the reader about it, don't drop huge religious info dumps on them.
<@SLViehl> You know my philosophy, Robert -- an author can never know TOO much about the world they're building.
<@SLViehl> The more you know, the more it will come out in your work. And not in info dumps, either -- you will unconsciously work in your knowledge.
<Robert> I was thinking of finesse things like, the particular character who out of the whole party does say a grace at every meal, its phrasing would make an intelligent reader see how that religion looked at food and his patron god.
<Robert> And those fun misinformation things when cultures meet and something's sacred to one and crime to the other.
<@SLViehl> If it's short finesse, sure. Just avoid the lengthy stuff
<@SLViehl> And also remember that most people read for entertainment, not for enlightenment.
<@SLViehl> Have fun with your religion -- make it fun for the reader to discover it.
<Sarah> I know a great many books I've put down because the author got too much into "hey, look what I developed" mode...
<@SLViehl> And I don't mean in a humor-only type way. Holly's Secret Texts books were anything but humorous, but the religions and belief systems were wonderful,
<@SLViehl> Captivate your reader by giving them something they haven't seen before.
<gayle> and cosistent
<@SLViehl> Good point, Gayle -- consistency is vital. Don't wander all over the religious map, work it out so that it's logical.
<Crista> Most of the Gods I have sketched out are very serious, but I have one as pure comic relief, even though she presides over something considered to be very serious in the culture I created.
<@SLViehl> I like the contrast already, Crista. Sometimes the funniest people I've known had the worst jobs.
<@SLViehl> Why not then the Gods, too?
<Robert> Yeah, that's a great point, Crista. Gods and goddesses tend to have character, strong distinct character, they're characters.
<@SLViehl> Gods are figureheads. They are worshipped. They tend to be larger than life, live larger, love larger (again, reference the Roman and Greek gods.)
<@SLViehl> And curiously they reflect a lot of what's happening in the culture that worships them, in a symbolic way.
<Robert> And make bigger pratfalls. Wile E. Coyote is a LOT like the native American Coyote in his tales.
<@SLViehl> In many symbolic ways, actually.
<Crista> I want to make the Gods with almost larger than life characters. Give them human traits yet amplify one. Like the Goddess of Procreation is not lusty, but rather witty. She makes fun of herself and the other Gods.
<Robert> Sounds like a good mom actually! I'd want a sense of humor in a goddess of procreation.
<@SLViehl> As I warned in the last session, I'm very long-winded on world building, so would you all like to continue this session in November? I believe Holly will give us space, if I ask.
<Blair> sure
<Kaelle> Definitely. This is fun!
<Robert> I'd love that.
<Crista> Yes, please.
<Sarah> Yes!
<gayle> yes please
<Jenny> Sure.
<Jehane> no worries
<@SLViehl> Sounds good. Crista, I really think you have no worries on your religious system. Sounds to me like you've really nailed it down.
<@SLViehl> Does the group agree?
<Jinx> I'm sorry, I got booted from class... what was the question?
<Blair> i do
<Kaelle> I do.
<Robert> To the point it's got so many hooks in it I want to read the book!
<Sarah> Yup!
<James> I just got booted as well
<gayle> yes
<Jehane> yes
<Jenny> Yes.
<Kaelle> It sounds intriguing
<@SLViehl> I'm going to continue the session in November, Jinx
<Jinx> Oh, that's fine. Just tell me when, I'll be there.
<@SLViehl> was asking if everyone would like to continue on.
<Robert> Did you do one already on daily custom, funeral, wedding, ways of life custom?
<James> Oh, Lord yes. I've written so many notes from this one - if you keep holding them, I'll keep coming
<@SLViehl> I've finished a couple of other workshops, so I think I can do another WB session say the third Friday in November, unless that's Thanksgiving. Let me check, but I will post it on the calendar
<Robert> Thanks for posting the 'class is about to start' post because sometimes I forget to check the calendar!
<Robert> Thanksgiving in America is always a Thursday.
<Jinx> The fourth Thursday in Nov.
<Kaelle> Third Friday should be Nov 16
<Crista> Cool. I'm going to make sure to take off work then.
<gayle> no that's not thanksgiving weekend...there are 5 weeks this year in Nov
<@SLViehl> I'll get with Holly this weekend and set a date up. Be sure to check the community calendar.
<Robert> Thanks for posting the 'class is about to start' post because sometimes I forget to check the calendar!
<@SLViehl> Also, remember if you have any questions, you can always send me an e-mail, SLViehlworkshop@aol.com is just for you guys.
<@SLViehl> I always try to remember to put up a reminder a couple of hours ahead of class.
<@SLViehl> Any final questions?
<Jehane> Thanks Sheila
<gayle> not tonight
<gayle> thank you Sheila
<James> No - but the usual big heaping thanks...
<Diana> Thanks. looking forward to the November class
<Kaelle> Thank you Sheila!
<Robert> Thanks again, Sheila! I've got a ton of ideas from this one again too...
<@SLViehl> Thank you all for letting me spend another Friday night with you.
<Sarah> Thanks Sheila!
<Jinx> Thanks, Sheila!
<Crista> Can I be like you when I grow up? <g> And thank you.
<Jenny> Thank you.
<@SLViehl> Oh, no, you mean I have to be grown up, Crista? <g>
<Kaelle> I wanna be like her when I grow up, too
<James> Crista, did you miss the bit last week where it was revealed that Sheila is a tentacled dark goddess?
<@SLViehl> James, you promised you'd keep that to yourself.
<Robert> Veel the Healer has very strict dietary requirements in the religion...
<Jehane> can I be a goddess too?
<Robert> Sure, Jehane
<Crista> Even better. I DEFINITELY want to be that when I grow up. <g>
<Kaelle> Ok, what's your aspect, Jehane?
<James> Do you have tentacles? I think you need tentacles...
<@SLViehl> (rolling on the floor now)
<Jinx> Don't admit it if you do, Crista.
<Jehane> Tentacles if I have too, but I've always liked the segmented legs of insects
<James> On the plus side, hundred tentacled monsters make for very fast typing.
<@SLViehl> Sarah, I'll do some research on what we discussing before class, will e-mail you with what I find out.
<James> Which brings us back to Danielle Steele...
<Kaelle> rofl. So that's Sheila's secret...
<Crista> You think I could type faster with tentacles?
<@SLViehl> Oh, no!
<Jehane> Good point James, maybe I'll reconsider the tentacles
<Sarah> Okay, now someone has do draw Sheila the goddess at her computer. Blair? (Thanks, Sheila!)
<@SLViehl> My three computers (she says, smiling primly.)
<Blair> i'll see what i can do
<Kaelle> ye gods
<Jehane> So that's why yuou need tentacles, Sheila!
<Robert> Many limbs, all three at once. Ari is still in favor of cat worship though.
<Kaelle> she MUST have tentacles. lol
<@SLViehl> A chair with wheels, not tentacles. And I type 95 wpm.
<Kaelle> whew!
<Robert> Wow! I wanna type like you do!
<Blair> with each tenticle?
<Sarah> Lol!
<Kaelle> rofl
<Crista> LOL!
<James> Cthulhu wouldn't be seen without his wheeled chair...
<@SLViehl> All eight of them.
<Kaelle> the extra two must be for tea & food
<Robert> Then you need five other objects for the other tentacles
<Robert> Coffeemug or tea for one, yeah...
<@SLViehl> BTW, if anyone has workshop suggestions for the future, e-mail me. I'm putting together ideas for December and January.
<James> Will do.
<Kaelle> hmm. all righty
<Robert> Sure
<Jehane> thinking, thinking...
<Crista> How To Type With Tentacles?
<James> If necessary, I say we make something up. Baked goods in SF series, or something...
<Jenny> How To Grow Tentacles.
<Robert> I will also email you the transcript and the cartoon. You didn't know I did cartoons...
<@SLViehl> There's plenty of time, no rush, but I always appreciate the input.
<Blair> how to type 95 WPM with tenticles...
<Kaelle> lol
<@SLViehl> No tentacles.
<@SLViehl> lol
<Blair> whips?
<James> It's not the spee, Blair, it's untying the knots...
<Robert> Lots of arms like Kali
<James> Ahem...speed.
<Jehane> How to be a dark goddess even without tentacles?
<@SLViehl> how to develop multiple personality disorder and become a better writer . . . .
<Jinx> I need that class. <nods>
<Robert> Yeah! That's a good one...
<Kaelle> hey, that could be useful
<Crista> I'd like to see something about developing alien species and cultures or something...than we can talk about tentacles! <g>
<Blair> how to convince the other personalities to be writers too
<Kaelle> who needs pen names?
<@SLViehl> we just did a names/titles session, but I didn't think of pen names.
<Robert> I came up with another anthology idea tonight and my cat's going to be my pen name for it - cat stories cat's POV is theme.
<Crista> That sounds like fun, Robert.
<Robert> I think it would be, for writers and for readers. Never saw cat anthology take it quite that far, but Ari wants the Siamese Tiger story...
<@SLViehl> We could do a pen names discussion on the discussion board, actually -- how to come up with them, etc.
<Jehane> Yeah, I need one
<Robert> Yeah, that would be neat!
<Kaelle> Yeah
<Sarah> I saw that, Blair...
<@SLViehl> I can share all the insider info my publishers handed me when I picked out mine.
<Blair> saw what?
<Sarah> Ooh, cool!
<Kaelle> oooh, insider info.
<Robert> Please do. Sometimes I notice what look like patterns in author names.
<Jinx> That's cool, Sheila
<@SLViehl> There are actually names publishers want -- and don't want -- and length considerations.
<Jehane> Is it true that it's best to choose a surname beginning with M
<Robert> How does Robert Sloan rate on that list?
<Kaelle> Well, Jehane, it is in the middle rack of stacked shelves
<@SLViehl> Shelf position varies -- I went to a store today where I was on an upper rack, and mine starts with V
<@SLViehl> But the general rule is, anything before "O" is good.
<Crista> Yeah, I'd like to know how Crista Rucker rates on the list, too.
<James> It's good to be a Milton!
<@SLViehl> Good as far as shelf position generally goes.
<Sarah> I know from my brief stint at Indigo (who are evil) that the L-M section gets heavy traffic (cause of Lackey and McCaffrey)
<Jehane> And Lisle
<Robert> Horror writers there's lots of K's.
<@SLViehl> That's also a consideration, Sarah. I get a lot of traffice because I'm between Vernor Vinge and Tad Williams.
<Sarah> That's how I found Holly, actually .
<Kaelle> I happen to start at A and go to Z to make sure I don't miss any gems.
<Jenny> I only do that when I have enough money.
<Sarah> I'd be right next to Kate Elliott...
<Robert> I found Holly because someone said "Try this chat, it's great" and I don't even remember who.
<Sarah> I was stocking the shelf and thought "ooh, cool wolf"
<Jehane> I found Holly in my local library
<@SLViehl> well, unless someone has a last question, I'm off to bed.
<Robert> G'night, Sheila! Thanks again!
<Jehane> Night Sheila
<Jenny> Nope. G'night.
<James> In which case, a goodnight to all.
<Kaelle> Good night, Sheila
<Sarah> Night Sheila!
<Crista> Good night!
<James> Well, except me and Jehane
<Jinx> Night, all!
<@SLViehl> Goodnight to you all, and thanks again. I had a terrific time.
<Blair> g'nite (and i wasn't doodling )
<James> Catch everyone next week!
<Jehane> Late lunch, James?
<@SLViehl> G'day James and Jehane.
<Kaelle> Good night, all. You were too Blair.
<Jenny> Good night, everyone.
<James> Yep - chicken focaccia with jalapenos...
<@SLViehl> See you all at Holly's -- bye!

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Plotting The Series Novel Transcript Part I 11/02/01

November 3 2001, 12:48 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
11/02/01 -- Plotting the Series Novel

<@SLViehl> All right, let's get this show on the road. Welcome to Plotting
the Series Novel. I'm S.L. Viehl (Sheila), author of one open-ended, one
mid-length, and one trilogy series.
<Robert> 20,000 sims if you'd do up something to say Editing Theme
Anthollogies with Robert (Aristophenes Mr. Robert's Cat) Sloan
<@SLViehl> You've all heard the rest of my laurels so we'll skip that junk.
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to talk about plotting series -- how to do
it, how not to do it, and what you need to do it.
<@SLViehl> I'll present some material, as usual, then throw up a QUESTIONS
<@SLViehl> That's when to hit me with your best shot.
<@SLViehl> And as this can be very complicated, I'm going to break for
questions frequently.
<@SLViehl> Ready to go?
<Robert> Yep!
<gayle> yep!
<Jehane> yes
<James> Sure am.
<BklynWriterturned o> turned off call waiting, i'm ready
<Jenny> Yes.
<@JimMills> ready as I'll ever be...
<@SLViehl> Okay. First, how to determine a series length -- as in, how many
books do you write?
<@SLViehl> It's important to establish how much territory you want to
tackle, so consider your idea carefully.
<@SLViehl> A trilogy, for example, has a very tight focus. You've got three
books to deal with this idea of yours, and that's it.
<@SLViehl> A mid-length series, say 5 to 7 books, gives you a little more
room to go exploring.
<@SLViehl> An extended series, which can stretch to ten, fifteen, or twenty
books, gives you even more room, but you still come to a conclusion.
<@SLViehl> Then there is the very scary territory of planning a series that
never ends.
<@SLViehl> Let's wrestle with the trilogy first.
<@SLViehl> Don't underestimate a trilogy. Shorter does not mean
<@SLViehl> You face writing three connected novels, in which the
first generally establishes your main story plot, the second in some way
challenges or changes that plot, and the third provides closure.
<@SLViehl> They also have to be standalones -- not breaking off in the
middle of things and making the reader wait for book two or three
<@SLViehl> Running threads have to be tightly controlled, while characters
generally remain the same set (with a few additions and subtractions)
<@SLViehl> Plot development goes through three stages -- what I call the
one-two-three punch, the same way I plot a single novel. It just takes
three books to work the main conflict out.
<@SLViehl> And while you're lugging this main conflict around through three
books, each novel should have its own inclusive conflict which you will
establish, explore, and resolve.
<@SLViehl> Trilogies are not easier. They are tighter. They are more
demanding of your skills as a storyteller.
<@SLViehl> They are also classic. Readers like trilogies a lot, because
they are depending on that one-two-three punch.
<gayle> can you have a universe that lives in sets of trilogies?
<Jenny> I'm not quite sure how you can have a strong central conflict and
still not make the reader wait for the next book.
<@SLViehl> Sure, Gayle. You can explore the universe in stages, in
generations, and keep each "chapter" of the exploration enclosed in trilogy
<gayle> cool
<James> I'd hoped to get away with a slowly evolving, low-key overarching
story that concludes decisively in book three but which isn't completely
apparent until book three - is that an acceptable variant?
<Robert> I see what you mean by tight, because the trilogy plot's like the
series plot in Babylon 5 from season to season but there's a season plot
that makes sense.
<@SLViehl> Jenny, I think it's like war. In a trilogy, you wage battles in
every book, but you don't win or lose the war until the end of the third.
It keeps readers in suspense, but you're still giving them the satisfaction
of a battle win/loss in each book.
<BklynWritercan_> can the setting be the only constant in the series?
<Jenny> That makes sense. (Whether I can pull it off is another story.)
<Robert> Sheila, why are the projected series numbers odd numbers? 3, 5, 7,
<@SLViehl> James, as long as you're delivering an inclusive conflict in each
book, how quickly or slowly you develop the trilogy conflict is up to you.
You don't want to dump everything in book three, though, because it changes
book three into a convenient wrap-up type of book, instead of keeping the
trilogy flow even, if that makes sense.
<BklynWriter> Ok, so you have an idea, how do you determine the length of
the series
<@SLViehl> I like the idea of a trilogy being based inside the same setting
but with entirely different characters and plots, BW. You'd be taking a
different approach, which is always good, and you can have a lot of
contrasts between the books. The setting has to be one the readers want to
return to, though.
<James> It does make sense - I was looking at a structure along the lines of
Firmly entrenched power/power called into question/power shattered, old
holders of power utterly destroyed - so it should be gentler than a sudden
resolution of all plotlines. I think.
<@JimMills> You can also have the characters continue too, though, right?
<@SLViehl> Robert, I've found that for me, the odd numbers work better.
There's no even split, there's always a mid-series novel that provides a
transition. I went from eight to nine books with Blade Dancer for that
<BklynWriter> I was thinking like James White and the Sector General
novels....its set on a huge floating hospitals with characters coming and
<@SLViehl> Sure, Jim. Character continuation is almost always what series
writers do.
<BklynWriter> He's been writing them for what....20 years or so
<@SLViehl> BW, on how to know the length, you have to outline your books.
If your idea is epic, you're going to need a lot of books to explore that.
If the focus is more intense and direct, then the idea lends itself better
to a trilogy, for example.
<@SLViehl> Sadly, Mr. White died in 1999. No more Sector General novels.
<@SLViehl> Now let's move on and dissect the mid-length series.
<@SLViehl> I consider a mid-length series to be between five to seven books.
Feel free to add or subtract to that to suit your own story line needs and
writing style, btw.
<@SLViehl> It's the books that come between the first and last that make a
<@SLViehl> Take a five book mid-length series -- you've got three books in
the center. The second and the fourth are transition novels. The third is
like the second book of a trilogy.
<@SLViehl> In a mid-length series, you've got more room to explore your
story line. More room to play in your universe.
<@SLViehl> You can run more threads, end some, and start new ones beyond the
first book, too.
<@SLViehl> There are two main things to remember when writing the mid-length
<@SLViehl> First, don't wander off. Always remember to address your main
conflict in every novel.
<@SLViehl> The second is, watch your story flow. There is a big temptation
to write "middle" books -- books that do not present an inclusive conflict,
but merely serve as movers -- ways to get characters somewhere, set up for
the next book, etc.
<@SLViehl> Each book in any series MUST be a standalone on its own merit.
An editor will not buy it if it isn't.
<@SLViehl> Your time committment is going to be different with a mid-length
series. You're going to be writing more books, for one thing.
<@SLViehl> Also, you're going to be developing more details, characters,
settings, etc to track and maintain.
<@SLViehl> Keep a tight leash on your story elements. Make sure you track
your running threads. With a mid-length, it helps to have a flow chart
plotted out so you can manage all the details.
<James> If you start new plot threads after book one, should they be wrapped
up before the final book - leaving the final books for those plot threads
that have spanned the whole series?
<Robert> Seems like one way to do that is that the series characters have to
deal with direct consequences of what they won last time. Like if they
captured a city now they have to defend it.
<@SLViehl> If it serves to avoid confusion, James, I'd say yes. But I don't
think there's an inflexible rule about when to start and end threads. You
get a feel for it, believe it or not, after you've written a couple of
series. The main thing is to keep your reader on track. If there are a
bunch of open threads all being wrapped up at one point, it also dents the
momentum of the series.
<@SLViehl> That works, Robert, but only in the cause-and-affect type of
threads. Sometimes threads don't manifest until a certain element is
introduced, and you can't always fit all those elements in chronological or
sequential order.
<BklynWriter> how many threads should you keep going
<Jehane> yes, I've read series which have too many threads to remember.
<@SLViehl> Depends on your comfort zone, BW, but I don't recommend anyone
try to carry more than three to five main running threads. It's just too
much for the reader to remember.
<@SLViehl> Jehane is reading my mind tonight.
<James> Can you rudely leave a few plot threads open against the possibility
of returning to the series universe (little ones, nothing crucial)?
<@JimMills> Dune comes to mind...
<@SLViehl> Sure, you can always leave a thread open. You'd better have a
damn good explanation for why, though, and I'm quoting my editor when I say
<James> It kind of worked for Dune though - contributed to that feeling of
massively Byzantine politics.
<@SLViehl> Remember your readers eventually want answers.
<James> Oh - you mean editors notice that sort of thing and ask?
<@SLViehl> The "Maggie" thread in StarDoc is currently driving my editor
<@JimMills> ...if they're doing their jobs...
<@SLViehl> but I can justify everything I'm doing with it, so she leaves me
alone and lets me run it.
<James> So, if you can't promise to tie it up later, don't leave it open?
<@SLViehl> Threads should never be accidental. Plan them. Meticulously.
<James> Got you.
<@SLViehl> I think the threads I've liked the most in other authors' books
are the ones that pose a question to the reader at the end, rather than
provide a big answer. But I like thinking about the mystery of things, and
other people don't. As for what editors expect, they like things to be
wrapped up.
<@SLViehl> Now, on to the extended series (drum roll.)
<@SLViehl> The extended series is any series which stretches past that
mid-length, five to seven books but eventually does come to an end.
<@SLViehl> If you really like to play in your universe, and have a big idea
that's going to take some time to explore, the extended series is for you.
<@SLViehl> These are much more complicated stories, with many threads
beginning and ending between the first and last books. Character changes
are frequent. The main conflict of the series takes a lot of territory, and
time, and exploration.
<@SLViehl> However, the central core theme still remains the same.
Something must tie all these books together.
<@SLViehl> So when you're thinking "I'll write twenty books about my idea"
your idea had better be up to the challenge.
<@SLViehl> Think of conflict like a snake, and the conflict in a extended
series is like a hydra -- you cut off one head, three more pop out.
<@SLViehl> There are some serious challenges to writing an extended series.
First and foremost is keeping the reader interested.
<@SLViehl> You need to present fresh new inclusive conflicts in every novel,
yet keep them tied together.
<@SLViehl> So many authors of extended series find themselves rehashing old
problems, simply because their idea runs out of steam, or they get tired of
writing about the series.
<@SLViehl> So be very much in love with this idea, be willing to devote the
years to it that it requires, and remain faithful.
<@SLViehl> How do you know if you can do that?
<@SLViehl> For me, it was an idea that I carried around for two decades
before I ever put it down on paper. And it was a very personal, tailor-made
type of idea that I never got tired of thinking about.
<@SLViehl> Also, remember that an extended series still has a final book
waiting for you to write, somewhere down the road.
<@SLViehl> When you end something that epic, you'd better do it in an epic
fashion, or the reader, who has been with you through ten or twenty books,
is going to feel cheated.
<BklynWriter> wow. a lot to think about.
<Jehane> How would you class Terry Pratchetts Discworld series?
<Jehane> It doesn't have an overarching plot thread, they are all just set
in the same universe
<@SLViehl> I'd say Pratchett has an open-ender with Discworld. He loves it
too much to shut it down.
<@SLViehl> The universe becomes the central theme, and main conflict then,
<BklynWriter> and the Piers Anthony series...that started with Death, The
Fates, etc.
<Robert> What about something like a future history, where you have it all
plotted out for millennia and jump around in time?
<@SLViehl> The problems posed by that universe, I should say.
<James> Do you think it wise to built a bit of redundant complexity into
your universe, just in case you need to mine it more deeply than you first
<@JimMills> You'd have to be very careful not to confuse the readers,
<@SLViehl> If you can't see it coming to a conclusion, Robert, that would be
an open-ender too.
<Robert> I guess it is. I didn't think of taking it to the heat death of the
universe or even extinction of humanity.
<@SLViehl> Creating a universe is like building a mansion. If you don't
show all the rooms to the reader, but hint that they're there, or there are
secret passages or doorways, you give yourself room to return to the
universe and explore it further.
<Jehane> I like that metaphor
<Robert> So the main difference between open ended or extended is whether
the author knows there's a resounding conclusion?
<James> It is a good metaphor.
<Robert> I agree, it's a fantastic metaphor.
<@SLViehl> The difference is that the author plans a conclusion with the
extended series. There is a linear sense to the series.
<Sarah> What about when supporting characters start demanding their own
<@SLViehl> Everything in the extended series still leads to a conclusion.
With an open-ender, you don't write toward a conclusion, but we'll discuss
that next.
<@JimMills> Sarah: Those are called spinoffs.
<@SLViehl> Ah, that's my problem, Sarah. All these darn seconday characters
get so INTERESTING on me. Ha
<@SLViehl> Folks, I'm going to call for a five minute break here, because
I've got a cat fight going on I have to break up. BRB
<James> No worries.
<@SLViehl> Everyone take 5!
<Robert> Seems like an advantage I've got an only cat.
<BJ Steeves> A fight among the cats, or the kids having a cat fight???
<James> Or the cat having a fight with a kid?
<Robert> She put the kids to bed so the cats must be going at it.
<@SLViehl> Sorry. The felines (three of them) are feeling frisky tonight.
The two big ones gang up on the little one.
<@SLViehl> Then the little one kicks their butts.
<@JimMills> LOL
<James> Just the way life should be
<gayle> that's called the undercat getting the last word.
<@SLViehl> Rush (the little one) was a stray for a couple of months, so he's
more street smart than my other two.
<gayle> they'll learn...eventurally
<Robert> Nothing like some punk kitten upsetting the natural order...
<@SLViehl> They're learning to get a long, though. This is the first rumble
in a few weeks now.
<Jinx> Am I here?
<Robert> I see you, Jinx
<Jinx> Oh, there I am. <g>
<BklynWriter> who is anon?
<Jinx> It doesn't seem to be a proper class if I don't get dumped out at
least once.
<@SLViehl> Poor Jinx. Sorry about that.
<@SLViehl> I have an announcement to make for the class, in case any of you
need to take off early
<Jehane> ?
<@SLViehl> For those of you interesting in reading more of my stuff, I am
offering a free e-book in .pdf format, to anyone who e-mails me. It's
called "Sink or Swim" and it's all the short stories from my web site, plus
two that never made it on there, from 11/00 -- 11/01.
<@SLViehl> It's going to be posted on my web site in December, if you want
to wait.
<Robert> Cool! Thanks!
<Jehane> Great!
<gayle> thank you sheila
<BklynWriter> Fantastic!
<@SLViehl> Just send me an e-mail and I'll shoot it along to you.
<BJ Steeves> Again, Many Thanks!!!
<James> That is great, thanks Sheila.
<BklynWriter> i look forward to the reading!
<@JimMills> To which email should we send our request?
<@SLViehl> SLViehlworkshop@aol.com. Also, any questions left over from any
session, please feel free to send them.
<Sarah> Aargh. I have got to get Acrobat Reader working.
<@SLViehl> They will be available in html format on the web site in
December, too.
<Sarah> Oh, great!
<@SLViehl> I don't have those files, though -- dumped them all on my web
<BklynWriter> has it ever happened that a series get contracted, but for
whatever reason, the final book is never published
<@SLViehl> Sure. Authors die all the time.
<James> Didn't Frank Herbert die (no fault of his own) having started a
significant new plot thread in the Dune series?
<@SLViehl> That's who I was thinking of, James. But then his son picked up
the series with Anderson
<Robert> Generational cathedral building...
<James> <whispers> I hate the new Dune books.
<BklynWriter> are publishes, in general for or against series? I've heard
conflicting stories
<@SLViehl> I always advise unpublished writers to pitch the first book in a
series as a standalone. Then, if an editor expresses interest, you can
pitch more books.
<@SLViehl> Publishers aren't willing to commit to more than two books,
generally speaking, from a rookie.
<@SLViehl> My SF editor had no idea I'd already written two books when I
pitched StarDoc. When she asked me if I had an idea for a followup novel, I
sent her the manuscript for book two, and she bought both.

 Respond to this message   

Plotting The Series Novel Transcript Part II 11/02/01

November 3 2001, 12:50 PM 

<@SLViehl> Which is a good lead in to start the section on writing an
open-ended series.
<@SLViehl> Not many authors even want to think about writing a series with
an open end -- in other words, the series keeps going and going, like the
Energizer Bunny.
<@SLViehl> It's intimidating.
<@SLViehl> You're realistically facing writing in the same universe for the
rest of your life.
<@SLViehl> That's like marriage without the option of divorce. Scary stuff.
<@SLViehl> But you don't have to look at an open-ended series as an endless
road with no end in sight.
<@SLViehl> The open-ender is like life. We don't know when it's going to
end, and if we live right, every day -- and likewise, every book -- is an
adventure all on its own.
<@SLViehl> I want you to forget everything I've told you about series
writing tonight, now.
<@SLViehl> Because this is very different. Different demands, different
writing, different committment.
<@SLViehl> The open-ended series has its own rhythms and stages, like our
own lives. When you consider writing like this, what matters isn't the
ending, but the journey.
<@SLViehl> Think stages and passages, when you look at the open-ended
<@SLViehl> Think generations. Think of the eternal loop of time.
<@SLViehl> The idea for this kind of series boils down to a conflict which
logically can never be resolved.
<@SLViehl> Good versus evil. It can never be resolved. It is a ongoing
struggle that defies time and place and logic.
<@SLViehl> It is scary to think about taking on a task you never intend to
<@SLViehl> But so is falling in love, or having children, or following a
<@SLViehl> And yet still, some of the same rules apply -- each book must be
a standalone. It must present an inclusive conflict which you establish,
change or challenge, and resolve within that volume.
<@SLViehl> The difference is you roll through phases, you perpetuate, you
start and end threads but you never really come to an end.
<@SLViehl> And there is one final daunting task every open-ended series
writer faces: if you sell this idea, and you sell these books, it's
reasonable to expect the publisher is going to want an ending.
<@SLViehl> You need to think about a way to end it.
<@SLViehl> Without ending it.
<@SLViehl> Again, think generations. Think phases and stages. You may need
to pick one and let it end there.
<James> Many open ended series seem to go stale, like Foundation, Xanth --
would you imagine it's inevitable? Or avoidable?
<Jehane> Discworld hasn't yet
<@SLViehl> I think series go stale because the author gets tired of writing
it. If you're truly in love with your universe, and truly committed to it,
you find ways to keep it alive and kicking.
<Sarah> Didn't Anthony admit that the only reason he keeps writing Xanth is
because people keep demanding it?
<@SLViehl> I've heard that, Sarah, and it's really sad to think it might be
<@SLViehl> That's like staying married for the sake of the children. Ick.
<James> It explains a lot...
<Robert> Have you ever seen one revive after that, the way a couple that
dragged through a rough point get renewed intimacy?
<BklynWriter> what do you do when your Publisher wants to extend a series
that you've already planned as a trilogy, or mid-length series
<@SLViehl> What comes to mind, Robert, is oddly enough, Star Trek.
<BklynWriter> star trek too
<@SLViehl> BW, I'm facing that with my romance trilogy. My editor just
informed me I need to keep it alive for three more books.
<BklynWriter> Yikes Sheila! Did that throw all your planning, foreshadowing,
and threads out the window?
<James> How do you do that with romance? Introduce new romances for
subsidiary characters?
<@SLViehl> You find new things about that universe in the trilogy that you
can explore. Like my romance dilemma -- I killed all the bad guys off in
book three. But they have relatives no one knew about.
<@SLViehl> Evil twin brothers. That sort of thing.
<@SLViehl> One thing my editor proposed knocked me for a loop. She would
like a romance based on one of the secondary characters I never considered
as a potential hero.
<BJ Steeves> Geesh, sounds like the soaps on TV!
<@SLViehl> It's a terrific challenge for me to write about a guy I basically
thought of as an annoying character, and transforming him into a hero.
<James> That should be interesting - neat way of turning the character in
unexpected directions to show up new facets.
<@SLViehl> For those of you who have read my romances, I'm talking about
Sean Delaney.
<BJ Steeves> That sounds like one of your other characters inStarDoc.
<@SLViehl> Squilyp also wants his own novel. He might just get it, too.
<Sarah> <cheers quietly>
<BJ Steeves> Was thinking more of Reever
<Robert> Squilyp's cool!
<@SLViehl> Reever has his own novel already.
<Sarah> <cheers a little less quietly>
<BJ Steeves> Missed that one I guess.
<@SLViehl> No, Roc hasn't seen it yet.
<BJ Steeves> Ahhhh, that's your secret!
<@SLViehl> I'm evil. Very evil.
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to actually plotting a trilogy.
<@SLViehl> As I said at the beginning of class, there's a trilogy plotting
template posted on the Class Sign-Up board, and if you can't get to it,
e-mail me and I'll shoot a copy back to you.
<@SLViehl> With the trilogy, you're going to plot book one as the opener, to
establish the main conflict of the entire trilogy.
<@SLViehl> Your standalone conflict will be more closely tied to the main
conflict in this book than any other, simply by the fact that you are
introducing it.
<@SLViehl> If both conflicts don't work in tandem, you're going to end up
puzzling and confusing the reader.
<@SLViehl> Also, remember that you're going to establish threads that won't
be resolve in this volume.
<@SLViehl> I want you to think about war again. Take the Civil War -- what
were the three most important battles within those years of conflict? Your
standalone conflict in each book will be turnkey, the way those battles were
for the Civil War.
<@SLViehl> How many characters can you have in a trilogy? That's up to you,
but remember, if you're going to haul these character through three books,
you need to craft them to interest and carry the reader along with them.
<@SLViehl> In a trilogy, you can echo the "trio" theme in your characters --
have a protagonist, and a villain, and someone in between.
<@SLViehl> Or you can have a band of characters, who collectively represent
the protagonist, and a band of villains, and a band of people caught between
<@SLViehl> Remember the more characters you have, and you carry through the
trilogy, the less time you're going to have to spend with each of them.
<@SLViehl> I've talked about my favorite characters -- dark horses -- being
those people who seem to oppose the protagonist, and along the way are
"flipped" at some point and become allies.
<@SLViehl> In a trilogy, dark horses work great, because you don't have to
flip them until book two, or even three.
<@SLViehl> And you don't have to flip them to be allies. They can become
the ultimate villains of the novel. (I never make them villains, but that's
because I end up falling in love with them for some reason.)
<@SLViehl> And while you're plotting out all these introductions for the
reader, remember your inclusive conflict: you've got to present a problem,
challenge or change it, and resolve it within this book, have it affect the
main conflict of the trilogy, and progress or regress your characters as
<@SLViehl> Once you've sewn all that up tidily, it's on to book two.
<@SLViehl> You're really starting all over again, because you've got to tell
the reader what's happening, and worse, what happened in the book before.
<@SLViehl> The nice thing about a trilogy is you don't have major backstory
build-up, but you're still going to have to incorporate the vital knowledge
and elements from book one into book two.
<@SLViehl> Keep it as brief and spare as possible, or it will sound like
you're writing a review of book one.
<@SLViehl> Once you've reestablished your storyline with your reader, it's
time to shake things up.
<@SLViehl> In the sense of series flow, this is your peak novel. This is
where you've got to change or challenge what the reader assumes from reading
book one.
<@SLViehl> Sometimes this takes character changes. The hero of book one
becomes the victim of book two.
<@SLViehl> The villain of book one becomes the hero of book two. Think
contrasts. Think startling changes. This is the way you avoid writing a
"transition" novel that really offers nothing but movement on to the third
<@SLViehl> While you're changing and rearranging, remember, you've still got
one book to go.
<@SLViehl> Now is not the time to end everything. Keep running threads
open, and if you cut any off, offer some replacements.
<@SLViehl> And while you're doing all that, remember your inclusive conflict
must be established, changed or challenged, and resolved within this volume.
<@SLViehl> The affect the inclusive conflict has on the main conflict should
be more dire, imho. If the situation is more serious, you build momentum
for the final book.
<@SLViehl> Everyone is going to want to know how it ends.
<@SLViehl> Holly, btw, does this to a consummate degree with the Secret Text
<@SLViehl> Finally, you're ready to dive into the final volume of the
trilogy, book three.
<@SLViehl> Don't make the mistake of writing a 300 or 400 page ending. This
isn't the long form end of book two.
<@SLViehl> Again, present your standalone conflict. This time, however, it
will march hand in hand with the snowballing resolution of the trilogy main
<@SLViehl> Characters either make their last stand, or sing their last song
in this volume. It's also your last chance to progress or regress these
characters. Use your standalone conflict to make the final adjustments.
<@SLViehl> Address your running threads, because it's time to tie them up.
Don't slap on quick fixes, the reader's been with you for two books. Give
them the treatment they deserve.
<@SLViehl> You can experiment with last minute plot twists in the third
volume. Just be careful -- too pat a twist becomes too convenient a fix for
the reader.
<@SLViehl> And as the book draws to a close, remember your ending isn't just
the ending of a book. It's the end of a trilogy. Give the reader the type
of excitement and epic ending that three books deserve.
<Jenny> Yeah. Geez, how does anyone write a trilogy? <G>
<@SLViehl> You can do it, Jenny.
<BklynWriter> say you want to continue writing in this universe....but still
end the trilogy....would it be okay to hint at future conflicts in book
<Robert> Wow. My collaborator did come up with that trio structure, looking
at the women - Miri, Denroska, Irina - it's just what you said.
<@SLViehl> Hint very lightly, BW. An editor will nix any obviously-open
plot threads.
<BklynWriter> in other words, build two unrelated trilogies in the same
<James> I mentioned my overarching conflict is about the change in galactic
patterns of power - is it enough in book one to simply establish the
starting point of each power bloc ready to be changed in book two and three?
<@SLViehl> James, do you have an inclusive conflict within book one that can
be resolved enough to make it a standalone?
<BklynWriter> Can the "villian" of one thread actually be the "hero" of
another thread simultaneously? sort of like the "anit-hero" kind of
<@SLViehl> I think that will work, BW -- especially if you're going on the
setting-theme as the central core
<James> Oh yes, someone inappropriate trying to take local power - just
about everyone trying to stop them.
<@SLViehl> Sure. I use villains as heroes a lot. Shakes up the reader.
<@SLViehl> As long as you've got the battle in book one, James, I think it
<James> Great, thanks for that.
<gayle> doesn't the 'villian' have to at least look like the hero if the
'people' are going to give/let him have major power to control their lives?
<@SLViehl> Not if the villain is a Zorro type.
<gayle> he's not
<@SLViehl> Sometimes the best surprise a reader gets is when they think one
thing about a character, and find out it's the exact opposite.
<James> Longer question - my overall structure is first person with the main
character addressing an unidentified "you" occasionally throughout. At the
very end of book three, "you" get up and your species is identified, and
that changes the reader's perception of who won the overarching conflict -
is that the sort of pat twist you said should be avoided?
<gayle> okay...
<@SLViehl> You have to plan it out carefully, though, Gayle -- the hero who
was the villain can never do anything seriously unheroic when he is the
villain. Or he has to have a really good reason to flip and become the
<@SLViehl> That's been done in a way with great effect, James, and I'm
trying to dreg up the title and author who did it.
<gayle> he wouldn't really be flipping...he's always been the villian it's
just that the'people' don't see it until it's too late...
<James> If done before, do you think I should avoid it as derivative,
<@SLViehl> No, James, because too many authors aren't giving the readers
good surprises. Am I thinking of Decision at Doona?
<@SLViehl> No, I think McCaffrey spilled the beans early on in that one.
Can't remember. Getting old.
<James> No worries
<@SLViehl> Gayle, I'm not sure I understand -- are you looking at plotting a
hero who becomes a villain, or vice-versa?
<gayle> the villian is always the villian ...those close to him know he's
the villian but the general population of the country don't realize he's a
villian until it's way too late
<@SLViehl> That works -- he's a veiled villain, then.
<gayle> yes
<Sarah> Sharon Shinn does that really well in Summers at Castle Auburn
<BklynWriter> Gayle...but when will the reader know? during the trilogy, or
only at the end?
<gayle> it will be foreshadowed throughout the series
<BklynWriter> sounds intriguing
<@SLViehl> If you throw in some red herring villains, that makes the end
revelation so much more satisfying, too.
<gayle> now if I can just pull it off and have it sound decent too
<@SLViehl> I think with this kind of villain less is more, Gayle. The less
actual info you give the reader, the bigger bang at the end.
<@SLViehl> Well, folks, any last questions before we call it a night?
<Robert> When's the next time? <G>
<James> This is another one where I'm going to have to think hard before
generating questions, I think, about what you've said, and how to relate it
to what I'm up to.
<Jehane> not me. Thanks again, Sheila
<@SLViehl> I think I can have the second Friday in December for the next
session. I'll post it on the calendar as soon as I get Holly's okay.
<gayle> no more right now
<Jenny> I'm good. Thanks for the class.
<BklynWriter> Thanks so much Sheila. I will probably be emailing you wirh
further questions though lol
<@SLViehl> Remember, if you come up with questions, bring them to the next
session, or e-mail me.
<Robert> This one really made me think, Sheila. Thank you.
<James> Yes, thank you again - it was really informative - that last bit
particularly info-intense.
<Jinx> Thank you, Sheila!
<@SLViehl> I don't think we'll run out of stuff to talk about any time soon,
<gayle> Thank you Sheila
<@SLViehl> and thank you all for letting me spend another terrific Friday
evening with you.
<Sarah> Thanks Sheila!
<BklynWriter> this class is really helping my NaNoWriMo novel as well. Lots
to consider, but a whole lot more to play with <G>
<James> Any time. I mean, well, any Friday night, obviously, or it wouldn't
be Friday evening
<@SLViehl> Don't be afraid. Experiment. Write, write, write.
<BJ Steeves> I managed to get all of the chat saved. Want it?
<@SLViehl> Please, BJ, if you wouldn't mind. Thanks.
<Robert> Yeah, I'll send it too.
<BklynWriter> goodnite all
<Robert> Goodnight, BK... Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy..
<Jenny> Good night, everyone.
<James> See you all next week. Stay well!
<gayle> night Jenny
<BJ Steeves> Be on it's way as sson as I can attach it.
<@SLViehl> Goodnight everyone!
<Jehane> bye people
<Robert> G'night all. I'll send it out
<@SLViehl> Thanks Robert
<gayle> night sheila and jehane
<@SLViehl> See you all at Holly's -- bye!
<Jinx> Night, all!
<gayle> night

 Respond to this message   

How to Break into the Romance Novel Market (Conclusion) Part I 11/9/01

November 18 2001, 3:55 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
11/09/01 -- How to Break into the Romance Novel Market Part One

<@SLViehl> Two announcements before we get started -- HarperCollins and
Berkley are both starting new lines, and are looking for romance
manuscripts. Check out the info if you're interested, I've posted it on the
Markets board.
<robert> purrbumppurrpurrbump
<@SLViehl> I'm a little tempted by the YA historical, despite the rather
silly guidelines about kissing. It would be fun to write a YA historical.
<@SLViehl> Hi Venus
<Anne_Marble> I'd like to do YA fantasy. One of the thingies on my list...
<Venus> Hi Sheila--is it okay if I join in this week?
<@SLViehl> Sure, come and join in any time. We're always open and informal
<Anne_Marble> I submitted my first column to Moira Allen! And sorta
accidentally sold her another article, too.
<@SLViehl> If you all want to grab a beverage/snack/whatever, go ahead. I'm
putting on the kettle now, BRB
<Venus> Usually I'm not around on Fridays, but I 'm v interested
<robert> Congratulations, Anne!!
<@SLViehl> Accidentally sold one? <g> Way to go, Anne
<Kaelle> congrats, Anne!
<Gayle> sorta accidently anne?
<@SLViehl> Post it on the discussion board so we can check it out, too, Anne
<Anne_Marble> I sent her the wrong article by mistake, and when she replied,
she told me she'd been meaning to ask me if it was for sale!
<@SLViehl> brb
<Kaelle> hey, that works, Anne.
<robert> Mistakes you want to make. <G>
<Gayle> sounds good to me.
<@SLViehl> I'm not going to wreck Blair's masterpiece, so we'll call this
the How to Break into the Romance Novel Market and Keep from Drowning
<Blair> ROFL
<Kaelle> lol. How about some seashells, Blair.
<Anne_Marble> Oh, I thought we were fishing for readers...
<Blair> <g> hey, go ahead... i don't mind sharing...
<Anne_Marble> As long as we're not "Flirty Fishers."
<Kaelle> lol
<@SLViehl> How to hook your man?
<@SLViehl> man/woman, in the interests of not being sexist.
<Blair> <God> if the jokes keep up, i think we're sunk
<Kaelle> rofl
<@SLViehl> No puns.
<@SLViehl> Puns breed
<Anne_Marble> IIRC, flirty fishers werewomen who acted sexy to lure men into
learning about a new religion.
<Kaelle> <gulp> I like puns...
<robert> Werewomen? What did they turn into women from?
<@SLViehl> But then we'll end up making puns all night, Kae, instead of
<Anne_Marble> Were women, not werewomen. Anyyway, they called themselves
"Hookers for Jesus" at one point.
<Blair> i think puns are the evil that destroys so many young minds.
<@SLViehl> I remember a news article on them.
<Kaelle> oh?
<Anne_Marble> Or, as religioustolerance.org says, "They are a favorite
target of the counter-cult movement who attack its unorthodox theological
beliefs. They are also attacked by the anti-cult movement who accuse it of
mind control and criminal sexual practices. The latter accusations appear to
be unfounded."
<Anne_Marble> I don't trust religioustolerance.org.
<@SLViehl> Welcome to How to Break into the Romance Novel Market, session
#3. I'm your host, S.L. Viehl (Sheila), aka Gena Hale
<@SLViehl> and you've heard the rest of the speech yada yada yada
<@SLViehl> The last time we met, we talked about the opportunities and
distractions a writer finds when getting out there to conferences,
networking in the local area, and by participating in contests.
<@SLViehl> The transcript for both previous sessions (thanks to Blair) are
available on the Transcripts Board.
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to wrap things up, so if you have any
questions about anything, now's the time to throw them out there.
<@SLViehl> Also, you can always e-mail me at SLViehlworkshop@aol.com, and
I'll be happy to answer any questions I can.
<@SLViehl> At the end of the last session, we talked about the book of your
heart versus the book that gets published, so I'm going to pick up with
Consideration Killers. When I put up QUESTIONS, that's the time to hit me
with them. Ready to go?
<Blair> ready
<Gayle> ready
<robert> Sure!
<Anne_Marble> Yup
<Kaelle> ok
<Venus> yes
<Jehane> yes
<@SLViehl> Great. One of the most important tasks you've got is to weed out
anything that will kill your book with the editor -- in other words, offend
or turn off the editor so that it gets instantly rejected.
<@SLViehl> Our heroines over the last decade have become more and more like
real women, and less like cringing virginal fantasy figures.
<@SLViehl> However, there are some heroines who are going to kill your book.
<@SLViehl> Feminists who put their cause above the romance, and take every
opportunity to castrate or otherwise browbeat the hero, are not wanted.
<@SLViehl> Heroines who are unpleasant, greedy, felonious, former lesbians,
anti-marriage (to an extreme), or who actively hate children are not wanted
by the publishing industry.
<@SLViehl> Heroines do not have to be beautiful gorgeous flawless creatures
anymore, but a Cruella DeVil type is out.
<@SLViehl> Likewise, heroes have been changing. They're not the mega alpha
male tycoons who control a third of the world and have supermodels hanging
off both arms anymore.
<@SLViehl> Still, consider they are "heroes". Obviously, an editor doesn't
want one who was a serial killer, or rapist, or wife beater.
<@SLViehl> He doesn't have to be physically perfect, either. But with the
hero -- and this goes for the heroine, too -- you want to avoid any huge
physical handicaps that have never been done before unless you specifically
query an editor on them.
<@SLViehl> We've already talked about sex in a previous session, but
remember -- sex is also an issue with editors.
<@SLViehl> Obviously, violent sex that results in bloody injuries, really
kinky stuff like water sports or rubber pants, are not desirable.
<@SLViehl> With all of the above, you can still walk the edge -- try new
ideas, and push the envelope with your own ideas about romance -- just walk
the edge carefully. Make sure you're not presenting something that is
basically anti-romance.
<robert> Some of those undesirables might still work as side characters
though, right, or villains?
<Anne_Marble> Many readers complaint that romances about disabled heroes or
heroines often end with some sort of miracle cure, which is unrealstic. Do
you think publishers prefer that sort of ending?
<@SLViehl> Sure. You want to keep secondary characters lively, and they're
not the focus, so you can have a gay brother/neighbor/friend. Villains you
can really have fun with. But the hero and heroine must remain both
romantic and, basically, heroic.
<@SLViehl> Anne, this is a subject I'm wrestling with right now. I have a
double handicap romance where neither character gets the miracle cure in the
end. My editor has put it on the back burner for now, she wants "safe" not
"risky" from me until I'm more established.
<Anne_Marble> Durn.
<robert> Ouch. I was just thinking that two deaf people getting together
have this wonderful privacy with the sign language in most company and it
could be very romantic.
<Jehane> I've noticed that heroines come in all shapes and sizes but heroes
are invariably at least six feet and broadshouldered.
<Venus> would it be okay to have a subplot with a handicapped character?
<@SLViehl> But I'm going to keep pushing it. I want to see more types of
heroes and heroines that reflect reality, not epitomes of perfection.
<Anne_Marble> I've noticed that even when heroines try to marry for money,
it's because they don't want their families to get hurt, never because they
want more dresses.
<Jehane> And why do heroes always like their coffee black, no sugar?
<@SLViehl> I tend to make my heroes pretty big, but I'm starting to scale
them down now. I think it's kind of a romance cliche that the guy be tall
dark and handsome.
<Anne_Marble> Tina Wainscott wrote a novel about a wheelchair-bound heroine
who died and ended up in her boss's ex-wife's body. There was a subplot
involving her disabled friends.
<@SLViehl> Absolutely, Venus. Especially a secondary romance. But you need
to aim it toward single title publishers if you decide to go that route, I
think they're more receptive.
<Anne_Marble> AAR has a special title listing called "Beauty is in the eye"
or something, all about romances with not-so-perfect main characters.
<Venus> pretty big, as in large in size? <G>
<@SLViehl> Heroines can't be greedy, Anne -- if they marry for money, it has
to be for a "noble" reason.
<Anne_Marble> Just like Hans Brinker. Wasn't he trying to make money for his
sister's operation?
<@SLViehl> I just read a romance that totally blew open the envelope -- Anne
Mather's latest Harlequin Presents features a heroine pregnant through an
affair with a married man, and he ends up being the hero.
<Venus> whoa! I'd like to read that one
<@SLViehl> The title is Savage Innocence, I think.
<Jehane> Is the wife an evil bitch? Or does she run off with another man?
<@SLViehl> First time I've seen an affair-romance with a guy who is married
to someone else for 90% of the book
<Anne_Marble> The older HP's were actually more open to that type of plot.
<@SLViehl> Wife was disabled . I won't spoil the ending for anyone who
might read it.
<robert> Can you do black characters or Asian characters?
<Venus> Like Jane Eyre--that was a great romance, and it had the mad wife
<@SLViehl> My new trilogy features Asian heroes and heroines.
<robert> Coool!
<Venus> so there is a precedent--and you were saying that there are handicap
<@SLViehl> There are special ethnic lines for black heroes/heroines, like
<@SLViehl> I've never read a romance where the hero and heroine started off
having an illicit affair knowing he was married and didn't intend to leave
his wife.
<@SLViehl> Handicapped prescendents -- Joan Johnston had a heroine with a
missing arm, who wore a hook. Catherine Anderson just published one with a
wheelchair-bound heroine. There have been many where the hero is blind
(almost never the heroine, though). Mary Balogh had a deaf-mute heroine.
<Venus> how about amnesia--(I know you did one with amnesia)--is that a
handicap or a plot point?
<@SLViehl> All broke new ground, but all these authors were well-established
when they did so.
<Anne_Marble> Amnesia is very popular.
<Jehane> I've read some with blind heroines.
<@SLViehl> amnesia is more a plot point, unless the character never recovers
their memory, ala William Monk in the Anne Perry mystery series.
<Venus> thanks
<@SLViehl> Janet Dailey, back before she was plagerizing people, did a
really good HP with a blind heroine titled "The Ivory Cane". That's how
long I've been reading romance.
<Anne_Marble> The only blind heroine books I can think of are by Ruth Glick
and Christina Dodd, but that was under a different publishing environment.
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to why you can't be Nora Roberts.
<@SLViehl> I do hear this a lot -- "I'm going to be the next Nora
Roberts" -- from some writers eager to prove something.
<@SLViehl> You cannot be someone else. If I write twenty books a year and
get them all published, I still won't be Nora Roberts.
<@SLViehl> Because if I am trying to duplicate her work, I'm going to get
arrested for plagerism, like Janet Dailey did.
<@SLViehl> Well, she didn't get arrested, but you know what I mean.
<@SLViehl> I know there are books other authors have written that you love.
Love them. They are motivation.
<@SLViehl> But when you write your own books, you have to set them aside and
forget about them. Write your own books, not pale copies of someone else's
<@SLViehl> A first-time author who starts that first novel is probably
terrified. (I can't really remember how I felt, I was thirteen when I wrote
my first romance novel.)
<@SLViehl> And when you're scared, you might try imitiating another author's
voice. Don't fall into that trap.
<@SLViehl> Also, don't expect to become Nora Roberts six months after you
write your first novel. Ain't going to happen.
<@SLViehl> No one is hovering around me, holding out 6-figure contracts,
just because my first five books did really well.
<@SLViehl> You will be fortunate to sign a contract that pays you $5,000.00
advance for your first romance novel. That's basic, industry standard for
print publication.
<@SLViehl> And, unless you are one of these rare, overnight successes, that
figure will only increase if you have sales to justify more money.
<@SLViehl> So don't expect to be on the NYTimes BSL, or have a six-figure
contract offered to you. Work. Write books. Get published. that's your
<@SLViehl> Onto E-publishing, probably the most heavily debated issue among
authors today.
<Anne_Marble> Good, I was gonna ask about that.
<Venus> I'm having a really bad time with the conference room--I'm going to
have to drop off
<@SLViehl> First: I am not here to advocate or condemn e-books or POD,
(print on demand) that an author arranges for their work.
<Venus> I'll read the transcript--thanks Sheila!
<@SLViehl> See you, Venus!
<@SLViehl> I have ZERO experience working as an author in the electronic and
POD section of the industry. So I'm not going to tell you I know anything
about it.
<@SLViehl> I've heard great things, and I've heard horror stories. But
let's set the whole "is it legit or not" issue debate aside, and deal with
the facts.
<@SLViehl> Bottom line: I know for a fact that the majority of e-publishers
and POD publishers cannot match industry standard advances offered by print
publishers. In addition, they often require some monetary investment from
the author.
<@SLViehl> This makes them vanity presses, until that changes. This is not
my opinion. This is classification by SFWA, MWA, HWA, and other pro writing
<@SLViehl> RWA is struggling with the issue, and I'm not going to get into
that, either.
<@SLViehl> It's a tough situation for everyone involved.
<@SLViehl> All I want you to do is think about this:
<@SLViehl> Start as you mean to go on.
<@SLViehl> If you have no problem with what this e-publishers and POD
publishers offer you, and you see it as an opportunity to get exposure for
your work, or you're simply unwilling to endure years of rejection from
print publishers, then I say, go for it.
<@SLViehl> If you want to make a $10,000 advance, with a minimum 30K first
print run, major distribution, promotion, and publicity, and get the
absolute best shot at making the NYT BSL someday, and nothing less is
acceptable to you, skip e-publishing and POD publishers.
<@SLViehl> This is your call.
<@SLViehl> Whatever you decide, make it an informed decision. Research
every publisher -- print or e-book or POD -- and make sure they're right for
<Blair> its about the 1/2 way point... did you want to take a quick
<Anne_Marble> What if you've written something in a weird genre, like
futuristic or even Gothic, that's hard to get published in paper? Should you
try to rewrite it as a genre-spanning novel and hope paper publishers like
it enough?
<@SLViehl> Sure, Blair, we can take a break.
<Anne_Marble> I need some water.
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's hold the questions for five minutes and take a break.

<Gayle> okay
<Anne_Marble> I want to publish in a weird genre just so Harriet Klausner
gets to say "subgenre" at the end of her review.
<Anne_Marble> Well Mari-Paul Goessler is getting cast against type these
<Anne_Marble> Mark-Paul!
<Kaelle> Who? Mark Paul?
<Kaelle> lol
<Jehane> What happened to Janet Dailey?
<Anne_Marble> She "borrowed" heavily from some of Nora Roberts' books.
<@SLViehl> On your question, Anne, I wrote a book everyone loved but no one
would publish. The hero, among other things, is a carnival geek who turns
into a lizard.
<@SLViehl> My editor killed me when she said, "I stayed up all night to read
it! There's no way we can publish it."
<Anne_Marble> Wow, and I thought my different books were different.
<@SLViehl> It was just way too experimental.
<Kaelle> Huh. I'd read it.
<@SLViehl> So I'm giving it away as a free e-book to my readers next month.
<robert> Yeah, I would too. Sounds fun!
<Anne_Marble> Mark-Paul Goessler is (correct me if I'm wrong) the guy who
used to be the blond guy on .... darn, that annoying teen show with Screech.
<Kaelle> Saved by the bell
<@SLViehl> Saved by the bell. My mother loved it.
<Kaelle> Tiffani is on Just Shoot Me, now.
<Anne_Marble> I liked watching Mark-Paul and the other guy, but I kept
rewriting the script in my head as I watched.
<@SLViehl> BTW, I made an e-book, all by myself, in Adobe .pdf format, for
free. You can do it through this web site: http://www.gobcl.com
<Kaelle> Hey, I'll check that out, Sheila. Thanks.
<robert> Thank you!! That's a godsend for me.
<@SLViehl> All you have to do is register. I recommend uploading with .rtf
format, that seems to work the best.
<@SLViehl> And the results are beautiful. You can even load in graphics.
<@SLViehl> So don't pay to have your book put into .pdf format. Save some
money and do it yourself!
<Anne_Marble> I changed into my now-famous satin PJs. If you hear a THUMB,
that was me sliding off the chair.
<Kaelle> lol
<@SLViehl> Hee hee

end of part one

 Respond to this message   

How to Break into the Romance Novel Market (Conclusion) Part II 11/9/01

November 18 2001, 3:56 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
11/09/01 -- How to Break into the Romance Novel Market Part Two

<@SLViehl> Okay, any questions on e-pubbing?
<robert> What's the title of the neat book about the carnival geek who turns
into a lizard?
<@SLViehl> Night of the Chameleon.
<robert> Purr, thank you. Neat title too!
<Anne_Marble> You mean like WTF happened to Dreams Unlimited, they used to
be reputable and now they've dumped some of their writers and editors.
<@SLViehl> Exactly, Anne.
<Anne_Marble> Leaving lots of writers stranded without even paper copies of
their books. And with just e-books on their resume, which most publishers
won't care about.
<@SLViehl> Until e-books gain wider acceptance among readers, I think it's
going to be impossible for them to compete with print publishers.
<@SLViehl> Print publishers, I will tell you, don't think much of e-books.
<Kaelle> (Sink or Swim - how apropos!)
<@SLViehl> At least, the ones I know.
<Anne_Marble> Romance is considered one of the successful parts of
e-publishing, yet the highest sales for one independently published e-title
were 5,000 copies, and that was by cheating.
<@SLViehl> Oh, yeah -- there will be two e-books on my web site in Dec. The
other is Sink or Swim, all the stories from the site for the past year, plus
two new ones.
<@SLViehl> Romance writers have actually created a market for e-books by
using tactics similar to what you wrote, Anne.
<Kaelle> cool
<Anne_Marble> Neat
<@SLViehl> I think e-books can be a great promotional tool -- that's what
I'm experimenting with now.
<Anne_Marble> Scott Adams (the Dilbert guy) came out with an e-book
recently, and even he couldn't sell many copies.
<@SLViehl> But I can't live off the advances they offer. I have to go with
print publishers.
<Anne_Marble> I think publishers would sell more books by providing an
e-book version if you buy the hardback. It would promote both the print book
and the e-book.
<Kaelle> That would reach a wider audience, I would think.
<Anne_Marble> But they want to sell them for as much as they can, with lots
of encryption (which readers hate).
<@SLViehl> Publishers want to make a buck. They aren't out to be charities.
<@SLViehl> I think it would be a good thing for them to offer more in
e-book, without making it a money issue, but that's the way they do
<Anne_Marble> Unfortunately they won't make that many from their e-book
<Anne_Marble> (Free Dmitry, free Dmitry! <g>)
<@SLViehl> The whole e-book issue is still so touchy, especially in RWA. I
really try to stay away from it, but I didn't remove it from this session
because I thought we could talk about it without getting into fist fights.

<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to Common/Uncommon Mistakes to Avoid
<@SLViehl> Composition
<@SLViehl> We've talked about the ranges of acceptable and unacceptable
stories. plots, characters, etcs.
<@SLViehl> etcs.=etc.
<@SLViehl> Here are some of the most common mistakes I've seen in two years
of actively participating in various romance critique groups:
<@SLViehl> Hero and heroine are not together -- the author puts them with
every other character but each other. Avoid long distance relationships --
this is a romance, get them together in as many scenes as possible.
<@SLViehl> Language -- modern characters talking like Regency artistocrats.
Regency characters talking like New Jersey teamsters. Unless it's a time
travel, keep your characters true to their time period in dialogue.
<@SLViehl> We've talked about the ranges of acceptable and unacceptable
stories. plots, characters, etcs.
<@SLViehl> etcs.=etc.
<@SLViehl> Here are some of the most common mistakes I've seen in two years
of actively participating in various romance critique groups:
<@SLViehl> Hero and heroine are not together -- the author puts them with
every other character but each other. Avoid long distance relationships --
this is a romance, get them together in as many scenes as possible.
<@SLViehl> Language -- modern characters talking like Regency artistocrats.
Regency characters talking like New Jersey teamsters. Unless it's a time
travel, keep your characters true to their time period in dialogue.
<@SLViehl> This also goes for education and region. Well-educated people
have good vocabularies, generally, while less educated people have more
basic speech. Also, be accurate to the region where they are raised and/or
live -- if they're southern American, there are going to be certain phrases
they commonly use. Colloquialisms.
<@SLViehl> Unrealistic plotting -- most contemporary women do not go to
school in a convent in Switzerland.
<@SLViehl> Most heroes do not have six trillion dollars in the bank.
<@SLViehl> So a plot that involves a convent-schooled runaway meeting the
six trillion dollar man at a bus stop in Newark isn't going to work.
<@SLViehl> Especially if they both assume by misunderstanding what they say
to each other that they will never fall in love because it's so obvious the
other one hates him/her.
<@SLViehl> Keep it realistic, folks. A few larger than life details are
nice, but try to keep it to a low roar.
<@SLViehl> Finally, keep the hero and heroine apart until the end of the
book. They can't reconcile on page twenty, because you've just eliminated
the reason for the whole story.
<robert> A lot of your "don't do this" ideas sound like great comedy. Is
there a market for romantic comedy?
<Kaelle> How do you learn the regional phrases, the colloquialisms?
<@SLViehl> Humorous romances do pretty well -- Susan Anderson, Jennifer
Crusie, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips have all done well with romantic
<Anne_Marble> How do you keep 'em from making up too soon? Years ago, I
wrote a futuristic based on "Measure for Measure," but when it came to the
part where he was supposed to withhold information that would release his
hold on her, my hero refused to cooperate!
<robert> Thanks!
<@SLViehl> If they're about to reconcile their love for each other, Anne, I
usually use action to tear them apart physically -- because it's silly to
keep inventing arguments for them.
<Anne_Marble> I finally ended up yanking that part of the plot, but he still
insisted on letting her go. Hmmm, maybe I should've given her father that
heart attack after all...
<@SLViehl> BTW, in Paradise Island, I actually had the hero and heroine
together 3/4 of the way through the book. My editor insisted I tear them
apart with an argument that seemed really stupid to me, but I gritted my
teeth and wrote it anyway.
<@SLViehl> You have to pick your battles.
<@SLViehl> Okay, now on submissions -- and I am going to brow beat all of
you into submitting, you know --
<@SLViehl> Make a plan and stick to it.
<@SLViehl> I've talked about this before, but you need to research, pick,
and make a list of publishers to submit to.
<@SLViehl> query and/or submit a synopsis to the ones who accept multiple
submissions first, so you can send out more than one.
<@SLViehl> If a rejection letter comes in, try to send out a new submission
as soon as possible. The same day, if you can.
<@SLViehl> Get your work out there.
<@SLViehl> Never be waiting on one response. Be waiting for five or ten or
twenty. It always gives you something to look forward to.
<@SLViehl> Keep track of what and who you send it to on a running list, or
mark it on a calendar (that's my preferred method)
<@SLViehl> Getting organized will take some time and preparation, but it
will really help you track your submissions.
<@SLViehl> Motivation
<@SLViehl> We'll all agree this is a tough occupation to keep motivation
levels high.
<@SLViehl> Boost your energy levels by walking away from the computer. Get
regular exercise and watch your diet. Writers are inevitably overweight.
<@SLViehl> I like to walk listening to music. Makes me go farther, for some
reason. I also like to commune with nature regularly -- the kids and I take
hikes at least once a week through interesting parks, woods, and if it's
raining, even the mall. Some strange critters in the mall, let me tell you
. . .
<@SLViehl> And think about taking up a hobby that has nothing to do with
writing. I quilt by hand (I believe Robert does, too.)
<@SLViehl> I paint, work with clay, sew and make clothes for the kids, and
<@SLViehl> Optimism boosters -- avoid people or situations negative toward
you as a writer. If your family doesn't understand, don't talk to them
about it.
<@SLViehl> Join discussion groups online (like here) or get together with
other writers in your area regularly. Talk about the industry, find out
everything you can about your particular genre.
<@SLViehl> Encourage others. There is nothing that makes me feel better
than when I'm trying to cheer someone else up, and it works.
<@SLViehl> But we all know, we all end up occasionally in the pits, no
matter what we do.
<@SLViehl> Give yourself permission to have a good cry or temper tantrum
(preferably, in private) and get it out of your system.
<@SLViehl> Then give yourself an unpublished writer's paycheck.
<@SLViehl> This can be a hot bath, a new book from the store or library, a
nice meal out, or even just sleeping in a few hours late. Do something to
pamper yourself, because you've got to pull yourself out of the pits.
<@SLViehl> Get the practice, because after you get published, you still fall
in the pits.
<@SLViehl> And finally -- so I can open up the floor for questions -- why am
I doing this to myself again?
<@SLViehl> I have been almost published in romance so many times I think I
hold a worlds record.
<@SLViehl> Harlequin, Silhouette, Berkley, and Avon have all asked for
manuscripts, and I've even gone to committee a few times.
<@SLViehl> They all shot me down.
<@SLViehl> I was too political, too scientific, too edgy, too humorous, etc.
etc. etc.
<@SLViehl> For the last five years of the nine years I spent pursuing
publication, I got in at least three rejection letters every week. Every
single week.
<@SLViehl> You'd think getting published would make things easier, right?
<@SLViehl> My first book had to be rewritten seven times.
<@SLViehl> The editor kept changing her mind.
<@SLViehl> Then, when I finally get my first romance out there, everyone
starts complaining that I'm a SF author trying to be a romance author.
<@SLViehl> (I've written six SF novels, and thirty romances. I'm a romance
<@SLViehl> There are so many highs and lows - my first two romances made top
pick in RT. Reviewers slice and dice my books, and I make my living off
writing. This is attacking my income, that I use to house, clothe, and feed
my children.
<@SLViehl> But even when I wonder, why the hell am I doing this to myself,
there are moments.
<@SLViehl> These are the moments that make it all worthwhile.
<@SLViehl> This week my agent called, and Onyx is going to publish three of
my books consecutively next fall -- one month apart. This is something that
put Kay Hooper on the NYT BSL. This, in other words, is my shot.
<@SLViehl> I wasn't expecting it for another two or three years, at least.
<@SLViehl> This also means I have to write and turn in three new books by
April 1, 2002.
<@SLViehl> And they had better be the best books I've ever written.
<@SLViehl> Is it worth it? Yes. To me, yes. To you? It's your call.
<robert> Comment: I do quilts on the sewing machine except for one finesse
project that I expect to spend years on <G>
<robert> Congratulations on the Onyx win!
<Kaelle> Wow. Congrats!
<@SLViehl> Thanks, I know I don't deserve it but I'm going to try very hard
<Anne_Marble> Since when did those "Get Directions" sites start sucking
(eggs), even more so than before?
<robert> I've read some of your books now and you DO deserve it, both as a
good writer and a great person!
<@SLViehl> I have had a Cinderella career, in terms of going from first
contract to where I am now. So really, I don't deserve it. But then I
think about all those rejections, and wonder that maybe, in that way, I do.
<robert> I make up the patterns. They're an art thing for me. Sorta designed
after traditional sometimes with very non traditional color combos.
<@SLViehl> Quilting is my therapy. It's completely mindless for me.
<Anne_Marble> What about the clumsy writers?
<@SLViehl> Gardening. Growing things is wonderful therapy. Or cooking.
Anyone else have any suggestions for Anne?
<robert> Roughly to fit on whatever size bed I have - oh yeah and I'm doing
a throw sized old fashioned crazy quilt that's very traditional with lots of
decorations, beads, pearls, some of those machine embroidered things you sew
on jackets, my shuttle patch, stuff like that. Dating and signing it when
<Blair> art
<Gayle> I burned out on sewing a couple of years ago when I was making a
living off of it...starting to think about making clothes for me again.
<Anne_Marble> I could also try T-shirt painting again. Or those velvet
things with markers.
<@SLViehl> sounds lovely, Robert
<Gayle> label the back with the story....
<robert> That's one of my authenticity projects - to use all the victorian
techniques but date it by what I put on it.
<@SLViehl> I didn't start sewing until I was 30, and now I'm hooked.
<Anne_Marble> I'm hoping to go to a church bizarre, I mean bazaar, tomorrow!
Who knows what I'll find.
<@SLViehl> if anyone has any romance-related questions, toss them in, too.
This is going to wrap up this workshop.
<Gayle> I grew up sewing...the only way I could afford the clothes I
want...also it was easier to learn and make my own clothes than have my mom
make them
<robert> Cool! Those can have great stuff at them.
<Kaelle> I started cross stitch with very small projects - those 97 cent
thingies at WalMart.
<Anne_Marble> Does shopping count as a hobby? I love going to the Tar-Jay.

<@SLViehl> Anne, do you like working with wood? My son and I restore old
pieces of furniture -- little pieces, like chairs, small chests, etc
<@SLViehl> We usually get them from yard sales or thrift stores.
<Gayle> anne there are all sorts of crafts ..look in your nearest craft
store...they even have classes
<Anne_Marble> I did try that with my coffee table. I think it looked better
before I attacked it.
<Anne_Marble> I might try those velvet thingies with the markers. I even saw
one with a dragon and a guy in armor. ...
<@SLViehl> I like hunting through old book stores. That's another morale
booster for me.
<Kaelle> Those are fun to do, Anne.
<Gayle> it's called liquid embroidery
<robert> If a book that is a romance with strong non genre elements doesn't
sell as a romance, is there a problem marketing it as the ohter thing it is
when it's sort of crossgenre?
<Kaelle> Sheila, did you miss my question about how to learn regional
<@SLViehl> Most genres have romance subplots of some kind in them --
mystery, horror, even westerns. So I'd go for genre that best fits the
non-romance element
<Anne_Marble> Writers are often criticized for doing "Y'all" wrong.
<robert> Thanks
<@SLViehl> I sure did, Kaelle, sorry -- you can get some info online
<@SLViehl> I think I've seen a couple. Also, post questions on the
boards -- someone put up a good one on Cajuns in worldbuilding, and got some
great feedback.
<robert> I lived down in N'awlins and Y'all means 'You all" and is used to
address the group, as I just did, y'all.
<@SLViehl> We all come from different parts of the country/world, so there
is probably someone out there who can give you some tips on phrases.
<Kaelle> I can give one, from where I was born and raised. "Youins", means
more than one person I'm talking to. From northwestern Pennsyvania.
<@SLViehl> If you can actually go to the region you're writing about, then
you can listen to the natives in person, and take notes.
<robert> Never to just one person. That's the biggest y'all mistake I've
seen, writers who'd say Y'all to just one other person.
<Blair> what if the person had mutiple personalities?
<Jehane> lol
<robert> Well, cher, I'd say y'all would apply if you're talking to more'n
one of 'em.
<@SLViehl> <g> I think that qualifies, Blair.
<Anne_Marble> How do you address a so-called map website that can't find
your own address and can't find the destination address, even though it's
the address of the bloody Methodist church, for God's sake?
<@SLViehl> I don't know, Anne, with a baseball bat? <g>
<Blair> www.findanotherone.com?
<robert> Kaelle, on accents what I do sometimes is cheat and choose regions
and ethnicities I do know people in while not bothering to use settings I
never visitied or hung out with people from.
<Anne_Marble> Thanks for both suggestions. I'll try that Blair, and maybe
I'll e-mail the bat to Mapblaster and Yahoo and Map.com
<@SLViehl> Any last questions from the group?
<Gayle> none from me
<robert> Thanks for a great workshop, Sheila! You answered a couple of good
ones I didn't think to ask!
<Kaelle> I like our Friday sessions. Can you come up with more topics?
<Blair> Anne - I use Mapquest.com with fairly good results
<Jehane> thanks again Sheila
<Gayle> Thank you Sheila
<@SLViehl> Well, Holly asked me to do some in December -- Any suggestions?
<Kaelle> Anything you want. I'll listen.
<@SLViehl> (hugging Kaelle)
<robert> Pitches, promotions and queries? Doing the agent stuff for
<Jehane> How about something from your medical background?
<Kaelle> Oooh, that would be good.
<Gayle> that sounds good.
<Anne_Marble> Mapquest, I'll try that
<robert> Ooh yeah. I'm with Kaelle. These are too good whatever topic,
they're all good.
<@SLViehl> Medical would be fun. I also love doing pitches or all
<@SLViehl> How to Perform an Appendectomy while Querying Pocket
<Kaelle> lol
<robert> LOL wow, you could probably pull it off!
<Kaelle> with a pocket knife?
<@SLViehl> If you have any suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me.
<@SLViehl> There you go, Kae.
<Kaelle> Those darn puns....
<robert> This sounds like something that would work in a scene, that's
what's so crazy, it's like MASH if Hawkeye was a writer.
<Gayle> well, I gotta go...told Nathan he could take the geek test before we
did movies
<@SLViehl> Good night Gayle, and thanks for joining us!
<Kaelle> I gotta do that yet
<Gayle> later
<Kaelle> Night
<robert> G'night, Gayle
<Jehane> bye Gayle
<Blair> lol, i scored much lower on that than i though...
<@SLViehl> And my thanks to you all for making this a fun workshop.
<robert> I transcribed again. Will mail. Redundancy is good.
<Kaelle> Right back at you, Sheila.
<Anne_Marble> Thank you
<@SLViehl> Thanks to Robert and Blair for saving my butt in the transcript
<@SLViehl> I'll run the workshop suggestions past Holly, and if she approves
will put them on the calendar.
<Blair> t'wasn't anything m'lady
<Kaelle> yay
<robert> Purr! Thanks! I'll try to think of weird good ideas to keep you
busy! Purrpurr
<@SLViehl> Thanks for letting me talk shop with you all, and see you here or
at Holly's.
<robert> G'night, Sheila! Thanks again!
<Kaelle> Thanks! Good night!
<Blair> thanks g'nite
<@SLViehl> Good night and take care!

end of part two

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SF/F World Building Continuation Transcript Part I 11/16/01

November 18 2001, 3:56 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
11/16/01 -- SF/F World Building Part One

<@SLViehl> Okay, let me do the official opening spiel: Welcome to the third
session of SF/F World Building. I'm your host, S.L. Viehl (Sheila) and I
build worlds for a living.
<@SLViehl> My computer clock is totally off tonight -- it reads 8:48pm EST,
so if someone would remind me to take a five minute break at midpoint I'd
appreciate it.
<@SLViehl> During our last session, we talked mainly about the different
types of cultures you might want to develop and a bit about religion and its
importance in society.
<@SLViehl> Tonight we'll be wrestling with linguistics, the arts, and
developing histories for your worlds. Questions on previous sessions are
also welcome.
<@SLViehl> I'll also try to break more frequently and throw up a QUESTIONS
so you can bring up stuff. Everyone ready to go?
<Gayle&Nathan> yes
<James> Yep.
<Jinx> yep!
<RobertAndAri> Yep!
<Anne_Marble> OK
<BlairB> yup
<@SLViehl> Language more than anything else separates humans from other
animals. It is the main source of our humanity, history, and power. Spoken
language here on Earth developed approximately 40,000 years ago, as opposed
to written forms of communication, which are alleged to be only about 4,000
years old.
<@SLViehl> Language allows one generation to transmit culture and
experiences to the next. It creates an endless repository of knowledge and
tradition. It allows us to achieve semantic universality, the ability to
transcend the here and now and speak of people, places, and events in the
past, present and future, near or far, real or imaginary.
<@SLViehl> So you'll agree with me that language is pretty important to any
<@SLViehl> The first thing I'd like you to consider is that not every
language is spoken.
<@SLViehl> We know animals communicate by sound, odor, movement, and touch.
<@SLViehl> Even human communication relies to great extent on sounds that
have arbitrary meanings and can be arranged into an almost infinite number
of combinations.
<@SLViehl> Example: someone who shouts "BangZU!" in China is yelling for
help, but who shouts BANGzu might be calling after his friend, Chang Bangzu.
<@SLViehl> So you've got a lot to play with here.
<@SLViehl> What if your protagonist is a creature who can't make verbal
sounds? How does that character -- and his/her/its people -- communicate?
<@SLViehl> What if your characters land on a world that doesn't have the
same acoustic properties of the homeworld?
<@SLViehl> What if your characters are telepathic? How would they be
different from your average human?
<@SLViehl> All of these are possibilities. To find what's right for your
world, you should shop around.
<@SLViehl> There are fantastic linguistic sites available on the web -- you
can practically learn any language you want on the internet. I'm currently
studying Japanese that way.
<@SLViehl> So if you want to base your language on say, an existing human
language, you need to at least become familiar with its sounds and tones and
rhythms, if you don't speak it yourself.
<@SLViehl> Using an existing language base allows you to create a more
realistic language for your world.
<@SLViehl> However, you're not going to write 400 pages of dialogue in your
created language. No one will buy the book.
<@SLViehl> I try to go very sparingly on using created language sentences or
phrases in my books. I always try to get an English translation in with the
phrase or sentence, in the same paragraph.
<@SLViehl> And it's pretty much common sense which words and phrases to use.
When we swear, we revert to our cradle languages. So if you've got a
non-English speaker character and he stubs his toes, perfect opportunity to
throw out a created curse word.
<@SLViehl> Endearments are also something we feel more comfortable using in
our own language.
<@SLViehl> Threats, too.
<@SLViehl> If you decide to use something other than spoken language for
your world, you need to make it very clear to the reader what each
non-verbal gesture or communication means
<@SLViehl> Eric Flint did a very good job on physical language with Mother
of All Demons, I believe the title of the book was. One species were huge
cephalopods who communicated by color and movement.
<@SLViehl> And once you've create a species that speaks another language,
and mix in characters who don't understand it, you have to find a way for
them to communicate with each other.
<@SLViehl> Star Trek has the ever-popular universal translator.
<@SLViehl> But you can also build a third language between two species who
can't communicate -- usually some form of signing.
<James> Not quite a question of writing technique -- but which site are you
studying Japanese from?
<RobertAndAri> Is it another valid use for alien words to express the
commonly used alien untranslatable concept except by a whole paragraph of
description - but picked up by reader by context and frequent use?
<@SLViehl> At the moment I'm working on greetings, at
<James> Ah, thanks -- I'll peek. I'm curious about how they go about it.
<@SLViehl> Robert, I think you have to make sure the reader can pick up the
meaning from context -- be clear on what the phrase means -- but yes, that
<@SLViehl> I'm trying to think of an example
<RobertAndAri> I explicated once in dialogue with a little humor on the
translating character's part fishing for examples but thereafter it became a
pet slang word among the characters.
<@SLViehl> Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have this phrase in their Liaden
books and it escapes me, but it translates loosely to "one's obligation to
the family, the species, and the planet."
<Anne_Marble> Can you give examples of books that got too much into the
linguistics? Some authors like to show off, especially if they're
specialists in the field. ("you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or
drencrom or one or two other veshches." )
<RobertAndAri> That's the kind of thing I mean - not untranslatable but
carries a heavy load of garbage and starts getting resonant.
<James> There's a very interesting thread on this topic on the
rec.arts.sf.composition newsgroup, at the moment, under "Character Dialects"
and "Swearing in SF"
<RobertAndAri> Anne, that example gave context-cues. That's drug-slang and
I'm now tuned to expect stoner characters in a slangy future.
<@SLViehl> There have been a couple I thought were way too creative-wordy.
The Enemy Books by Barry Longyear got a little too much into the whole Drac
<@SLViehl> But he was so in love with Drac language he created a dictionary
for it.
<@SLViehl> Figure any author who has to publishe a dictionary for their
language has gone a little too far.
<@SLViehl> The whole Klingon thing with Star Trek always gave me the
giggles, too.
<RobertAndAri> Fans can get extreme on it too - the Klingon dictionary
resulted in my going to a party where I didn't speak Klingon and the
Klingons at it having a good time on me and everyone else there.
<@SLViehl> Robert's reading my mind tonight.
<Anne_Marble> I knew someone who took notes in high school in Elvish. I'm
sure she's a Ph.D. in something by now.
<RobertAndAri> Sorry, the race I created were telepaths and your kelevrees
are both beautiful and evocative.
<@SLViehl> Be selective. Language is beautiful when used as a wand, not a
<@SLViehl> Your language should enhance the reader's experience, not curtail
it, if that makes sense.
<RobertAndAri> Synthemesc and drug slang make me think of introducing a few
keywords that then make the reader feel included in the gang. Like readers
of Clockwork Orange, droog.
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to fun and games -- composing and developing
arts/creative outlets for your world.
<RobertAndAri> Yeah! The arts! Oh boy are all my aliens sitting up at this
<Gayle&Nathan> But the language in A Clockwork Orange was based on polish
<@SLViehl> As we writers know from personal experience, self-expression is
often the single force driving the individual.
<Gayle&Nathan> I found it slow going and quit after 2 or 3 chapter
<@SLViehl> Most people are content to limit their self-expression to verbal
communication, dress, body language, and recreational activities.
<@SLViehl> Then you have the people who aren't satisfied with the norms, who
devote themselves to their particular art. (This is us, people)
<@SLViehl> You have to think about both sides of the coin when you create
arts and recreation for your world.
<@SLViehl> There are going to be weekend warriors, and there are going to be
Van Goghs cutting off their ears.
<@SLViehl> All people need to play sometime, in my opinion.
<@SLViehl> It provides balance for time spent working
<@SLViehl> avenues to express individuality that otherwise might not have an
<@SLViehl> And fun -- doing something for fun, for pleasure, feeds the soul.
<@SLViehl> I think we can all agree the traditional arts have been very well
covered in SF and fantasy.
<@SLViehl> I'd like to see new art forms and activities created
<Cassie> Maybe people who draw songs?
<@SLViehl> I think the foundation starts with our senses. We use them to
perceive everything, so they in turn become the tools that allow us to alter
<@SLViehl> Good example, Cassie. Imagine music you can only hear if you see
<Anne_Marble> Synesathesia...
<Cassie> I just recently discovered that I have synesthesia.
<RobertAndAri> Kelevree - the art of mindshield painting, I would be
represented by an image of Ari.
<RobertAndAri> Complete with the feel of his fur under your hands, in
memory, if I had a kelevree fan to record it in.
<@SLViehl> Or sculpting with sound -- walking through an empty room and
feeling/hearing a scuplture.
<@SLViehl> Painting with scent. Making musical instruments out of unlikely
materials -- water. fire. ice.
<RobertAndAri> Silent aria - the empathic projection of the emotions of hte
song by another singer while the vocalist sings.
<@SLViehl> Skin poetry -- rhymes you don't hear, but you feel against your
<Cassie> I have a question, is it really unusual to see music?
<@SLViehl> For humans, yes, I think so. I'm tone deaf, so I'm a terrible
person to ask.
<Anne_Marble> Glenn Gould made radio documentaries by combining hours and
hours of taped interviews into a cohesive one-hour piece.
<RobertAndAri> I've read some things on kinesthesia, it takes drugs or brain
damage for humans to have it.
<@SLViehl> What if you could do something with the sound waves to make them
only visible, not audible.
<Anne_Marble> Bill Evans created a CD where he played three separate tracks
for the same song that when put together sounded like he was playing with
himself. And that despite a raging heroine addiction. :-/
<RobertAndAri> Tubular Bells was an album performed entirely by the same
musician-composer on a lot of instruments and dubbed together.
<@SLViehl> Like with language, you really need to play with concepts of art
<@SLViehl> But try to attack it from an angle no one else has. Show
something utterly new to your reader, and they will love you for it.
<Cassie> I have a question. In history, we learned that leisure time was the
basis of culture. So, before you determined what kind of culture you have do
you first have to create the economic situation of your world?
<Anne_Marble> Some people think Glenn Gould had synesthesia. His mother
played classical music whie he was in the womb, and some think music became
so much a part of his life that he could communicate no other way.
<Cassie> Or think of how long the average person works?
<RobertAndAri> That makes sense to me, Cassie.
<Anne_Marble> You could create aliens who communicate with songs -- like
those aliens on Star Trek who communicated with metaphors from their myths.
<RobertAndAri> My sister can see ultraviolet and if she painted it would
affect her paintings.
<@SLViehl> Your culture will depend on the economic and social structure of
your society, Cassie. If they aren't in dire straits, and have a relatively
stable society, they will have plenty of time for leisure arts.
<RobertAndAri> I read in an anthorpology book that most hunting gathering
cultures spend 90% of their time in arts and religion and culture, only 10%
on getting necessities of life.
<@SLViehl> If your world is at war, for example, and suffering deprivations
of war, there isn't going to be a lot of time to paint or sculpt.
<@SLViehl> Good point, Robert.
<@SLViehl> And remember while we're talking about fine arts, you also have
to give the "rabble" something to enjoy.
<Anne_Marble> That sounds like more fun!
<James> Rabble
<@SLViehl> In ancient Rome, it was gladiators and throwing Christians to the
<@SLViehl> In our society, it's the NFL
<James> And Jerry Springer.
<@SLViehl> People like to gather and play spectator.
<RobertAndAri> WWF are more colorful gladiators, they use special effects
and have "superhero" or "villain" costumes.
<Anne_Marble> And Judge Judy!
<Anne_Marble> WWF = soap opera for guys
<@SLViehl> So create some sports or sporting type events for your general
population to follow.
<James> Ahem, watch the sexism
<@SLViehl> Competitive, dangerous activities are always good.
<@SLViehl> Something where people regularly get maimed or killed.
<RobertAndAri> Unless it's a very ascetic culture where any entertainment is
suspicious, sinful or forbidden except the religion or philosophy of
asceticism. Vulcans at play would seem dull to anyone but Vulcans.
<@SLViehl> True. However, Vulcans are rather the exception to the rule.
<James> I like the idea of sport for aesthetes - the cry of the crowd as a
metaphor is over-extended and dies horribly.
<RobertAndAri> Kind of a neat exception if an ascetic is in the book looking
down on anyone else in the book.
<@SLViehl> People like to see other people risk their lives for something.
<RobertAndAri> Oh yeah, James!
<Gayle&Nathan> Vulcans are funny(nathan's comment)
<RobertAndAri> Marathon novel tournaments punctuated by swordfights over
plot points.
<Anne_Marble> I read a great book by, uhm, some SF writer about a near
future where poor people got suckered into playing a nasty gameshow where
the prize was a virtual reality trip. In reality, the virtual reality thing
was a conspiracy -- the powers that be wanted to use it as a way to get rid
of the "Rabble" by putting them into suspended animation. And killing them
off eventually.
<@SLViehl> But remember who your readers are when you're crafting this
aesthetically pleasing sport. Your readers are going to put the book down
and go watch a football game.
<@SLViehl> Stephen King did a good version on future bloodsports with The
Running Man, I think it was called.
<James> Sadly, reality TV seems to be catching up with that one...
<@SLViehl> You don't have to approve of the sport as the author, btw. I
totally condemn Shockball.
<Cassie> What's shockball?
<@SLViehl> It's a future sport I created for my latest book. It's sort of
football crossed with soccer, but the penalty is electrocution.
<James> A sport not played by future aesthetes!
<@SLViehl> Hence "Shock" ball.
<@SLViehl> degrees of electrocution, I should say.
<@SLViehl> Contact sports are always good. Find a way to send two teams of
large people across a playing field at each other, and you'll hook the
<Anne_Marble> Even Quidditch has the sense of danger, though it's treated
humorously. "Don't fall off the end of your broomstick." Uh, yeah, thanks
for the advice.
<@SLViehl> Or try to revive ancient sports -- I like that one the Aztec or
Maya played with the hoop and the ball in a square court, can't think of the
<RobertAndAri> The one where the winning team got sacrificed to the sun god,
I remember.
<@SLViehl> Some trophy.
<James> If the winning team became gods, then it would have been
<Cassie> I think I saw that in that animated El Dorado movie.
<@SLViehl> And while you're creating team sports, remember individual
sports, too. Try a version of tennis, or raquetball.
<@SLViehl> Star Trek has done some interesting things with sports during its
various incarnations.
<Anne_Marble> The original soccer supposedly originated from British kids
kicking the head of a Danish warrior around their village. (Don't worry, he
was already dead.)
<@SLViehl> Gruesome. I love it.
<Anne_Marble> I guess that would make a good fantasy sport. Would Orcs play
"Elf Ball" on the spur of the moment? Or for that matter, if your elves had
a mean streak, they might torture the orcs for fun.
<@SLViehl> Sure, works for me.
<BlairB> elf bowling <G>
<@SLViehl> Why don't we take a five minute break now?
<@SLViehl> I'm going for tea, BRB
<Gayle&Nathan> okay
<James> Excellent! Caffeine...
<Anne_Marble> I'm going to beat up my printer.
<RobertAndAri> Notes. Invent alien word for hte particular despair of losing
confidence in artistic prowess.
<Cassie> I'm going to get some socks.
<Anne_Marble> Maybe I should nuke a mini pizza...
<Cassie> Oh wait, I have to go. My mom just got home...
<RobertAndAri> Note: competitive torture, victims obviously taken from an
enemy culture, idea is to prepare yours to take anything your rival can do
to him.
<Cassie> Later everybody.
<BlairB> bye cassie
<RobertAndAri> See you, Cassie
<@SLViehl> bye Cassie
<Gayle&Nathan> bye cassie

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SF/F World Building Continuation Transcript Part II 11/16/01

November 18 2001, 4:01 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
11/16/01 -- SF/F World Building Part Two

<@SLViehl> Losers in war were often used as fodder for the gladiators and
lions in Rome. What other cultures sported with their victims? Lots of
Americans Indian tribes did.T
<RobertAndAri> I'm pretty sure most of the Fertile Crescent city cultures
did, now that I remember. Also some of the tribes in my distant anthro
<RobertAndAri> Had to jot that competitive torture idea fast, as I was
thinking 'but what do fun races like Hsktskt or Trevellians do for fun?'
<@SLViehl> The Hsktskt have lots of fun. Wait 'til book seven.
<James> But it strikes me that the gentler arts/games would be a lovely way
of characterizing your villain. Psycho by day, dead keen on baseball with a
killer baseball card collection by night. Not killing someone in a crowd
because he's just spotted his favourite player and wants an autograph, kind
of thing.
<RobertAndAri> Drooling on my screen for book seven....
<RobertAndAri> James, that works too. And the bad guys themselves may not
see any inconsistency. Reality under that is Nazis listening to Wagner
played by condemned prisoners at Auschwitz.
<@SLViehl> I like that idea, James. The elegant barbarian.
<James> Mm, a perfect example. Feels real, and dreadfully creepy because it
reminds you that humans do this stuff.
<@SLViehl> John Wayne Gacey dressed up as a clown and put on shows for kids
in hospitals.
<James> No wonder kids are terrified of clowns!
<@SLViehl> Proving that even the biggest monster has a fluffy side.
<@SLViehl> I really think Stephen King got his idea for "IT" from Gacey.
<James> My current villain is your basic mind-controlling pyrokinetic
psychopath - I might create a sport for him to be a mad fan of. It'll give
me some nice settings, as well.
<@SLViehl> Water sport, perhaps?
<Anne_Marble> I think in some cases, the wealthy Babylonians used to have
something like one year to torture and/or kill a condemned person who had
harmed their family. You could keep them imprisoned all that time and make
them thing you were going to free them, then kill them on the last day.
<RobertAndAri> That sounds too cool, James! Yeah! Also dumb luck if you
don't want to kill and do want a near miss, like the doesn't kill because he
wants the autograph scene.
<@SLViehl> I think we're often fascinated by what we're afraid of.
<James> See, I always get ideas from these sessions!
<RobertAndAri> I do too.
<@SLViehl> We're definitely turning into a think tank, guys.
<Anne_Marble> There are lots of ooky ways to torture. I recently read a web
site about torture techniques as research. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
<RobertAndAri> I had my mind on that last night and did my vision article. I
think my unconscious is telling me 'torture someone in Thrice'
<@SLViehl> Jinx, are you still with us?
<Jinx> I think so.
<Anne_Marble> Strangely, the next time I had dental surgery and went under,
I started imagining a torture scene for a fantasy novel that involved
drugging someone so he could be horribly tortured and yet not feel the pain,
to make the torture some how worse. Might use that...
<Jinx> Got bumped.
<Anne_Marble> BRB -- pizza just dinged.
<RobertAndAri> Ugh, anne. They don't even see it done. They just pass out
without knowing what will hurt or how they're mutilated when they wake. Pure
<James> Food that plays music - another exotic art!
<@SLViehl> There you go. The song depends on the presentation?
<Anne_Marble> They also made his family watch. Y'know, it might be
possible that I take to nitrous oxide a little too well.
<Jinx> Food does that already -- the sound of water boiling, of fish
frying... <g>
<@SLViehl> Saddle of veal concerto with mint sauce flute solo?
<James> What aria would a lobster sing as it goes into the water?
<Anne_Marble> "Don't let me down"
<James> Perhaps, after an unhappy love affair, the lobster jumps...
<RobertAndAri> Carmina Burana has a sad, powerful song in the middle
punctuated by a rollicking chorus, it's a swan getting roasted for dinner
and the chorus is singing about how good he'll taste, in latin.
<@SLViehl> Imagine composing a song for a choir who only belches in tones.
<Gayle&Nathan> well I can say one thing...nathan has a case of the giggles
because of class tonight
<James> Gods, imagine the applause...
<@SLViehl> Hi Nathan! (waving)
<RobertAndAri> Well, yeah. <G>
<Anne_Marble> George Carlin had a line that went something like "Some tragic
news... One of the cells in my body climed to the roof of my mouth and
committed suicide."
<@SLViehl> It would have to be an all male choir, though. (ducking)
<James> I fart in your general direction
<Jinx> LOL
<Anne_Marble> Sheila, you never met my grandmother.
<RobertAndAri> Ari thinks bird jumping, bug chasing, desk wrecking and room
running (never the same route twice) are cool sports.
<Gayle&Nathan> [nathan] hello (wave)
<RobertAndAri> I do not want to see a novel titled The Breaking Winds...
<James> But it's a cute thought. Beast with five stomachs, eats different
meals and burps from a given stomach to enhance the music with particular
<@SLViehl> Oh, no James!
<@SLViehl> lol
<James> I have a terrible tendency to run with things...
<Gayle&Nathan> LOLOl
<Anne_Marble> And I thought "The Beast with Five Fingers" was scary.
<@SLViehl> You know I'm going to end up getting blamed for this when James's
novel hits the shelves.
<@SLViehl> "That damn Viehl woman's idea."
<James> I shall finger you to the hugo committee when they turn me down for
excessive flatulence...
<Gayle&Nathan> but he's the one who ran with it sheila
<Anne_Marble> Actually, this reminds me of an old Steve Martin joke... About
his girlfriend who was studying singing.
<RobertAndAri> James, it would be worse if you won but had to do the speech
in your alien language.
<@SLViehl> True. I will discount all knowledge of what James does with his
<RobertAndAri> Choirboys. Another thing to make the gang giggle in chat and
confuse everyone else.
<BlairB> James... i'll keep the transcrip unaltered..
<James> I like to think "thanks to the hugo committee" comes out as
<@SLViehl> Hookay. Let's do history before we run out of session.
<James> Sorry...
<Gayle&Nathan> sound's good to us
<Anne_Marble> He said his girlfriend's teacher was a real pervert. Why?
Because he told her to sing from her diaphragm. "That could take years to
<@SLViehl> If you get the Hugo, James, I am definitely going to be there.
<Anne_Marble> Whoops...
<@SLViehl> Lol, Anne
<@SLViehl> Okay, creating a history for your world(s).
<RobertAndAri> I too humbly transcribe this entire session, most noble
<@SLViehl> Thanks to Blair and Robert for transcribing tonight. A hug for
both of you.
<RobertAndAri> Purr
<@SLViehl> Now, unless your world formed yesterday, you need some history,
<@SLViehl> I have an exercise I'd like everyone to try later on. This is
what you do: Sit down and write the most important events in the world
dating back three hundreds years. Don't think about it, just write. You
have ten seconds to make this list.
<@SLViehl> Here's my list:
<RobertAndAri> This world or one that we made up?
<@SLViehl> Columbus 1692
<@SLViehl> Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock
<@SLViehl> American Revolution
<@SLViehl> Pioneers
<@SLViehl> Indian Wars
<@SLViehl> Gold Rush
<@SLViehl> Civil War
<@SLViehl> Industry and Urbanization
<@SLViehl> The Model T
<@SLViehl> WWI
<@SLViehl> The Great Depression
<@SLViehl> WWII
<@SLViehl> JFK
<@SLViehl> Korea
<@SLViehl> Vietnam
<@SLViehl> Bicentennial
<@SLViehl> Gulf War
<@SLViehl> Attack on America
<@SLViehl> Now, I wrote all those things down in ten seconds.
<@SLViehl> Not thinking about it, just gut reaction from my POV
<@SLViehl> What's interesting is, I thought more about wars as important
events than anything.
<@SLViehl> I'm a medical person who worships guys like Jenner and Salk, and
they didn't even make the list.
<@SLViehl> Why?
<@SLViehl> Because any event where a great many people die is burned forever
in memory.
<@SLViehl> There is a long history in my family of being very closely
associated with global or regional conflicts
<@SLViehl> The other events are more America-specific -- our Gold Rush, the
Model T -- all things that changed our country without war.
<@SLViehl> This exercise helps you in one specific way -- it tells you what
you remember.
<@SLViehl> These are the same things your characters in your novel should
<@SLViehl> I'm talking on a personal level here, because there is a tendency
to info dump history in a book. Let most of your history come out through
your characters, in their lives, and in their memories.
<@SLViehl> Now, remember my rule about the world building writer -- you can
never know TOO much about your world.
<@SLViehl> So begin to build a history backward from the time of your novel.
<@SLViehl> Create historical events that jusitify the world you've created.
<@SLViehl> And your history doesn't have to be one long running series of
<@SLViehl> Natural disasters are just as devastating. Use them.
<@SLViehl> Diseases like plagues routinely wipe out whole civilizations.
<James> And assaults on prevailing cultural assumptions that change them
forever - referencing JFK and September 11.
<@SLViehl> Exactly, James. We saw history change on 9/11.
<@SLViehl> The same way our parents saw history change when the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor.
<@SLViehl> Something happens that changes things in a big way.
<@SLViehl> These are the kinds of events you need to populate your world's
<@SLViehl> Particular to the fantasy genre is the development of magic
<@SLViehl> The same way biology works for SF.
<@SLViehl> biology or science, I should say
<@SLViehl> Magic is power, and power is influenced by many things.
<@SLViehl> Consider the source of your magic -- where did it come from? How
did it endure changes over time? What strengthens it? What weakens it?
<@SLViehl> In SF, you've got a template for change right in our own Earth
<@SLViehl> as we developed sciences, we progressed -- and sometimes
regressed -- as a species.
<@SLViehl> But all things present and accounted for can be traced back to an
event or a series of events which created them.
<@SLViehl> One of the most fascinating books I've ever read was a companion
book to a PBS series called "The Day the Universe Changed"
<@SLViehl> I never watched the show, personally, but the book is fabulous.
<Anne_Marble> He had the most adorable accent, too.
<@SLViehl> It takes something like the atomic bomb and traces it back
through history, through events that brought it into existence, or somehow
influenced its existence.
<@SLViehl> If you're not sure how to create historical precedence, I highly
recommend this book as a learning tool.
<@SLViehl> And when you are creating history, don't be neat about it.
History is chock full of useless wars and needless suffering and endless
violations of simple human rights.
<@SLViehl> People learn from their mistakes. We hope, anyway.
<@SLViehl> Let your people make mistakes.
<Anne_Marble> Just did a web search, James Burke is working on a (free)
interactive "knowledge web" due out circa December 2002. Droooool. What a
<RobertAndAri> The ten second list leaves out a lot. Mine would have been
completely different and as valid.
<@SLViehl> Bald guy who wrote the book, right Anne?
<RobertAndAri> What does the nature of your list do to your writing?
<Anne_Marble> Yup
<Jinx> If you can catch the show, it's fab, too.
<@SLViehl> The ten second list is sort of telling about you personally, I
think. What you put down are the things that stay with you from history.
<Anne_Marble> In my fantasy novel, one of my MCs founded a police force for
an important city-state. Would it make more sense for my history to focus
(for now) on the crimes and corruption that made it necessary/possible to
found this group?...
<@SLViehl> And since we invest a lot of ourselves in our characters, it's
good to know what's going on up there in our gray matter.
<James> I admit - I was doing it mentally as you presented your list, and
placed the settlement of Australia right where you put Plymouth Rock (I even
started with Columbus).
<James> Which I did find instructive.
<RobertAndAri> I thought of Galileo, witch trials ending witch trials, end
of slavery, Dickens, Karl Marx, American and French revolutions - it wasn't
coming up in order but was darn optimistic and most wars I was dismissing as
'same old same old'
<@SLViehl> I think so, Anne. Recent history is going to be more of a major
player in your novel, unless history has not changed in a long period of
time -- I think Robert has a civilization that has been relatively stable
for a lengthy period in his latest book.
<RobertAndAri> Very stable very long history in that series, Sheila, post
industrial so long they don't remember poverty and are arts driven.
<Anne_Marble> I'll have to think of an evil crime bad enough to get even
even the cynical nobles to agree that a police force is a good thing. Either
a crime so bad it shocks even them, or a crime that could cause rebellion if
it went unpunished.
<@SLViehl> Of all the things I've never been able to accept or understand, I
think war tops my list. That's probably why I think of wars as major events
in history.
<Gayle&Nathan> Louisiana Purchase, lewis & clark & the corp of discovery;
<Gayle&Nathan> z.m.pike
<@SLViehl> I can't watch movies like Band of Brothers and Schindler's List,
because they make me physically ill.
<@SLViehl> All I see are the bodies, not the glory.
<Jinx> If the nobles felt threatened in any way, they'd probably agree with
the idea, just to protect themselves.
<Anne_Marble> (A laborer's child raped and murdered by a nobleman might be
too cliched. But still...)
<@SLViehl> Anne, you might need a series of horrific events that escalate
and force the population to extreme measures.
<@SLViehl> We just went through that with the events of 9/11.
<Anne_Marble> Someone murdered the Little Match Girl!!!
<RobertAndAri> I share your feelings about war entirely, Sheila - but focus
so much on 'the glass is half full' and the death of some destructive ideas,
like sanctioned slavery and religious war. If Sept. 11 made a change it's
that Crusades are not morally acceptable any more.
<Gayle&Nathan> the movie schindler's list wasn't at all like the book....
<BlairB> i assume you aren't talking about 'hollywood' dying...
<James> I wonder if the WTC changed that, a little: I haven't been able to
stand action movie set-piece explosions since, and a couple of people I know
have acquired the same attitude.
<RobertAndAri> Those are often cleaned up to make it more palatable. I watch
them and the dying actors just go still and pretty and I have seen death and
it's slower and uglier.
<Gayle&Nathan> i have never let nathan see violence for violence sake...only
with a historical reference
<@SLViehl> Hollywood should spend a year in an LA hospital emergency room.
They'd look at their movies a little differently.
<James> No - they'd just acquire more things to prostitute.
<@SLViehl> Sadly true, James.
<James> Erm, sorry, that was bitterer than I thought...
<RobertAndAri> Holdover from puritanism, you couldn't go into sex as
casually and explicitly as violence in American film.
<Gayle&Nathan> In fact we don't generally watch R rated movies unless it is
in a historical setting (the patriot, saving private ryan)
<@SLViehl> but still true
<James> I began life as an idealist - there's nothing more bitter than a
thoroughly disappointed idealist...
<Anne_Marble> One of my fellow reviewers learned that someone she knows in a
writing group is trying to write a romance based on the WTC attack. And on
top of that, the plot sucks eggs.
<@SLViehl> What's that saying? A cynic is just a bruised idealist?
<James> Exactly.
<RobertAndAri> I began life as a cynic and it looked up mightily at legal
age and still looks better to me than it was.
<@SLViehl> She won't sell it, Anne. We've been told to stay AWAY from 9/11
in what we write.
<@SLViehl> I'm speaking for pro romance authors -- myself and about ten
others I know.
<Anne_Marble> Good. It sounded horrid.
<RobertAndAri> It took me over a decade to finally use the Challenger
incident in a novel. It had to soak.
<@SLViehl> It should not be trivialized. I trust the publishers will police
their authors, though.
<James> I'm actually now a bipolar idealist, Robert, swinging constantly
from my old idealism to the cynicism of a deeply bitter ninety year old man.
I make my friends dizzy.
<Anne_Marble> One of the reviewers was speculating that if something like
that got published, it would hurt the reputation of romance, and romance has
enough problems with its rep.
<@SLViehl> Is anyone having any other problems, not related to what we've
discussed tonight, but to the previous topics from the other two sessions?
<Gayle&Nathan> no...not right now.
<@SLViehl> How can you be constant in an inconstant world, James? Just
getting through one day at a time sane is a real accomplishment these days.
<James> Amen to that!
<Anne_Marble> I will. I have to decide if I should make the ruling class
into vampires or a sort of vampiric elves or someting else entirely.
<RobertAndAri> Yeah. I'm worldbuilding close to home with a horror novel and
some strange events that happened around the 1920's and I don't know where
the little lizard guy pranksters came from and that drives me nuts.
<James> How about turning it around: the plebs are the vampires, keeping a
pool of nice, pampered aristocrats around to feed them what they need...
<@SLViehl> Play with the vampire idea, Anne. See if you can find a new way
to present them -- some new twist.
<@SLViehl> Are your lizard guys indigenous to your world, Robert? Could
they be invaders? Marooned?
<Anne_Marble> Make them tall and blond with pointed ears.
<RobertAndAri> The world is upstate NY in a vacation area and there's a
colony living in secret under the lake and the cabin.
<RobertAndAri> Do I need to know how they got there or is it cool in a
horror novel to leave a lot of such questions unanswered and just take
things as they are?
<@SLViehl> I'd go with finding out what kind of animals live on blood and
build off the actual biology of the critter.
<James> How about a two-way -- the aristocrats can draw magic from the
plebs, but the plebs can -- though they're punished if they're caught --
drain physical strength and longevity from the aristocrats.
<@SLViehl> If they're totally different from your indigenous population,
Robert, you can't do a rabbit out of the hat. You need a source.
<Anne_Marble> Or vampires who live off fear and other emotions instead of
<@SLViehl> Or have they always been around, and were stirred up by some
<Anne_Marble> I guess those vampires would become novelists.
<@SLViehl> Krinard did that in Prince of Something.
<RobertAndAri> That's what I don't know and the characters might not find
out. They would have their own history IF they talk to the humans or I do
their POV.
<James> That could be something, Anne -- they drain the emotions and
regurgitate art of all kinds. They'd have to get something physical as
well, but the art could be a side effect.
<RobertAndAri> I'm half thinking they were brought in by the evil and they
happened to luck and settle with the old lady and are sort of making the
best of it and colonizing.
<@SLViehl> Exchange emotions, like blood exchanges maybe, James? Positive
for the negative (no pun intended)
<RobertAndAri> Like the evil's always been around but the little lizard guys
only pretty much through the 20th century and they're not going home, they
live there now.
<@SLViehl> You could have them hatch after incubating for a couple of
millenia, Robert.
<Anne_Marble> If you agree to give them fear, you get money or food or
<@SLViehl> But you have to produce fear in order for them to feed, right
<James> Or happiness, or a revived happy memory, or something of that sort.
<RobertAndAri> Oh wow. Thanks, Sheila - that accounts for their culture so
much! Because they got raised by Grandma Halston.
<@SLViehl> Plenty of organisms take a long time to hatch. Bacteria, mold,
etc. . . .
<Anne_Marble> Maybe they can put you through something to create the fear.
Or maybe the ones who live off fear are the bad nobles. It's illegal, but
some do it for fun. Chasing people down...
<James> They have great parties - invite volunteer plebs into an
arena/labyrinth area, where things happen that induce terrible fear.
Survivors get the rewards.
<RobertAndAri> Living off fear might make them sought if fear is relieved by
their taking it. They could become therapists and grief counselors.
<@SLViehl> You could have your vampires be adrenalin junkies, Anne
<Anne_Marble> Oooh, like "reality television."
<RobertAndAri> When ethical. When not of course you've got the bloodsport
and the quick nasty ways to get it.
<James> Maybe some people try to raise their kids neurotic to make them
tastier for the vamps, and worth more to the family...
<@SLViehl> Oh, James, that's too good.
<RobertAndAri> Oh that's fantastic. Your drunken abuser would see that as a
<Anne_Marble> Just like some people used to raise their babies to become
freaks by doing sick things to their bodies.
<@SLViehl> Precisely!
<Jinx> By the best-selling author, "How to Raise Neurotics and Psychotics; A
Parent's Handbook"
<@SLViehl> lol Jinx
<RobertAndAri> I'd love to read that, Jinx. Sounds witty and apt.
<James> Forgive my dreadful mind, but it's also a use for mentally damaged
war veterans.
<@SLViehl> No, I think you're right on the money, James.
<Anne_Marble> And that might five the vampires more reason to go to war, to
create more damaged vets.
<RobertAndAri> Yeah, and what about all those battered or raped spouses!
Ship 'em off to the vamps! Social problems solved.
<James> Anyone in that society who has been made vulnerable to negative
mental manipulation.
<@SLViehl> Sometimes we have contemplate awful things to write realistic
<@SLViehl> Now, what happens after they're drained? Do they get better?
Are they blank?
<Anne_Marble> I can see why they would need a police force...
<Gayle&Nathan> especially from wars that weren't conventional but more like
viet nam or our own revolutionary war
<Anne_Marble> If the good vamps do it, they're made better. But the bad
vampires drain them.
<James> But are they then repatriated to their families - how would you feel
about your family if they did that to you, even if you were partially cured?
<@SLViehl> They would need a defense force to protect the people from being
abused as food sources.
<@SLViehl> You'd never trust them again.
<James> Perhaps a Vulcan-like group with such good emotional control they
can't be victims.
<Anne_Marble> The guy who founded the police force is illegitimate -- his
father is one of the rulers.
<@SLViehl> Good conflict for the characters.
<Anne_Marble> Too bad the first book takes place in a remote village that
might be relatively untouched by all this.
<RobertAndAri> And you would get that group that got picked up by good vamps
forming a symbiotic culture and becoming method actors, feeding
<@SLViehl> And you'd need ways for people to overcome fear, as self-defense
<James> Perhaps a common, slightly addictive drug that dulls the emotions,
reduces emotional vulnerability but has some bad social side effects so is
illegal for both reasons...
<@SLViehl> An elite fighting force taught to fear nothing.
<Anne_Marble> Then again, I guess even a remote village would need a vampire
or two in charge.
<@SLViehl> You're going to have fun writing this, Anne.
<Anne_Marble> And I know just the character to change into a vampire.
<RobertAndAri> A philosophy that led to deep inner peace and balance
evolving in the ones the goodguys lived with. Oh yeah, Anne, whatever you do
with it there's so much meat in that.
<@SLViehl> The possibilities are really wonderful. Let us know how it goes,
<Anne_Marble> I'll shout it from the roof tops.
<James> Mm, I'd be curious to hear, too.
<@SLViehl> Okay, folks, any last questions before we call it a night?
<Anne_Marble> My heroine is a werewolf. Maybe they're immunie...
<Gayle&Nathan> no--none from me
<Anne_Marble> Puff, puff, puff, I think I have enough to work from, thank
<@SLViehl> What movie are you guys watching tonight, Gayle?
<RobertAndAri> No, I think I now know where the treaty rug came from and
what they do and how they got most of their culture.
<James> No, Anne - werewolves often symbolise emotion run wild - make your
werewolves more vulnerable, the tastiest prey of all!
<@SLViehl> Excellent idea, James.
<Gayle&Nathan> none--he used his friday nite movie on wednesday because he
had movies due thursday that he couldn't renew
<Anne_Marble> That could work. My w.w. can change at will. Also, I'm working
with the idea that if she doesn't transform often enough, she gets stuck in
human form.
<James> Wonderful chance: put her in a position where she must change or be
trapped as human, but if she changes, her captors will feed...
<Gayle&Nathan> we are watching movi previews online instead of movies
<Anne_Marble> She's running from the half-vampire because he thinks she
committed a crime.
<@SLViehl> Well, the cats are herding, wanting dinner. I'm going to say
goodnight. There won't be a session next week, as I'll be out of town, but
I've got some new stuff posted on the calendar for Dec. Also, I'll continue
this on the next available Friday in Dec., if possible.
<Anne_Marble> Yay!
<James> Sounds great.
<RobertAndAri> Yayyy!
<Anne_Marble> OT: In an e-book mailing list, someone asked, "Why would
anyone buy ebooks at a brick and mortar bookstore instead of buying ebooks
over the Web?" Someone has to ask?!
<RobertAndAri> Looking forward to it and will promptly mail transcript.
<@SLViehl> Thanks again to Blair and Robert for transcribing the session for
<Gayle&Nathan> okay
<Jinx> Goodnight, all!
<@SLViehl> And thanks to you all for another terrific Friday night.

end of part two

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Manuscript Submission and Publisher's Guidlines Transcript 11/30/01

December 2 2001, 12:42 PM 

<@SLVIehl> Okay, let's get this show on the road. Welcome to Manuscript Submissions and Publisher's Guidelines, I'm your host, S.L. (Sheila) Viehl
<@SLVIehl> I am in the unique position of having submitted over 1000 requests for consideration to publishers
<@SLVIehl> so when I say this is my area of expertise, you can trust me.
<labloch> holy moly...
<Anon_85> makes me want to quit
<Robert> Makes me think the 'oyster breeding strategy' for getting published is a good idea...
<@SLVIehl> Never quit, that's part of the battle. Tonight we're going to talk about what you need to do to put together a great submission, and who you need to send it to.
<@SLVIehl> Since we've got a full house, I'm going to present the information to you as quickly as possible. When I throw up the word QUESTIONS, that's when to ask me stuff. And I hope to use most of the second hour for open Q&A
<domynoe (much less cluesless)> will this cover short stories as well as novels? or is this for everything? (yes, my newbieness is showing)
<@SLVIehl> Everyone ready?
<James> Yep!
<labloch> good to go
<Anne_Marble> Yup
<BlairB> good to go
<Robert> Yep
<@SLVIehl> This will cover all submissions, domynoe
<anon_00> ok
<Crista> <waves her fork> Yis.
<Lucas> Locked and loaded.
<Sarah> Yup
<domynoe (much less cluesless)> coolies...good to go then
<BklynWriter> go
<@SLVIehl> All right. First, the nuts and bolts of what you need to prepare a professional submission
<@SLVIehl> All submissions should be printed on plain white good quality letter sized paper. 8-1/2X11 inches. I use 20 lb. #84 brightness xerographic paper.
<@SLVIehl> Do not use track feed paper unless the preforated ends break cleanly
<@SLVIehl> Do not use any colored paper. White only.
<@SLVIehl> Do not put pictures or graphics or any cute pictorial image on anything you send.
<@SLVIehl> Print your submission using a laser jet, inkjet, bubblejet or other quality printer that produces dark, clean type.
<@SLVIehl> Most publishers do not want to see dot matrix printed submissions.
<@SLVIehl> If you're using a typewriter, use a new ribbon. Avoid white out.
<@SLVIehl> Do not hand write corrections on your manuscript. Type the page over.
<@SLVIehl> Make sure your submission is absolutely as error-free as you can make. Read everything three times, minimum. Use your spell checker if you have one. Draft a friend to read your submission, sometimes other people can spot errors you keep skipping.
<@SLVIehl> When you submit, use a padded envelope or plain cardboard box.
<@SLVIehl> Do not submit your manuscript in a Pampers box.
<Crista> LOL.
<@SLVIehl> Make sure you mark the outside of the envelope or box with the words "Submission for consideration" or some other phrase that will identify it as a submission
<@SLVIehl> If the editor has asked to look at it, put the words "Requested material" along with that
<@SLVIehl> If you want the manuscript back, include means and postage -- a self addressed, stamped envelope or box
<@SLVIehl> Writers Digest, btw, sells specially designed "box with boxes" for that specific purposeif you'd rather go that way.
<@SLVIehl> Your submission should be clean -- no dog hair, no cat hair, no coffee stains.
<@SLVIehl> Do not spray it with cologne or perfume.
<@SLVIehl> Do not put anything else in the envelope. This includes bribe money
<labloch> is MS format later?
<labloch> (coming later)
<@SLVIehl> Coming right up, labloch
<labloch> ok.
<Robert> For short story submission, are plain manila envelopes of the 100 to a box variety okay?
<Sarah> Handwrite address and "requested material" or labels?
<@SLVIehl> That's fine, Robert.
<@SLVIehl> If you have neat handwriting, yes, Sarah, though it looks more pro if you type the labels
<Anne_Marble> I've heard some publishers changed submissions guidelines because of the anthrax scare. Did a lot of publishers do that? Is it really just an excuse to avoid unsolicited submissions?
<domynoe> why padded envelopes? does the paper have to be 84 bright? i think i use 90?
<Robert> <sigh of relief> I jut got rid of the Last Excuse yesterday and got a box.
<domynoe> i got manilla envelopes but not padded
<James> I keep bumping up against people saying international submissions should use US stamps for return postage rather than International Reply Coupons, but occasionally hear that IRCs are okay - do you have an opinion, Sheila?
<@SLVIehl> Anne, a lot of publishers and writers are concerned about the ongoing mail problem. I'll address this further on, but I think it is directly related to the anthrax attacks and not a diversionary tactic
<labloch> I actually see some agents and some markets asking for email queries.
<@SLVIehl> Domynoe, if the paper is white, no problem. I was just referencing what I use with the #84.
<BlairB> is there a benefit to having the mss sent back? do the editors usually make notes on them?
<Robert> I wish they would, I wish they would...
<@SLVIehl> Padded envelopes protect your manuscript better. It arrives in better shape. You can make your own padding by purchasing bubble wrap,
<domynoe> oh! where do you get bubblewrap? like a mailboxes etc or something?
<@SLVIehl> According to guidelines, James, they always ask for IRCs. I only use IRCs myself.
<Anne_Marble> I've heard some editors claim they look down on writers who use disposable manuscripts (because it can't mean that much to you if you allow them to toss it), yet others were critical of writers who didn't! <sigh>
<Robert> Staples had a huge box of it for $25 yestrday
<James> Thanks for that - I've been (very prematurely) worrying.
<@SLVIehl> Labloch brought up an interesting point -- because of the anthrax scare, some publishers are accepting electronic submissions now. This is really cost effective for you, so keep an eye out for those that do.
<@SLVIehl> Blair, I sometimes recycled manuscripts when I was poor so I always asked for them back. Generally, they don't make notes on them but they do spill a lot of stuff on them.
<@SLVIehl> Domynoe, you can purchase bubble wrap at most post offices or pack and ship places.
<Lucas> As long as they don't spill talcum powder on it...
<James> If you use a pampas box, you're asking for talcum powder, surely...
<@SLVIehl> I don't think an editor would look down on someone for sending a disposal manuscript. I think not having to send it back is one less thing for them to do, Anne.
<Anne_Marble> I think Writer's Digest often found the weirdest editors just to get quotes that played with the minds of their readers. ;->
<@SLVIehl> One more note -- keep a list of what you send and who you send it to, and when you send it and when you expect a response. Check off items as you get responses. This keeps you from sending two submissions of the same thing to the same publisher.
<@SLVIehl> Now, on to Query Letters
<@SLVIehl> A query letter is the shortest form of submission. It's just a letter pitching your idea to an editor -- no sample chapters, synopses, or manuscript go with it.
<@SLVIehl> The query letter should describe the main premise of your book, the word count, the genre you're writing for, and offer the editor the opportunity to consider it.
<@SLVIehl> You can include writing credits, if they're major, but keep them brief.
<@SLVIehl> The easiest way to think of a query is like an introduction at a party -- you're not going to sit down and tell your entire life story to a person you've just met
<@SLVIehl> Unless, of course, it's George Clooney, but he's mine. lol
<@SLVIehl> Editors love one page query letters.
<@SLVIehl> Learn to write them.
<@SLVIehl> I have heard some authors say "Pack as much as you can into the query letter. Go two, three, four pages if you have to."
<@SLVIehl> Bad idea
<@SLVIehl> The editor loses interest after the third paragraph
<labloch> the idea's to intrigue, eh
<@SLVIehl> The ideal query is three paragraphs long. About half a page.
<@SLVIehl> You open with a dazzling hook line:
<@SLVIehl> Shooting a bear in the middle of a blizzard is one thing, finding out you've shot a homeless man wrapped in a bear skin is another.
<@SLVIehl> You tell the editor about the book -- nuts and bolts again here:
<@SLVIehl> My contemporary romance novel "Dream Mountain" tells the story of what happens to a stranded woman in the Colorado mountains who does just this.
<@SLVIehl> It's 75,000 words in length, and I'd love to have the chance to send it to you for your consideration
<@SLVIehl> Condense, condense, condense
<@SLVIehl> Then you wrap it up:
<@SLVIehl> I've enclosed a self addressed, stamped evelope for your convenience, and I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!
<@SLVIehl> Sign it and mail it and you're done
<@SLVIehl> Now, you can fit in a bit more description of your main premise than I did right there, but that's the general idea of a query
<@SLVIehl> Be friendly -- don't be obnoxious, self-important, or pompous. Say thanks, I'd love to, write as you would talk to them.
<@SLVIehl> Just keep it short
<@SLVIehl> And probably the most important part of query is the opening line
<@SLVIehl> you want to grab the editor's attention:
<@SLVIehl> If you sent a radiotelescope signal to the center of the galaxy, what would you do if someone answered?
<@SLVIehl> Being eighty-seven, crippled, and having a viper for a daughter-in-law is no picnic -- especially when she's trying to kill you
<@SLVIehl> Pose a question to the editor. Get them involved in your idea with the approach of "What would you think if . . . ?"
<@SLVIehl> Be daring -- "Have you ever met a man so infuriating you wanted to push him off a high-rise building?"
<@SLVIehl> Be thrilling -- "How does an ethical neurologist treat headless human patients who have developed minds of their own elsewhere?"
<@SLVIehl> Don't be dull in your opening line.
<@SLVIehl> This is where you really have to show your writing talent. So show it.
<Lucas> I might just be being a little perverse here, but if the question format for an opening line is such a good one, won't it be the one the editor has seen so many times that it doesn't stand out anymore?
<Robert> What if the black cats in the streets of New Orleans had their own magical tradition older than voudoun - and had to use it to save the city from evil magic?
<Lucas> Or is it the sort of thing that stands the "test of time"?
<domynoe> do you always send a query letter? if not, when don't you? like magazines have open submissions, so do you query a fantasy mag (for example)?
<Anne_Marble> How do you know which credits to include? Do they have to be related? Do they have to be novels or stories, or are articles OK? What about on-line (but paying) gigs?
<@SLVIehl> Lucas, if the question is story-specific, it shouldn't be one the editor has seen before. It also presents a lot of information in a small space.
<@SLVIehl> There you go, Robert
<Robert> I've written thirtyish novels, shoudl I bash that one up before querying or just send it?
<@SLVIehl> Domynoe, you should always include a cover letter, if not a query letter, unless the rules of a contest prohibit it.
<Robert> It's on my WIP list and I could get it done in a month.
<Crista> Do all the same aspects of a query letter apply to one setnt o agent's, too? Or are there additional thing that agents need in the letter?
<@SLVIehl> Anne, I think the credits have to be major. I'd go for print, related to the genre, and the most prestigious. You can also offer to send a list of your previous publications rather than list them in the query itself.
<bklyn> what do you do when you're torn betwen loyalty to an earth that abandoned you and the aliens that have embraced you?
<domynoe> so, always query, or at least include a cover letter. (yes, am restating...i'm adhd and sometimes to get it i have to do that.)
<James> Where you mentioned, earlier, writing "requested material" on the envelope - is that after they've responded to this first query letter asking for a more detailed proposal, or only later when they've (hopefully) asked for the whole manuscript?
<Sarah> What about the Asimov Award as a credit?
<domynoe> credits = stuff i've previously printed, right?
<@SLVIehl> Crista, you have to sell an agent on you rather than a specific novel, if you've got more than one you want to get out there. If it's your first novel, then I'd query the agent much the same way I'd query an editor.
<Lucas> As an aside: I know a guy who had an eight page resume. I think someone told him that not even god had an eight page resume. I'm guessing he would have sucked at writing querry letters.
<@SLVIehl> Good hook line there, Deb
<Crista> Ah. Thanks.
<James> Surely God would have stopped on the seventh page?
<domynoe> ROTFL!
<bklyn> thanks sheila.
<Anne_Marble> Hee hee
<domynoe> opening lines...could you use a quote from the novel/story?
<Lucas> Or maybe only one. A page is as long as he says it is, after all.
<@SLVIehl> Oh, good point James -- everyone, listen up: Do NOT write requested materal on your envelope unless someone has actually requested it. Some unscrupulous folks do this, thinking to fool the editor, but editor knows what he/she has asked to see.
<Crista> What would you do if you were thrown twenty years into a future where your husband hates you, your children have become monsters, and you are dead?
<labloch> that's a sure way to get blacklisted
<@SLVIehl> James, requested goes for partials and totals on responding -- forgot to add that in.
<Anne_Marble> I think I read an article in one of the mags where an author told aspiring writers to lie about things like "I met you at the so-and-so convention..." That could blow up in your face SO easily.
<@SLVIehl> So you put requested material on anything the editor asks to see, is what I'm trying to say
<James> Thanks for that. I'm a million years from doing it, but I like to know
<domynoe> i have a short story i have to find a magazine for...lol
<@SLVIehl> I like that one, Crista. Spoooooky
<Anne_Marble> Besides, if you're going to go to the trouble to lie, why not put that energy into writing?!
<@SLVIehl> Okay, let's move on to the book proposal
<domynoe> (maybe after i post it here for soem input...already beat it to death at the del rey workshop)
<Anne_Marble> What is "Beep on Whisper if Idle"?!
<Lucas> It means you'll be notified if you've lapsed to idle status and someone sends you a whisper message.
<@SLVIehl> A book proposal consists of a query or cover letter, a sample of the actual novel and/or a complete synopsis and/or chapter summaries
<@SLVIehl> All this is based on what the editor requests after responding to your initial query, or is spelled out in the publisher's guidelines.
<@SLVIehl> With the exception of sending a complete manuscript, a book proposal is the most complete way to pitch your book
<@SLVIehl> Same rule applies here to the letter -- keep it short and sweet. If you're sending requested material, open with that in your letter: "In response to your letter dated . . . "
<@SLVIehl> If you're submitting according to guidelines, make the opening line on the cover letter the same as the query hook.
<@SLVIehl> The other elements of the book proposal: chapter summaries
<@SLVIehl> This is a schematic of your novel, in paragraph form. Each paragraph describes one chapter, in three to five sentences.
<@SLVIehl> A synopsis is very much like chapter summaries, except it is not broken down by chapter, and it is more like a review of your own book, minus the praise or boos.
<@SLVIehl> A rather lengthy review, I should say
<@SLVIehl> In both the chapter summaries and the synopsis, you use broad stroke descriptions and avoid minute detail
<@SLVIehl> You may also choose to inclue a professiona resume or prior publication information sheet
<@SLVIehl> If you're already published, this is a given, you have to send it
<@SLVIehl> It should be one page long (unless you're Nora Roberts)
<@SLVIehl> and list your professional credits.
<@SLVIehl> When I say professional, I do not mean every single thing of yours that has been in print since you were in the fourth grade
<@SLVIehl> That you give to your mother
<@SLVIehl> Just stick to the major credits.
<@SLVIehl> And again, and I can't stress this enough, skip the colored paper, the graphics, the cutesy stuff.
<@SLVIehl> It's not professional.
<@SLVIehl> You can and really should include a business card. As long as that looks professional, too.
<bklyn> would you include credits for another genre? say SF credits to a romance publisher?
<Robert> Would subsuming a lot of minor credits in things like 'and over a hundred stories published in Internet e-magazines... be appropriate?
<@SLVIehl> Absolutely, Deb. It shows range in your talent.
<bklyn> i was under the impression that pubs. frowned on crossing the genres
<bklyn> next q: what about pseudonym credits?
<@SLVIehl> If you keep it very general, Robert -- I wouldn't list names and publication sites
>@SLVIehl< its 10 o'clock.
<Robert> Thanks!
<@SLVIehl> Yes also to any pseudonym credits, as long as they're major.
<Anne_Marble> Unless one or more of them was published by Ellen Datlow.
<bklyn> kewl
<@SLVIehl> Blair informs me that it's ten o'clock, so why don't we take five?
<Robert> Other question - if my proposal is for a theme anthology or collection of short stories is that the same thing with a thumbnail of each story?
<Crista> On the business card, would just name, address, and contact info be included, or is there something special about them? And, if not, why is it more professional to include them? I already have some business cards, but they aren't anything fancy...
<@SLVIehl> One liner thumbnails of the best, Robert, is what I'd do -- and write "And this includes . . . "
<domynoe> i still wanted to know if a really good quote from the manuscript was an ok opening line for the query letter. i did ask before, but i know in these chats (without colored text or spaces to distinquixh things) stuff gets missed
<@SLVIehl> Crista, a lot of times people stick cards in their wallets. It's an old habit. They throw away paper but they tend to keep cards.
<Anne_Marble> Off to nuke a poor helpless corndog.
<@SLVIehl> And the cards shouldn't be fancy. Go for classy rather than loud
<James> If there's to be a break, I might just nip away and grab a drink (it's quite hot in my neck of the woods, so I'm busily dehydrating)...
<Robert> Should I list my self published book as a credit if that's all I've got so thatthey know I'm not sending my first book?
<BlairB> do you know if Editors keep track of things they request to see (much like we track anything send out)?
<Crista> Ah. That makes sense now. <g> Now i can justify why i spent five bucks to get the 'free' business cards. At the time, I just thought it would be cool to have a business card.
<bklyn> venus wants to know can she still pop in?
<@SLVIehl> Whoops, sorry domynoe -- I usually don't quote my work directly in my query -- editors I know don't really like it.
<@SLVIehl> Sure, tell Venus to come on down
<domynoe> is no problem shiela. i'd have problems keeping up even ha;f as well as you have...to easily distracted and overwhelmed
<bklyn> i think chat is about to make an exodus lol
<@SLVIehl> Nip away, James! Yes, Robert, I'd put that as a credit.
<Robert> Boy, I feel so... prepared...
<Sarah> Can I put the Asimov Award as a credit?
<Venus> Hi! thanks for letting me come in late
<@SLVIehl> Crista, business cards are always a good idea. You won't believe how handy they are sometimes.
<bklyn> you are READY robert....go get 'em
<BlairB> welcome V
<@SLVIehl> Sarah, smack me in the head, you just brought up a wonderful point!
<Robert> Hi, Venus!
<Sarah> Okay. <smack>
<@SLVIehl> Yes, yes, yes, include any major awards you've received like Sarah's.
<@SLVIehl> Yo, Venus
<@SLVIehl> Guys, I'll brb -- I must have tea!
<domynoe> (there is going to be a transcript of the class posted right? i'm a little....lost is not quite the right word, but there's no way i am going to remember this)
<Lucas> I think there will be.
<BlairB> yup, it'll be posted.
<Robert> I'm transcribing too, as usual Two Scribes are on duty.
<bklyn> dom...be sure to check out ALL the transcripts...i've printed them out and saved them
<Crista> I'm saving the chat just for my own reference.
<James> I'm back, drink in hand...
<@SLVIehl> Sorry, I'm back, had to put the kettle on. Yes, my two friends Blair and Robert are my scribes, and we will post a transcript of this session
<domynoe> oh good! not so panicked about missing stuff now lol
<Sarah> Ooh, Emily's downstairs playing the theme from "The Piano"....
<Crista> My memory is like a big open chasm. What goes in is not always recovered. At least not intact.
<bklyn> i'm sorta like Kelly bundy....one thing goes in, sometimes one thing falls out
<@SLVIehl> And if I miss any questions (which is entirely possible) you can always e-mail me. I have a personal addy just for class people -- SLViehlworkshop@aol.com
<Crista> LOL. Remember how to write a perfect query letter. Forget how to tie your shoes.
<Robert> This is why I wear loafers.
<bklyn> yup...you got it crista
<bklyn> in NY i forgot how to parallel park for a few moments
<Anne_Marble> Interesting, my corn dogs came with free tattoos. Including a nifty snake tattoo. (I'm not really the Slytherin House type, though...)
<@SLVIehl> I forget to match my shoes. If they match when I leave the house, that's high fashion for me.
<@SLVIehl> one more time, brb
<bklyn> from where Anne?
<Anne_Marble> I forgot how to pull out when I was taking my driving test for the second time.
<Crista> I remember the shoes. Socks are my problem. I'm too poor to buy new ones, so when the dryer eats one, I'll just match up the orphans and call them a pair.
<Venus> I do that all the time Crista
<Venus> Theyre all black--who cares!
<Robert> That's why all of my socks are black or dark.
<Anne_Marble> They're frozen corn dogs from Something Farm. Or Farm Something.
<bklyn> hee hee my son and i tend to share socks
<Crista> Mine are all white... well, mostly.
<@SLVIehl> Okay, is everyone properly fluidated?
<Anne_Marble> Mine used to be white.
<Lucas> Sheila - Are the presentations you make in this class typed up before hand and then pasted in, or are you typing them as we go? It seems like it would be easier to do it by pasting.
<domynoe> yep
<Crista> So do me and my boyfriend. problem is that his feet are about five sizes larger than mine..
<Robert> Yep! Been drinking Memory Enhancer herbal tea
<James> Something Farm - We're Not Sure What We Put In Them...
<Sarah> Mine are either black, or have things like mickey mouse or aliens on them. Or frogs with umbrellas.
<@SLVIehl> I'm typing as I go along. I can't cutnpaste on Holly's site.
<Venus> Morningstar Farm makes corndogs
<Anne_Marble> Foster Farms, that's it!
<@SLVIehl> Good thing I type 90wpm, huh?
<Venus> heh
<Lucas> Eh? I can cut and paste into this chat room!
<domynoe> i can't either...this particular java doesn't allow it for soem reason
<Robert> So that's the secret... I need to shift to Dvorak
<domynoe> erg...ignore my fumble-fingered misspellings...sigh
<@SLVIehl> Next session, I'm going over to Lucas's house and use that computer.
<bklyn> love your query hook lines Sheila !
<Lucas> Heh heh.
<Robert> Yeah, those are fantastic. I read them on Star Lines before class and roflmao
<Crista> Me, too.
<@SLVIehl> I love writing hook lines. They're fun. But let's press onward
<@SLVIehl> The Manuscript (drum roll)
<Lucas> bum*bum*bum*bum*BAM
<@SLVIehl> All manuscripts should be formatted for submission as follows. This is very important.
<Robert> <brass gong>
<@SLVIehl> You don't schlep 6 pounds of badly formatted paper off on someone.
<domynoe> falls over
<@SLVIehl> double-spaced on clean white paper, in Courier 12 pt. font, left-flush with paragraph indentations and do not justify the body of the manuscript.
<@SLVIehl> No exceptions.
<@SLVIehl> Unless otherwise specified in the publisher's guidelines, I should say
<@SLVIehl> This is industry standard formatting. Stick to it.
<@SLVIehl> I've heard the one about the four acceptable fonts, so I asked five editors about it.
<@SLVIehl> They want Courier 12 pt.
<@SLVIehl> They don't want anything else.
<@SLVIehl> You WILL number every page of your manuscript at the top right hand corner of each page.
<@SLVIehl> You WILL put an author/title header or footer on each page, as follows AUTHOR/Title, i.e. VIEHL/StarDoc
<@SLVIehl> Just use your last name or the last name of your pseudonym.
<@SLVIehl> I also asked if my editors had a preference for headers or footers -- they like footers.
<@SLVIehl> page numbers, headers and footers must also be in Courier 12pt.
<@SLVIehl> I know you're going to be tempted to do something more creative with your presentation -- but don't.
<@SLVIehl> Stick to industry standard. It's what the pros do.
<labloch> (stupid q) what are the footers for?
<Anne_Marble> What about inches?
<Robert> If I sent a proposal and query that looks sufficiently pro, could an editor be fooled into thinking I already am and react favorably?
<BlairB> How big should margins be?
<bklyn> is there a extra space between paragraphs? section breaks?
<Crista> Just out of curiousity, why are footers preferred over headers?
<James> Should the name/title footers be on the left, the right, or centred?
<@SLVIehl> Footers are when the editor drops your manuscript andtwo others. Or is reading several manuscripts at the same time.
<Crista> i was about to ask that, too, James.
<James> Great minds
<@SLVIehl> The footer identifies any given page as belonging to you, and that's important to an editor who may read up to 1000 manuscripts each year. (three per day average)
<Venus> What do you do about special text like scientific equations, maps or diagrams
<@SLVIehl> Anne, one inch margins all the way around. Industry standard.
<@SLVIehl> Good reminder, James -- centered, footers and header should always be centered.
<labloch> doesn't the thingmie on the top right (AUTHOR/TITLE/PG #) do the footer work?
<Anne_Marble> Anyone know how to figure one inch margins via Word?
<James> Ah, thanks - I'd been guessing on the right, like the page number.
<Venus> I do anne--ask me later
<domynoe> ok, so..header: author/title, footer: author only?
<Anne_Marble> OK
<@SLVIehl> Venus, if you have illustrations that belong in the text, you need to have those printed out onto the manuscript in the correct place in the body. If they are maps for the opening of the book, don't send them. Mathematical equations should be printed on the manuscript page, again, where it occurs in the text.
<@SLVIehl> Venus, also same with diagrams.
<Robert> Reflecting it back to you, that's page number upper right, AUTHOR/title centered footer?
<Venus> okay--thanks
<Wolvie> what about a song or a poem? Should they be centered or all lines indented?
<@SLVIehl> Labloch, I'm not sure what program you're using. I have to manually insert my footers (hopefully, not in my mouth.)
<@SLVIehl> Right, Robert.
<Anne_Marble> I mean, in Word, the way you set the margin doesn't seem to translate to margin inches as I think of them. Or maybe my brain wants an easier way.
<@SLVIehl> Domynoe, you don't do both headers and footers -- you do one or the other.
<domynoe> i'm sorry....shiela, could you run what goes in the header versus what goes in the footer again? (i use ms word, been considering rough draft too)
<domynoe> OH!
<domynoe> lightbulb
<Lucas> Is it ok to have italic text in places? Such as thoughts or telepathic communications?
<@SLVIehl> Italics should not be in actual italics. All words to be italicized should be underlined once.
<labloch> Sorry...I use Word 97. Wait, so if we're supposed to do footers, why do we put the author..etc info on top right? (or am I being really dumb here)
<deb> so its NOT okay to do this: italic
<@SLVIehl> I just confused everybody on headers and footers. Let me explain that one again, labloch
<@SLVIehl> You put your AUTHOR/Tile either in a header (at the top of the page, centered) or in a footer (at the bottom of the page, centered). Not both.
<Anne_Marble> Does that include the page number?
<@SLVIehl> The only thing that goes at the top right of the page is your page number.
<domynoe> and page number in the header's right hand corner?
<Anne_Marble> Never mind.
<domynoe> umm...lol
<@SLVIehl> I don't put page numbers in with footers. Some authors do. I think it's easier to see page numbers when they're at the top right
<Lucas> Ok, substitute underlined text for italic text. Another question: Should I use single quotes for thoughts, or stick to double quotes?
<domynoe> must of typed and sent as you typed and sent shiela. really, not THAT dense
<Anne_Marble> Ooh, ooh, ooh. Should we use smart quotes? Or dumb quotes?
<domynoe> i use italics for thoughts
<Crista> I've alwasy put the page, title, and name in the upper right hand corner..
<@SLVIehl> Lucas, I don't use quotes for thoughts. I do use italics, when my editor holds a gun to my head.
<domynoe> smart quotes?
<domynoe> ROTFL@shiela
<Anne_Marble> The curly ones
<@SLVIehl> Crista, with short stories, you can do that on the first page. I'd do a footer one every other page, though.
<domynoe> do editors do that very often? hold guns to writers' heads i mean?
<@SLVIehl> I've heard about the problem with "smart quotes" and I wish I could help, but I don't have the program that does that.
<Wolvie> what about a song or a poem? Should they be centered or all lines indented?
<labloch> um...hello?
<Robert> Nah, domynoe, I have a sword.
<Crista> But i did that on every page. Like, Rucker/Story/2
<@SLVIehl> Domynoe, when it comes to grammar, spelling, and punctuation, my editors think I am the AntiChrist. <g>
<labloch> (sorry, chat froze)
<Lucas> Word97 (the program I've been using lately) has an option for turning curly ("smart") quotes on and off.
<@SLVIehl> Wolvie (hi!) I center songs and poetry in the body of my manuscripts, to set them apart a little.
<Anne_Marble> I'd rather use "dumb quotes" as they translate to my Palm.
<James> I turn off all Word's automatic formatting because it always ends up doing something odd that I don't intend...
<Lucas> Curly ones default to the other kind when converted to a format that doesn't support them, judging from what I've seen.
<@SLVIehl> Okay, I'm going to run through the rest of this material real fast -- sorry, I didn't realize we'd come up with so many great questions tonight. Silly me.
<domynoe> LOL!
<James> Darn it, we'll just have to have another session
<@SLVIehl> Publisher's guidelines: definitions of some of the terms you'll find within the guidelines--
<@SLVIehl> agented or solicited submission -- means they only accept from agents or by invitation
<@SLVIehl> computer disk submission -- manuscript backed up on a disk instead of printed on paper
<@SLVIehl> partials -- sample chapters, usually one to three
<@SLVIehl> preferred length -- wordcount
<@SLVIehl> make that wordcount limit, I mean
<@SLVIehl> simultaneous submission -- sending the same submission to more than one publisher at the same time.
<@SLVIehl> SASE -- self addressed, stamped envelope.
<@SLVIehl> unagented or unsolicited -- open for submission from anyone
<@SLVIehl> Now, Blair, I've got to clear the board for this next part. Sorry.
<BlairB> s'okay!
<@SLVIehl> I've just posted a paragraph taken directly from Baen Books submission guidelines
<@SLVIehl> Take a moment to read it.
<@SLVIehl> There are key phrases that you need to interpret anytime you read guidelines. Here are some in this one:
<@SLVIehl> "We publish only" -- don't send them anything but this
<labloch> (crap---sorry about the line I accidentally drew)
<@SLVIehl> "What we have published in the past" -- look at the books on the shelves, see what they publish
<@SLVIehl> "powerful plots" -- your book should have a strong emphasis on plotting, and be well plotted.
<@SLVIehl> "solid scientific" -- meticulous research ad presentation (well, we know they don't want me. lol)
<Lucas> "rigorously coherent" magic. Ouch.
<@SLVIehl> "sine qua non" -- I have no idea what that means. I think it's more to impress the submitter than to give out actual information, as few people speak Latin.
<Robert> Reading between the lines, I see implied a "Don't dummy this down! Our PhD readers will nitpickyour book to death!
<@SLVIehl> "rigorously coherent" -- clear and understandable
<labloch> (without that which---a necessary thing)
<@SLVIehl> "integral to the plot" -- affects the story, is part of the plot
<@SLVIehl> "at least strive for originality" -- I think this is really a snotty way to put this, but seen from another angle, it means the publisher is open to new ideas, new concepts.
<@SLVIehl> Where you can find publisher's guidelines -- best source is the Writer's Market, published annually by Writer's Digest. Has the most comprehensive (and exhaustive) listings of publishers and their guidelines.
<@SLVIehl> www.writersdigest.com also has guidelines available online, though not a quarter of what's in the Market book.
<Robert> Would last year's still be good for a few months if you're strapped for the new Writer's Market?
<@SLVIehl> www.locusmag.com has a links portal which lists web sites for most of the top SF and fantasy publishers out there. You can often find guidelines on these publisher's web sites
<labloch> there's your public library, Robert
<@SLVIehl> Sure, Robert, but you can get them from the library too
<Robert> There's a transportation problem, labloch
<@SLVIehl> labloch and I just mind-melded.
<labloch> lol
<Crista> My small town library doesn't have it. <sigh> Doesn't have much of anything.
<labloch> Robert, side note, but some libraries deliver. See if a local one does.
<@SLVIehl> the market reports board at HollyLisle.com -- I've posted a few things there myself
<Anne_Marble> There's some web sites with market thingies, like Ralan Conley's site. Are these trustworthy? They're updated more quickly than WD.
<Lucas> Unless the library is too podunk to have one more recent than, say, a 98 copy. Bleh. This would be the local place.
<Crista> Mine doesn't have one at all.
<@SLVIehl> www.rwanational.com has a listing in their members section of some fifty romance publishers and guidelines
<labloch> I think HWA does, too. Not sure of SFWA, though.
<@SLVIehl> I'd double check on everything you pull off a non-professional site, Anne, or a site other than the publisher's, I should say
<James> Libraries can often obtain things on interlibrary loan, don't forget - go to the nearest reference desk and tell them what you want, they'll often find a way to get it.
<Lucas> Or maybe a 99. Not sure which, but not a recent one anyway.
<Venus> www.speculations.com has listings and www.ralan.com is v reputable
<@SLVIehl> Now, one more thing, then we'll open this up for general questions -- recent changes in the industry, due to the anthrax mail scares here in the US mean you must check out some facts
<labloch> and (it's said) you can write the pubs and ask for the g/ls.
<@SLVIehl> We talked about this before, but here's what you need to do --
<@SLVIehl> send an e-mail to the publisher before you submit, and request submission guidelines for mailed submissions
<@SLVIehl> I recommend this because many, many publishers are turning down unsolicited queries without opening the envelopes.
<@SLVIehl> I know it isn't always going to be possible, but do try to confirm via e-mail if their submission guidelines have changed.
<@SLVIehl> My publisher, Roc SF/F, will not open unsolicited queries anymore.
<@SLVIehl> My romance publisher, Onyx, will.
<@SLVIehl> They're both housed in the same building, share the same mailroom. It's up to the editor.
<domynoe> are the publisher sites generally up to date? i mean, if i go to the publisher's site and print their guidelines, will they be accurate?
<James> Are unsolicited submissions queries as well as full manuscripts (I mean, can you query someone who doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts)?
<@SLVIehl> There should be a last-updated note on the page, domynoe. If there's not, send a query e-mail about guidelines.
<Wolvie> is it easier to try and find an agent first, or just send unagented manuscripts?
<Crista> So, is emailing before you submit enough to bypass the no unsolicited manuscripts policy. DAW books recently established this policy and I thought it meant I HAVE to get an agent before I submit now... I'm confused.
<@SLVIehl> Depends on the word, James. Harper Collins, for example, will not accept any submissions, no matter what they are. A lot of other publishers will have "no unsolicited manuscripts, query first" in their guidelines, which means the letter is ok, the manuscript isn't.
<James> Ah, thanks for that.
<@SLVIehl> Wolvie, it is always easier to get your work out there with an agent. Also, editors deal regularly with agents. But the trick is getting one if you're unpublished.
<Wolvie> thats what I mean...what do you think I'd have better luck with....finding an agent or a publisher first?
<@SLVIehl> No, Crista, this is just to confirm guidelines, not to get around them. I'm recommending you e-mail before you submit so your submission doesn't end up in the trash. If the publisher says no unsolicited submissions, don't bother e-mailing them.
<Crista> Ah, alright. Thanks.
<@SLVIehl> It's hard to say, Wolvie, why not try to submit to both editors and agents, see what happens?
<domynoe> the sample chapters, do you send 3 consecutive chapters or or do you send, say, chapter 1 and 2 then something later in the book?
<Wolvie> sounds like a plan
<Wolvie> on a personal note, how long did it take you to get published?
<Venus> Is it okay to send simultaneous queries?
<@SLVIehl> Always send consecutive chaptersm domynoe -- never skip around the novel. It's usually the first one, two, or three chapters they want to see.
<@SLVIehl> Nine years and over 1300 rejection letters, Wolvie. I'm stubborn.
<Lucas> This isn't the kind of quesiton you meant but... Sheila - I can't right click to bring up a cut/paste menu here, but I can use the keyboard shortcuts. Have you tried (assuming you have Windows) using the "Ctrl V" keys to paste text into the "talk" box in this chat room?
<BlairB> well, persistant anyway...
<@SLVIehl> Venus, only send simultaneous submissions to publishers who accept them. Whenever I made up a list of publishers to submit to, I always did the ones who accept simultaneous first. That way I could mail out more.
<domynoe> (had to ask that, katherine kurtz said she was told to send chapters 1 and 2 then another one later in the book..of course, this was about 35-40 years ago..lol)
<Lucas> I think chapters from various parts in the book is what is usually done with non-fiction.
<@SLVIehl> Doesn't work for me at all, the cutnpasting. Sorry.
<Venus> sheila> So one query letter at a time?
<@SLVIehl> If you're doing simultaneous, you can send the same query letter to ten publishers at the same time -- as long as they accept simultaneous submissions, Venus
<domynoe> kurtz isn't non-fiction, she's historical fantasy...helped found the mass market fantasy genre in the u.s.
<Venus> thanks--was never sure about the dif between ms and query subs
<Wolvie> whats the average advance on a first novel?
<BlairB> if you send a mss to an editor and to an agent... is that still considered a simultaneous submission?
<@SLVIehl> $3,000 to $5,000 U.S. dollars, depending on the genre
<Lucas> Cutting to the heart eh, Wolvie?
<Wolvie> ok, that sucks
<Crista> I was curious about the, too, Wolvie.
<@SLVIehl> No, Blair, because the agent isn't a publisher.
<BlairB> cool
<Robert> So in an agent search I could make up a list of every agent that handles my type of SFF and do a blanket query.
<Anne_Marble> Just avoid the ones that charge fees!
<labloch> lol...carrot cake
<@SLVIehl> Exactly, Robert
<Wolvie> ok, thats sounds more like it....
<Robert> Sounds like the agent search with a really good query and proposal might produce faster results.
<@SLVIehl> You have to prove yourself, Wolvie. If your numbers are good, your advance rates will go up.
<domynoe> i think finding agents is a whole different topic. lol...BUT if you're published, what's the benefit of an agent (especially after you hear of the occasional bad guy who runs off with all your money!)
<Wolvie> thats all I neede to hear grin
<@SLVIehl> well, the benefit for me of having an agent is that I don't have to negotiate my own contracts, and I don't have to go to NY
<Wolvie> do you usually get those three books done in one year?
<@SLVIehl> She also acts as a buffer -- if I want something, I send her to go get it from my publisher. I remain the wonderful writer, and she's the mercenary bitch.
<domynoe> ROTFL! i can see that being a benefit,,,especially since i am just trying to figure out how to go to my grad school for the en-day residencies. i hate being poor :P
<@SLVIehl> This year I wrote seven books, Wolvie. Next year I'm writing eight.
<Wolvie> ok, thats a pretty good record.....
<@SLVIehl> I've sold fifteen novels in 20 months.
<Lucas> If having an agent keeps a person from needing to go to New York, that's reason enough right there. Big cities. Gah.
<Wolvie> wow, how do you manage that schedule?
<@SLVIehl> I have NO LIFE. Ha
<domynoe> i never could do that. too much of a perfectionist. OTHER people have to tell me when something is done or i'd keep tinkering with it
<Crista> She's magic, Wolvie. <g>
<labloch> whoa! more for romance? how much more are we talking? <g>
<Wolvie> ah, but you do what you love....that sounds like a pretty good life to me
<BlairB> its all those tentacles.....
<@SLVIehl> No, seriously, I always said if I ever got my shot at being published, I would do some serious work to establish myself.
<Anne_Marble> Yeek, some guy jumped off a plane at BWI airport. (While it was on the ground, not while it was flying!)
<labloch> (jaw dropping)
<BlairB> is that the norm?
<domynoe> which reminds me...need to read these posting rules for the fm board....i want opinions of this story before i take the big plunge with it...and 99.9% of the people at del rey annoy me....they don't help make it better, they want to rewrite my stuff
<@SLVIehl> Hey, why do you think I'm writing romance? There's MONEY in it!
<Venus> I guess I don't have to worry about going to NY <G>
<domynoe> or totally trash it :(
<Lucas> <sound of mind boggling> I guess there are a lot more romance readers than Sci-Fi readers.
<Wolvie> why is that? More romance readers out there?\
<Crista> Do you enjoy writing romance or SF better? Or do you like both the same?
<labloch> yeah, like 60% of the reading public...women...and lots of them like reading romance.
<Lucas> Which is why we're taking your advice.
<Robert> Do you know anything about the pay scale for thrillers?
<@SLVIehl> I would write dog food commercials and enjoy it. I just like to write. I have a soft spot for romance, but I really have no preference.
<@SLVIehl> Robert, I'm just getting into the mystery genre now, so although I can't answer now I probably can in the near future.
<domynoe> OH! shiela! what do you recommend as a method for word counts? i know ms word messes up because it doesn't count white space...not sure about rough draft though
<Wolvie> I'm hoping Harry Potter is gonna get people interested in reading younger audience books again...thats what my first novel is
<Anne_Marble> He jumped from the plane onto the tarmac while characters were boarding. (Wasn't tarmac a Robert E. Howard character?)
<@SLVIehl> You should average about 250 words a page, domynoe. Then multiply by number of pages. This average wordcount per page raises or drops, depending on pt. and font.
<James> Ah, will your mysteries be appearing under S.L. Viehl, or a pseudonym (i.e. how will we recognize them when we see them)?
<@SLVIehl> I'm probably going to write mysteries as Lyn Kelly.
<@SLVIehl> Will keep you posted.
<James> Excellent: I'll keep one eye open for them.
<labloch> (ah, yes. Mercenary me...) ;p
<Anne_Marble> I'm wondering if I can write as both "Anne Marble" and "Enna Elbram." ;->
<Robert> I was wondering about the advance sizes and how authors made a living on only $3-5 thousand a book.
<BlairB> write lots of books
<domynoe> oh, wow...page 2 was 259...what about partial pages?
<Robert> That was my strategy, Blair. <G>
<Sarah> That doesn't work for me, Anne. Sarah spelled backwards is Haras. <g>
<@SLVIehl> It evens out, domynoe -- I wouldn't worry about the partial pages.
<James> My strategy is to write slowly in fits and starts and submit nothing. I'm certain it's going to pay off any day now...
<Crista> LOL! You stole my strategy, James!
<domynoe> well...sheesh...250 words per page is easier to figure than some of the other complicated methods i've seen for word counts
<@SLVIehl> I'm going to brow beat James until he submits something, so he's doomed to fail at his strategy.
<Lucas> Do these classes always finish by talking about $$$? <G>
<Robert> That sounds pretty easy for me too, once it's formatted.
<Anne_Marble> Hee hee
<@SLVIehl> That's what I always used in the days before wordcount and computers, domynoe
<James> I think Crista and I both realize that if our strategy fails it's because of editorial incompetence and because bestselling authors won't sell us the secret handshake
<@SLVIehl> No, we usually don't talk money, Lucas.
<Anne_Marble> They usually try to steal my food.
<Robert> But it's cheering me up a whole lot that we are!
<Wolvie> why did you start to write Shiela?
<James> Truth, Sheila, you, Holly, the rest of the Forward Motion site have done a lot in that direction already.
<@SLVIehl> We all want to go over and raid Anne's house for her bread
<Crista> Why do you think I come to these classes? <g> sSheila is bound to let it slip SOMETIME.
<Lucas> Ok, just wondered. Hah. I thought it might be the result the hours easing along toward tomorrow.
<Anne_Marble> And wait for me to slide off my chair.
<@SLVIehl> I started in 1974, when I wrote my first novel. I just finished writing my 38th.
<domynoe> i've heard...average 3 lines, someone actually suggests using a RULER (i don't remember who), and everyone says don't let word do it. lol
<@SLVIehl> Yes, if you hear a thump, Anne's wearing her silky jammies.
<Robert> Word is consistent with itself and fast enough to use when posting counts in chat. I try to approximate length limits anyway.
<Wolvie> I actually asked why, not when...
<James> Silk - so surely it's hiss, thump we'll hear...
<@SLVIehl> Actually, I should say I would appreciate it if my earnings are kept confidential. It's not something you're supposed to talk about.
<Lucas> Insanity Wolvie, why else?
<Lucas> No problem.
<labloch> No prob, sheila. Thanks for sharing!
<Wolvie> lips are zipped
<@SLVIehl> I don't see why we have to maintain the big mystery but . . . go figure.
<Sarah> Just remember to edit it out of the transcript. <g>
<domynoe> i am going to be so old if/when i get published. everyone says it takes years... blea
<@SLVIehl> Good point, Sarah
<Robert> You've given me hope beyond my present next level - I'd only need to move two books a year to break into the Food Stamps bracket as is at start, but there's real hope now of more later.
<labloch> maybe it's to keep writers underpaid? <g>
<James> No, put in a ridiculous inflated figure, just for fun -- 12,000,000 dollar three book contract, sort of thing
<Wolvie> I'm giving myself until I'm 40 to be making a living off my writing...thats 6.5 years
<@SLVIehl> there's a lot of nonsense being used to control writers, like keeping advances quiet and such. I don't agree with it
<Robert> I'm giving myself till I'm dead and if there are real vampires that won't stop me.
<@SLVIehl> but I'm also in the position of having to go along with this stuff until I get enough clout to scare everyone
<@SLVIehl> I broke in to pro writing at 38 years old, Wolvie. It can be done.
<labloch> Are people allowed to talk about advances and stuff at, say, conferences? Or do the editors give the evil eye?
<Crista> I'm giving myself until 30. After that, I'll give myself until 40. then 50. Then 80. Then 500. I'm going to live forever.<g>
<Robert> Good! I'm glad a friend will still be around!
<Wolvie> Crista - your books will, at least
<@SLVIehl> I haven't signed a confidentiality clause, but some authors do. Also, if your editor gets wind of you talking about your advances, you generally get politely yelled at.
<@SLVIehl> Good strategy, Crista
<Wolvie> I don't get that...
<labloch> aw, man. Wonder if Nora Roberts has to put up with that crap
<James> My feeling is it's one of those things you'll either find out for yourself when your drive to write gets you published, or you don't really, really have a need to know. (Though I totally don't blame people for asking.)
<@SLVIehl> Nora Roberts doesn't have to put with anything, bless her.
<domynoe> lol..i probably won't manage it before the age of 40...but i'm almost already there so that's not saying anything. lol
<@SLVIehl> any last questions on submitting or guidelines before we wrap this up for the night?
<Wolvie> ok, anything else that you can tell us - inside stuff - that will help with the submissions?\
<Robert> I'm shooting for Pro in 2002 and feel as if I'm arming to approach the Siegfried Line...
<Crista> I have about 9 years until 30. At my pace, this novel will be done by then. <g>
<labloch> nope...thank you so much for giving us your time and letting us pick your brain!
<Robert> Thank you so much, Shiela. That inside view is the secret handshake, how I see it.
<James> Nary a question, at this moment. And again, great big hairy thanks for another great class!
<Anne_Marble> Can' tink of anyting
<Anne_Marble> I got my Nora Roberts fridge magnet for 2002 today.
<Venus> no...but thank you sheila
<Crista> I have no questions. Thanks, Sheila. I'll trick you into giving me the secret password someday. Mwhahaha. <snickers>
<@SLVIehl> Insider stuff on submissions, nope, I think I've covered all the tricks up my sleeves. The best thing you can do is be professional, and send in a professional submission. That speaks of you asa writer like nothing else.
<Crista> Seriously, though. Thanks.
<domynoe> thanks shiela.
<Wolvie> cool...thanx a lot Shiela....a fun night
<Robert> Ah, last question, should I thank an editor for a critique?
<@SLVIehl> And thanks to all of you for letting me spend another Friday night talking shop! I love it.
<Lucas> I think we're approaching a wrap. Sheila, thanks for taking the time to do this. I have a hard time attending things like this in person, so this is great to be able to do online.
<domynoe> i have to find a fantasy mag for my story, but other than that it's just getting up the guts to actually..well...mail it :P
<@SLVIehl> I think it's a nice thing to do, Robert, if the editor has gone to the trouble.
<Robert> Like on a second sub, "Dear Editor X, here's my new story Y, thanks to your critique of story Q I have worked on improving my pacing...
<@SLVIehl> We're usually here every Friday night, talking about something <g>
<@SLVIehl> Yeah, that's terrific, Robert -- use the thank you to submit again!
<labloch> lol...good idea
<Robert> My attack plan is to pick the pro markets more likely to want my stuff in general and keep something of mine on theri desks at all times till they buy one.
<@SLVIehl> And if you do have any other questions, you can e-mail me at SLViehlworkshop@aol.com. That's just for you guys, and since I'm taking off the month of December, I'll be able to respond virtually right away.
<Robert> Thanks!
<labloch> thanks again Shiela!
<Sarah> (Woo-hoo! For those of you following the saga of the beast, just made someone cry...twice!) Thanks Sheila!
<Wolvie> cool, thanx a lot
<Anne_Marble> Thanks (Yippy! Yahhoo! Etc.!)
<domynoe> WOW! thanks!
<James> Dangerous offer - I've got December off from my wretched day job. I might e-mail you constantly...
<Robert> I don't think it's just luck you got that success, Sheila. I think it's grit and strategy and skill.
<@SLVIehl> I'm counting on it, James, how else can I find an excuse to brow beat you?
<domynoe> ummmmm..to press my luck here..lol...would you be willing to look at a short story mms and let us know if we have a chance in hell? giggle
<James> Sheila. Not sure what to have for lunch. Advise immediately, kind of thing.
<Crista> What if we have questions on past transcripts that out stupid jobs didn't let us have the day off to attend?
<@SLVIehl> it also helps to be a coldblooded mercenary witch, Robert.
<Crista> With tentacles. Don't forget that, Sheila. <g>
<@SLVIehl> E-mail me about those, too Crista -- this is a writer's think tank. There are no time limits or restrictions.
<Crista> Cool. Thanks.
<Robert> Cool! <freezes in bad weather, check, needs money, check, pagan, check, great!>
<@SLVIehl> And if you want to know how to grow tentacles . . . I'm your girl. Ha.
<@SLVIehl> So everyone is going to submit, submit, submit, and remember when you win that award my name is pronounced "Veel"
<James> Is it true you just put a tentacle cutting in a glass of water and wait for it to root?
<Robert> Sheila when I am big enough to mate and collaborate can we do a romance between nonhumanoid tentacled beings as a collaboration?
<Lucas> Tentacles? Wow, does that help, or hinder typing speed?
<@SLVIehl> You never know, Robert.
<@SLVIehl> Makes dating interesting, Lucas.
<labloch> yes, sir! (or the big-time contract we get interviewed for..)
<Anne_Marble> Wow, you thought Dvorak was hard to learn.
<Lucas> Ho-ho!
<Robert> <twines his cat ecstatically dreaming of success!>
<James> He brushed her auricular opening with the tip of his tentacle. "Cthulhu," she cried, "possess me..."
<Anne_Marble> I knew someone who used to date octopi, but...
<@SLVIehl> I'm going to brow beat James directly here in a minute . . .
<Sarah> roflmao!!!
<Crista> LOL!
<@SLVIehl> God, I love you guys. You crack me up.
<domynoe> woaw...ms word came up with about 2200 words LESS on the word count for this story than rough draft did. does that mean rough draft is coutning spaces?
<James> I see it as the opening line of the query letter
<Lucas> Dear editor of Dark Forces publishing....
<James> Or, "What if two ancient, tentacled gods from the dark times found romance in a ruined city on the edge of a bottomless abysss?"
<Anne_Marble> BTW I think I'm gonna like the new Katherine Sutcliffe. Some people on AAR's message boards were complaining because the heroine wasn't perfect.
<@SLVIehl> Does anyone have MS Word to answer domynoe's question? (I don't, sorry)
<Robert> Trouble is three writers under one roof trying to complete entire novels in one month. Then the Lake of the Drowned Souls begins to take its toll..
<Anne_Marble> I've seen Word come up with more than one word count on the same document!
<@SLVIehl> You won't be able to get by me with any more protestations of writer's block, James. You're wicked.
<Lucas> I've found that MS word (or the 97 one at least) gives a different word count depending on if you right click on the file and go to properties --> statistics, or if you use the word count menu item.
<James> I have Word 2000, but it's a bit of a black box to me, no idea how it works...
<domynoe> what do you use shiela? i picked up rough draft because it's supposed to be specifically for writers and it's free
<Lucas> That's just strange. I don't know why it does that.
<@SLVIehl> Don't laugh, but I use word perfect 5.1
<domynoe> but i have been using ms word so long i forget about rough draft
<James> It's peculiar, Sheila, I'm never blocked for silliness. Only when I write as if I mean it. Go figure.
<@SLVIehl> I hate clicking on things
<Anne_Marble> The spell check on WP51 is one of the coolest.
<Robert> So write up a comedy and submit it already, wiseguy?
<@SLVIehl> That's why you're going to be the next Terry Pratchett, Mr. Milton
<James> Hadn't thought of doing comedy - I'm suprisingly grim in real life...
<@SLVIehl> Robert and I are mind-melding now
<Anne_Marble> Good grief, since I've been in this class, I've gotten 14 new e-mails.
<labloch> lol...you guys rock. Gotta run, though---happy writing, all, and thanks again Shiela!
<@SLVIehl> We're keeping Anne from her pals -- I should call this a night, I guess.
<Lucas> Clicking is carried to extremes for sure. I think a well designed program should give you the option of doing EVERYTHING by keyboard.
<@SLVIehl> Thanks, Labloch, see you at the site
<James> Yes, we should run, though it's been a hoot.
<Anne_Marble> Only 14? Slow night.
<labloch> jah.
<Anne_Marble> They encourage keyboarding at my company, so we don't hurt our widdle wrists.
<James> Goodnight all -- see you around the site, or next week!
<@SLVIehl> Good night all. Take care and thanks again for another terrific session

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Plotting The Series Novel (Continuation) transcript 12-07-01

December 12 2001, 11:02 AM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
12/07/01 -- Plotting the Novel Series (Continuation)

<@SLViehl> Okay, let's get the ball rolling. Welcome to Plotting the Series Novel, I'm your host, S.L. (Sheila) Viehl
<@SLViehl> During our last session, we discussed several types of series, how to determine what length series to write, and the different aspects
involved in writing triolgies, mid-length, extended, and open series.
<@SLViehl> We also did a breakdown on plotting a trilogy.
<@SLViehl> All of this is available on the Transcript Board, if you want to
have a look later
<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to pick up where we left off and talk about plotting the mid-length series
<@SLViehl> I'll present the material, then throw up QUESTIONS, and that's when to hit me with them (Hi Jenny!)
<@SLViehl> Everyone ready?
<Robert> Purr
<Gayle> yes
<Blair> yuppers
<Kaelle> gtg
<Anne_Marble> Okee
<Jenny> Hi everyone. Yep, ready.
<James> Hi all - sorry I'm late!
<@SLViehl> James, we were about to send a posse out for you
<Lucas> Ready to recieve.
<Anne_Marble> We'll take that as a "Yes," James.
<James> I thought I heard horses
<@SLViehl> Here we go -- during our last session, I told you I consider a mid-length series to be from 5 to 7 books.
<@SLViehl> Basically, a mid-length series is simply an expanded version of the trilogy
<@SLViehl> You still have a beginning, a middle, and an end
<@SLViehl> What's nice is you have more room to explore those three parts of your main conflict, because you have transition books between
<@SLViehl> Robert brought up something interesting -- I go with odd numbers for series, because I like that "middle" or "Center" book
<@SLViehl> but tonight we're going to get radical and break it down into six books
<@SLViehl> radical for me, anyway
<@SLViehl> We'll start with book one and two of the six-book series
<@SLViehl> As with a trilogy, book one establishes the main conflict, as well as presents an inclusive conflict to render the novel standalone
<@SLViehl> Remember each book must be a standalone as well as part of a series. Editors do not buy them otherwise
<@SLViehl> However, since you've got more room to explore your main conflict, you're going to treat it a little differently in book one.
<@SLViehl> You want to establish the main conflict, but you're going more for an introduction than an explanation.
<@SLViehl> In the six book series, you've got at least one more book to nail down all the justification and information on your main conflict.
<@SLViehl> The best analogy I can make is that book one of a trilogy is a blind date, while book one of a mid-length series is meeting someone at a party.
<@SLViehl> You don't want to show the reader all your cars. You have five more books to write.
<@SLViehl> Also, you're going to be facing a longer extension of the story, so you may want consider running more open story plot threads.
<@SLViehl> These are plot twists or conflicts within the main conflict that are not resolved in one novel.
<@SLViehl> My comfort level is still between three to five good, solid, strong running plot threads. Just because you're writing more books doesn't mean
you need to double or triple the number of threads you carry.
<@SLViehl> What changes now is you can resolve and then introduce plot threads with more frequency, and in more places in the series.
<Anne_Marble> You may have discussed this before, but how do you make the books self-contained without having characters stand around thinking about
the time Grignr defeated Trellic in battle last year, zzz?
<@SLViehl> As in, how do you deal with backstory?
<Anne_Marble> Yup -- how do you avoid getting all Goodkind-y in the backstory.
<@SLViehl> There are a couple of ways -- with each book, you will unite new characters with characters from previous books. This is an opportunity to
work in backstory.
<@SLViehl> Depending on your POV, you can present backstory as reflection -- but not too much -- triggered by events in the present novel.
<Anne_Marble> Oooh, kind of like the Fugitive meeting new people in each episode and saying "The one-armed man did it."
<@SLViehl> i.e.: "As I watched the ship explode, I thought of all the ships we had blown up last year."
<Robert> Would it work as a series structure to treat the setting as the identity of the overall series conflict - like two countries or several -
and the characters are generations on the land ?
<Robert> I'm reading Michener's "Poland" and getting inspired to do something where setting and families are the focus.
<@SLViehl> I've tried to get a little more creative with backstory intro into later novels. I had Cherijo start a diary for her baby. Then in another book, she blows her top and yells a list of what she's been through at another character.
<@SLViehl> Sure Robert. Setting is the foundation for a lot of series -- like Dune, for example. Great setting. Totally filled with conflict.
<James> When you talk about 3-5 open running threads, should you also have a couple of subplots that are closed off within each novel (other than the
main sub-conflict which makes the book self contained)?
<@SLViehl> Absolutely, James. Those subplots are what flesh out your inclusive conflict. They must be resolved within the book in order for your
inclusive conflict to work.
<James> Is it enough to only have one or two?
<@SLViehl> The open running threads in a mid-length series should relate directly to the main conflict. You can tie them in with the standalone, but
they should provide the main momentum for the series
<@SLViehl> If they're very strong and not easily reconciled or resolved, James, I think that would work.
<James> Gotcha, thanks
<@SLViehl> Let's move on to Book Two
<Lucas> Is there a way to think about the mini-plot threads that helps you to figure out of if a given mini-thread will just be distracting?
<@SLViehl> Good question, Lucas. I look at plot threads the same way I do with conflicts that I worry about in my life.
<@SLViehl> Is it something that's going to change what I do, where I do it, and cost me? Those are the kinds of threads you want to pose the same difficulties for your characters.
<@SLViehl> If your characters are caught up in something minor, annoying, not important to the story line, what I call "busy work" then it becomes a
distraction for the reader, who doesn't care about that kind of thing.
<@SLViehl> Figure if your plot thread invokes a strong emotional reaction from your character, then you're on the right track.
<@SLViehl> Now, on to book two.
<Lucas> Ok. Onward.
<@SLViehl> Book two provides a transition space from your beginning novel into the meat and potatoes of the mid-length series.
<@SLViehl> First, beware of writing "locomotion" novels in this stage of the game.
<@SLViehl> You don't want to provide merely a vehicle novel that moves your characters around and sets up the middle or center novel.
<@SLViehl> The center of the series is where you main conflict really changes or peaks or becomes dire
<@SLViehl> So you have to find something that will allow you to lead into that, while remaining a standalone, on its own, with its own inclusive
<@SLViehl> I know I keep harping on this but it's important -- each book must be valuable to the series, but valuable on its own too
<@SLViehl> One method of creating a viable second book in this series is to explore or focus on one aspect of the main conflict and encapsulate in an adventure which can be resolved by the end of the book.
<@SLViehl> This adventure episode in the lives of your characters must still progress the main conflict, too.
<@SLViehl> Let's say your protagonist becomes a fugitive in book one. The series is about him, the law, and the one-armed man.
<@SLViehl> book two can present the first taste of life as a fugitive for your protagonist -- present a problem in a specific scenario, and have the
protagonist solve it.
<@SLViehl> While still being on the run, and maybe making matters worse by getting involved in this book two problem
<@SLViehl> This is a good place to begin a new thread -- repercussions from book two.
<@SLViehl> You can also tie off one of the threads from book one to give the reader some satisfaction. This early in the series, I'd recommend starting
another thread if you terminate one.
<@SLViehl> All of the above must have some impact on the main conflict.
<@SLViehl> Fugitive goes on the lam in book one, saves children from burning building that belongs to one-armed man in book two
<@SLViehl> Book three, we find out the one-armed man frames our fugitive for torching the building
<@SLViehl> Book two provides fuel for the series fire.
<Lucas> So part of what we're trying to do is write each individual book so that the characters conquer their momentery problems, but the overall
problem gets worse? Possibly as a direct result of how they dealt with the single-book difficulty?
<Robert> This is so inspirational it's scary - you just made my Exercises make sense.
<@SLViehl> Exactly, Lucas. The overall problem doesn't always have to get worse, per say, but the inclusive conflict should have an impact on it.
Escalate it. Create tension, momentum, reasons for the reader to keep reading your series
<Robert> Like for Ziriavan, economics is the One Armed Man and book one Rillan becomes a Guild mage, book two this trader from the North becomes a successful caravener, book 3 a priest becomes an abbot to restore the cathedral, book 4 someone notices there's no aristocracy and becomes a warlord, book 5 price of power this warlord becomes an Emperor.
<@SLViehl> Robert's already seething with plots.
<Robert> Seething with the one that's giving me a headache and if setting is the series plot it's rise and fall of an Empire.
<Anne_Marble> Ari is whispering them to him.
<Lucas> Bubble bubble toil and trouble and hardship and pain and interesting conflict and....
<@SLViehl> The rise and fall of any empire is excellent fuel for a series.
<@SLViehl> It's still beginning, middle, and end.
<Robert> But mages live a long time so Rillan's around changing factions and sides to the end price of civilization seeing the changes from teh fishing
village he grew up in as an old man, becomes a historian, sees the decline as well as the rise.
<Anne_Marble> That's it, a story about the nail from that old "Because of the want of a nail" story!
<@SLViehl> If anyone ever read "I, Claudius" by Robert Graves, that's a terrific rise-and-fall novel on empires.
<Robert> With Rillan back to being an MC in last book as he makes a critical decision that affects whether Empire continues, changes or dies.
<@SLViehl> And the unique perspective of the protagonist keeps everything fresh for the reader.
<Robert> I loved I, Claudius
<Lucas> Anne - Maybe someone probably stole the nail on purpose.
<Anne_Marble> Book one, nail rebels, horseshoe falls off. Book two, horse
goes lame. Book three, messenger has to walk all the way. (Very boring series. <g>)
<@SLViehl> Anne's nail story is more the snowball-effect plot line.
<@SLViehl> Must be very thin books. lol
<Anne_Marble> Lucas> Humpty Dumpty was pushed.
<Robert> Anne - the nail is a person who got drafted. Think about it.
<BJ Steeves> Always did like omelets
<@SLViehl> Hookay, let's move on to books three and four
<Lucas> Let's go. Datapads set to stun, move out.
<@SLViehl> This is the center of your six book series. It's sort of a two-book center
<@SLViehl> This is the time when your main conflict escalates or progresses from what you've established in book one, and messed with in book two.
<@SLViehl> Think of your center books as plot amplifiers
<@SLViehl> Things are going to get very, very bad now.
<@SLViehl> Your final two books will begin the resolution of the main conflict, so your major peak time is now.
<@SLViehl> Since this is an even-numbered series, book three should begin the amplification process.
<@SLViehl> Again, set up your book to be a standalone -- with its own story, resolved within the novel -- but craft this inclusive conflict to have serious impact on your main conflict.
<@SLViehl> Make things really get ugly for your protagonist.
<@SLViehl> A sense of utter futility, failure, the bad guys are going to win -- all good things to throw at the reader here.
<@SLViehl> book four should finish the amplification process
<@SLViehl> "Ho, Boy, are we in trouble now, what'll we do?"
<@SLViehl> Book four sets up your resolution. Absolutely must, in some way, propel the reader along to the inevitable final conflict crisis ahead.
<@SLViehl> There is a real problem with writing center books.
<@SLViehl> It's like writing the middle of a novel.
<@SLViehl> You've got a wonderful beginning, a powerful end, but how do you get from point A -- B?
<@SLViehl> There is a danger in writing housekeeping novels -- suspending everything with a lot of busy work writing.
<@SLViehl> Consider introducing as part of the inclusive conflicts in these two books, some kind of drastic measures or dire straits that can be wrapped
up and resolved, that do NOT relate to the main conflict directly, but come about as a product of it.
<@SLViehl> One armed frames our hero as an arsonist AND a murderer. Book three: Our hero captures the one-armed man.
<@SLViehl> Book four, our hero is nearly killed by the one-armed man.
<@SLViehl> Very dramatic. Very exciting. Not a lot to do with the main conflict -- being a fugitive, on the run from the law, but it does have impact
<@SLViehl> now the one-armed man will not stop until our hero is dust.
<@SLViehl> Death and destruction are one avenue. Birth and creation are another
<@SLViehl> Throw problems at your protagonist that are both interesting and solvable. Generate excitement for what's happening RIGHT NOW in the story.
<@SLViehl> And on running threads -- because this is a midlength, you're going to be carrying anywhere from three to five (or more) from the beginning of the series. If you didn't wrap up some of them in book two, you need to tie off a couple in book three or four.
<@SLViehl> You can create new ones to carry through to the end of the series here.
<@SLViehl> In fact, you should, or you're going to narrow the plot field for your protagonist.
<@SLViehl> So give our hero an orphaned little boy to look out for
<@SLViehl> who just so happens to be the only witness to the murder (but our hero doesn't know that yet)
<@SLViehl> The main reason you need to solve some of your plots threads is the reader doesn't want to wait for everything, and if you wait, you'll end
up writing book six as nothing but plot thread resolutions.
<James> Is it in book three/four that you'd consider going for cliffhanger endings?
<Robert> Can changing POV character accomplish that mid book shift - the future abbot REALLY wants his cathedral and gets it but that sets up for
<@SLViehl> As long as they're not part of the inclusive conflict, James, and are not too overt. I get away with a lot, I know, but most editors don't
like cliff hangers.
<James> Ah, gotcha.
<Lucas> So in book four of a six part series you would introduce the inevitable ending, but somehow disguise it so that no one knows they've seen
the foundation laid for the eventual victory of the protagonist? (Assuming the protagonist is going to win, that is...) Otherwise, it seems like there
would be too much hope for the eventual resolution of the main conflict.
<Anne_Marble> Nor do readers! Some of them have stopped buying Janet Evanovich because of cliffhanger endings -- even though those endings were
about the ongoing relationships and not the mystery plot.
<@SLViehl> Sure Robert -- as long as your shifts in POV flow evenly. You can't have five books in the hero's POV and one in the Villain's. Needs to
even out.
<Anne_Marble> You could always do like Eddings did. Put out the series and years later, put out one book each from the POV of two of the other main
<@SLViehl> The danger, Lucas, is in how much you tell the reader. You want to lure them with the promise of a big bang ending to the series, but if you
give them too much information, they'll figure out your twists and direction and not have the pleasure of being surprised.
<@SLViehl> You can't keep handing the reader the same problem with the same cliffhanger ending, I think that's Janet's main problem. She's not stretching her wings.
<James> I know it wasn't originally written as a series, but the cliffhanger in Lord of the Rings part two -- Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy --
is darn near my favourite bit. I wailed when I read it, but I loved it.
<@SLViehl> Cliff hangers make people alternately love and hate you. I speak from experience.
<@SLViehl> Shall we take a five minute break to refuel?
<Jenny> Sounds good to me.
<Kaelle> ok, brb
<@SLViehl> Anne, give me some of that ice cream! <g>
<James> Ah, cold drink time -- it's so hot and muggy here that I'm dehydrating between breaths!
<Lucas> Piers Anthony seemed to do nothing but cliffhangers with his Mode books.
<Blair> <phew> its that time.... wow.
<Anne_Marble> OK, I can read my horrid poem at poetry.com. (I know it's a scam; I entered a bad poem to win some Blink points!)
<@SLViehl> brb
<Robert> Changing transcript files.
<Anne_Marble> Here is the URL to my sucky poem:
<Blair> <throws snowball at James>
<James> Now Blair, that's just cruel
<Blair> I can't think of a better way to combat hot and muggy...
<@SLViehl> Anne, you're incorrigible
<James> On the other hand, if I catch the snowball I can put it in my drink. Slushy!
<@SLViehl> Boys, no fighting
<@SLViehl> God, I'm starting to sound like my mother.
<@SLViehl> Ack
<Blair> <points at Robert> He did it!
<Robert> <snarl, hiss, turns into Siamese Tiger revealing Ari was doing the typing all along>
<@SLViehl> Ari, tell Robert to behave
<James> I was just about to blame Ari -- it's always the cat...
<Kaelle> Cats can do amazing things...
<Lucas> Yeah sure, the old cat got into the 'nip and logged onto the
computer when you weren't looking excuse.
<@SLViehl> Rush went to the vet today and got a shot in the butt, and informed me when we got home that he will HATE ME FOREVER
<Robert> Poor Rush! I can sympathize completely, poor Rush! Mew!
<BJ Steeves> Give him some Tiger Shrimp!
<Anne_Marble> <Rereading my sucky poem> That wasn't bad for something I wrote in five minutes.
<Robert> Purr. BJ is nice. Purr purr
<@SLViehl> We ought to have a bad first lines contest someday
<Kaelle> hmmm
<BJ Steeves> That would go good with the rest of my writing.
<Robert> It was a dark and stormy knight that strode, not rode into the city
gates wearing only a tin pail held over his crotch.
<Anne_Marble> Ooooh
<Kaelle> lol
<@SLViehl> Ouch
<Lucas> Jinx, did you get dropped?
<James> Is that wise with lightning about?
<Robert> Don't get Ari hooked on Tiger Shrimp. I won't let him read Cats in Cyberspace till he learns HTML.
<@SLViehl> Imagine if it was cold
<Jinx> <mutters> I always miss the good stuff when I get bumped from the conference room. <g>
<@SLViehl> It wouldn't be Friday if poor Jinx didn't get bumped off
<Jinx> Yes, Lucas. Wouldn't be a proper class if I didn't get dropped at least once.
<Kaelle> Haven't seen Gayle in a while
<Lucas> Maybe you should stay logged in twice. Then only one of you would
get knocked out?
<@SLViehl> Gayle had to leave
<@SLViehl> she's going to catch up with the transcript
<Kaelle> oh
<Robert> Hi Gayle, we missed you! Come back next Friday!
<@SLViehl> One more announcement, I may be a few minutes late for next Friday's session, my kids are in their Christmas play at school.
<Jinx> That's a thought. Although I'd probably crash, just for spite.
<Kaelle> Gonna video it?
<James> No worries -- we can entertain ourselves until you get here. We could hold the terrible first lines competition eliminators
<Jinx> Anne can bring snacks.
<Robert> Cool. <G>
<Anne_Marble> Got spam from a place called PearlSoup.com. Or from one of their affiliates. They want writers!!! Translation: Write a thingie and post
it and you can earn points or something.
<@SLViehl> Actually, I might ask James to run things until I can get here.
<@SLViehl> hint, hint James
<James> Good heavens. May I use a whip? May I apply discipline?
<Blair> <EG> yea, let James run it....
<@SLViehl> Um, Blair . . .
<Kaelle> <lobs a spitball at James>
<@SLViehl> Oh, you two are awful
<Jinx> Sheesh, James. The things we learn about people in here. <g>
<Anne_Marble> Yeeek, even more spam .
<@SLViehl> Jinx is writing an expose on the side.
<Jinx> I've certainly got plenty of material!
<@SLViehl> Uncovered: Holligans at HollyLisle.com
<Anne_Marble> Spam for diet juice.
<Lucas> The sordid night life of the friday chatting writers. Hmm, it will nedd a better title.
<James> Look, megalomania is the only fun I get these days...
<@SLViehl> Okay, any last questions on books four and five?
<Jinx> <makes notes>
<Kaelle> Well, as long as you don't use a cat'o'nine tails....Ari will get upset.
<James> Damn, now what am I going to do with the nine cats?
<Robert> Keep the cats in! Purr.
<@SLViehl> I just snorted tea through my nose, James, you wretch
<Jinx> LOL
<BJ Steeves> I could lend you my dog.
<Blair> you could write a book on the ways to sk.... never mind...
<Kaelle> rofmal
<Kaelle> rofmao
<Lucas> I guess we're mainly making sure we don't reveal the eventual ending, and that these books don't turn into "get guy a to point b" books
where no pertinent stuff happens.
<James> Whipping someone with cats would actually do some serious damage -- suprised the Inquisition didn't try it.
<Robert> There's more than one way to scan a cat.
<Kaelle> <groan>
<@SLViehl> Thank you, Lucas, that's everything in a nutshell
<Blair> you need heavy books for that though.... and they still squirm
<@SLViehl> The rest of you -- behave.
<BJ Steeves> That's no fun.
<Kaelle> <looks innocent>
<James> I'm whipping myself even as we speak.
<@SLViehl> Welcome, Damon
<Damon M. Lord> (latecomer enters, hands apple to teacher - sorry I'm late)
<Robert> & ari both put on innocent look wash paws
<Blair> with those 9 cats James?
<@SLViehl> We're ready (if not all willing) to get started on part two of tonight's festivities
<Anne_Marble> Damon, you'll blend right in here.
<James> But of course...
<@SLViehl> thanks for the apple
<@SLViehl> Damon, we've been discussing the mid-length novel series, breaking it down into six books as an example, and figuring on how to run the main conflict and individual books
<@SLViehl> and now we're going to launch into books five and six.
<@SLViehl> Wait, I have a graphic I forgot to put up here
<Damon M. Lord> (I'll sit quiet at the back of class and catch up by reading transcripts)
<@SLViehl> This is one more book than the example I'm using but you get the general idea
<@SLViehl> Books five and six represent the resolution of your series
<@SLViehl> Now you've got a few jobs to perform -- you must tie up all your loose threads, and resolve them.
<@SLViehl> You must provide the final reconciliation or resolution for your main conflict.
<@SLViehl> Books five and six are your series two minute warning.
<@SLViehl> As in a trilogy, these books wrap it up. But again, you're writing more books, so like the establishment of the main conflict in books
one and two, you need to deal with the resolution of the conflict a little differently.
<@SLViehl> You don't want to write two very long extensions of an ending.
<@SLViehl> Book five gives you a unique opportunity -- this is your last chance to alter the condition of the main conflict.
<@SLViehl> It's not the place where you escalate things, but you polish that escalation.
<@SLViehl> Take our fugitive from the one-armed man: He's escaped, he's saved children from a burning building, he's been framed for the arson, he's
picked a little boy, captured the one-armed man, nearly been killed, and is one book away from finding out his fate
<@SLViehl> Remember when I said that little boy could be the only witness to the murder? Book five is where our hero discovers this.
<@SLViehl> Now the one-armed man is not only going to kill our hero, he's going for the kid too.
<@SLViehl> Same stakes, same circumstances, but the pressure just got a little worse.
<@SLViehl> This is what I mean about polishing the escalation.
<@SLViehl> Running threads -- with the exception of those which can only be tied up with the final resolution -- need to come to end, or be prepped for
the end
<@SLViehl> Tie up all your details, your loose ends, because book six is where you're going to do the WOW ending.
<@SLViehl> You don't want anything to detract from that. Reconcile the small stuff in book five.
<@SLViehl> And finally, we're at book six. Took us long enough, didn't it? But now is the time to finish the series.
<@SLViehl> Book five gathers speed for book six. Book six is where everything explodes.
<@SLViehl> You should have at least one very major plot twist to present, close to the end of book six, which directly resolves your main conflict.
<@SLViehl> Meanwhile, again, both book five and book six have to be standalone. They must tell their own story.
<Anne_Marble> "His best friend hired the One-armed Man to kill his wife and frame him." :->
<@SLViehl> Or, his dead wife is the one-armed man.
<@SLViehl> That's how I'd write it.
<James> She was tired of hiding her life as a one armed transvestite?
<Lucas> If you've got a six book series, it seems like book five might be the hardest of all to write and still keep it a viable stand-alone.
<@SLViehl> Not if you use it the way you did book two, Lucas. Make an adventure within the adventure.
<Robert> Rillan finally gets to marry a non magician woman that he loves but she's a rotten political b**ch like Livia out of I Claudius and that makes
him mage-Emperor...
<@SLViehl> On their way back to confront the one-armed man, our hero and the boy are caught up in a gangland war.
<@SLViehl> QUESTIONS, to make it official
<Lucas> Ok, as you show on your nifty graphic, book two is "have fun" so the next to the last is "have some more fun".
<@SLViehl> Exactly -- have fun = adventure
<James> Should the book six standalone conflict be rooted entirely in the main conflict -- i.e. the one-armed man catches the boy, so the fugitive
must stage the final confrontation or the child dies?
<Lucas> With the same caveat to keep it pertinent and theme based. Good.
<@SLViehl> As long as it doesn't depend too heavily on backstory, James, I think that would work.
<Lucas> (My last post wasn't a response to James, it just happened to come
after his message.)
<Robert> Where would coldhearted princess come in - next to last book or final book as Rillan recognizes what he's wed but is in WAY too deep?
<James> Does that mean the standalone conflict can have its source outside the main conflict in book six? (Could you, for instance, do the gangland
war story as the sixth book)?
<@SLViehl> I'd put her in the next to last, Robert, give her another book to take out her spleen on him.
<Robert> Right, so seeing next to last as standalone it's the happy ending of his struggle to get that marriage allwoed.
<Lucas> James, I would guess only if its conclusion was the same as the main conflict's solution.
<Lucas> But I'll be glad to wait for a more official answer.
<@SLViehl> Sure, James -- in fact, I think most of your standalone conflict will be circumstantial, relevent to the main conflict but still apart from
<James> You could end the second last book with the discovery of her coldness, Robert.
<James> Thanks, just wasn't sure.
<@SLViehl> Then you've got all your bad guys lined up for book six. Unless the revelation about her coldness leads into the resolving of the main
<Robert> I think I'd want to set up for it and reader to notice she's too good to be true and already going behind his back.
<Robert> Though I could show readers she's evil by one small cruel act the duped character's not there for. Like how she treats the maid.
<@SLViehl> The most important thing with book six is to deliver. You've strung this reader along for five books now, and they want bang for their buck.
<James> No, do something dreadful to an animal -- that always reeks of evil. His caged singing bird claws her. The novel ends with him wondering about
the future, and noticing that his lovely singing bird is dead, kind of thing.
<@SLViehl> I think a mid-length series should have a really strong ending to the main conflict, for that reason.
<@SLViehl> I like that, James. Ominous.
<Lucas> James - Would you make her totally sincere in everything, nice and evil? That could be really creepy.
<Robert> That's kind of neat, especially if she dies in a similar way by way of barbarians when she gets her comeuppance, ironic.
<@SLViehl> Poetic justic, yep. Love it when they get what they deserve
<James> I'd go for well-brought up but with a pit of ice cold in her soul that she didn't even know was there, but which makes her do terrible things.
<@SLViehl> and then she embraces her frozen soul
<James> Maybe when cruelty unexpectedly gets her what she wants -- and she thinks it always will?
<@SLViehl> the bird is the symbol
<@SLViehl> she couldn't stand it
<@SLViehl> that kind of thing
<Robert> Bit of a love tragedy poor Rill doesn't begin to know about.
<Lucas> By the time we get to the final book, how much resemblence does the main plot have to how we saw it in the original book? Has it usually changed in more than intensity, or does it just depend on the series?
<James> The bird can also foreshadow what might happen to Rill if he causes her some small offence, some small pain she can't tolerate.
<Anne_Marble> Maybe she acquired the bird for him inadvertently, by being cruel at the marketplace. :-> So he loves the bird because he doesn't know
she was cruel to the shopkeeper to force him to sell the prized bird, and she hates what it represents.
<@SLViehl> I think the reader becomes more invested in the main conflict, Lucas, because you've presented it to them in book one, and then you'll made it personal over the next four books, by ever-increasing degrees.
<Robert> If the bird's the symbol, Rillan's real because he wanted to be a mage. That princess as a very small girl wanted to do something else, like
be a bard, but she held to royal duty and she's taking it out on those under her.
<@SLViehl> However, your main conflict has to remain semi-stable throughout the series, in order to provide continuous, logical momentum.
<Robert> Ooh anne I like that idea. That's something she hates about Rillan - that he trusts her. She grew up in intrigue and deceit and
mistrust, didn't know anything else.
<James> If that's the case, she's probably quite horrible to bards -- surrounds herself with them, supports them, but gives and withholds support
at a whim, ejects them from her circle, ruins them...
<@SLViehl> Our hero is on the run from the one-armed man. That can't really change much.
<Anne_Marble> But what if he finds out that the one-armed man didn't really do it?
<Blair> that another series
<@SLViehl> That's another lethal twist, Anne -- you've been telling this reader all along the one-armed man was a bad guy. What if it was someone else?
<Robert> Anne, that seems like a nice final twist.
<Damon> I personally would hate that - being strung along all the way through to find out the bad guy is not so bad after all....
<@SLViehl> That happens a lot in movies, too.
<BJ Steeves> Or that he's not a bad guy, but a government agent or privite eye.
<Robert> As long as all the evidence is in place and it's plausible and fair.
<@SLViehl> the one-armed man can still be a bad guy. Just not the guy who murdered the hero's wife.
<Lucas> So we just get closer to things as events progress, and refine understanding. Umm, like Anne suggested - Wouldn't a final twist like that
be kind of cheating?
<@SLViehl> Not if you weave the threads in to always be there.
<Robert> Your thing that the wife is the one-armed man is a twist like that.
<Damon> cheating - sort of painted into a corner, then told the walls and floors are not there, like alice in wonderland - "oh what a dream!" or "oh he's good after all!"
<Anne_Marble> It depends on how it was planted. I've seen movies like "The Usual Suspects" where there were clues and it fell into place. But then you
have duds like "The Nature of the Beast," which even Lance Henrikson couldn't save. :-<
<Lucas> Ok, provide foundation. Build inevitablity for the really bizarre thing you do in the end.
<@SLViehl> I did a twist in my last released SF that no one expected. Strung them along for three books to get to this twist, but the signs were there. I just distracted them with something else.
<James> You could also foreshadow it with theme to lessen the blow -- if, throughout the series, things often weren't what they seemed, a switch of
villains might not seem so bad.
<@SLViehl> You have to be very calculating when you plot. Plot for maximum
effect, but keep it logical.
<Kaelle> And I loved it, Sheila!
<@SLViehl> hee hee
<Anne_Marble> Good suspence movies have clues. "The Nature of the Beast" had an obligatory surprise ending that 1) wasn't surprising and 2) was illogical
despite that.
<Kaelle> I really didn't suspect.
<James> You know, The Usual Suspects is basically Asimov's Second Foundation -- I guessed that movie eight seconds in by crying out, "It's the
<@SLViehl> The Gift had an excellent, if somewhat predictable ending.
<BJ Steeves> Sixth Sense was the best.
<Anne_Marble> Don't forget "The Others."
<@SLViehl> Lord, yes. That movie shook me down to my toenails.
<James> Sixth Sense got me utterly -- but I have a cousin who spotted it because she's a restaurant manager and the anniversary table was set for
one. The strangest things give plot away!
<Anne_Marble> I dressed as the housekeeper for Halloween at work.
<@SLViehl> I'm trying to think of a book -- the Twisted Root, by Anne Perry.
Now that book has a killer twist.
<@SLViehl> So does Breach of Promise, same author.
<@SLViehl> In fact, Breach is better.
<James> I haven't read that one -- if the others don't mind a spoiler, how does she twist it?
<@SLViehl> I'm going to type this directly to James, 'scuse me for a moment
<Anne_Marble> Awww, I want to know, too.
<Robert> Yeah, I don't mind the spoiler.
<Lucas> What? Don't you people ever read to get your plot twists?
<Jenny> I don't. I've been told to read that book.
<@SLViehl> Okay, I filled James in.
<Anne_Marble> We'll have to jump him in the alley later.
<@SLViehl> I like Anne Perry's work because she does do great twists in the end.
<@SLViehl> Those are both mysteries, James.
<Robert> I would have liked to know the twist then.
<@SLViehl> And for sheer command and elegance of language and knowledge of time period, I highly recommend Anne Perry to everyone. She's a wonderful
<James> But are they Victorian era, or contemporary? I gather she does both...?
<@SLViehl> They're both set in Victorian London, I believe
<Anne_Marble> And I think she did a fantasy novel recently?
<James> So the twists are not only good twists, but lay well outside contemporary (to the novel) expectations and mores. That is neat.
<@SLViehl> Her one shot at writing fantasy was interesting, but a little
<Anne_Marble> If you saw the movie "Heavenly Creatures" (I think that was it, the early Peter Jackson movie), one of the girls was based on her. :-/
<Lucas> Has Anne McCaffrey done any notable twists? She's about the only author I could be reasonably certain to have read a given book by, so if
anyone has an example from some of her stuff...
<Lucas> Or maybe from Piers Anthony...
<@SLViehl> Anne McCaffrey has a few good ones, twist-wise, but not on the same scale as Anne Perry.
<James> Well, Piers Anthony had Satan turn out to be the good guy after books and books of him apparently being evil.
<@SLViehl> The "Powers" novels she wrote with Scarborough aren't bad. The first one is the best, for an example of a good twist.
<Lucas> Ok, I have read absolutely zero Anne Perry books. They're mysteries, I gather.
<James> In the Incarnations of Immortality series, sorry...
<@SLViehl> Yes, Perry is English. Her stuff comes out in hardcover, so they're in the libraries.
<James> Erk -- sorry, Lucas -- if you haven't read the series I shouldn't have been quite that explicit.
<@SLViehl> Well, as usual, I'm running out of time . . . is everyone up to continue this next month?
<Robert> Absolutely!
<Lucas> I have read the Incarnations books. That's fine James.
<BJ Steeves> Always!!!!
<James> Most certainly
<Jenny> Always.
<Kaelle> Absolutely
<Blair> of course!
<Anne_Marble> OK
<Lucas> Fine. Ready.'
<Jinx> Yep, yep.
<Robert> Waving lots of tentacles happily
<BJ Steeves> Shiela, you need a transcript copy?
<@SLViehl> I'm still working on a mid-length series plotting template. Had to finish my deadlines last month. I'll try to get that done and posted
before the next session.
<@SLViehl> I think Blair and Robert have one for me, Bj, but thanks
<Robert> Purr, thank you. Will send transcript
<Lucas> It's been what seems like a long time since I read the "Powers"
books. After this I'll probably take another look at the first one. (I think I have it.) Maybe I'll look up Anne Perry. I don't usually read
mysteries so it would be one of those out-of-genre-experiences.
<Anne_Marble> Ick, woman stabbed at Inner Harbor. :-<
<@SLViehl> It's good to scout around, Lucas.
<Jinx> Thanks again, Sheila
<@SLViehl> Thanks to all of you for making this another fun Friday.
<Robert> Thanks for a good one, Sheila. This was inspiring!
<Kaelle> Yes! Another great session, Sheila.
<James> Yes -- great heaping thanks again. Always fun.
<Anne_Marble> Thank you!!!
<Jenny> Thank you.
<BJ Steeves> We should be thanking you!
<@SLViehl> And everybody, say a little prayer for me tomorrow as I install
the new computer.
<Jinx> Gives new meaning to the chant -- "FRIDAY!! FRIDAY!!"
<@SLViehl> This is not going to be pretty.
<BJ Steeves> If you need help, you have my email address, I do that for a living.
<Robert> May the sacred cow of Gateway shine and bless S. L. Viehl and all her writings...
<James> Fear not, they're so simple these days.
<Kaelle> Lol, Robert
<@SLViehl> I am serious about changing Friday to be more group-oriented, so if you have any auggestions or ideas. e-mail me at SLViehlworkshop@aol.com
<Damon> g'luck, SLV
<@SLViehl> The only problem is, I'm simpler, James. Ha
<Anne_Marble> Maybe I can do my headhopping thingie.
<Jinx> Gateways are fairly easy, but luck anyway.
<James> Pshaw, I don't believe it
<Blair> yea, but you have an edge.... children.
<@SLViehl> My son Mike is going to make sure I don't mess it up. He's better at computers than me anyway
<Jinx> (they're color coded -- at least mine is -- makes it real easy to figure out what goes where)
<BJ Steeves> Ahhh, but does he get paid for it like I do???
<@SLViehl> I'll run the think-tank idea past Holly and see what she says. I think she'll like it.
<James> It's a cool idea, Sheila.
<Lucas> It sounds like a good idea to me, so I bet it will go.
<Jenny> I'm going to the airport in an hour and a half, so I've got to scoot into the kitchen now and make Christmas cookies. Thanks again, Sheila, and
good night everyone.
<James> See you, Jenny.
<@SLViehl> Okay, that's a wrap for tonight. Good night to you all, and thanks for being here
<Robert> G'night, Jenny!
<Kaelle> Goodnight all
<James> Bye and thanks to all!
<Anne_Marble> Night!
<Jinx> Night, all!
<Lucas> Ok. Great evening. Good night!
<BJ Steeves> Many thanks Sheila, and if you need computer help...YELL!
<@SLViehl> See you all at Holly's -- bye!

 Respond to this message   

12/14/01 -- How to Pitch and Sell a Novel

December 15 2001, 1:44 PM 

Here we go -- welcome to the relocated session for How to Pitch and Sell a novel. I'm your computer-plagued host, S.L. (Sheila) Viehl

As we all know, writing a novel is tough enough, but pitching the idea of your book is kind of an art form in itself

In order to sell your idea to an editor or an agent, you may be called upon to create a pitch, condensing your novel into anything from a 5,000 word synopsis to a 10 word hot premise

When you start working on pitching, you have to think differently, too -- now you're not a writer, you're a sales person. And your consumer is one of the toughest, pickiest buyers in the world.

I'm going to run through the material I've got, and when I throw up a QUESTIONS, as usual, that's when to throw stuff at me. Everyone ready?



Sure am.



Com channels are clear and ready.

One announcement before we start -- Holly approved the Wirter's Think Tank Idea. So we now own Friday night.




Plant the flag.


I'm going to switch over from host to moderator for the think tank sessions, and I'm really looking forward to trying it out.

Anyway, on to Getting Down the Basics

First -- know your novel. Never go into any pitch situation unprepared.

You know how I harp on this theme -- a writer can never know too much about his/her book

This is where your knowledge really counts.

However, you don't want to tell the editor or agent every detail, so you have to condense, a lot or a little, depending on the variety of pitch

One way to get started condensing is to create a novel outline -- index cards are great for this.

It's basically a rundown of your characters, setting, and plot.

(More on this later on in the discussion)

In the various editor pitches I've done, these are some of the questions I was asked -- and my answers follow, in parenthesis

1. What kind of story is it? (Star Wars meets ER meets the Fugitive, Cinderella meets Prince Charmless)

How many books do you envision for this series? (It's open-ended, so I can write as many as you're willing to buy. What length series are you looking for?)

Are you willing to cut back on the romance subplot? (Sure. How much, and in what sections of the story?)

I don't like the heroine being a reporter. How about making her a computer designer? (Can do. How do you see the computer angle affecting the story?)

How fast can you write a sequel? (How soon do you need one?)

How many books can you write in a year? (How many do you want to buy?)

This is an old salesman trick -- answer a question with a question, and you'll find out more information.

Negotiation tip: First guy who answers loses.

Also, note how I tried to pitch my questions toward getting a commitment from the editor/agent

Always be flexible when you're talking to an editor. You can pick your battles later. Get the interest going first.


How much do you usually have outlined, planned, etc when you go to pitch something?

When they ask these questions about what you can do, is it a disaster if you can't always answer "yes?"

If I'm going for a face-to-face, Lucas, I have everything on index cards. Usually five or six, with brief notes on character, plot, and setting, as well as a hot premise (also something we'll get into later on)

Not if you're being honest, James. If you can't do something, better to say it up front than lead on an editor and disappoint them later

Ten words or less.

It's a form of discipline, Ann. Actually, once you get good at it, you can have thirty words or less.


Index cards force everything to be concise, chosen for impact and precision. Ok.

Yeah, there was a romance writer in the 1980s who signed a contract and then couldn't write all the books, so she did something very very very bad to fulfill the contract.

I was worried about the how many books can you write in a year question. My answer: books can be written in a year?

The cards are also easy to flip through that a stack of paper

What I'd say in your case, James, is I go for quality, not speed.

I suppose I can always try

Lots of writers take longer than a year to write a book. Day jobs, working out plot problems, and just creative flow -- they all take different times for everyone.

Thing is, you need to let the editor/agent know this.


My agent just asked me if I could write three books in 120 days. The only reason I said yes is because I've done it before.


I think I'd begin giggling hysterically.

Did you need a new keyboard by the end of that?

I've gone through six computers in five years. It's a lot of mileage

And about ten keyboards, too, I think

Sorry -- lurking, but have to ask -- How long? And what type?

that's with rewrites and everything..right?

the three books in 120 days

Onyx suspense romances -- 90K each

Yep. 120 days max for everything.

What I get in return is three books released next fall, one month apart

maybe someday

Nice! Thanks (Lurking again...)

wow. How do you do it?

Wow. That's intense.

Good think you're having a holiday first...

I'm surprised that it would really be ok to give an answer in terms of "it's like x meets y", but I guess comparing the books to something already on the market would give a fast impression of what you had.

That's why I'm taking the month of December off.

Now on to outlining

This is where clarity really counts

It always makes me think of the guy in "The Player" pitching movies...

Office workers would kill for that kind of flex-time.

The temptation to ramble on and on is overwhelming, especially when you're enthusiastic about your project. Don't do it.

Think of your novel as a used car, and you have to sell it.

How would you list it in a newspaper ad?

Here's an example:

For Sale: 1998 SF Action Novel, fast paced, exotic jungle interior setting, character-driven plot, freedom fighting fugitive engine, great in unexpected plot twists

Play with pitches like this. It helps to have fun with it.


Also, you should be able to tell your editor three things about every individual aspect of your novel

Hi Domynoe. We've shanghaied Chat for a class

Think of these three things as 1) the good, 2)the bad, and 3) the exciting.

oh...i'm sorry...i didn't know. seeeeeeeeeee yas.

i.e.: My protagonist is 1) a brilliant 2)arrogant thoracic surgeon 3) cloned by her mad scientist father

What three things would you say about your setting?

My setting is 1)something good 2)something bad and 3) something exciting. That's your template

domynoe, you can lurk if you want - Sheila doesn't mind.

Oh, did I chase dom away?

Good time for QUESTIONS anyway. Anyone got some?

Is anyone going to be able to copy the transcript? My computer usually crashes when I try to copy a long Cato session.

I'll try, but Drefan is already snickering about kicking me out of conference room one.

i'm am

If it doesn't work, I'll post my notes and whatever else I remember on the Transcripts board.


For Sale: 2105 LunarCorp Antigrav airbus, four door E2 model, lightly driven, perfect finish, atmosphere seals good up to three thousand feet. First 9,000 imperial credits takes it.

Sorry, that add style was just getting to me.

There you go, Lucas. I want to drive that one around the block already

Good = werewolf; bad = outlaw; exciting = see above.

Free To a Good Home... 1 Borken down space opera, many plot holes, and 2 Dimensional Characters... Creative Writer's Special.

neat Lucas...Nathan says it sound good

Oh, no, Blair -- a fixer-upper

lolo blair...I can identify with that one

have to go... bye

lol blair

This chat doesn't work for me. Sorry, Sheila, i guess I'll just catch the transcript.

night magical

bye magic

Sorry Crista

Whoa, looks like we're close to Holly Threshold here!

Bye magic

Yeah, we had to move the Pitching thingie in here.

Only because this is a workshop.

you're welcome to hang with us, darleesh

nah...great minds will eventually flock to us <G>

dar! dang, it's been awhile.

Thank you.

We're heading into Definitions of various pitches now

Sure, stick around darleesh.

The verbal pitch can take anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. It may be in person, face-to-face at a conference, or over the phone.

Oops -- someone at the door -- brb...

I think these are the hardest pitches for people like me, who are not very articulate in person.

One way to combat stumbling over words and forgetting what you mean to say is by using index cards. Also, practice your pitch on a friend or family member.

Okay, thanks, I'll join you if it's not going to be distracting to add someone in the middle of it <G>

And be honest -- tell that editor or agent that you're nervous. It's better to admit it than crash and burn trying to sound confident while you're saying UM as every other word.

Not at all, darleesh, we're very informal.

We stole the chat room for the class.


Sheila couldn't get into conference room 1.

Uh-oh, the boss is here

Hiya Holly

Evil Master SuperComputer kicked me out of conference room one. Java errors

Admiral on the bridge: Aten-HUT!

Okay, to make it official -- any QUESTIONS?

Argh! Be very very careful if you try to find the web site for the sporting goods store called Dicks.

I thought they were sporting goods. (ducking)

Hey, I did a search on female bushrangers for a child at work. You don't want to know...

Tee hee. How often do novelists have to make (eeek) verbal pitchers.

If you go to conferences, figure on at least one pitch per con

hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
Sheila -- what's the toughest pitch you ever won?

U'm back!!

There are those of us who think well on our feet in face to face conferences....and crash and burn on the phone

The heroine shoots the hero on page three was the hardest, I think.

U'm back!!

There are those of us who think well on our feet in face to face conferences....and crash and burn on the phone

hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
I can see where that might have caused some choking.

If there is something buried in the text you think and editor might not like (such as a hero slaughtering heroine), should you omit it from a pitch, or raise it so it can be dealt with up front?

??? I hate coming in right in the middle of a conversation

What didn't he/she like about it? It sounds interesting enough, at least there is no lack of conflict.

Gayle, can you practice on the phone with a friend? I know, I'm not good on the phone either.

Silver, we stole the chat room for the class

This is Sheila's friday night gathering.

Lucas, in a romance, you generally don't want the heroine trying to kill the hero in the first chapter. Sort of ruins the mood. <g>

Trying to imagine pitch session for "Lord Foul's Bane

Oh, a romance

Join us, silver -- we're talking about selling novels via various pitching techniques

hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
I don't pitch on the phone, I'm so awful at it. My canned response is, "I'll have something to you within the week."

I can do it...I just HATE talking on the phone about anything official...put things off forever...get me face to face totally different story

that sounds good holly...wonder if I can use it...

Good way to turn around a bad situation, Gayle -- go with your strengths, always. If you're bad on the phone, I'd do what Holly does.

Does everyone want to take a five minute break for beverages/bathroom/whatever?


hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
Yeah. I can put together a written pitch that will cause eyeballs to fall out of sockets. But I became a writer because I always think of the perfect thing to say ... only ten minutes too late.


sorry i'm late

Sounds good.

wow, already? Sure

Telephone presence is often hard to establish.

Hey Deb. Sorry we had to relocate, Evil Computer sabotaged me tonight.


So Holly, you write 'em, we'll read 'em?

My experience says that for many of us it takes mucho mucho practice.

brb, I'm going to put the kettle on

That makes sense. What better way for a writer to make an impact than by writing the pitch? It's what a writer is (we hope) good at.

<loo break>

True, Lucas. Best way to shine is in print.

Whoooosh back

hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
I'm going to head on out while we're in break. I just saw a herd and thought I'd find out why.

hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
I still have a bunch of words to write.


Irrestible, isn't it Holly?

Okay, we can go back to our discussion about taking over the site and . . . oh, night, Holly.

Er, add missing syllable.

bye holly


hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
At least for me, dar. That and stuff that sparkles.

Ok Holly. Good night.


That's it, Sheila, make her think it's a joke

hollylisle(1346 words and counting):
Have fun. Talk to you again soon.

Night holly

night holly from both of us

Bye Holly!

See you, Holly -- good luck with the word count!

Now how did they fit two types of ice cream into this ice cream sandwich? It's like a yin/yang ice cream.

BTW, if anyone wants to practice pitches on me, I'm at your disposal for the next two weeks. E-mail me at SLViehlworkshop@aol.com


The Admiral has left the bridge. At ease men, women, bisexuals, asexuals...

As you were.

Silicone buds, energy beings, demons, sprites, computers, androids...

writingbear(me and my son shadow):
my son has decided he's going to be second skin and a cat

Back to pitching tents. (If you read that bad sex writing award thingie a few days ago, that will have a different meaning.)

I want ice cream now. (smacking Anne)



Tools to help you prepare to pitch your, um, tents or whatever

The dreaded novel SYNOPSIS

Oooooh. Google now lets you search on-line catalogs. http://catalogs.google.com/

Write one. Just get it over with now.

writingbear(me and my son shadow):
so does Nathan...he was unhappy when I walked by the ice cream case without stopping

If this editor you're pitching wants to see one, you should have it ready. Seriously.

The good thing (yes, there is one) about a synopsis is that it will help you outline everything.

All your important facts should be in the synopsis, so that's where you go to pick out what you need for your index cards.

Which brings us to the index cards.

Some people would rather be more sophisticated in a face-to-face, so you can use your Palm or whatever instead of the actual cards.

But I like index cards, so I use those.

Wow, and I thought cards were better than writing it on my palm... Oh, you mean a hand held computer, er, right.

Print on them, not in pencil, and make sure you write big enough to read it.

Nothing more off-putting than a writer peering at an index card like a blind person.

you use index cards during a face-to-face meeting?

Lol, Lucas. Yes, I mean the hand held data devices we all know and love

Just don't start playing "Bejeweled" on your Palm while pitching...

I do, because I go completely blank when someone asks me what my books are about in person.

You should see me at booksignings. I'm a riot.

Well, and how easy is it to remember 542 books?

Tape recorder -- practice your pitch on tape, then listen to yourself (this is good for written as well as verbal pitches.)


543, Karen. I finished one in the shower tonight. <g>


When I give workshops in person, I always have someone video tape me. This is another way you can practice a pitch.

I watch my tapes like a football coach -- I try to catch mistakes or lulls or ways I could have done things better

I'm terrible one-on-one, but put me in front of a crowd and I seem to do better


Some secret insider stuff -- keep a glass of water nearby when you pitch over the phone. You won't believe the dry-mouth you get, talking.

If you're pitching in person, keep a Tic Tac or small mint in your mouth. Just don't crunch it.

Kleenex -- always check to see if your hands are damp before you shake an editor's. Nothing worse than a squishy handshake.

How is your name blank?

Oops, sorry.

No problem. QUESTIONS?

So, it's sorta like describing a movie you've seen to somebody?

CRucker(Getting a beat down from Cato):

Exactly, Karen.

Ok, I've done that.

Only you tell the ending to the agent/editor.

Yes, and you want a dramatic, high-impact ending, so add in whatever major twist you have in your plot that's revealed at the end of your book.


Like "The killer is her new friend, the baker, who turns out to be a religious fanatic."

I'd add something like, "and who has been grinding up the bones to add to the bread."

But then, I'm twisted.


They might have noticed that...

Wait, that's been done. Jack and the beanstalk.

"New! Calcium Enriched!"

The villagers, I mean.

Lucas is even more twisted


Shall we move on to the Hot Premise?

"The Fugitive meets the Wolfman meets Sweeney Todd."

writingbear(me and my son shadow):
There's a broadway musical with that theam Anne only he's a barber

I need lessons in twisted.

Sure. Let's go.

Cato is eating my posts

I should add cats and poor orphans (Annie or Cosette).

To the bread, Anne?

Down, James.


James is more twisted than you and me put together, Lucas.

I simply have exotic tastes in bread...


The hot premise is a lot like car advertising, except it should read more to stir immediate interest.

You should see my muffins with puppy sprinkles...

Like "Brand-new Porsche, $100.00 OBO."

(smacking James)

rofmao and snorting

Actually, I had a potential plot for the werewolf character that involved a muffin man -- the townspeople lynched him because they thought he was the child molester.

ASPCA - We've heard reports of some guy named "James"...

The best serious example is one Kaelle hopped right on -- movies.

Read the descriptions of movies in the TV guide.

Some are lame, but some are very hot.

"An Egyptologist and a mercenary battle a reanimated monster"

Nine words = The Mummy

A man has 24 hours to kill the governor or his daughter dies.

Adulterous lovers are caught by an unexpected volcano.

Baker uses stray animals as bread seasonings.

You get the general idea here.

The way you construct the perfect premise requires three keys:

emotional, occupational, and situational.

CRucker(Getting a beat down from Cato):

First, present your protagonist (cause he/she/they are what they story's about) identifying them with emotional and occupational tags, i.e.:

Renegade fugitive scientist

Religious immortal healer

Defiant enslaved soldier

CRucker(Getting a beat down from Cato):

Second, go for the situational description:

--leaves homeworld

--sacrifices beliefs

--escapes imprisonment

Finally, end with the protagonist's intent (not how the story ends. Remember, you're stirring interest, not satisfying it):

--to save dying enemy race

--to cure a planet-killing plague

-- to lead rebellion against all slavers

so what you end up with is this:

Renegade fugitive scientist leaves homeworld to save dying enemy race.

Religious immortal healer sacrifices beliefs to cure a planet-killing plague.

Definat enslaved soldier escapes imprisonment to lead rebellion against all slavers.

A hot premise doesn't have to tell the story, or even the end to the story. It's all a set-up, a lure -- something to pull the editor or agent's interest

What you don't want in a hot premise --

Too many words.

Again, the temptation to ramble is overwhelming. Avoid it, and keep your premise short and sweet (that's why I said 10 words. When you get good at ten, then you can have 30)

You should seriously be able to tell anyone about your novel in ten words or less.

Unimportant details.

Compare these two premises:

A badly wounded soldier tunnels out of prison to start a riot in a city in the desert surrounded by oases.

That premise has WAY too much detail.

Defiant enslaved soldeier escapes imprisonment to lead rebellion against all slavers.


That premise gives you more meat. More of the story, in a big way.


And the last thing you don't want to be in a premise is boring.

Boring is: A priest leaves his church to help the sick.

Better: Religious immortal healer sacrifices beliefs to cure a planet killing plague.

They both mean the same thing, but one is definitely more exciting than the other.


I think I have mine: "Student mage battles fear of magic and ancient gods."

I'm questionless -- that was very neat and clear. Now I just need to practice.

No, that's battles ancient gods and fear of magic.

That's good, Kae


"Fugitive werewolf saves village from mad slasher"? (I'd have to leave out the part about her former lover pursuing her)

I'd take out "of magic" and add a couple of words at the end as to why your student is doing this -- i.e. for what?

Hmm. Let me think.

I'm fading fast, must snooze. Thank you all, and nighty night.

That woudl be Dar leaving...

That's sort of an ending, Anne -- how about "Hunted werewolf battles mad slasher intent on mass murder?"

Oh! Bye dar!

night, Anon

See you

No, not mass murder -- but something like that

night dar

OK, that sounds good.

A rogue time traveller fights to prevent a deadly technological contagion from engulfing the galaxy.

(That's the TV tie-in proposal I'm semi working on.

Oh, I know -- "Hunted werewolf battles mad slasher for possession of village."

I'd take out "to prevent" and "from", James, otherwise, beautiful.

Ooh, James, I'd like to read that.

A demi-goddess travels in time to save humanity from the wrath of the Time Goddess.

That could work, though the possession part might make it sound as if she wants to rule. Darn, no room for the vampiric ruling class in there.

...and Crista's.

Maybe "rogue", too.

If it ever materializes, you may be sure I'll shout in on the discussion board, Kaelle!

time travellers being rogues of a sort

"For possession of village" That almost makes it hard to even tell who the good guy is, but you've got to figure that the "mad slasher" can't be a very positive sort of character.

Anyway, that's a good catch line.

Good, Crista -- though I'd cut one of the "time" and "goddess" out, replace them with synonyms

The "mad slasher" could be the kindly owner of a discount store with craaaazy prices...

Mad slasher is definitely a bad guy tag.

Bitter exiled mage battles vengeful ghost to save new friends.

Outlaw werewolf tracks a mad slasher to a defenseless village.

I was being a little facetious. You're right, it is quite clear.

"Student mage overcomes fear to save her world from ancient gods."

Your problem, Lucas, was in being a little facetious -- you need to be entirely facetious


I'd take out "tracks" Anne and still put in battles, in a defenseless village.

Here's a trick for doing it in ten -- if you are in word, put up a table of five collumns, two rows. One word in each spot.

A demi-goddess travels through time to save humanity from the wrath of a jealous deity.

No, then I'd sound like my uncle Bruce, and that I don't want.

You're allowed to be facetious here, Lucas. In fact, we kick you out if you're not.

Neat trick, zette


In that list of movies you mentioned, I think I saw (and liked) the movie that was about the guy who had to kill the politician or else his daughter would be killed. It was really tense.

Great, Crista! Now, to trim it down even more -- A demi-goddess time-travels to save humanity from a jealous deity's wrath.

That was a Johnny Depp movie. Really suspenseful.

I think it was one hour, though, wasn't it?

Child receives ruling power that grandmother desires

And darned if I can remember the title.

What kind of child, Gayle?

And what kind of grandma?

Oh, drat, I've run out of time again, haven't I?

I'm thinking of another movie now that you've reminded me about that one. I really liked the twist in the movie (was it "Ransom"?) where the rich man whose son had been kidnapped went on tv with a pile of money and said something like: "This all is the money you asked for, a million dollars, right here, but you know what? You're not going to get one cent of it, not one penny, because I'm taking this money, and I'm placing it as a bounty on your heads."

Still, running out of time's not a problem now that we own Friday night

That was Ransom, I remember the trailer

Child receives ruling power that control hungry grandmother desires

I never saw it. Too chicken, my son was the same age as the kid in the movie.

Yes, we do, don't we, James? Heh heh.

Johnny Mnemonic?



need to think of how I would describe J'tai....when she WAS a child

How about this, Gayle -- Avaricious grandmother plots to overthrow innocent child ruler?

Hi tayana -- we're just wrapping up a relocated class here, to explain the posts.

For my other series, A fairy halfling must over come the prejudice to forge peace between the two races.

sounds good

Children are innocent, gifted, vulnerable

Maybe I should get out my Thesaurus...

Thesauruses are your friends when condensing for premises!

Sounds like it!

I like that one, Crista.

Nathan is sitting here waiting for me to come turn the VCR on....He wants to watch Speed

Can someone cut and paste about the first 10 lines or so after 'Questions' for this last question session? i'll have a complete transcript then

tonight among other movies that he checked out

night all

'night, Gayle


Precocious girl child recieves power that ambitious grandmother covets.(?)

Will do, Blair. Night Gayle

that sounds better...thanks zette

I should say, Will do if I can, Blair. Drefan is giving me a really hard time tonight.

Gifted noble's daughter must deny love and endure slavery to save a captive people.

Yeah, I like that better too, zette

Dear lord! It finally posted!

Just playing around, Deb. Don't know the story, so I can't tell if it fits or not. But it was fun to try it out.

I'd change "must deny" to "denies" and "endure" to "endures", Sarah

We were wondering if you were just being shy out there tonight, DG <g>

Present tense in the premise?

Its the posts between Questions and Kaelle: No, that's battles ancient gods and fear of magic that I need

Right. That was the version that Cato ate.

I go for present tense, Kae.


More immediate, and right now always has allure

Any last questions before we wrap it up, folks?

See, this is why I really enjoy your workshops. I learn so much.

I will schedule part two of this in the beginning of Jan, and post a notice on the calendar

Anyone here use Netscrape 6.2?

Kaelle - Have you ever been to a workshop where you went away knowing less than you did when you started?

lol - nope

I'd like to thank all of you --especially zette, who saved my butt-- for coming over tonight and making this another great get together

Abandoning knowing is the first step to learning. Or something.

(grin) You did not use smiley faces. You are my friend...

There's one now!


I see 'zette as Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.

Okay, I feel better now.

Nothing wrong with smiley faces

I knew that was coming...

oh...thats soooo in the transcript too <G>

Armed and dangerous


oh gods another they won't let me go arghh


Ooh no, this must be that mad slasher we were talking about earlier, only he's a mad splatter...

Now, now, children -- no teasing zette





Hi Andrew

Hi Andrew


didn't Capt kirk have to deal with a smiley infestation.... no those were tribbles....same dif

I'll also be posting info on the new writer's think tank sessions. I'm just going to block out Friday nights from here to eternity.

Sounds good to me, Sheila

'cause we OWN 'em now!

I have an infestation of tribbles right now. No, that's stray cats -- but it's the same thing. Feed one and they just multiply.

Very good -- let's hope eternity doesn't break the community calendar...


gremlins are like that too....

<g> James

Also upcoming -- the mid length series plotting template is nearly complete. Stay tuned to the class sign-up board, I'll be posting it next week.

sorry about that; Netscrape exploded on me

Ahh, ok, I'll be looking forward to that template.

And if you want to practice pitching, e-mail me. SLViehlworkshop@aol.com, until Dec 31st. That;s when the writer chains get clapped back on.


And a reminder to everyone to sign up for the next dare...

Ok, will do.

Yes. (smacking all heads) Write!

Well, I guess, considering as how it's about 11:30 here, I should probably be signing off now.

Count on it!


http://www.network54.com/Hide/Forum/70750 for dare info...

(shielding head with keyboard)

I'm going to switch over and try to copy this chat thing now. Will send you what I get, Blair.

I think I will sign up for this dare. I have a light schedule next semester (only two AP classes instead of the three or four I usually have)

Goodnight all, and thanks again.

Oh yes, please sign up for the dare. Join the writing madness. You've heard of March madness; this is writing madness.

Thanks again, Sheila, and everyone else, for a brilliant afternoon. Catch you around the boards!


 Respond to this message   

12/21/01 -- How to Write about Injury/Disease Transcript

December 22 2001, 12:50 PM 

Professional Writing Workshops at HollyLisle.com
12/21/01 -- How to Write about Injury, Disease, and Other Medical Situations

<@SLViehl> Tonight we're going to discuss how to write about injury and disease, the most common afflictions, what happens to your characters under
these conditions
<@SLViehl> and how to research specific conditions
<@SLViehl> I'll do the usual presentation, throw up QUESTIONS, then hit me
with whatever you've got. Everyone ready?
<James> Yep!
<Kaelle> yep
<Deedlit> yup
<gayle> yes
<kiarlie> yup
<Anne_Marble> OK
<Jinx> yes!
<BJ Steeves> As the Ferengi say, I'm all ears!
<@SLViehl> All right then. If you consider that up to one third of all Americans visit an emergency room every year, it's pretty safe to say that
everyone gets sick or injured on a regular basis
<@SLViehl> How you depict illness and injury in your story is important, too -- for example, a character with a massive head injury can't function
normally, and you need to know how that injury affects their physical/mental performance as a character
<@SLViehl> This can be intimidating, unless you take a little time and do some research.
<@SLViehl> There are two categories of conditions I'd like to cover tonight -- emergency, or life-threatening conditions, and urgent, or
non-life-threatening conditions.
<@SLViehl> Let's wrestle with what can actually kill your character first -- the most common emergency conditions
<@SLViehl> Possible heart attack:
<@SLViehl> Signs may include severe pain in the middle of the chest
<@SLViehl> pain in the jaw or upper back
<@SLViehl> numbness (loss of sensation)
<@SLViehl> pain that spreads to arms, especially the left arm
<@SLViehl> shortness of breath
<@SLViehl> cold sweats.
<@SLViehl> Self-treatment: characters previously treated for heart conditions will either take nitro or pop an aspirin
<@SLViehl> This condition, as all the life-threatening conditions, requires immediate medical attention.
<@SLViehl> Possible stroke:
<@SLViehl> Signs may include sudden fainting
<@SLViehl> dizziness, slurred speech
<@SLViehl> changes in vision
<@SLViehl> stupor (disorientation or non-responsiveness)
<@SLViehl> marked weakness on one side of the face, or one or more extremitites -- all on the same side of the body
<@SLViehl> Patients on blood thinner therapy may take a dose of Coumadin before reporting to the ER
<@SLViehl> Shock:
<@SLViehl> signs include pale, clammy skin,
<@SLViehl> weak, rapid heartbeat
<@SLViehl> shallow, racey breathing
<@SLViehl> lackluster eyes
<@SLViehl> cool extremities.
<@SLViehl> While conscious, the patient may be confused, weak, or anxious and excited
<@SLViehl> This patient should be made to lie face up, with feet elevated (unless this causes pain, or there is a suspicion of spine or neck injury, in which case, don't move them.)
<@SLViehl> The most important thing is to keep a shock patient still and calm.
<@SLViehl> Unconsciousness: if you are unable to wake or rouse the person
<@SLViehl> Check around the patient for signs of drug overdose or electrical shock
<@SLViehl> Extreme difficulty breathing: usually indicates an allergic reaction or an asthma attack
<@SLViehl> No pulse, no respiration: this does not mean the person is dead(yet.)
<@SLViehl> In this case, you must immediately begin CPR, or dial 911 and
have the operator talk you through CPR
<@SLViehl> By the way, you can take free classes in CPR from your local chapter of the American Red Cross, and it's an excellent thing to know.
<@SLViehl> Possible spinal cord injury:
<@SLViehl> The patient cannot use one or more limbs, and has no sensation in the same
<@SLViehl> Do not move this patient.
<@SLViehl> Severe bleeding: if bleeding cannot be stopped with application of direct pressure for 10 minutes
<@SLViehl> Continue to apply direct pressure as the patient is transported to the ER
<@SLViehl> Hyperthermia: aka heat stroke -- signs may include confusion
<@SLViehl> bizarre behavior, strong and rapid pulse
<@SLViehl> extreme fatigue
<@SLViehl> rapid heartbeat
<@SLViehl> loss of consciousness
<@SLViehl> body temperature over 104 degrees F
<@SLViehl> lack of sweating
<@SLViehl> dry, red skin
<@SLViehl> Hypothermia: the exact opposite -- signs may include slow pulse and breathing
<@SLViehl> cessation of shivering (stillness of the limbs, inability to shiver)
<@SLViehl> drowsiness or diminished alertness
<@SLViehl> frostbite in the extremities
<@SLViehl> loss of consciousness
<@SLViehl> With both cases of thermic stress, do not try to cool the patient down or warm them up. Get them to the ER
<Jinx> What is the medical reason for that last statement, Sheila? Out of curiousity.
<James> A trivial question -- by why do people stop sweating/shivering in hyper/hypothermia? You'd think they'd do it more than ever...
<@SLViehl> Sometimes people will delay seeking treatment, attempting to revive a thermic patient. This is a controlled procedure that needs to be
monitored by a doctor. Removing them from the source of the heat/cold is the best a non-medical person can do, then get them to the ER
<Anne_Marble> What if there's no ER? :-< For example, in a traditional fantasy setting, most of these people will be toast. Is it time to bring in
Amrboise Pare? Or a mystic healer?
<Jinx> So, the patient shouldn't be brought back to normal temperature too quickly, which is something a non-medical person may do?
<@SLViehl> The central nervous system is what controls sweating and shivering, and after prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures is no longer capable of normal function. This, along with body temperature
elevation/decrease is what causes the tissue damage
<James> Ah. Once you get to that point, would that mean the nervous system could be permanently damaged?
<kia> .
<@SLViehl> If you have a character who will be unable to receive proper treatment, you're probably going to need magic, Anne. Life-threatening conditions kill, and most regular people don't know how to do more than
basic first aid.
<Kaelle> How do people act with severe blood loss? What happens with their bodies?
<Anne_Marble> Think of the story ideas that could generate!
<@SLViehl> The problem with reviving the thermic patient is inducing systemic stress. Cold patients need to be warmed up steadily, but slowly --
by degrees. Otherwise, you risk gangrene in the extremities, along with cardiac shock, stroke, and about a dozen other reactions
<@SLViehl> James, the most dangerous aspect is loss of oxygen and blood to the brain -- that's what causes brain damage. If you have a cardiac incident involved with reviving the thermic patient, you're facing two
extremely serious problems instead of one. And the body can only handle so much
<BlairB> when someone dies from a heart attack or stroke are there any visual clues as to what happened??
<Jinx> Oooh.. thank you, Sheila.
<@SLViehl> Anne, people who experience significant blood loss suffer many of the same symptons as shock patients.
<James> I don't think I had a clue that hyper/hypothermia were so dangerous! Thanks.
<kia> how long does someone who has either stopped breathing, or heart stopped have to be resucitated before they are properly dead?
<@SLViehl> I think we had a discussion once on the world-building board about how long someone who slit their wrists could remain conscious, how long it would take them to bleed to death, etc.
<James> If you're in the midst of a heart attack -- do stress or exertion make it worse? I mean, in story terms, if your character begins a heart
attack and then the villain bursts in waving guns and attacking them, will the heart attack become worse, more quickly fatal?
<@SLViehl> Kia, there are different procedures, depending on who's reviving the patient, but generally, ten minutes if the body is warm, twenty if the body is hypothermic (cold)
<@SLViehl> The other way to positively identify death is with an EEG. No waves = brain death.
<kia> why is it longer if the body is cold??
<@SLViehl> Stress is probably the main contributor to fatal heart attacks, James. In the initial stages of a myocardial infarction, for example, the
heart's natural rhythm is disrupted and becomes erratic. An elevation in blood pressure, due to stress, only increases the demand on the heart, which
in turn aggravates the arrhythmia.
<@SLViehl> It's a medical oddity, Kia, but cold bodies actually go into a kind of dormancy, similar to hybernation in some animals. In humans, it's
not a natural state, so it's only temporary. But the cold body is able to sustain brain activity and repel neural cell death longer than a warm body
<James> So heart attack isn't one of the conditions where your character can go on doing superhuman things and later put it down on a burst of
stress-induced endurance... Good to know
<@SLViehl> Most folks experience a heart attack are completely disabled by the immense pain (which is sometimes described as "crushing"). It affects
respiration and motor functions to the point of near-total impairment
<@SLViehl> Also, once the heart actually stops, this disrupts blood flow to the brain, and the brain shuts down.
<@SLViehl> No brain, no physical activity
<James> And yet politicians move around so much in parliamentary broadcasts...
<@SLViehl> Most of the time I read books where characters practically break into song and dance after experiencing a life-threatening injury or reaching
a critical stage in disease. This does not happen in real life. People get this sick, they are seriously incapacited.
<@SLViehl> Ah, well, politicians. They have no brains to begin with.
<kia> lol
<Anne_Marble> In romance novels, they often have sex after life-threatening
<@SLViehl> Okay, let's move on to the lesser, non-life-threatening conditions
<@SLViehl> Some conditions do not require your characters to rush to the ER
<James> I've mentioned my friend who was burned a few times -- she really did walk miles to find help, crisped over large parts of her body. She
still can't believe she did it. She even thought to remove her wedding ring in case her hands swelled!
<@SLViehl> but they're still serious, and can become potentially life-threatening
<@SLViehl> if they remain untreated, that is.
<@SLViehl> Believe it or not, James, most burn cases are considered non-life-threatening
<@SLViehl> But I'll be getting to that down the list.
<James> Gotcha.
<@SLViehl> An infant less than 2 months old who has a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher on a rectal thermometer -- this indicates signs of a serious
infection and the baby needs immediate attention.
<@SLViehl> Very young infants do not have the physical stamina or resistance to illness that older children enjoy.
<@SLViehl> Severe vommitting or diarrhea, again, especially in infants.
<@SLViehl> I can testify to this -- my son Mike began vomitting at 7 am one morning at age 1-1/2. He could not keep any fluids down.
<@SLViehl> Twelve hours later, he was fighting for his life in ICU
<@SLViehl> Had I waited even two hours longer to take him to the doctor, he would have died from a severe reaction to an ecoli infection
<@SLViehl> which we believe he got playing out in the yard, possibly getting some animal feces on his hands, then putting his fingers in his mouth.
<@SLViehl> That's how quickly these situations can turn on you.
<@SLViehl> Poisoning -- first, you have to locate the toxic agent, read the label, and follow the accidental poisoning instructions.
<@SLViehl> If you can't, you contact Poison Control or 911.
<@SLViehl> Often most poisoning cases are not fatal, but extremely debilitating.
<@SLViehl> Serious injuries, such as possible broken bones, a head injury without loss of consciousness, or serious burns, the kind James' friend suffered.
<@SLViehl> Again, these are quite painful but usually not life-threatening.
<@SLViehl> Severe pain anywhere -- unexplained, constant pain that will not go away.
<@SLViehl> This can be anything from muscle strains to internal bleeding -- it's impossible to know without an exam by a professional.
<@SLViehl> The difference between these two types of conditions is the effect the symptons have on your characters. The first list is going to
incapacitate them. The second is going to inhibit but not necessarily incapacitate them.
<@SLViehl> (and hi to everyone who came in late)
<James> Vomiting and diarrhea -- is the danger in them dehydration?
<gayle> what kind of poisons are cumlative...that make your character sick for a period of time before they die
<@SLViehl> Exactly, James. Also, in some cases, stomach or bowel damage, depending on the severity and duration of the illness
<Kaelle> What about STDs? How long can someone go untreated? And can they become life threatening?
<@SLViehl> arsenic is probably the most accumulative poison (deliberate) while lead is probably #1 in accidental, exposure-type poisonings, Gayle
<Anne_Marble> Writer's Digest had a book about poisoning written just for authors. Don't know if it's still in print, but I'd recommend looking for
<gayle> Yeah...I have it on hold at the library
<Labloch> hi all. Gayle, I think mercury's a good poison, too
<Anne_Marble> It rocks. :
<James> In what can only be described as a long story, I once drank an entire coffee mug of bleach -- poisoning aint so bad...
<Jinx> Well, that certainly explains some things. ;-P
<Labloch> whoa, James!
<gayle> lolol
<Jinx> <teases James>
<@SLViehl> Kae, syphillis and gonnorhea can go untreated literally for years. There are significant stages in syphilitic patients, and when you
get to a certain stage, there is no way to repair the damage. But lots of people lived out their lives with these archaic STDS. HIV, on the other hand, usually manifests into full blown AIDS within the first five years of infection, and is sadly still a terminal
<James> You mean my deep purity of body and spirit...
<Jinx> Oh.. uh, sure. That's what I meant.
<@SLViehl> Whoa, James
<BJ Steeves> That sounded a little "wishy washy" to me James!
<Kaelle> <groan>
<James> Ouch
<Anne_Marble> I want to go see the Mutter Museum in Phillie. It's a teaching museum for med students (open to the public), and it includes stuff like
castings used to teach about old horrid diseases.
<@SLViehl> Mercury is an effective poison, often transmitted through eating tainted fish, good point, Labloch
<Labloch> the Japanese also have this semi-suicidal thing with pufferfish sushi, too
<Labloch> ah, gotta love red tide, too. <g>
<@SLViehl> Oleander was being used by quite a few mystery writers as a "natural poison" in their books. I've used foxglove, which produces digitalis, myself. King seems to prefer belladonna (deadly nightshade)
<Labloch> I read once in (don't laugh) an A. Christie book that somebody got killed with liquid nicotine. True?
<Anne_Marble> I once wrote a fantasy story that involved poisoning. I think I used arsenic. Some of the crits asked "But what was the point of the
burning sensation in his hands and feet?" Symptoms perhaps?!
<James> Agatha Christie managed to kill someone with just about everything in known existence.
<Labloch> lol sheila---"poor sod was overexcited, I believe..."
<@SLViehl> I don't know the book, L, but it is possible to poison someone with nicotine. Death by wearing too many nicoderm patches has actually been
<Labloch> whoa, really?
<Anne_Marble> Yeah, nicotine is a great insectiside. And there are theories that it was one of the poisons used in Renaissance intrigue.
<Anne_Marble> Remember, Agatha used to work in a dispensary during a world war. ;->
<Labloch> James--so true!
<Labloch> hehe. that explains a lot...<g>
<BlairB> i worked with a guy who was on the 'patch' he had a smoke while wearing it, and collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital... never heard what the exact cause was though.
<@SLViehl> Arsenic poisoning via inhalation was quite popular -- they often spiked candles with it, from what I've read
<James> Bloody medical people -- you can't trust them...
<Labloch> you can inhale arsenic?
<@SLViehl> Sure.
<Labloch> Wow. How much of a tolerance can you build to poisons like that?(a pastime of royalty...)
<Anne_Marble> In Dragonwyck, someone was murdered (slowly I think) because her evil hubby kept giving her oleander in flower arrangments. Would that
work? Don't you have to burn it?
<@SLViehl> I've got a list of common household items which can kill you -- anyone want me to post it on the boards somewhere?
<Labloch> That would be great!
<gayle> could it be put on fabric so that people didn't suspect what was happening?
<James> Sheila, harping here -- but could we expect people with gunshot or knife wounds, broken bones, and other lesser injuries, to go on functioning
because of stress -- or is it the same deal, stories of people doing that are pure fiction and urban myth?
<Anne_Marble> Yes. :-> (Hey, did you hear about that mystery fan in Florida who ended up on death row for poisoning his neighbor?...)
<@SLViehl> Oleander has to be ingested, if I'm not mistaken -- let me check the poison book here.
<gayle> arsenic that is
<James> A list of murder methods -- excellent. I shall start laying plans...
<Anne_Marble> I'll have to watch that fillum again to figure out what he was doing. I have heard of people getting killed because they roasted hot dogs
on oleander sticks, so it must be purty potent.
<BlairB> <mental note> refuse any packages from James.....
<@SLViehl> I think the fiction writer tends to take advantage of the short-term effects of adrenaline, James. It does create a brief period where a patient can function on near-normal terms. But not under
life-threatening conditions. The heart attack patient who pulls his wife from a burning car just isn't realistic
<@SLViehl> Nobody mess with James.
<Anne_Marble> If all else fails, don't forget microbiology! My micro teacher
(no, he wasn't really really short) used to remind us "Never piss off a microbiologist."
<Labloch> scientists, period! (or writers, come to think of it...)
<James> It's probably safest never to piss off anyone
<gayle> break??
<Kaelle> Blade wounds - how active can the injured be? How [lol at Anne] soon can a person do strenuous activities?
<Anne_Marble> Even Conan had to receover after his injuries!
<@SLViehl> Anne, I'll have to get back to you on your question -- my book only has ingestion as a source of oleander poisoning, but I'd like to dig out a few more books.
<@SLViehl> Whoops, thanks Gayle, we should take a break now. Kae, depends on the area on the body, and the depth of the wound
<@SLViehl> Let's take five then we'll pick up from there, okay?
<gayle> YES
<Labloch> ok
<James> I'm a health and safety officer in my office, and they put us through a course designed to show what can happen in any given industry. I didn't sleep for a week afterwards. A co-worker turning on an industrial kiln damn near as hot as the surface of the sun while someone was inside still gives me nightmares...
<Sarah> okay
<Jinx> Yep!
<Anne_Marble> I guess the hot dog stick is a form of ingestion, because oleander ended up in the hot dog.
<Anne_Marble> OK
<Sarah> Ah, finally, it's letting me type!
<@SLViehl> Everybody say Happy Birthday to Sarah
<Anne_Marble> Now that it's break time.
<Anne_Marble> Happy Birthday to Sarah!
<Labloch> James--on a regular basis, for testing, or for revenge?!
<Kaelle> Happy Birthday, Sarah!
<Sarah> <g> Thank you!
<Crista> Happy Birthday!
<Labloch> Happy B-day!
<@SLViehl> brb, running for tea
<BJ Steeves> Many happy returns!
<Anne_Marble> BRB
<kia> happy birthday sarah
<James> Oh, yes, Happy Birthday, Sarah! Meant to post to the discussion board...
<Kaelle> What does 'many happy returns' mean, anyway?
<James> By accident, Kaelle. Imagine having to live with having done that to someone.
<Kaelle> James, what?
<Kaelle> <picture confused face>
<James> Fear not -- I read the screen cross-eyed -- I was answering Labloch
<Kaelle> Ah, gotcha.
<James> Wishing someone many happy returns is not a terrible thing to have to live with
<Kaelle> lol
<Sarah> Lol!
<@SLViehl> I think it means you get to exchange all those ties and perfume collections for something you really want, Kae
<gayle> happy birthday sarah
<Sarah> Thank you.
<Kaelle> That's what I was wondering...did it mean returning gifts you didn't want, or maybe many more birthdays to come?
<Labloch> maybe it means happy reincarnations
<Labloch> heh
<Kaelle> I'll go with that, lol
<James> Or a reference to post-birthday cake indigestion...
<Kaelle> eww
<kia> lol
<@SLViehl> No getting gross, James
<Labloch> James is going to be the next Stephen King, I see...<g>
<James> I'm a guy -- I'm allowed to make burping jokes.
<@SLViehl> Yes, so everyone keep notes for the expose we're going to write about him after he's famous
<BlairB> i have detailed files <G>
<@SLViehl> (smack) no burping jokes!
<Labloch> "...I was on his list of death by arsenic..."
<Anne_Marble> Puff puff puff
<Crista> LOL
<James> The damning indictment there is you were on my list but lived to write the expose
<Labloch> we're a resilient bunch!
<@SLViehl> Hokay, are we all back and ready to move on?
<Labloch> yup
<gayle> sort of
<James> I'm caffeined up and ready to go.
<Anne_Marble> Yes
<Kaelle> ok
<Jinx> Yes!
<Sarah> Yup.
<Crista> Yis. This stuff is facinating.
<kia> yup
<@SLViehl> How the Medical Community Treats Injuries and Diseases
<gayle> okay...now I am
<BlairB> bloody ready!
<@SLViehl> Obviously, I can't give you a run down on every single treatment, but I'll try an overview
<@SLViehl> For non-life-threatening illnesses, patients usually see their doctor at his/her office
<@SLViehl> The most common conditions seen at a doctor's office are minor injuries like sprains, strains, bumps, bruises and cuts. Also common
infections like severe colds, asthma, allergic reactions and migraines
<@SLViehl> The doctor treats each patient individually, based on current physical condition, prior med history, and environmental needs
<@SLViehl> This usually involves medicating for pain, infection, and localized treatment, such as minor suturing, splinting, or casting.
<@SLViehl> Along with the physical treatment, the doctor prescribes any necessary alteration of diet, work capability, and rest schedules.
<@SLViehl> Life-threatening conditions are more complicated
<@SLViehl> Patients are triaged at the hospital or trauma center based solely on severity of the injury or illness, regardless of arrival time
<@SLViehl> There's something we call the ABC's of trauma -- airways, bleeding, circulation
<@SLViehl> these are the three most important systemic functions that sustain life, and they must be treated in that order
<@SLViehl> Obviously, a patient who can't breathe must be provided assistance, through medication and/or intubation (insertion of a tube in the throat to force air into the lungs)
<@SLViehl> Severe bleeding must be stopped. In some cases, this requires immediate surgical attention in trauma
<@SLViehl> Circulation must be restored to whatever extremity is affected, or the patient runs the risk of gangrene (tissue death)
<@SLViehl> The main problem faced by trauma workers is that we're no longer getting patients with single wounds, or single-system trauma
<@SLViehl> In LA, when we got a GSW (gun shot wound) to the chest, nine times out of ten the patient was shot in another area of the body.
<@SLViehl> Many would be high on drugs, or have multiple stab wounds along with the GSWs
<@SLViehl> The body, while incredibly resilient, can only take so much damage
<@SLViehl> And the trauma professional can only do so much in the short period of time it takes for an injured patient to die from blood loss,
shock, or cardiac/cerebral complications
<@SLViehl> Also, one half of all patients seen in ERs come with pre-existing comorbities -- conditions they have before they got sick or wounded.
<@SLViehl> High blood pressure is the most common comorbity
<@SLViehl> drug abuse, psychoses, and depression are most common in patients from adolescence to age 44
<@SLViehl> Alcohol abuse is also a leading comorbidity and I'm spelling that wrong again, sorry
<@SLViehl> it's comorbidity.
<@SLViehl> The #1 cause of patients being admitted for inpatient care from trauma in the US, believe it or not, is pneumonia.
<@SLViehl> other leading conditions requiring hospitalization -- stroke, chronic obstructive lung disease like emphysema or bronchitis, asthma, and
septicemia (blood infection)
<@SLViehl> So basically remember if your character has a pre-existing illness, this is going to add to the current crisis.
<James> Would you describe TV's ER as accurate? If not, what would be the single most annoying, drive you up the wall thing they get wrong?
Anne_Marble> What pre-existing conditions would be more common in, say, fantasy settings? And which would be less common (because the people would
be more likely to die from them back then)?
<@SLViehl> TV's ER keeps doing thoracotomies on patients -- cracking their chests open to look inside. In my four years working ER, I saw two
<James> Ouch -- you'd hope ERs only cracked chests open when they absolutely had to!
<Anne_Marble> Maybe there was a sale on fake thoracotomy kits in Hollywood.
<@SLViehl> The other thing ER does that's unrealistic is all the patient/family/doctor/staff interaction. Doctors are generally either treating patients or sleeping on a cot somewhere. Families are not allowed
back in the treatment rooms during life-threatening situations. Ever.
<James> If only someone would mark down plots and characterization ...
<@SLViehl> Anne, I'd say the #1 killer in a medieval fantasy world would be septicemia. There were no antibiotics to be had in our medieval time, and
no one knew proper wound care.
<James> I have wondered about that. Sometimes they have these amazing soap opera moments in the middle of terrible crises...
<@SLViehl> The second runner up would be childbirth. I think one out of every three women died in childbirth (trying to remember where I read that.)
<@SLViehl> All doctors are married. They may flirt with nurses (rarely) and have affairs (very, very rarely) but basically they don't mix with the
staff. They are too tired.
<Sarah> How do you treat severe allergic reaction to a chemical (can I have a character die from it briefly and be brought back -- futuristic technology)?
<@SLViehl> Well, I should say all doctors are married or have too many ex-wives to want another
<@SLViehl> You'd need to preserve the brain tissue, Sarah -- can you go the route of cryo preservation?
<Sarah> Probably
<Anne_Marble> Some of the doctors and psychologists in Jonathan Kellerman's books are living depressing lives. You can tell who's going to turn out to
be involved with the bad guy's by how crappy his life is.
<James> Would you be able to describe a range of reactions you've seen in the family/friends/bystanders who bring trauma victims in to the ER?
<@SLViehl> The other way would be chemically induced suspension, artificial hibernation, something that will shut down but not kill the body, Sarah.
<@SLViehl> Women are generally the calmest family members when bringing in a patient, and I'm not saying that to be sexist. As mothers, we have to be
home doctors, and we tend to get over the hysterical reaction to the slightest fever with the first child.
<@SLViehl> Police officers are extremely experienced with wounded or diseased patients (have to be, in their day to day dealings with the public.) They're almost as good as having a paramedic on hand.
<@SLViehl> Men have a wide range of reactions. Generally, men who have active outdoor lives have some experience in situations requiring first aid.
They do the best with handling a patient.
<@SLViehl> Men who are white-collar type workers, especially wealthy men, are a pain in the butt.
<@SLViehl> Elderly people become easily intimidated or frightened in the ER. To them, the hospital means death.
<@SLViehl> Children are sometimes hard to handle, as they become frightened by unfamiliar surroundings and being handled physically by strangers.
<@SLViehl> Homeless people, looking for a safe or warm place to sleep, generally try to occupy the lobby every night.
<@SLViehl> Alcohol abusers are about the worst patients. Drug users generally come in OD'd so they're unconscious, easier to handle.
<@SLViehl> And then you have the hypochondriacs. Oy.
<Anne_Marble> People will surprise you. I heard an account about Glenn Gould helping out when he witnessed a car accident. I was shocked to learn that he was extremely calm. And this was a hypochondriac with a lot of fears and anxieties in his life!
<@SLViehl> Do you know what the first thing a trauma nurse does when she gets a patient on the table in a large hospital trauma facility?
<@SLViehl> (you're not going to believe this one)
<@SLViehl> What, no guesses?<g>
<BlairB> check for pulse
<James> I was waiting for the answer
<Anne_Marble> Ask if he has insurance.
<@SLViehl> We search them for weapons.
<Labloch> lol!
<BJ Steeves> The clip board of all the insurance forms to fill out!
<Anne_Marble> Sadly, that makes sense. That would be true in many fantasy
settings as well!
<James> Really? Actual weapons, or just things that could be a weapon if the person were demented enough?
<BlairB> you ask them to stop bleeding for a moment while you fill out some paperwork
<@SLViehl> I have a four inch scar on my right hip. Got that from a gang member with a GSW to the thigh. Stabbed me as we were transferring him off the gurney
<Labloch> oh wow.
<James> God - why? You were trying to help.
<@SLViehl> The knife was about a four inch blade, or I probably wouldn't be here right now.
<Labloch> Did you get to stab him back?
<@SLViehl> He was out of his mind, on drugs. To him I was probably one of the rival gang's women
<Labloch> (please?)
<@SLViehl> Nope. I also had to stitch up and release the same drunk driver five times before they put him in jail. He killed three people.
<James> Though that's another question I was going to ask -- Cherijo's "if it moves I'll fix it even if it's trying to kill me" attitude -- is that the
common attitude in the real world?
<@SLViehl> Believe me, it's not easy being a trauma pro.
<Anne_Marble> Ugh, that reminds me of what happened in Baltimore yesterday.:(
<BJ Steeves> Now I know why you took up writing!
<@SLViehl> That's the thing about working in the medical field -- you take your work seriously, no matter who needs treatment, or you get out. I got
<@SLViehl> We tend not to see the individual. We try to treat the body.
<Anne_Marble> _She_killed a seven-year-old girl walking to school and injured the girl's mother and another child, and then drove home and told
her passenger "We take this to the grave."
<@SLViehl> Which is why so many med pros get accused of being unemotional or unfeeling.
<@SLViehl> There are things you can do -- especially reporting abused children or battered women.
<@SLViehl> But it is not a profession for the faint of heart
<Anne_Marble> Then she got out of the car, noticed the girl's hat stuck to her grill. She took it out and threw it in the trash, then went inside and
went to bed. Ugh. The passenger called the cops.
<Anne_Marble> It's difficult enough for me to read the articles in Journal of Pediatrics. :-<
<@SLViehl> That's another common type of patient -- usually homeless -- the mentally ill. Get a lot of those in ERs
<James> (A shocking question, but...) if the homeless are particularly filthy -- do you need to clean them up before you work on them to avoid
infection and the like?
<@SLViehl> Only locally, wherever the wound is -- and I know how callous that sounds -- but you can't believe how filthy these people are.
<@SLViehl> Also, we generally are not allowed to admit the indigent unless they are in critical condition
<James> Oh, I know -- as silly as it sounds -- I work in an inner city library. We're where they come when they aren't being repaired in ER
<@SLViehl> If anyone needs a realistic description of what the average homeless person's body is like, e-mail me. I won't gross you all out here.
<@SLViehl> Then you've had a whiff of them, James.
<James> I've caught lice from them
<gayle> but a lot of them don't have access to places where they can bath...unless the area has a daytime drop in center...
<Kaelle> Does the filth cause disease?
<Labloch> from a library?
<@SLViehl> I've never seen a long-term homeless person who didn't have some kind of ulcerated or open, running sores
<James> Don't get me started on the unexpected horrors of inner city libraries...
<@SLViehl> Occasionally we have to clean maggots out of their wounds. That kind of gross
<gayle> having been homeless in a couple of large cities
<James> We have one now, Sheila, whose face is half rotted away from some sort of sore that's gone berserk. He drips. He walks in the smell of rot.
People pity him, but he refuses treatment, and that's that.
<@SLViehl> These are usually mentally ill people who will not seek treatment, guys
<gayle> in the past before Nathan
<@SLViehl> It's probably basal cell skin cancer, James. I've seen a lot of that.
<BlairB> <putting his Pizza away now>
<James> Believe me, Gayle, I don't judge someone down for being homeless. In my situation, they're just another customer. But the extreme homeless,
those battling profound mental illness, really do carry a host of practical problems with them for those who deal with them every day.
<@SLViehl> I wanted to throw up a couple of good, all-around reference books in case you want to check them out at the library, too
<@SLViehl> Black's Medical Dictionary, ISBN#1-56833-129-0
<@SLViehl> An excellent reference for definitions of medical terminology
<gayle> we have a couple of those here in Santa Rosa...thankfully they do use the daytime drop in center to bath and do clothes
<@SLViehl> The Merck Manual of Medical Information, home edition, ISBN#0911910-87-5
<@SLViehl> Highly detailed medical information, in easily understandable text
<@SLViehl> It's also the world's most widely-used medical reference book
<Anne_Marble> (I think you can get a lot of info free on their web site.)
<@SLViehl> And my personal favorite -- The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine
<@SLViehl> I love this book
<@SLViehl> ISBN#0-394-56528-2
<@SLViehl> This is one of the most user-friendly medical reference books I've ever found. It's set up like a dictionary, unlike the Merck, but
really gets into some great detail and provides tons of illustrations to support the text
<@SLViehl> and finally, the annual PDR -- Physician's Desk Reference
<@SLViehl> You can usually find these at library book sales or used book stores, or ask your physician if you can have his copy from last year.
<@SLViehl> Everything you want to know about prescription medications is in the PDR, painstakingly detailed -- although not as user-friendly.
<@SLViehl> And that
<@SLViehl> wraps up everything I have on notes, folks
<@SLViehl> any last questions?
<BlairB> i was looking more for something like 1001 places to hide the body, anyone seen that one?
<gayle> not at the moment
<James> Isn't that a popular party game?
<@SLViehl> Well, you can slow-dissolve a body in a drum of hydrogen peroxide, then ditch the bones.
<Labloch> you know, I thought you'd said "1001 places to hide things IN the body"...
<@SLViehl> just make sure you ventilate the drum.
<James> The beauty of hydrogen peroxide is you can dispose of them, and do their highlights at the same time!
<Labloch> or as I told my bro, you could chop someone up and toss the bits in a river for the fishies
<kia> lol!
<Anne_Marble> Are there any good sources for old diseases? Or for trauma and treatment in pre-industrial settings? I have the WD guide to trauma, but it covers mostly modern stuff, and it doesn't cover a lot of conditions.
<@SLViehl> If you're going to dump a body in water, be sure to stab the torso deeply in several places. This allows for building gases to escape, and it won't float to the surface.
<Labloch> oh no, more fodder for James!
<Labloch> <g>
<Labloch> how deep are we talking?
<Sarah> (images of Frasier and Niles and the seal....)
<James> I know I'm making it sound like the Addam's Family Library, but my library has a delightful pit under the basement, complete with deep salt
water pool. It's where we always figure we'll dump the customers who annoy us...
<BlairB> go all the way...just to be sure.
<Kaelle> lol
<@SLViehl> The archaic treatments for disease were usually herbal (somewhat effective) or quackery (which killed the patient more often than the disease)
<gayle> John Sedgwick gets rid of a body rather grossly in the Dark House
<@SLViehl> It really depends on the time period, Anne
<Labloch> your work library or your home library, James?
<@SLViehl> You'll need to scatter a layer of lime on those bodies, James.
<James> Work: under the circumstances I try to keep home fairly normal for contrast...
<Anne_Marble> Bleeding
<@SLViehl> You fiend
<Anne_Marble> I'm not sure of the period, maybe Regency or just before for my mage story.
<James> We actually had someone living in the library for a year, coming up every night from the pit. We thought we were haunted!
<BlairB> "James was always so quiet... we never would have expected him to do such a terrible thing"
<@SLViehl> Various astrigent infusions have been traditionally used to treat bleeding, Anne. Herbalists knew a couple that helped coagulate the blood and had the unknown side benefit of semi-sterilizing the wound site.
<Jinx> Uh.. James... tell us again why you want to write FICTION?
<Kaelle> James, what a setting for a bunch of stories...
<@SLViehl> Yeah, nobody ever suspects the LIBRARIAN. Hee hee
<James> Sadly, I'm afraid of dead people, so I'm not going to be able to pursue a career in fiendish murder...
<Anne_Marble> Bleeding saved the life of Peter Lorre on the set of one of his movies, because it prevented a stroke or something. But he did die not
long after.
<labloch2> You could keep live ones down there...
<BlairB> well James... that explains the poison use... let them die somewhere else <G>
<James> What makes you think we aren't...?
<Sarah> Lol!
<@SLViehl> Pre-stroke patients often have violent nosebleeds, that save their lives by reducing blood flow to restricted or embolic vessels
<labloch2> hehe...evil evil
<gayle> movie night...night all
<Anne_Marble> Bail denied to the drunk driver!!!!
<James> Our library is astonishing. Mould hanging from the ceilings like spanish moss in places, the pit, rats (we have teeth marks on the fridge in
the tea room where they tried to eat their way in...
<labloch2> night gayle!
<@SLViehl> Good night Gayle!
<Kaelle> 'night, Gayle
<James> Night, Gayle...
<kia> night gayle
<Anne_Marble> Night Gayle
<Sarah> Night gayle!
<kia> hah! sounds like the cellar in our office, james!
<@SLViehl> Yikes, rats are disease carriers. You need to get an exterminator, James
<Kaelle> argh, stupid browser
<James> We do. They always come back. Everything always comes back...
<BlairB> <wonders what is scaring the rats into the fridge>
<Crista> How is it possible to get pneumonia from a broken leg?
<labloch2> maybe general immune system being down?
<BJ Steeves> James is still there, what other proof is needed!
<@SLViehl> By restricting movement, Crista -- elderly people are susceptible to pneumonia from being bed ridden by such injuries -- fluid collects in
their lungs that otherwise would have been dissipated by exercise
<James> My guess, Blair, would be the crazy people and the criminals...
<@SLViehl> Also the strain on the immune system, you're right, Labloch
<BlairB> or the psycho librarian?
<Crista> So, in early industrial Europe, would it be uncommon for a fit man to die from pneumonia by having his legs broken?
<@SLViehl> What's his age, Crista?
<James> We're not psycho. We're just misunderstood...
<Crista> Late teens to early twnties.
<@SLViehl> It's a possible complication. He'd need to be left, neglected, not given regular fluids -- a damp, cold environment would help too.
<Crista> Like an old castle?
<labloch2> ooh, prison
<labloch2> (dungeon!)
<@SLViehl> Good place to get some fluid on the lungs, sure
<Anne_Marble> The oubliette.
<Crista> Damn, I think I just found the impetus for the next part of my
story. Thanks, Sheila!
<@SLViehl> Always happy to help maim, cripple, or kill a character.
<Anne_Marble> You should read one of those pages on torture.
<Crista> Also, with facial lacerations, how deep must one cut to scar?
<James> Have you read Endurance yet? I think she has...
<Sarah> Rolf!
<@SLViehl> If the character is black or of Mediterranen descent, you can have keloid scarring from even the shallowest of wounds. For white or
non-keloid susceptible characters, at least a quarter inch with no sutures. With sutures, about an inch (less on areas thinnest over the bone)
<Crista> I was trying to make my WIP light-hearted and happy, but I'm not really happy unless I'm writing something dark and scary.
<@SLViehl> Also, remember when you cut characters and have no suture or other treatment, you're going to have some significant muscle distortion and
possible nerve damage after healing
<Crista> That's why I can't keep focused on this project. Not enough gore
and maiming.
<BlairB> i know what that is like crista....
<James> Easy peasy, Crista. Just make your torturer a happy, cheerful man who does his job with a song in his heart and a joke on his merry lips.
<@SLViehl> When things get boring, maim or kill someone. Always works for me.
<labloch2> or bring in a Sikh with a gun. <g>
<Anne_Marble> In Creative Writing class, we used to say, "When in doubt, kill off your main character."
<Crista> So what sort of distortion would be looking at for a quarter inch deep cut going from temple to jaw? I never even thought of that...
<Anne_Marble> Or a Sikh with a kirpan!
<labloch2> without stitches?
<labloch2> or a breadpan.
<Crista> I'm thinking some of the crude sort. The hero isn't going to just do that to the woman he loves and then leave it untreated...
<@SLViehl> You'll have muscle damage to the area around the eye, and if it's close enough the eyelid function may be impaired (giving a permanent,
half-closed eye)
<Crista> At least i don't THINK he would...
<@SLViehl> You may damage the nerves that allow the mouth to smile or frown -- could drag the lip corner up or down, depending on the healing
<labloch2> "No, honey, that scar doesn't make your butt look big."
<@SLViehl> lol labloch
<Crista> Oooo.
<labloch2> "Trust me. I'm the one with two good eyes, remember?"
<BlairB> 'Your butt is big, but the scar draws attention away.' Its a vertical scar right?
<labloch2> "vertical scars are so slimming!"
<Crista> Yes. very slimming.
<Kaelle> rofl
<@SLViehl> Also, if the character's eyelid is effecting and can't open or close properly anymore, the eyeball will be affected
<labloch2> do eyeball injuries make them go white?
<@SLViehl> Some atrophy, some constantly tear. Depending on the wound.
<labloch2> (major enough to blind, minor enough to keep the eyeball)
<James> Crista, why is your hero dicing the woman he loves?
<@SLViehl> Severe corneal lacerations result in permanent scarring which resembles cataracts. If it's significant enough, the entire exposed cornea
will whiten
<labloch2> aah. Good to know.
<labloch2> (seconding James)
<Crista> To save her from being diced from some big, nasty fellows.
<@SLViehl> This is minus proper modern treatment, of course.
<Crista> He figures a little cut is much better than what they would do to
<@SLViehl> If you're working in a medieval time period, with roughly the same available treatments, the patient would probably lose the eye to
<labloch2> I think that counts as not light and happy, Crista.
<@SLViehl> God, I'm a ghoul, are't I? Ha.
<labloch2> What could modern docs do?
<Kaelle> Lose the eye sightwise, or lose the eye?
<labloch2> I think we all are. Bloody little ghouls.
<James> So if he doesn't understand scarring, he might leave it untreated a little while because he wants to be sure there's a scar there to put off the
other thugs, and then end up with an infection he couldn't treat and worse problems than he anticipated?
<BlairB> they can rebuild him...better...stronger....faster....
<Crista> Yeah, I know. I argued with that scene for awhile. Then I just gave in to it. Nothing wrong with dark fantasy, right?
<James> Hell no. Dark fantasy is fun.
<labloch2> nope. Works for Anne Bishop!
<@SLViehl> Corneal lacerations (minor) can be treated with laser surgery after they heal, if there's scarring or obstruction
<labloch2> (among others)
<@SLViehl> Lose the eyeball, Kaelle. If the patient survived the infection, it would wither.
<Kaelle> ewww
<labloch2> would it then fall out?
<Crista> James, they are on their way back from a monastery in a wagon with a bunch of very sick people who are going to get last rites. the thugs stop
the wagon and are looking for a unique looking woman. Auvray hides her face under a blanket, cuts it, and tells the thugs that she's too ashamed to show
her face for the bleeding sores on it.
<labloch2> or just look like a worm crawled up and died in your eye...
<BlairB> <G> "I can see out of my lost eye... i'm just not sure what i'm looking at"
<Anne_Marble> The Mutter Museum has a whole wall dedicated to eye diseases and eye injuries. It's illustrated with wax heads.
<Crista> A little contrived, but these aren't the type of people who could defend themselves from superhuman thugs.
<James> Ohhh, clever, in a painful, disfiguring kind of way!
<@SLViehl> In some cases, certain corneal lacerations actual improve vision. That's how eye docs discovered RK
<labloch2> true. I'm too wimpy to think about doing RK or Lasik!
<@SLViehl> Well, folks, we'd better wrap it up. Any last last questions?
<James> My mother spent some time in one of those dreadful Roman Catholic orphanages -- one of the nuns used to say she'd leave her glass eye outside
their bedrooms so she could see them if they got out of bed!
<labloch2> nope. Thank you for another great session!
<kia> it can cause problems though losing an eye, it messes up your depth perception - which is bad for things like swordfightin in a fantasy setting
<Anne_Marble> I can't remember what I did in the torture scene I wrote.
<@SLViehl> Euuuww, James. Put that in a story, that's too good not to use.
<James> She's still afraid of people with glass eyes
<Crista> Yeah, thanks Sheila. Now I know what to do with my disfigured woman...
<labloch2> Now think about people with dentures...
<@SLViehl> Of course if you have any questions, remember the e-mail: SLViehlworkshop@aol.com
<Kaelle> Thanks, Sheila, good session!
<Anne_Marble> You're going to be getting some weird e-mail!
<James> Pictures orphanages with mounds of prosthetics outside every bedroom door...
<@SLViehl> Hey, I'm weird. I can handle it.
<James> It was a massively informative session Sheila. Thanks bunches
<BlairB> is that how the peephole was invented?
<Anne_Marble> Once, my cousin mixed a strong daquiri, and I wrote a story about a mage who had been tortured but hid the injuries to drive his tormentors nuts.
<@SLViehl> And if I don't talk to you all before the holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannuka, and Happy New Year
<Anne_Marble> Thanks!
<Kaelle> Happy Holidays, everyone!
<Sarah> Thanks Sheila!
<kiarlie> ack! i got booted again! thanks sheila happy christmas everuyone
<@SLViehl> I'll also post that list of common household poisons on the Q&A board, under medical questions
<James> Yes, indeed! Happy times to everyone.
<labloch2> Thanks, and have a relaxing break everyone.
<@SLViehl> See you at Holly's site -- bye!

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1/4/02 -- Plotting the Series Novel (continuation) Transcript

January 5 2002, 11:23 PM 

Note: the first part of this transcript -- mainly the hellos and intro -- was lost due to the host being bounced.)

<@SLViehl> There are some serious challenges to writing the extended series
<@SLViehl> Okay, thanks Lucas
<James> Staying onlline while talking about them, for one
<Kaelle> <smiling innocently> maybe Jinx should think about another name?...
<@SLViehl> And we'll tackle them in three phases -- we're going to split the extended series into three parts, just like a trilogy
<Jinx> Eep!
<@SLViehl> only we're talking about several books in each phase -- depending on the total number you plan to write
<@SLViehl> Nobody blame poor Jinx, she keeps getting bounced every Friday
<Jinx> Yeah! <hides behind Sheila>
<Kaelle> <snicker>
<@SLViehl> First Phase of the extended series -- the establishment phase
<@SLViehl> This is a lot like what we talked about with the mid-length series -- you're establishing and exploring the story line with multiple volumes. Thing is, you've got more room to play
<@SLViehl> Despite all the room, theme and conflicts are more important than ever.
<@SLViehl> The problem some authors have with the extended series is they simply run out of steam after five books, and/or they get tired of writing about it.
<@SLViehl> It's also dangerously easy to keep rehashing the same conflicts, over and over
<@SLViehl> After all, this is established territory, and writers are very, very faithful to their turf. So in the first phase, you need to arm yourself with 2 weapons:
<@SLViehl> #1 -- Strong, epic theme that does not lend itself easily to resolution.
<Izunya> Darn it. Am I froze?
<@SLViehl> You're going to be writing at least ten books revolving around this theme, and if you want readers to follow the series, give them an excellent reason to do so -- theme.
<@SLViehl> I can see you, Izunya
<James> But she's vanished from the chat list...
<Blair> Just when you thought it was safe to go back into chat....
<@SLViehl> Example: Good versus evil through an extended, sweeping intergalactic war between malevolent empire builders and scrappy freedom fighters. That's been done like a million times, but it's a classic.
<@SLViehl> Star Wars embraces this kind of theme, so I'm going to use it as a working example. All Star Wars haters, just bear with me.
<@SLViehl> #2 -- Variating Conflict. The last thing we want to read about is Luke Skywalker benevolently running the whole empire five minutes after he kills Darth Vader in phase one. Nor do we want to see Luke vanquish a long succession of Darth Vaders and running the empire in between. If there is no conflict, you lose the reader's interest. If the conflict is predictable, you lose the reader's intere
<@SLViehl> intere=interest
<@SLViehl> So think epic theme, and lots of interesting, variating conflict.
<@SLViehl> And you must remain true to the central theme of your series.
<@SLViehl> It's easy to stray from your theme while you're out exploring in phase one. Have fun playing with your standalone cnflicts, but always bring the reader back to what ties them together.
<@SLViehl> Your theme, after all, gave birth to this universe.
<@SLViehl> This is something you -want- to repeat, i.e.: if you have scrappy freedom fighters, they don't need to stay scrappy or fight in every book. But they do need to continue their quest for freedom.
<@SLViehl> Likewise, if you have malevolent empire builders, they don't need to stay in power or have the upper hand -- but they need to remain in opposition to your freedom fighters in some way.
<Robert> Babylon-5 had that epic a scope too and a definite ending, yet a lot of the major parties changed sides often in it.
<James> Do you think a writer should build an escape into their early novels -- something that can be brought forward to end the series if, for some reason, you can't go on with it beyond the next book?
<@SLViehl> Characters are your greatest tools for crafting conflict, Robert. I think change in the character department is very good for the extended series.
<@SLViehl> Yes, definitely, James. Always have a back door out in case you can't sell ten of the fifteen books.
<Bklyn> as an unpublished writer, how can you determine the best length for your series?
<Damon> do you mean, James, mention the Omega 13 device in book 1, but if you get bored at book 5, and don't wish to carry on or can't make it to 15 books, just uncover the Omega 13?
<@SLViehl> Although I planned StarDoc as an open-ended series, I wrote the end to the story
<Bklyn> i was just gonna ask about that
<James> Exactly, Damon, something that can end all the conflicts in the series whenever it's used.
<@SLViehl> Sometimes, Deb, writing a trilogy can be more challenging than writing ten books, depending on the idea and how much you're in love with it. I think it's instinct, but you can always bounce the idea around with another writer, get another view
<Izunya> But if you have something on hand that'll end the conflicts when it's used, how do you keep it from being the logical thing to do at the end of book 1?
<James> Ah, Sheila -- that answers my next question. Would you always write the concluding novel of a series even if you'd come to loathe the series, or had a better offer, or whatever.
<Lucas> Robert, that reminds me of something... It may not have been quite as extended as 10+ books, but Piers Anthony's "Apprentice Adept" series had various characters who kept having to serve the enemy because their morals would not allow them to go back on certain contracts they had made.
<James> Izunya, if it's something that the characters would have had to fight many long battles through many long books to get, to end more quickly just give them a sudden, unexpected chance to get their hands on it.
<@SLViehl> Good question, Izunya. It's the last resort type of resolution -- in my case, the death or final disappearance of my protagonist, as she's the theme of my series.
<James> Oh my god, if your final Stardoc book is going to kill Cherijo, you are in such trouble...
<Robert> Question, Sheila. Can you write her out of that one like Holmes if conditions change and the fans want it back?
<Izunya> What James said. <ferocious face>
<@SLViehl> I always write an end to every series, even if I don't want to end it, James. If you sell it, the editor may ask you, "How do you plan to end this thing?"
<Kaelle> ditto
<@SLViehl> Actually, Cherijo doesn't die in the end of StarDoc, so there -- you've got major insider info.
<Damon> perhaps it's not possible, Iz - a moral code fobidding the use of Omega 13 - don't want to upset the apple cart too much and use it?
<Kaelle> whew
<James> Well thank heaven for that. I would have flown over and whacked you, you know that
<@SLViehl> Cherijo can't die. She's incapable of dying on a cellular level.
<Jinx> hmmm..... I might have had to help James.
<@SLViehl> And explaining that would absolutely ruin the next five books, so my lips are now zipped on that subject.
<Lucas> Know how it ends, otherwise you might end up saying "Actually, I intended to have you keep paying me for these books for the rest of our lives."
<Lucas> Ok, I get that..
<Bklyn> next FIVE books?!?!/ YAYYYY
<James> I suppose we should let you preserve some secrets
<Kaelle> ooooooh, next FIVE books
<@SLViehl> You need a hammer-type of resolution in your back pocket, that much is true. Think about it when you're planning a big series.
<Damon> (and now i want to get hold of the secret final chapter which is locked away in SLV's machine, just like JKRowling has written the last chaptero f the HP series)
<Izunya> Damon: It also occurs to me that neither the characters or the reader need to know about Omega 13 until the writer lets them.
<@SLViehl> Did I miss any questions? (Screen is flying tonight)
<Kaelle> I'll tell you, Sheila, that StarDoc is the only series besides McCaffrey that I WANT ten or more books in the series.
<Lucas> I think you've been keeping right on them.
<Damon> (gotta find an Omega 13 sort of device for my books)
<@SLViehl> Robert, you can always Holmes your way back with a series, I think. Genetic cloning, or magic for you fantasy writers.
<Robert> My question about series characters is, if you pull the Omega 13 and drop Holmes off the falls should you have a fallback to write them back to life in case the fans beat down the door?
<@SLViehl> I can find a million excuses to revive a character put to bed. That's part of the fun of being a series writer.
<Robert> Sheila demonstrates her psychic powers.
<@SLViehl> Sure. Someone finds Holmes down stream, suffering from amnesia, and nurses him back to health. Welcome back, Mr. Holmes.
<Robert> He faked his death to go live on the Left Bank as an artist and he doesn't want to do it any more - that's new conflict!
<Izunya> In science fiction or fantasy, it might actually be fairly easy. Provided you are willing to deal with the consequences, unlike the stereotypical comic book.
<@SLViehl> Now, lets move on to the long-term story line, wabes and ripples:
<Kaelle> wabes?
<Robert> gyring and gimbling
<Izunya> As in, gyre and gimble.
<Lucas> I was waiting for those to start coming in...
<@SLViehl> Because you have so much room to work, you can as a writer become much more crafty and devious with your plot threads and story lines
<@SLViehl> Time and space limitations are no longer a serious concern for you
<@SLViehl> It's like boxing -- I've talked about the one-two-three punch in series writing -- establish/change-challenge/resolve.
<@SLViehl> Now you're going to add to that, flesh it out.
<@SLViehl> Example: Luke discovers a secret message for a hermit who turns out to be a Jedi knight (one)
<@SLViehl> The Jedi knight enlists Luke's aid on a quest to free a princess (two)
<@SLViehl> Luke frees the princess while the Jedi Knight dies battling her evil captor (three)
<@SLViehl> That's a very effective plot. However, the hermit/Jedi knight knows Luke is the son of another Jedi knight, and is ripe for training.
<@SLViehl> He doesn't just take Luke to save the princess, he auditions him as a prospective Jedi.
<@SLViehl> One ripple, right there.
<@SLViehl> The Jedi also knows the evil captor is Luke's Dad, and that the princess is Luke's sister.
<@SLViehl> Won't come out in the first phase, but it's there.
<@SLViehl> Those are waves.
<@SLViehl> The story is crafted to deliver what we expect, on face value -- it makes us assume things.
<Robert> Ripples resolve in the book they're in, waves propagate through and resolve in a later book.
<@SLViehl> The waves and ripples are how you craft what we don't know in the first phase of the story -- the secrets, the revelations waiting to be discovered, the motivations behind the motivations.
<@SLViehl> Punching is fine, ansd necessary, but waves and ripples deepen your story. And you're right on the money, Robert
<@SLViehl> Now, in crafting all that devious stuff, remember the value of simplicity within complexity.
<@SLViehl> Obviously, your story is going to complex, if it takes ten or fifteen books to tell the tale.
<@SLViehl> It may take you hundreds of pages just to outline your ideas for the series.
<@SLViehl> But all that should still distill down to something very simple.
<@SLViehl> We have planets at war, plots within plots, betrayals, victories, defeats, revelations -- but what do they boil down to?
<@SLViehl> Your central theme. That's where they all lead: good versus evil. A voyage of self-discovery. The power of love and hate. Whatever your theme is, it should be running through all that complexity.
<@SLViehl> And no matter what your theme is, it should boil down to one word: conflict.
<Damon> (Not knowing much about Star Wars, having only seen the Jarjar Binks film) You mean, Obi Wan Kenobi was killed by Anekin Skywalker? And Obi Wan knew that Darth Vader was Luke's dad and never told him? Wow - that's a bit of a turn up for the books!
<Lucas> Damon - You are missing vital cultural heritage.
<Sarah> See the original three, Damon.
<@SLViehl> Yep. Through everything, Obi Wan knew Darth was Luke's Dad, and never told him.
<James> Wait till you find out Leia is a man
<Lucas> Smack!
<Bklyn> please do Damon
<Robert> Yeah. Note what he said - the Jarjar Binks film. Sheila, what do you do if in one volume of your extended series, some local stupid idea just did not work? How do you maintain quality in every book of the series?
<@SLViehl> (didn't mean to ruin them for you, Damon.)
<Gayle> is not James
<Izunya> The original three are worth seeing, if only because they grab from every mythological tradition you can think of.
<James> Clearly, Gayle, you've missed the extend director's -- erm, cut...
<@SLViehl> You kill the book that didn't work and write it over.
<Sarah> (You can map LotR characters onto Star Wars really easily)
<Izunya> Preferably before publication, one assumes.
<Gayle> I think maybe it's just as well...I like carrie fisher
<@SLViehl> Series writers are not allowed to get lazy. Every book must be as important and captivating as the first or last. Readers demand it.
<@SLViehl> (doesn't mean everybody achieves it, but you should try)
<James> Oh, all right, Carrie Fisher isn't a man
<@SLViehl> And demand that of yourself as a writer. Don't produce housekeeping books.
<Gayle> I know the books in the Star War's series are more connected than the movies are
<Anon_73> Would Raymond E. Feist be a good example of an extended series writer? (only just started reading his stuff)
<Sarah> I think George lost sight of the fact that people like the characters in Star Wars, and the neat FX were a bonus, not the other way around...
<@SLViehl> I don't read Feist. Anyone got an answer?
<Robert> Or he really, personally liked Gunga Din way too much and did not expect that reaction.
<Sarah> Just because you CAN computer animate, doesn't mean you SHOULD
<Izunya> How independent ought books in such a series to be? And if they're going to stand alone, how do you avoid the stupid pages of "when we last left our heroes, who incidentally look like such and such?"
<James> Sheila, paranoid question -- you've just published "Star Wars," and "The Empire Strikes Back" is half written -- when suddenly Greg Bear's new novel appears and it's indistinguishable from your plan. Do you just cross your fingers and write "Return of the Jedi" instead?
<Lucas> So in one sense it's a little easier to write an extended series, because it makes your space boundaries a little looser thus letting you explore more facets of your world at your leisure, but there is increased danger of loosing steam, writing houskeepers, or getting lost from your theme.
<@SLViehl> Izunya, each book must be able to stand on its own -- as if the reader picked it up, not having read the first five books in the series, and can still enjoy it. Publishers demand this. As for backstory, there are various techniques, but the best thing to do is keep backstory to a minimum.
<Robert> Izunya, I noticed in Stardoc, a fine example of extended series, that the backstory of who and what CHerijo is gets shorter and simpler every time and she only mentions what's relevant to that book. Sheila did that smoothly.
<@SLViehl> Oh, James, the ultimate series writer's horror story -- know it only too well. You've got to evaluate the amount of coincidence. If it's too similar, and Bear is published first, you're going to be accused of ripping him off.
<Damon> (Ani killed Obi Wan!) I plan to have my series that I'm working on to be different character, different viewpoint - presenting the whole arc from different angles so anyone can go in at any angle and hang out with a character, without having to hang out with them all and know the whole series
<@SLViehl> Oddly, after StarDoc hit the BSL, suddenly it seemed like everyone was writing about genetically-enhanced doctors.
<Lucas> My only contact with Feist's books was the computer game "Betrayal At Krondor" (one of the best RPG games ever) and the book by the same title, which appeared to be miserably written. Maybe the other books are better, I think they'd have to be or there would be as many of them as I seem to recall there being.
<@SLViehl> But back to the question -- it's a judgement call, James.
<James> A judgement call filled with sleepless nights, I imagine...
<@SLViehl> Also, Izunya -- we talked about ways to handle back story in one of the previous transcripts. Rather than rehash the actual techniques now, if you get a chance, read those over.
<Lucas> That is, there wouldn't be as many of them as there are.
<Izunya> Lucas: I haven't read the man, but to be fair I would think it's possible to be a competent writer and a miserable adaptor.
<@SLViehl> Shall we take a five minute break, guys?
<Damon> okay, SLV
<Izunya> Fine by me.
<James> Oh, it's that time already, sure
<Kaelle> yes
<@SLViehl> brb, going to put the kettle on
<Gayle> yes!!
<Anne_Marble> Wasn't the Krondor series originally based on his ideas? Anyway, I've heard his other books are better.
<Venus> <is sneaking in on the break>
<Lucas> Izunya: That could be. The odd thing was, the game was supposed to be based on his series, but the book read like it had been based on the game.
<Robert> Intermission - time to change files.
<Damon> RS2 - 15,557
<Robert> Way to go, Damon!
<Izunya> Huh. Well, I don't know anything about the game or the author.
<Anne_Marble> Grrrrr, so much spam from one quasi-legitimate company. :-< Down with Virtumundo!!! Not only are they spammers, but they are lousy at coming up with a company name!
<@SLViehl> Heya Venus
<Crista> Hey, Robert. I've got about half of my story written. <g> How about you?
<Sarah> The only Feist book I've read so far that I liked was Faerie Tale -- which I liked a lot.
<Venus> hiya!
<Izunya> Hey, Venus!
<Venus> Sorry to be late--it's been mad here
<Robert> I have been fighting a 700 year old vampire who refuses to speak the English language properly and I've threatened to change the story from his first person POV.
<Lucas> Maybe I should look for some of his other books.
<@SLViehl> Sarah, who's a good extended series fantasy writer?
<Anne_Marble> More bulk mail. Thunk!!! (That was my head hitting the monitor.)
<James> I'm not Sarah, but I point to Terry Pratchett.
<Crista> LOL.
<Robert> Mercedes Lackey has finished multiple groups of four or five books out of the same world, she changes century when it gets too resolved and lets the evils stew a few centureis.
<Sarah> Oy. I would say Lackey or McCaffrey, but they seem to be losing it.
<Venus> I've read a bunch of Feist--I'm convinced that Silverthorn is his best book
<Damon> I like Faerie Tale
<Anne_Marble> Oooh, pump & dump stock scheme spam! Drooling as I forward a copy to the SEC.
<@SLViehl> I'm thinking Laurell K. Hamilton for horror, and William Fortschen for AH, can't think of SF series writer I like . . .
<Venus> Sarah> I thought McCaffrey was SF
<Izunya> I like Bujold for SF.
<Sarah> It's splitting hairs with Pern. <G>
<@SLViehl> Oh, I know -- Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden books. Great series, and I think it now qualifies as extended.
<Venus> Bujold does do good SF
<Robert> Edgar Rice Burroughs. Several of them. Tarzan and Mars were the big fat ones.
<Venus> How about Stephen Brust?
<Venus> And Heinlein and Asimov (of course) both do massive extended series
<Robert> Everything Heinlein ever wrote was part of the Heinlein Future History.
<@SLViehl> I liked the first Crystal Singer and the First Powers That Be McCaffrey did.
<Sarah> Tanya Huff has five books in the Vicki Nelson series which stayed high quality till the end. She could still continue with them, but I'm not sure if she is.
<Lucas> Ms. McCaffrey would clobber you for that Venus. It's Sci-FI, and you aren't to forget it. But, to be honest, it was hard to tell at first.
<Izunya> Hmm. Doesn't Andre Norton have some extended fantasy series out there, along with all the SF?
<Crista> You go, Anne! <g>
<Venus> Lucas> I said that McCaffery was Sci-fi
<@SLViehl> Please do not say the name Heinlein around me tonight.
<Robert> Norton has a lot.
<Anne_Marble> Rip!!! Tear!!!
<Venus> CJ Cherryh does extended SF series--all the azi books are linked
<James> Tanith Lee. Well, she hasn't done a long series, no, but she's marvelous so I just thought I'd mention her
<Izunya> I thought so. I think Cherryh and Marion Zimmer Bradley have extended fantasy series too.
<Sarah> I'm frozen...
<Lucas> Oops, I meant Sarah, she was the culprit. Sorry Venus, I pointed the wrong finger. (Sound of person slapping head...)
<@SLViehl> You can't buy Tanith Lee's books over here. Another reason to go move in with James, everybody.
<@SLViehl> brb, tea's whistling
<James> Bugger. I'd better go and make up some beds...
<Crista> i think the best book of McCaffery's Pern series for me was the one that explained everything. I believe it was book six and called Dragonsdawn or something. I wasn't too keen on the series until that point. then I really began to like it.
<Venus> OH! Iain M. Banks
<Venus> brilliant extended SF
<Izunya> And Darkover is like Pern in some ways; it sort of crosses the borders.
<James> Venus, yes -- he's brilliant.
<Venus> <drool>
<Crista> Why can't you buy Tanith Lee books over here? Out of print?
<Damon> If anyone ever works out what the Culture is, please let him know (according to an interview he did)
<Lucas> Darkover. I still haven't read all of those. Many of them are quite good though, and have plenty in common with Fantasy despite the occaisional spaceship.
<@SLViehl> I can never find them. I have a bookseller in Britain who smuggles them over for me -- my sister loves Tanith
<James> If Tanith Lee's unavailable to you, someone should organize a protest. Lovely, dark, lyrical fantasy.
<Sarah> Alexandra is the Diana Wynne Jones expert, but if the books I'm thinking of are in fact part of the same series, she nailed it.
<Venus> <still thinking about fantasy>
<Gayle> {seems to be very quiet as she listens to everybody talk about some of her favorite authors]...sorry, it's just a quiet sort of night for me...
<@SLViehl> How about RA Salvatore? Does anyone read that series? (if it is a series?)
<Sarah> Did my post about Tanya Huff come through before I froze?
<Robert> Ack the name's escaping me. Big fantasy guy, five book clumps, David B. and dang if I can remember the rest.
<@SLViehl> Yep, I saw that one, Sarah
<Sarah> Okay.
<Kaelle> David Brin?
<Anne_Marble> Eddings?
<Venus> David Eddinds?
<@SLViehl> Gayle, you go right ahead and be quiet and we won't bug you.
<Lucas> Who wrote the "Belgariad" and the "Malorian"?
<Izunya> I haven't read much RA Salvatore; the ones I read were a little rough, but they may have been early ones.
<Venus> eddings
<Kaelle> Eddings
<Izunya> And, Lucas, that would be Eddings.
<Venus> and the Elenium and the one that came after it
<James> Stephen Baxter's run of Xeelee books are probably worth mentioning, if they haven't come up already and I missed it.
<Venus> But I wouldn't qualify those at extended--they only have one plot
<Robert> Eddings. Let me scroll back, I can't get it to go back far enough to click and copy.
<Gayle> maybe I'll be more talkative next week....
<James> We could tickly you, if that would help...
<James> Ahem. Tickle.
<@SLViehl> Xanth novels -- Anthony writes enough of those, but I hear people complaining about them now. Pratchett's DiscWorld.
<Sarah> Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, though not exactly books in the traditional sense, are amazing consistently through all ten books.
<Lucas> Ok, David Eddings. I wasn't too interested in his series, but I liked the two big fat parallel books he wrote to it. ("Belgarath the Sorceror" and whatever the one about Polgara was called.)
<James> Oh, Lord , the Xanth novels. They've become very sameish.
<Sarah> I think he only writes Xanth now because they sell.
<@SLViehl> Xanth novels are God's way of telling you you're making too much advance money.
<Gayle> lol...but it sort of hurt...but then I hurt a little anyway....
<Izunya> Xanth got pretty silly. The Split Infinity books were okay, though.
<James> I'm young. Humfrey gives me a mission. I solve puzzles. I almost glimpse underwear. I win and get engaged. My children do the same in the next book.
<Lucas> Terry Brooks, the Shannara series.
<Sarah> I think the best Anthony series was the Incarnations of Immortality.
<Venus> Shannara = gag
<Izunya> James: Don't forget, "I nearly get eaten by a vast number of unfunny, pun-based vegetation."
<James> Mm, Incarnations of Immortality was interesting.
<Izunya> Amount. I mean, vast amount.
<@SLViehl> Terry Goodkind is writing some series. Lord, I have to do more market research reading.
<James> Lord, how could I forget the puns?
<Izunya> I didn't like all of Incarnations, but I did keep coming back to it.
<@SLViehl> Yeah, I liked that one too, Sarah -- particularly the Death one
<Robert> Nothing's coming through now.
<@SLViehl> James, if you start making puns, we will gang up on you and beat you up.
<Izunya> On a Pale Horse was the best, in my opinion.
<James> Death and Satan. Sucker that I am, I loved it when the sinners were sung out of hell.
<Lucas> Venus - Shannara rates a "gag" from you? Hmm, ok... Anything in particular about it?
<@SLViehl> Okay, is everybody back and ready to go?
<Sarah> Death and Satan. What James said.
<Izunya> Yup.
<James> Yep
<Robert> I managed to copy everything but now even my posts just go nowhere.
<Kaelle> ready
<Jinx> I think I'm here.
<Anne_Marble> I'm here. With a bottled vanilla shake by "Moovers." :->
<@SLViehl> How to avoid episodal doldrums while keeping running threads alive and vibrant --
<Venus> k
<Izunya> But I think Robert may be deaf and dumb at the moment. Is anyone else reading him?
<Gayle> yes
<Anne_Marble> I'm reading him.
<@SLViehl> It's easy to run out of steam, we all know that. You get bored.
<Robert> I've got a problem with fast scrolling at the moment.
<@SLViehl> Hey Robert, can you see us?
<@SLViehl> I think the more people we have, the bigger time delay in getting the posts to pop up
<Anne_Marble> Yay!!! Anne Smith got my Epiphany present. (Translation: Very late Christmas present.)
<Robert> I'm seeing you now.
<Anne_Marble> (For her present, I painted a small wooden frame and put piano and musical note stickers on it and inserted a picture of Glenn Gould.)
<Lucas> I think we're doing Ok, provided we just keep talking and don't spend too much time asking each other if we can still see each other.
<@SLViehl> Okay. Back to running out of steam -- this generally happens because you're not introducing new things to keep your interest involved. And if you're bored, the reader will definitely be bored. Some solutions:
<@SLViehl> Kill someone important.
<@SLViehl> This can even be your protagonist, if he/she's done growing as a character for you. Replace him or her with someone mysterious and unlike him/her.
<@SLViehl> Introducing new blood breathes new life into a story, and no protagonist has to live forever. But if you don't want to kill your protagonist, try an important secondary character. Or try this --
<@SLViehl> Slam the protagonist so hard with a conflict that it changes him/her forever.
<@SLViehl> A huge, life-altering event allows you to refashion your character, and give them some new pluses and minuses.
<@SLViehl> Or move.
<@SLViehl> if you're stuck in a setting you're bored with, relocate the cast. Somewhere totally unlike the previous setting. Give yourself and your characters new challenges.
<@SLViehl> Running threads are particularly important to pay attention to when you're instigating a great change in the series, as mentioned above.
<@SLViehl> If your protagonist dies, obviously the replacement has to cope with the involving running threads.
<@SLViehl> Life-altering events can change a character's decisions and perceptions.
<@SLViehl> Moving means running threads either move with your characters, or follow them. Classic moving thread -- the past catches up with your cast just as they're happily settled down in the new place. Bing, new conflict.
<@SLViehl> And that completes phase one of the extended series.
<Kaelle> Oh - Joel Rosenberg, he has a series where characters crossed over from our world to their gaming world. He killed off an important character, causing new conflicts.
<Venus> he killed off THE main character--the next book was everyone looking for hte main character who they thought was still alive
<@SLViehl> It's a great interest-generator, killing an important character, creating a space for a newbie
<Kaelle> Venus, I wasn't going to spoil it for anyone who didn't know who he killed off.
<Venus> oh! sorry!
<Kaelle> nada
<Venus> <blush>
<Robert> If you used to have an absolutely fantastic villain and in about twenty books he really did get finally dead, how do you follow that act? What do you do when the villain's the guy that's gone?
<Izunya> (I'm back.)
<Crista> In killing off the protag, is it cliche to replace him or her with his kid or other close relative?
<@SLViehl> You come up with a bigger, badder, more fantastic replacement, Robert.
<Lucas> Get another villain from the same place you get your new heroes, I'd guess.
<Robert> Actually you faced something like that in re Cherijo in the four books I've read, Sheila. Do you come up with a different style of villain?
<Anne_Marble> Maybe you could be developing some of his underlinings as potential baddies.
<@SLViehl> I don't think that's cliche, Crista. Works for me.
<Damon> (Little Ani killed Obi Wan?) doesnt that run the risk of "bad guy's dead - next baddie please"?
<Izunya> Or you try to get a completely different but equally cool villain. Which can be a trick, but I think it can be done.
<@SLViehl> I have so many villains to chose from with StarDoc that I'll never run out, Robert. It just depends who I stick in the spotlight -- Cherijo makes a lot of enemies.
<James> In Stardoc, you've got the happy feature that many, many people want to get their hands on an immortal, enhanced doctor...
<Robert> I had a coldly self interested, brilliant sociopath who darn near succeeded. Did in a mystical sense.
<Anne_Marble> The recurring villain was the problem with the TV series "Profiler." They put so much attention into the villain. "Jack" appeared in most of the episodes, but you never got to see his face, he was always in the background. So you never had a true sense of the villain
<Anne_Marble> 's villainy. just people talking about how terrible he was.
<@SLViehl> Damon, I don't think you can have just one villain. People have lots of enemies over the course of a lifetime. Their impact depends on circumstances.
<@SLViehl> And even the best of characters can become a villain, under the right circumstances.
<Robert> He used good guys for his pawns. He was sick. Should I replace him with an over the top very simple straightforward fanatic?
<Lucas> I find it interesting where the villian with vision and ability is conquered, only to be replaced by a less competent but one of his underlings who is far more cruel and desperate than he ever was.
<@SLViehl> Flipping a former hero or good guy really puts interest in a series.
<@SLViehl> I'd use whoever wants or has to replace him, Robert
<Robert> Thanks, Sheila. That's a great thought, since that would also mean he'd try to recruit Main Series Guy.
<Venus> The thing that Eddings did well was having villains behind the villains--whenever one was defeated, someone even more terrible would take their place!
<@SLViehl> Men in power always have acolytes waiting in the winds
<Izunya> I'm not sure that there is such a thing as a simple fanatic; they all have their special thing.
<@SLViehl> winds=wings
<James> You could look at the ways your characters have adapted their strategies to the old villain, and pick a villain type that would initially smash those strategies apart, if you see what I mean.
<Sarah> Ooh, who did that (good guy flipping). There's an example hanging just out of reach, but Edward the Less keeps blocking my view...
<Robert> I meant as a core concept, Izunya, like villain one's core concept was "I am not self destructive, just nasty"
<@SLViehl> That works, James. And generates more interest from the reader, I'm thinking.
<Robert> He was a cynic, I'd be throwing them a passionate idealist, the other dangerous type.
<Izunya> I see what you mean as a core concept. Say you had one villain who always hid behind other people, completely honorless, etc. You could replace him with someone who had a strong sense of honor, but absolutely no compassion.
<Lucas> It was done in the Star Wars books, where the replacement villian is incompetent, but because he has no grand view, he can cause even more havoc than the first one.
<@SLViehl> The "cruel to be kind" type of villain, eh, Robert?
<Crista> Heh. My extended series protag kinda IS the villain... this series is going to definitely be an experiment...
<Robert> Right, Sheila. Thinks he knows best for everyone, unlike his predecessor who knew he was just out for himself.
<@SLViehl> Neat approach, Crista
<Izunya> Robert: yes, that sounds like a definite possibility. To me, anyway.
<Robert> I adore her, Crista.
<Lucas> Robert, this guy sounds even worse. Aack.
<@SLViehl> Okay, onward to Phase Two of the extended series . . .
<James> If your heroes are used to complex, chess like strategems, you could make your idealist slightly telepathic. Complex plans are useless, he knows what they are. You can't lie to him, misdirect him, or cheat him.
<Crista> yeah. Emara is REALLY happy that i'm attneding this class tonight. <g>
<@SLViehl> The all-seeing, all-knowing cruel to be kind villain. I like that, James.
<Lucas> You get big dice. That way, no one knows what's happening, and the villian has probably grown to rely on his telepathy so much he won't be able to respond to pure random action.
<Robert> It's wonderful! Thanks for the solution. It's not telepathy, he's up against telepaths, it's worse.
<Gayle> .
<James> Ah, maybe he has the ability to block telepathy around him. Heroes lose ability to communicate as they're accustomed to.
<@SLViehl> All right, now that we've solved Robert's problem, onward
<Robert> More that he's got timesight and thinks he's God.
<James> Ah, neat. Sorry, Sheila. I shall fall silent
<@SLViehl> Phase two in the extended series is where the challenges and changes really come into play -- but again, you're not in a rush to slam the reader with these. No problem, James, I'm just runnning out of clock again. <g>
<Gayle> think my computer froze up
<@SLViehl> Think more exploration of changes and challenges rather than simply presenting and defining them for the reader. Middles can be the point where you run out of steam most often, so you want your standalone conflicts to be clear, strong, and full of momentum.
<@SLViehl> Gayle, can you see us?
<Bklyn> how do you balance the pacing between the book's conflict, and the overall series conflict
<@SLViehl> The number of books an author can perpetuate exploration instead of resolution: I've been trying to come up with a formula on how long you can entertain a reader with a running thread without tying it up, and I think it depends on the thread.
<@SLViehl> The heavier the impact of the resolution, the longer you can play it out.
<Gayle> i'm back
<@SLViehl> You need to progress the situation for the reader -- never have the same set of circumstances perpetuated with no resolution -- but that's part of the exploration.
<@SLViehl> In an extended series, Deb, the pacing is a lot different between those two. You have one book to introduce, play with, and resolve your standalone conflict. You've got ten, fifteen, or twenty books to do the same with the series main conflict
<Lucas> I feel like I've been lost. Am I still coming through?
<James> Have I vanished, or is it everyone else?
<Anon_68> my screen jsut froze, Lucas
<@SLViehl> Example on the perpetuation of a thread -- Luke becomes a Jedi knight
<Izunya> James, Lucas, I can see you.
<@SLViehl> I can still see everyone, Lucas, James
<@SLViehl> Tell you what, why don't we save the rest of this for our next session (already on the calendar) and do open Q&A from here? N54 is sabotaging us too much
<Jinx> Sounds good to me. I've been freezing up all night. (I know, big surprise here)
<Lucas> Ok. I'm back.
<Bklyn> i'm lost cause i went on an ice cream run <g>
<Bklyn> sorry Sheila
<James> A sign of life! I thought I'd vanished for good... But yes, maybe we are a bit too unstable for a regular class...
<Anne_Marble> Yeah, this thing is getting weird.
<Kaelle> I think Cato's escaped
<@SLViehl> We're supposed to be able to fit 100 people in here, usually. Hmmmm . . . .
<Robert> Toughest transcript I've ever done, there might be an overlapping portion in the second file.
<@SLViehl> okay, so any questions or plot problems?
<James> 100 people fit, it's just the floor keeps dropping away
<Robert> Maybe the clones are invisible.
<Anne_Marble> Like the Rotor at Kings Dominion! Euwww.
<@SLViehl> There's only 14 of us. Not like we're a real mob
<Crista> In everyone's opinion, how hard of a sell is it going to be to get reader's into a series with your typical villain as the protagonist and the typical hero types as the antagonists? And manage to give sympathy to the villain but she still retains her darkness?
<Anne_Marble> Since when did John Ritter start looking so OLD?! <sniffle>
<James> Maybe if we all stand very still in the middle of the room...
Lucas Shiela, I noticed lately that there is a chat-room designated as the place to go if the conference room isn't working. Doesn't that mean we didn't need to take over the main chat room that last time you couldn't access this room?
<Crista> I think I froze up this time...
<Bklyn> ok...well, from the reading i've done on my book, i have a lot of foreshadowing in the beginning, but it may not all fit in this book. I am now focusing on the overall conflict, and losing focus on the immediate conflict....having a hard time balancing the two, I guess. This is the 1st of the series
<Damon> James - and all jump at once, we can knock the Earth of its axis
<James> Sounds good, Damon -- on the count of three...
<@SLViehl> Well, Susan Mathews does it with her torturer guy protagonist. He's haunted and cruelly denied his calling, but still manages to maim, torture and kill people.
<Crista> Am i back now?
<Robert> Gene Wolfe did it too in his series, Crista.
<Lucas> I think so, Crista.
>Lucas< I should have done that earlier Lucas -- good point. Next time, we move!
<Lucas> I hadn't noticed that you dissapeared.
<Robert> And you did sell the short story in which she was at her worst and did... get what she wanted.
<Izunya> Are there any guidelines you would recommend for making a character or characters who don't get boring in this sort of series?
<Kaelle> hello?
<James> Sounds doable, Crista. As a reader, I'd want the villain to either be so stylish that reading her bits are a joy, or for her motives to be good but her means evil, or both.
<Crista2> My screen completely froze...
<Izunya> <waves to Kaelle>
<Robert> See you Kaelle
<Sarah> Who's the author of the books with Tarrant? He's one of the good guys, and he murders his wife and children in the first couple pages.
<Crista2> I missed everything after I asked my question...
<@SLViehl> Sounds like you might need to work out an outline to follow while writing, Deb -- would that help?
<Robert> The answer to your question is a resounding yes, Crista. Emara will fly.
<James> In that case, reposting: Sounds doable, Crista. As a reader, I'd want the villain to either be so stylish that reading her bits are a joy, or for her motives to be good but her means evil, or both.
<Anne_Marble> C. S. Friedman
<Lucas> <@SLViehl> said this: Well, Susan Mathews does it with her torturer guy protagonist. He's haunted and cruelly denied his calling, but still manages to maim, torture and kill people.
<Kaelle> All right then, what god or gods or saints should we appease to keep from freezing?!
<Sarah> Thanks Anne.
<Anne_Marble> And he was cute, too. ;->
<James> Coyote?
<Damon> sacrifice somebody to St Jabber
<Izunya> We need to ceremonially butcher and burn a floppy disc.
<Lucas> I think those were the only pertinent responses, Crista.
<Kaelle> aaaarrrrgggghhhhh
<Bklyn> oh no Sheila...you said the "O" word......<sigh> I guess I need to try doing one of those
<@SLViehl> Izunya, I think you have to invest what keeps you interested in writing the characters -- think of your favorite authors, and what they do with the characters in the series you like. Look at how they change and grow and progress. Look at the type of person the character is, with all their flaws and merits.
<Crista2> Thanks, guys.
<@SLViehl> They're not so bad. I ought to do an Outlines Are Our Friends session.
<Izunya> Makes sense. If I'm not interested, why should anyone else be?
<Anne_Marble> I'm TIRED. And my mother might be coming tomorrow! Yeep yeep yeep (running around five minutes before she comes, throwing things in closet.)
<Robert> Please do, Sheila. Once it's outlined how do you sustain that intensity that just roaring ahed with it gives?
<@SLViehl> (folding arms, tapping foot) and we're all carefully OUTLINING our series, right?
<Crista2> Yes, Sheila! My outlines are terrible.
<Gayle> maybe....
<Jinx> outline?
<Robert> We're learning to? Get it right once by accident, next time by design?
<James> I'm getting used to outlines -- find them vaguely appealing now. (Last night chopped 2000 words from the one I'm working on. Ouch.)
<Gayle> or at least know where I want it to go...
<Lucas> Before a word touches the screen.
<Crista2> I outline... just don't do it WELL.
<Damon> outlines are difficult to do
<Kaelle> Isn't your template an outline?
<@SLViehl> Conflict, Robert. Lotsa conflict that directly impacts on your characters.
<Izunya> Depends on what you mean by outlining. Numbers and bullets, not neccesarily. But I do have lots of arrows.
<James> Arrows have the added virtue that you can fall on them when things go badly, ending the pain.
<@SLViehl> It's harder to get into that outline method of thinking, but once you get enough practice, it gets easier.
<Robert> I still feel like the jazzman going to Juilliard here.
<@SLViehl> Notes are good -- anything that gives you direction as a writer, and the ability to plan what you're going to write.
<Izunya> Well, jazz uses an outline, right? Then you jam around the chords.
<Sarah> I'm thinking of getting my own Vicinity (remember the old FM?) for the Kichani outline, because I'm starting to run into a lot of cross referencing, and I can link things if I do it online.
<Lucas> Outlines are fun, however you do them. It's a lot better than getting halfway through a project and suddenly discover it isn't going to work.
<Gayle> I'm having (personally...not the computer) a hard time tracking right now...so I think I say good night to all of you lovely people...and MAYBE give Nathan his movie for tonight
<Crista2> My outlines are either too full of info or so bare that i re-read later and try to decipher what i meant with little success.
<@SLViehl> And you can always abandon an outline, write another, or revise the outline you have while writing.
<Jinx> Don't feel bad, Robert. I only play the kazoo. ;-P
<@SLViehl> Night Gayle
<Izunya> See you, Gayle.
<James> See you, Gayle.
<Lucas> Good night Gayle.
<Damon> See you, Gayle.
<Crista2> G'night, Gayle.
<Sarah> Night Gayle
<Robert> Night, Gayle
<Anne_Marble> Night Gayle
<Damon> (Night John-Boy)
<@SLViehl> I really use the novel plotting template -- in fact, I just sent one of mine to Rob so he could see how I filled it out. It creates a nice plot outline to work from
<Anne_Marble> Oh, what a revelation in Law & Order SVU!
<Damon> I feel like I've just fallen into an episode of the Waltons
<@SLViehl> I also create character flow charts on my dry erase board.
<Izunya> I end up reading a lot of writing books, and I notice a bit of variation in what people mean by "outline;" some people go on for pages, in structured rows, and other people write enigmatic notes like K--->R (exposition) R--->mother.
<@SLViehl> We're an affectionate bunch, Damon.
<Crista2> What sort of flow charts? Mapping character changes and such?
<Izunya> (I prefer a happy medium, myself.)
<Robert> Do sloppy descriptive synopses punctuated by backstage scenes that do point out events ahead count as outlines?
<@SLViehl> I do outlines the way my Nazi English teacher in high school taught me, but that doesn't necessarily work for everyone. It's just a bunch of directions, really, like mapping the book.
<Lucas> Dry erase boards are neat. I have a big one right next to my bed.
<Bklyn> what kind of outliner are you Sheila? detailed? ordered?
<Damon> one writing book i have says YOU MUST outline by deciding how many paragraphs per scene, how the protagonist will do X, plot it down to the type of tea in the pot - too much detail!
<James> Probably there are almost as many ways of doing outlines as there are writers. I guess the trick is find out what works for you, or even if outlines work for you at all.
<Bklyn> you do the roman numerals Sheila?
<Izunya> Robert: does it work? I think it counts as an outline, but if it doesn't work, you might want to try something else.
<@SLViehl> I use colored markers and map out what happens to my characters (plot-wise) in a novel. Basically, my evil designs on their persons, Crista
<Damon> i outline by dropping a hint onto an index card and plucking it out when i need it
<Robert> It worked for figuring out who teh dead bad guy was and who was behind all that stuff and how far they'd dig to it per book.
<Crista2> That sounds like a really good idea...
<Crista2> Mind if i steal it? <g>
<@SLViehl> I think I'm more of a general outliner, Deb. I get into details in my novel notebook, that's where I write pages and pages of notes to myself about what I want to do with details. The bare bones outline I do just hits the highlights of the novel.
<Robert> I like the colored markers. That sounds more fun than roman numerals and I've got gel pens.
<@SLViehl> Steal away, Crista!
<@SLViehl> Sure, Robert -- if it works for you, anything counts as an outline.
<Bklyn> i've got a white board, that my daughter the artiste took over....maybe i need to reclaim it lol
<Lucas> Doesn't one of the articles on this site say you can steal anything from anywhere, provided you make it you own afterwards?
<Crista2> I have a big, unused sketchbook and shiny new colored markers... I'm trying that!
<Izunya> Robert: Then you might like this idea. I put the things I'm certain of down in black. I put other things down in green. (Then, of course, I revise the things in black anyway.) It gives me a sense of where I need to concentrate.
<Kaelle> I'd be interested in seeing how you filled out your template, Sheila.
<Lucas> I'm sure Ms. Lisle has an article something like "How to Legally and Ethically Steal Ideas". :
<Lucas> )
<Crista2> Me, too.
<@SLViehl> Some how-to writers get pretty hung up in unnecessary detail, Damon. That kind of outlining is so draining, imho
<Izunya> The downside is that it can be most upsetting when the cat waltzes away with one's green pen.
<Crista2> Yeah, I've read it, Lucas. Like 5 times. <g>
<Robert> What you mean is having some idea of where you're going and the pace to get there.
<Lucas> Same here Damon. I like some plenty of good details for the outline, but that much? Bleh.
<Damon> that's why i didnt rate that book too well - should write a damning review for vision
<Lucas> Crista - Of course. What was I thinking? I can hardly recommend this site's own articles to the people using its chat rooms.
<@SLViehl> I can e-mail a completed novel plotting template -- my way of outlining -- to anyone who wants to have a look at how I do it. E-mail me at SLViehlworkshop@aol.com, and I'll shoot one off to you.
<Robert> Please do! Ari will mail you - he has more room in his Yahoo mailbox.
<Crista2> <g> I think I've read Mugging the Muse more than any other book. Ever.
<Kaelle> Cool, thanks Sheila.
<Robert> Thank you!
<@SLViehl> It's just supposed to be a guide, I think, Robert. To know where you're heading, and what will happen when you get there. It gives you direction. That doesn't mean you can't take an interesting, alternate route if you find one, halfway through the book.
<Izunya> I may do that. Thanks!
<Anne_Marble> I'm tired, and I think I will just slither off the Internet now.
<Izunya> G'night, Anne.
<Kaelle> 'night
<James> Night, Anne.
<Lucas> So what is the biggest difference between writing a mid-length series and an extended one?
<Robert> See you, Anne
<@SLViehl> Night Anne
<Anne_Marble> Night!
<Lucas> Good night Anne.
<Anne_Marble> And Thank You!
<@SLViehl> Space and time to play, Lucas. You've got more with the extended series. Mid-length has to be a bit tighter, more direct in progression.
<Damon> Night Anne
<Robert> I did parallel worlds so sometimes the side trips wind up gnerating other planets that become antagonistic...
<Izunya> What do you call the sort of series that is set in the same universe and seems to have the same theme, but doesn't seem to have much else stringing it together?
<@SLViehl> Figure in a mid-length series, you've got three books maximum to establish your main storyline. In an extended series, you can do it over five, six, seven or more books.
<Bklyn> and just because you have a trilogy, or a mid-length series, there's no reason why you can't develop a entirely new series in that same universe
<Izunya> Is that an extended series, or something else?
<Kaelle> Hmm...do you need to have the same character or group of chars for each book to call it a series?
<Kaelle> I mean, I have an idea for a theme,but each book would end that char's involvement.
<Damon> Narnia didn't have the same characters everytime (apart from that infernal Lion)
<@SLViehl> Well, it would depend on the strength of the binding theme, Izunya. If the theme remains the same for all the books, then you've got a series. If it wanders, you've got related books with cross-over characters.
<Kaelle> Oh! true
<Izunya> Mm. Okay.
<@SLViehl> Characters can change. Settings can change. Plots should change. Central theme should remain the same for each book in a series.
<Lucas> You thought you were free Shiela, then whoosh, we ambushed you on the way out with topic related questions.
<Bklyn> i've got a trilogy planned. but the successful resolution of the core conflict of the trilogy still leaves an opening for an open ended series of related novels...does that make sense?
<Izunya> I was thinking (sort of) of the Ship Who series . . . or the Ship Who group of books, whichever.
<@SLViehl> Hey, ambush away, I love this part.
<@SLViehl> Sure, Deb. You always want to leave room for the next trilogy
<Lucas> Blkyn - It sounds fine to me. Do you remember the "Xanth Trilogy"? As it was called on the cover of the third book?
<@SLViehl> Any really good series lends itself to future incarnations, I think
<Bklyn> how many are there? 20? 30? lol and they have gotten soooo tiresome
<Crista2> Hmmm. I think I just figured out the main theme behind Emara's series... This is too cool.
<Izunya> I think the, "And Thirty Years Later," trilogy is a time-honored tradition. In fact, Lord of the Rings is like that, sort of.
<@SLViehl> Look at Dune. Herbert dies, and his kid is carrying it on (and making major bucks at it, too)
<Bklyn> that is a series that IMO needs to be retired
<Bklyn> Xanth i mean
<Lucas> Blkyn - Well, not all of the latest ones are hot cakes, but some of the earlier ones after the first three were ok.
<James> Lord, the Dune prequels. Somehow missing everything that made Dune readable...
<@SLViehl> Unless the universe collapses, you always have room for future stories. Past stories. Sequels, prequels, parallel novels . . .
<Lucas> You could be right. Wasn't he (Piers Anthony) intending to retire that series? But couldn't do it because the fans demaned more of it?
<@SLViehl> Yeah, like Herbet. (all due respect to the kid and his writing partner)
<James> Well, yes, they may write delightful novels on their own -- but they could never have produced the original Dune, or fitting successors.
<Lucas> When it isn't published it's called "Fan Fiction"...
<@SLViehl> A good argument for why a writer should just come up with their own ideas and not cannabilize the past, James.
<Damon> hey RS2 - i managed to save Reygh book to my yahoo briefcase and am now back were I was before the problems arose two days ago - 15,757 words
<@SLViehl> lol Lucas
<James> Amen.
<Izunya> Yay!
<Robert> Yayy Damon! Whew!
<@SLViehl> One announcement before we officially close shop -- next Friday is our first Writer's Think Tank, here at conf. room one, 9-11pm EST
<@SLViehl> WTG, Damon
<James> Mind you, Herbert's faired well compared to someone like Virginia Andrews, who's become the Virginia Andrews industry.
<Robert> Fantastic, Sheila - I loved that idea.
<Izunya> Um, what's a writer's think tank when it's at home?
<Lucas> What's going to be thought about at the think tank? Or is that to be decided later?
<Damon> What's the Think Tank? (excuse my ignorance)
<@SLViehl> If you'd like to get together and brainstorm ideas, problems, whatever -- come and join us. I'll be moderating
<James> Yep, it's going to be a hoot.
<Kaelle> It's like tonight without an outline
<Crista> That's so cool.
<Lucas> Ok. So it will be kind of like an entire class made up of the after the class brain-storming we're doing now.
<Anon_30> we get to do this for 2 hours <g>
<@SLViehl> It's like what we're doing now, without the formal class or presentation. We deal with real problems and find solutions together.
<James> Exactly, Lucas. A creative maelstrom of problem solving.
<Robert> I jumped the gun on it with my question about the dead villain.
<Izunya> Sounds fun! I'll show if I can.
<@SLViehl> We've been doing it casually since I started doing session, and the stuff we come up with is great.
<James> Hey, Robert -- you write so fast you'll have another problem by next week
<Robert> Who might not be his successor but someone who went way too far trying to take him down.
<Kaelle> Great idea sparkers here.
<Kaelle> lol James
<Crista> Myabe I CAn work on two novels at the same time... <g>
<@SLViehl> Any last questions?
<Robert> When I think I write fast, I look at Sheila's word counts and see my future.
<Crista> I don't think I'm going to be bale to resist at least outlining Emara's first book....
<James> Hovering - on - brink - of - jealous - despair...
<Anon_30> btw...sheila, the med fact of the day is quite interesting
<Robert> Do it, Crista. Sheila, does it helps ometimes to jump back and forth on totally different projects to keep lively?
<Izunya> James: You're not alone.
<@SLViehl> Thanks -- I got tired of gloating.
<@SLViehl> For me, it helps hold my interest, and keeps my energy level high. I get bored easily.
<Lucas> So, if there is medical Sci-Fi, is there any medical Fantasy? (I ask because I'm in the midst of plotting something that looks suspiciously similar to that description.)
<James> Still, Izunya, as Sheila reminded me a little while ago, 500 words a day adds up to 2 large books a year -- I cling to that
<Robert> Purr, thank you. My sleeping series woke up but now the other one's awake too.
<@SLViehl> Fantasy writers, help me out with Lucas's question
<Izunya> Lucas: if not, you could invent it . . .
<Kaelle> I can't think of any
<Robert> Lucas, it would be cool. I recommend soaking lots of herbalism, holistic medicine and weird medicine.
<James> It's a new concept on me -- but sounds interesting.
<Lucas> That's what I'm doing, Robert.
<Crista> Okay, Idon't have an excuse NOT to write Emara's book now... I know one twisted little character is going to be VERY happy... <g>
<Damon> i have a friend who knows a lot about 12th century medicine....
<Kaelle> Yes, interesting
<Lucas> Alchemy had some very strange ideas.
<Sarah> I have one wanting to write itself, but it's on hold till a) I get the books I need , and b) Kichani is done.
<Sarah> I can't remember seeing any written before...
<Robert> Chinese medicine could be mined.
<@SLViehl> I like the idea of a book about a fantasy character like a Paracelsus -- alchemy, medicine, magic -- that would be cool to read for me.
<Izunya> The nearest I can think of involves certain points in the Saint-Germain series; since the character has been around since forever, he knows a lot of medical secrets that have been forgotten.
<Kaelle> Yes it would. <nodding at Lucas>
<Robert> I'd read it. It would be cool.
<@SLViehl> A lot of modern medicine came from herbalist cures
<Robert> Clan of the Cave Bear series has practically an herbal in it.
<Izunya> (involves certain points . . . gah. My brain is slowly shutting down.
<@SLViehl> Cris Feehan has a vamp healer too, if I remember correctly.
<Robert> But it's not fantasy and how the magic works would affect it. And that would get immersive.
<@SLViehl> There you go, Robert. Ayla was a great healer character
<Lucas> Ok, so it looks like it is mostly open ground then. Very interesting.
<Robert> Without ever getting modern, the medical stuff was sound.
<@SLViehl> Well, folks, any last last questions?
<Kaelle> lol
<Jinx> There were the healers in the Deryni series, too, although the series didn't revolve around them in particular.
<Izunya> Yes, definitely CotCB. Not fantasy, but a lot of herbalism and some mysticism.
<James> I'm tapped for questions. But it's mid-afternoon now, and the heat's making me dopy.
<Lucas> A few of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books had healers as characters, but didn't focus on that a whole lot.
<Damon> anyone going over to Cato's?
<Izunya> I'm out of questions for the night, I think.
<Jinx> Sheila, thank you, once again.
<Robert> I am. And I'm trying not to keep poor Sheila up. Last question, how you doing?
<Kaelle> I'm done for now, Thanks for a great session, Sheila.
<Lucas> I guess it's time to call it night for me.
<Crista> i don't have any more questions. Just fingers itching to begin playing at outlining.
<@SLViehl> Thank you all for letting me spend another interesting Friday night with you. I enjoyed it immensely
<James> It was particular fun tonight, I thought. Thanks again.
<Sarah> Robert> Have you looked at the posting times in Sheila's blog?
<Lucas> James, just what country are you in, anyway?
<@SLViehl> Doing fine, Robert.
<Izunya> Thanks, Sheila. I bounced in and out a lot, but it was my computer objecting, not me.
<Kaelle> When I finally got posts on the screen to read, it was better.
<James> North Queensland, Australia
<Lucas> Ok, I was beginning to suspect something like that.
<Robert> Thank you, Sheila. These are so great.
<Damon> TY SLV

 Respond to this message   

Writer's Think Tank #1 -- 01/11/01

January 12 2002, 1:16 PM 

<Bklyn> I think i developed my story goal: Earth wants to regain control of Eden. Eden wants to claim sovereignity. the Mandoorians want to return to space.
<Sarah> I'm about half a page away from finishing the twisted fantasy.
<Bklyn> These are the three main character/entities
<Bklyn> Hi Gayle
<Robert> Oooh I am almost late, dang!
<Gayle> Evening all
<Bklyn> Hi Robert
<Sarah> Hey Gayle, Hey robert!
<@SLViehl> Hi Gayle and Robert! Gayle, you're #3, Robert, you're #4 (in order of asking writing-related questions)
<Jinx> Evening!
<Sarah> Ooh, yay! They're going to fix my name and genre on the ad astra site!
<Robert> Purr purr, thankx.
<Jehane> Hi everyone
<Robert> I am scribing too as usual.
<@SLViehl> Hey Jinx -- you're #5 on the writing questions list
<Robert> Purr, hi Jehane
<@SLViehl> Hi Jehane, you're #6.
<Jinx> Thank you. I guess that means I have to think tonight. ;-D
<@SLViehl> I'm keeping a list here so don't worry, I'll keep everyone straight.
<Robert> Love the graphic for it. That speaks volumes.
<@SLViehl> We just want you to stay online, Jinx. Anything else is a bonus.
<Robert> Villain moves in. What a twist. Villain is your roommate.
<Jehane> I'm just sneaking in while I'm at work, so I'll just hide up the back here.
<@SLViehl> Hi Kae, you're #7 on the writing-questions list.
<Kaelle> Hi everyone!
<Robert> She has a little listt, we never would be missed (except if you've got a crossbow)
<@SLViehl> I'm taking names tonight. lol. Hey BJ, nice to see you!
<Sarah> Ooh, I wrote a list song for my floor in second year and was alienated from then on, cause nobody got it and they all thought I wanted them dead. <sigh>
<@SLViehl> BJ is #8 on the writing-questions list.
<Gayle> sorry about my inattentiveness...minor discussion going on here about movies and lost thereof
<BJ Steeves> Tanks Sheila...Good Evening All!
<@SLViehl> No problem, Gayle.
<@SLViehl> Tanks, oh yeah, lol
<@SLViehl> Blair! (Blair was the inspiration for tonight's graphic. I ripped off one of his ideas.)
<BJ Steeves> You know me, I just have to a couple of those in!
<BJ Steeves> You know me, I just have to a couple of those in!
<Gayle> grrrrr....preteens!!!
<Blair> hello
<Robert> Bad boys, bad boys, whatchoo gonna doo...
<Blair> nice fishy tank by the way <G>
<@SLViehl> Not as good as yours was, but at least they look like fish.
<@SLViehl> Preteens are the reason God created time out.
<Blair> and proozak
<@SLViehl> and Godiva chocolate.
<Sarah> Ooh, chocolate...
<Robert> I always thought they should have put Lady Godiva on the box.
<@SLViehl> That's my next job. If I totally flop as a novelist, I want to be the quality control manager at Godiva chocolates.
<@SLViehl> it's a dirty job but someone has to make sure those little seashells are worth forty bucks a box.
<Kaelle> <drooling>
<@SLViehl> Hey James
<Sarah> Lol!
<James> Evening all
<@SLViehl> James, you're #10 on the writing-related questions list.
<James> There's a list? Do I win anything?
<@SLViehl> This is like a deli, everybody gets a number.
<BJ Steeves> Believe it or not, I don't like chocolate.
<James> But do we get a sausage?
<Blair> ever read the book 'the lottery?'
<@SLViehl> Hi Lucas, welcome
<Bklyn> Sheila is the Soup Nazi! LOL follow the rules or No More Soup for You
<@SLViehl> Lucas is #11 on the writing related list.
<Lucas> Hi. How exciting, a "prototype" workshop!
<@SLViehl> Yep. I'm experimenting on you poor people again.
<Sarah> Brb -- case worker calling.
<@SLViehl> There you go. I always wanted to be a Soup Nazi.
<@SLViehl> No slurping, or else!
<@SLViehl> Jinx, are you still with us? This could be a record.
<Jinx> Yes!
<Gayle> brb...
<Robert> I like the 'do it yourself topic' idea...
<@SLViehl> One day I'm just going to go over Jinx's house and sit there for two hours, to make up for all the times she's gotten bumped off line.
<Jinx> LOL! You'd be most welcome. <g>
<@SLViehl> We should all go. lol
<James> Oh no, what if the god of disconnects takes that as a temptation, and starts disconnecting her from real life?
<Robert> Yeah, that would be fun!
<@SLViehl> Just how big is your livingroom, Jinx?
<Lucas> Whee! A party.
<Sarah> YES!
<Jinx> Big enough!
<Sarah> My account is unfrozen!
<Jinx> I'm sure my husband wouldn't mind... <glances>
<Blair> yes, but do you have enought computers?
<@SLViehl> All right. First HollyLisle.com writer's retreat is at Jinx's house.
<Robert> We need plenty of duct tape to make sure she stays in our spacetime continuum.
<Kaelle> lol
<@SLViehl> (high five to Sarah)
<Blair> i wonder... if we are all there... will she just 'drop' out of the house?
<@SLViehl> lol Blair
<Blair> 'where did jinx go? oh, she's at the front door...she can't get back in'
<Lucas> As long as we don't all wander of individually to look for her so as to be easier for monsters to pick off...
<Sarah> <g> They had to up my overdraft by a couple thousand dollars, since they can't undo the damage until I send them a signed and notarized document stating that those weren't my purchases... but I can get money again!
<Robert> rofl Blair
<Jinx> LOL. I wouldn't be surprised, either.
<@SLViehl> Hey it's our NEW Publicity Director!
<Kaelle> yay
<Kaelle> congrats
<James> Hi Anne
<Robert> Cool! Yayy, congratulations!
<Sarah> Hi Anne!
<Sarah> Hi Anne!
<Blair> <clapping>
<Anne_Marble> Howdy! Let me tell you about a wonderful writing site... ;->
<Sarah> <g> Thanks!
<Lucas> Hah-ho. <g>
<BJ Steeves> Way to go Anne
<@SLViehl> Anne, you're #12 on the writing-related questions list. We're handing out numbers like a deli.
<Anne_Marble> I just got back from the bookstore, doing my civic duty and buying some books by new authors.
<Anne_Marble> I want the hard salami...
<Kaelle> So what food did you pick up along the way, Anne?
<Gayle> I'm back...we 'kissed' and made up
<Robert> Swiss cheese for main characters' brains...
<Anon_66> I'm here! With Chinese food!
<Robert> Purr Gayle
<Robert> Ooh purr that Chinese food eater!
<Crista> That was me.
<Anne_Marble> I ran late, so I'm finishing last night's Johnsonville Honey & Maple Something breakfast sausages
<James> Hello, Gayle
<@SLViehl> Hiya Crista -- you're #14 on the writing-related questions list. We're doing numbers like a deli, and I'm skipping 13. lol
<Kaelle> Maple Something...haven't heard of that flavor.
<Robert> Oy, you with the really good breakfast food, Anne... you seduced me with Magic Stars...
<Lucas> Ahh, sugarfied meat whatchamacallits.
<Crista> Oh, okay. Thanks, Sheila.
<James> And hello Crista
<Lucas> A famous flavor.
<Crista> Hi, James!
<Robert> They go with Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs real well.
<Gayle> Hey James
<@SLViehl> If anyone wants to go for a quick beverage/bathroom/whatever break, go now
<Crista> <drools> Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs...
<Anne_Marble> BRB
<Blair> <runs>
<@SLViehl> I'm going to give us another minute then get started. Hi Izunya
<James> Hi Izunya
<@SLViehl> Izunya, you're #15 on the writing-related questions list, we're handing out numbers like a deli.
<Jinx> I don't know what Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs are, but I'm sure I'd like them since they contain the magic ingredient.
<Kaelle> chocolate~
<Robert> Except she skipped #13 reserving that for the black cats.
<@SLViehl> 13 is for Cato.
<Jinx> Exactly, Kaelle!
<Anne_Marble> Phew. Puff puff puff.
<Izunya> Okay.
<Crista> Exactly, Jinx. if it has chocolate and/or barbecue sauce, I'll eat it.
<Izunya> Hi, everyone.
<Robert> Eeep! I didn't know Cato was a black cat. Oh well. Guess that's his only good point.
<Lucas> Uh-oh. Now what if it gets to #13 and Cato actually asks a question?
<Blair> run
<@SLViehl> We'll all totally freak out, Lucas
<James> Oh, I don't know about chocolate being unruinable -- did anyone see Nigella Lawson's deep fried battered chocolate bar recipe?
<Izunya> We answer it. Politely. And back away.
<@SLViehl> But we'd better get started. Welcome to the First Writer's Think Tank, I'm your moderator, S.L. Viehl
<@SLViehl> Basically, we're here to collaborate and work out real problems with our past, present, or future writing projects.
<@SLViehl> Everyone's been assigned a numbe, and that's how we'll go in order. I've got the list, so I'll keep track of that.
<@SLViehl> numbe=number
<@SLViehl> When it's your turn, throw out any question to the group, and we'll discuss it, offer suggestions, or whatever
<@SLViehl> I'll be keeping tracking of time, and it looks like everyone will get about five minutes of discussion time. Ready to go?
<James> Yep!
<Robert> Sure
<Jinx> Ready!
<Kaelle> ok
<Anne_Marble> Yup
<Crista> Let's go.
<Sarah> Yup
<Izunya> Yes.
<Blair #9> yuppers
<Gayle & Nathan> Yes
<Lucas> Ready to rumble.
<@SLViehl> Deb (Bklyn) is our very first victim. Deb, you're up, go ahead.
<BJ Steeves> Ready to dive in!
<Bklyn> ok i'm in the middle of my november novel...started with no planning, no outline...and now i'm stuck! how do i unstick myself?
<Robert> Look at the pace you've got and see if this is a good point to give the plot a MAJOR twist or just a little twist. Bring in a character who's a monkeywrench.
<@SLViehl> What's making you stick the most? The progression of the story?
<Izunya> How are you stuck? Written yourself into a corner, or don't care where on earth the novel goes?
<Crista> Why do you think you are stuck, deb?
<Bklyn> ok i just killed someone, but then now what. that was pretty exciting and now everything seems pretty mundane
<James> Yes, I'd like more info -- where are you stuck, exactly? What's happening, and how is it refusing to progress?
<Lucas> You're having trouble escalating things?
<Anne_Marble> Could you sit down and write possible outcomes without worrying about making it perfect, just to see what comes up?
<Robert> What if someone new to the book really cared about the person who died and takes things in their own hands?
<Crista> You might want show some reaction to that. And then start setting up the next big, exciting event..
<James> What are the consequences of the killing for the character who did it?
<@SLViehl> Have someone enter the story who's really ticked off about the guy who just got killed. Revenge is always good to move things.
<Kaelle> What are the consequences of killing that someone?
<Sarah> Or a previous character undergoes a radical personality shift as a result.
<James> Who actually committed the killing, and why?
<Lucas> As a generic suggestion, you could try writing an outline, based on what you have, and then continue it beyond your current position to see where it might lead. It can't be too late to do a little planning.
<@SLViehl> Good one, Sarah
<Bklyn> he was killed because he is an alien. the hate group that killed him is a front for a govt agency
<@SLViehl> Oh, I'd bring in more aliens. Really ticked off aliens. <g>
<Izunya> If I were you, I'd start with looking at who gets hurt most by the death, figure out what they might do about it (perhaps something rash and plot-escalating) and see what happens with that.
<Sarah> One of the agents objects to it and goes rogue.
<Robert> Maybe another alien's terrified he's next and panics and causes a lot of trouble blatting that as a conspiracy theory.
<Sarah> One of the agents wants more killing and goes rogue.
<Bklyn> the gov't wants to regain control of eden
<Lucas> You could let one of the hate group people lose his nerve and try to get out, thus making enemies of all his old pals.
<Sarah> The alien's hybrid human love child wants revenge.
<Anne_Marble> Does everyone know who did the killing? The revelation of the involvement of the group could be a plot twist. Even more, the revelation that someone else was killing the strings...
<Anne_Marble> pulling the strings!!! :->
<Blair #9> or one of the agents discovers a personal connection to the aliens, and wants to 'right' his wrong.
<Robert> The person spilling the beans has lousy facts and is very disbelievable unless killed.
<Sarah> one of the agents is the mother of the hybrid love child....
<@SLViehl> Time -- any final comments for Deb?
<Lucas> What position is the main character in?
<Bklyn> she is supposed to solve the crime
<Izunya> I'd look at the dead alien's connection, both long-term and short-term, to see who is under the most stress. Stress is good.
<@SLViehl> I'd have the crime backlash on the investigator -- have her dragged into a hush-up
<Lucas> She could have to join the hate group for some obscure reason. Mechanic problems of accomplishing it aside, that would be a strange twist.
<James> I'd also look at giving the character a personal motivation for solving the crime -- something in her past that relates, that resonates with what happened, such as an event giving her a strong like or dislike of aliens.
<@SLViehl> Okay, thanks all. Sarah, you're up now
<@SLViehl> And FYI to everyone -- I will call time and move on so everyone has a chance. If you want to discuss more, we can meet in Chat after the session.
<Sarah> Mine's more generic -- I tend to have a lot of trouble ending stories, especially shorts. Either the characters just keep on talking and I can't shut them up, or I end up with a "tympani ending" (big, cheesy, overdone -- think of the score at the end of E.T.)
<Sarah> Actually, I think it was the E.T. read-along storybook that got the whole tympani ending thing stuck in my head in the first place...
<Lucas> Isn't a big ending only overdone if there isn't sufficient lead-up?
<Robert> Yeah, if tympani endings are satisfying resolutions, they're cool.
<Crista> I don't understand what you mean by an overdone ending...
<Sarah> Big is okay, but cheesy isn't.
<@SLViehl> I like a future-goal ending -- where the characters are facing the next thing.
<@SLViehl> Too dramatic, Crista -- like the entire universe has been saved by the resolution (am I right, Sarah?)
<Jehane> I like somewhat ambiguous endings, where they might win the battle, but there's still the rest of the war ahead of them.
<Sarah> Kind of like "they saved the word, and they all lived happily ever after". Yeah, pretty much.
<Crista> Oh.
<Robert> In the rewrite, identify the main conflict and in a one line description, figure out what the resolution is. Then trim some of the verbiage between or after the real resolution - for the ones where they chatter.
<@SLViehl> good point, Jehane -- also leaves a door open for future incarnations
<Anne_Marble> Maybe some things could have an easy resolutions but others could be resolved tragically. No pretty bows.
<Robert> Or you could try writing backwards like a mystery writer from a known resolution to the beginning. Choosing your type of ending first.
<James> Or striking a note on what the character wanted most at the story's beginning: if the story starts with her fear of leaving the house, end with her gazing across an open plain to the horizon, if you see what I mean.
<@SLViehl> I always seem to move my characters into an end transition point -- they're always getting ready to go somewhere when I leave off
<Izunya> For a few pieces where it's appropriate, you might think about your ride-into-the-sunset ending. You know, spaceship flies off, hero/ine rides down the mountain toward the town, something where we see sort of moving out of the story.
<@SLViehl> That's an neat method, Robert
<@SLViehl> Izunya
<Lucas> It might help to intensify the personal stakes so that you can have a lot of tension, but everything is by no mean "all ok" by the end of the story.
<@SLViehl> is reading my mind tonight.
<Lucas> That way it wouldn't tie up everything in the known univers.
<Sarah> Half the time, I know how to resolve it, it's just the actual termination point I can't find. Like I know about how much story thread I have, but I can't find the right place to cut it.
<@SLViehl> Moving on is a good end point
<Robert> There's also the 'back where we started, broke again looking for a bar in Lankhmar with a babe'
<Robert> good for series characters
<@SLViehl> I like ending on a big revelation, too, but they're harder to plan.
<BJ Steeves> Try treating any actions like the law of consevation, or Newton's Law. Every action has a reaction. Every decision brings a price.
<Lucas> After the biggest problem has been solved (wheather or not another is revealed...) is usually where a story ends.
<Sarah> I love circular narratives because they tell me exactly where to stop, but you can only write so many of those...
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments or suggestions for Sarah?
<Robert> Try a lot of different ending types with 'write backwards"
<James> Maybe Robert's suggestion is the way to go then, Sarah, writing the final scene and moving backwards until you meet the scenes you've already written.
<@SLViehl> Good point, BJ
<Izunya> I sometimes force myself to treat endings like beginnings; you have to write just the story, and put the endpoints as close to the climax as feasible.
<Anne_Marble> Go Toronto Raptors?
<Izunya> Saves me from rambling.
<@SLViehl> Endings can be as hard to write as beginning.
<@SLViehl> Okay, now we'll move on -- Gayle, you're up.
<Gayle & Nathan> I've told Nathan he could have my question tonight...he wants to know how to transition from "naration to dialogue"
<Robert> Just start the dialogue with a good line and let the characters do it.
<James> I agree with Robert, wade in with a good line of dialogue and no one will notice the transition.
<Anne_Marble> Sometimes you can use a line of action (Like "Robert aimed the Cat Gun at Batman") and then follow with Robert's dialogue. ("Bwah hah hah")
<Robert> Scene cut is what I mean. Like in a movie, a scene cut. He saw her yada yada, they talked about the weather. "What do you mean the world's going to explode?"
<@SLViehl> You can use the last line of the narration as an into to the dialogue, i.e. "I was working night shift, when Dr. James showed up, drunk and in no shape to operate. "Nurse Ratchett!" he yelled across the ward. "Get me this patient's chart!"
<Lucas> Shiela, I think it might be a good idea if, in the rules for this workshop, you told people to prepare several lines of text stating their problem before the workshop begins.
<Anne_Marble> And don't be afraid to use the word "said"! :->
<@SLViehl> Thanks for the suggestion, Lucas. Good idea.
<Izunya> What Anne said.
<Crista> Said is not a bad word.
<James> I'm fond of juxtaposing thought and dialogue: I hate him, she thought. "Fred, darling, I'm so glad to see you!"
<@SLViehl> Nice whammy for the reader when you do that, James.
<Robert> Start the dialogue when the conflict starts.
<Kaelle> A lot of info in James' example, lol
<Lucas> You could have someone do something, undertake some action, that would naturall elicit a comment.
<James> And you can adapt it to show a variety of the character's characteristics, beyond a slight dishonesty, I mean.
<Robert> Oh yeah, that's brilliant because that's internal dialogue and external in the same paragraph. That is start of dialogue and a three way argument.
<Izunya> I don't think you need any material that screams, "This is a transition." Just end what you need to say in narration, and leap right into the dialogue.
<Anne_Marble> I once read a great bit about dialogue in a writing book. He said the best dialogue does not include a lot of "direct responses."Dialogue with a direct response: "What do you want for dinner?" "Chicken."
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for Nathan?
<Anne_Marble> Indirect response; "What do you want for dinner?" "Don't you know by now?" (Something like that)
<James> Gather examples from your favourite books, and try to work out why you like the way that author did it, then try doing it yourself.
<Robert> That works for straightforward characters, not like James's - let the characters do the talking, Nathan. That's when it comes good.
<Izunya> Simple is good.
<@SLViehl> Okay, next victim -- Robert, you're up.
<Lucas> I agree with Izunya. There isn't a lot to be done to go from narration to talking. You just let people start talking after you've described what needs to be described.
<Gayle & Nathan> Thanks
<Robert> I'm having trouble moving at my usual speed on Nomad Novel. I keep having trouble switching gears from that project to writing short stories and editing and other activities.
<Robert> Usually I write really fast and at my best if I immerse in one project Sentence One to The End. What are suggestions to shorten my warm up time and get more done?
<James> Start with the Nomad novel on any given day?
<@SLViehl> Stagger your projects by days. Let Monday be novel writing day
<James> I mean, that way you're not switching gears to it.
<Robert> Yeah, the start of a Book in a Week that I'm not going to make.
<Izunya> When you leave the project at night, have some idea of what you want to write come morning.
<Kaelle> ditto Izunya: leave notes to yourself on what you want to do next.
<James> Oh yes, the technique where you always end in the middle of something that you know exactly how you're going to finish. "He drew the gun and..." end for the day.
<@SLViehl> Plan out your writing schedule -- give yourself am organized list of goals, and assign times/days. I really think days, as you're spread out over a lot of projects.
<BJ Steeves> Sort of like a reward. "I can't wait to write that next scene!"
<@SLViehl> Nice motivator, James
<Sarah> I spend my walks home from work (or wherever I am) planning out what I intend to do when I get back to my computer, and then sit down and do it. Or, when I'm trying to get to sleep, work out what's going to happen for the next day. That way, I'm all worked up to do it.
<James> I've seen that recommended all over the place.
<Crista> I like Sarah's suggestion. that is sort of what I do.
<Anne_Marble> If you finish a scene, you get to play with Ari. :->
<Izunya> BJ: Not only that. It saves you from having to start the morning's writing (or the lunch-time's writing, if you keep the kind of schedule I sometimes want to) without staring blankly at a page for fifteen minutes with no idea what should go on it.
<@SLViehl> The dangling carrot tactic!
<James> Oh, Sarah, if I start plotting as I'm falling asleep, I get into it and end up staying awake all night!
<Gayle & Nathan> Sarah's suggestion is simular to what I do for my fiction
<Sarah> I fall asleep and dream about it sometimes. Makes for weird dreams.
<Sarah> But some of the best plot twists come that way.
<Robert> Maybe if I schedule all the other projects but keep a line on the WIP, I can keep trying to get back into it.
<@SLViehl> Same here. Technicolor bizarre dreams.
<Izunya> I wish my dreams had plot twists that made more sense. Then I could write them.
<Robert> Whenever they do, I wake up and write them.
<Jehane> I have more than one work open so I can work on whichever I have ideas for at any time
<Robert> They're usuall y novel openers right from the undermind.
<Lucas> I agree, thinking of something to look forward to is helpful. If I'm not sure about working, I can usually look at my outline and get interested by thinking about how fun it's going to be to get to scene X.
<Jehane> Maybe you could have the novel going in the backgound while working on other stuff
<@SLViehl> That's pretty much what I do, Jehane, unless I'm under deadline. Then I force it.
<Izunya> I get settings and characters, but rarely do I get any plot help from my dreams.
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for Robert?
<Jehane> who's next?
<@SLViehl> Okay, Jinx, you're up
<Jinx> In my story, I have a magic that can be manipulated via dancing. The dancing requires certain movements that can be taught to anyone, although not everyone is successful at wielding magic with their dancing. What I've not quite got down is exactly how the magic works. I'd love to hear everyone's ideas to get me going in the right direction.
<@SLViehl> Jinx is PREPARED.
<@SLViehl> Jehane, you're next, btw
<Izunya> Neat! Okay . . .
<Jinx> I was just scared I'd crash before I could get that out! <g>
<James> It's got to be in the movement -- how about lines of force that infiltrate the whole cosmos. As the magician's body parts move, they cross or vibrate the lines of force, creating the magical result?
<@SLViehl> Dancing that invokes magic -- that's got native american all over it.
<Robert> How passionate a dancer is about the music, the ability to lose self in the dance is one of the key elements necessary to magic. Technical perfection won't do it. How's that sound?
<Lucas> Maybe the mental image of the positions and moves is more necessary than the physical moves, so the person who can visualize the steps better will be more adept than a better dancer.
<Izunya> If not everyone is successful when using movements that can be taught to everyone, then there must be some quality there that isn't in the movements. So, individual people have a something-mana, Hawaiian style, or something-that makes it work for them.
<Robert> Endurance dancing is also like meditation. It's a frame of mind attained.
<Sarah> I have a story like that, and when the MC is taken on as the dancer/priestess's apprentice, she's able to see the lines of "power" (for lack of a better word) that the dancer is actually connecting and pulling into place through the motions of the dance.
<Blair #9> maybe it has to do with the connection between the mind and the body.... a certain vibe or rhythm triggers certain reactions
<@SLViehl> drawing spirits to the dancer by ritual movements, invoking the spirit's powers on the dancer's behalf. How well they perform the dance, like an incantation, determines the effectiveness of the magic
<Gayle & Nathan> subconsciencely humming the music while they're dancing...
<Anne_Marble> There are musicians who can play the music perfectly and still be dull, and there are some who give the music life. Could dancing be the same?
<@SLViehl> accompanying music or chanting is great, too -- good point, Gayle
<James> The Creator God is a spider: the universe is her web. Spiders interpret different vibrations on different parts of their web differently, so dancing to vibrate the cosmic web is like a prayer to the spider god.
<Gayle & Nathan> Some people do it naturally and they work the magic
<Blair #9> maybe the steps create a pattern on the floor... like symbols
<Lucas> You could make the magic's potency dependent how much the person actually enjoys the activity.
<BJ Steeves> Interpretation of the music and the movements may be a key.
<@SLViehl> I like the web thing, James. Spooky
<Lucas> Someone who only tolerated it for the power it granted wouldn't be able to do it.
<Robert> Maybe the dancers with magic perceive the magic the way deaf dancers hear music - with their bodies, with their feet, like a spider dancing on her web.
<James> I have a spooky mind
<Izunya> Dancing could be used to evoke things by imitating them. For example, you could imitate a storm, and summon one . . .
<Jinx> This is all great stuff! <sits back and reads>
<Sarah> OOh, yeah, in "The Red Shoes", I had Kate open a gateway to the faerie realm by dancing a knotwork pattern into the grass...
<@SLViehl> power lines running through the world instead of web strands
<Robert> But they're not seen, they're felt if you trance enough. Felt like touching them with your feet and holding balance.
<Kaelle> Like ley lines in the air instead of in the ground.
<BJ Steeves> The local utility company may complain though
<Izunya> Maybe the world was danced into being, and so dancing is the language it still responds to.
<Gayle & Nathan> many fantasty stories use the power lines...it's a 'known
<James> And sometimes dreadful things get stuck in webs...
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for Jinx?
<Robert> A powerful dancer mends the creator's web.
<Robert> An evil one tears it.
<@SLViehl> And then you have the really intense character who adds to the web . . .
<Jinx> Thank you, everyone. I've got some neat things to think about now!
<BJ Steeves> Or strtched it too far...
<@SLViehl> Okay, Jehane's turn (Kaelle, you're next) -- Jehane, you're up.
<Jehane> I have the opposite problem to Sarah. I'm working on a short story at the moment but keep adding too much into the beginning. This isn't too bad since it's going to be an extract from a larger work, but I can't seem to find the right amount of background for a short story.
<@SLViehl> Pick the three most important aspects of your background and dump the rest.
<James> Apply The Test to every line: does this story make sense if I delete this line.
<Robert> Trim it out in the rewrite, let it get as long as it wants in the rough. Zette and I both overwrite that way, she talks about it.
<Lucas> Maybe you want only the things that can be kept without noticeable exposition to convey them.
<@SLViehl> I'm brutal about backstory, especially in short stories, because you're got wordcount limits.
<Robert> I sometimes do redundant exposition in rough, finding the second or third repetition is the nice tight keeper one.
<@SLViehl> Combine any elements you can, Jehane.
<Lucas> That would force you to keep only non-bulky things, and to really streamline what you do have.
<Crista> I'd say keep it in the rough and then go through while revising and figure out what is necessary and what is not.
<Izunya> You could write it assuming that all the backstory is known, and then add in a bare minimum of selected elements in the rewrite.
<@SLViehl> And concentrate on what really enhances the story and/or moves the reader, as far as setting and description. They can also drag your pacing down.
<Sarah> Put only what the reader needs to know into the beginning, and work the rest in as teasers in the story proper. "The gargoyles on the ramparts sent chills chasing down her spine, and she drew her sword. The metal in her hand no longer quivered with life, but it comforted nonetheless." is all the reader get of Aren's history with her sword.
<Robert> Like I'll explain it in the narration and some character will refer to it and boil all that down to a line.
<@SLViehl> Working some of the detail into dialogue is good, as long as you avoid the info dump variety
<Lucas> Sometimes a lot can be understood if you just write like everyone already knows what's going on.
<James> I've also seen it suggested (and done it a couple of times successfullyish) that you write the story then delete the first page and reread to see if the story makes sense -- it really makes you focus on what's important in the beginning.
<Robert> Ari does that for me all the time, it's why I call him my editor.
<@SLViehl> That sounds a bit like write the novel then delete the first three chapters.
<Izunya> James: I've had a story where I ended up deleting the first three pages. I think it worked pretty well.
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for Jehane?
<Robert> Promise yourself to write a different story using that world if you have a burning need to tell the backstory that's not needed.
<Jehane> thanks people
<James> Again, I agree with Robert, if you're not sure, put it all in and rewrite when you're finished.
<@SLViehl> Kaelle is up now, then we'll take a five minute break (BJ, you'll be up after the break)
<Kaelle> My MC is on another continent on a rescue mission. She finds out her magic doesn t work the same as it does at home. Does it sound okay or hokey to have a figurine she buys be the link to using her magic in the new land? The figurine has ties to the mystery of the old magic, I figure, which she ll encounter on her mission.
<Crista> Sort of like a talisman? I don't see that as hokey at all.
<@SLViehl> It's a talisman or a focus for her power. Maybe a conduit?
<Robert> Sounds like it works. To me hokey is in how it's told, not what it is.
<Kaelle> yes, like a conduit
<@SLViehl> Crista, stop mind-melding with me. lol
<Crista> lol
<joela> Sounds good. Will add an interesting mystery to the story, SLViehl.
<@SLViehl> Hey Joel.
<joela> oops! sorry. for kaelle!
<Sarah> But don't let it be easy. No "Oh, I pick this up and away I go." She has to sacrifice something in order to be able to use it.
<joela> Evening, Ms. Viehl.
<@SLViehl> And it has to cost her.
<joela> oops! sheila!
<@SLViehl> (smacking Joel)
<Robert> Maybe a little more each time. Feed Me, Seymour~!
<Gayle> definitely has to cost her
<Kaelle> Well, she has problems using her magic the way she already knows, and has problems using it on the new land.
<Crista> Also, you can show how it works as your MC has to discover how to adapt her magic to it. That sounds interesting.
<Izunya> I could buy it, I think. The only problem would be if it looked to me like the twists had no point.
<@SLViehl> Kae, if she loses the figurine, does she lose a portion of her power?
<James> It does seem to me you'll need to consider why magic is different on the two continents, and how magic works for the world overall, then tie the reason the figurine works into that, so it seems to grow naturally from your background.
<@SLViehl> I'd have it be like Samson's hair.
<joela> it would be interesting if she can only use the figurine if she's forced to change herself in some way: i.e., personality shift.
<@SLViehl> Or by using it too often, it loses its effectiveness
<Gayle> or maybe the using the figurine draws her into the darker sides of magic
<Gayle> ?
<Anne_Marble> Do you read C.S. Friedman's Coldfire series? Magic only worked if they sacrificed something of value. At the end, it changed -- they had to sacrifice something valuable to themselves (like their life or health).
<Izunya> I mean, I don't want to start wondering, "Okay, so why not just write it the simple way and have her magic work normally?" I'd want to start thinking, "Okay, what's the deal here? Does the magic come from elsewhere? Has someone done something to it? Etc."
<@SLViehl> Nice twist, Gayle
<Sarah> Or she becomes addicted to it, like a drug, since it's different from her own kind of magic.
<Sarah> And then loses it.
<joela> or the item because sentient?
<@SLViehl> Izunya's got a point -- the Ocam's razor thing.
<James> Or using the figuring draws the attention of its maker or original owner, and not in a nice way...
<BJ Steeves> OR it becomes harder each time to use.
<Kaelle> Ah, James, along the lines of what I was thinking.
<Izunya> I'd want it to pay out in a plot kind of way. Otherwise I'd feel a little bit cheated.
<Lucas> Or it only lets her use magic when it benifits itself.
<James> Or maybe the figuring is what you end up becoming after a few too man uses?
<Blair #9> or the talisman draws the magic from her, slowly taking control. She would have to limit how she used it
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for Kaelle?
<Robert> It changes her every time she uses it and she has to get more mystical and unworldly every time.
<James> too man being too many, of course.
<Sarah> Good one James!
<@SLViehl> Man uses. Lol, James
<Izunya> The item doesn't have to be malevolent for it to be unsettling to her and difficult to use.
<Robert> Actually that fits with mine if by the time she did, she didn't care any mroe!
<@SLViehl> Okay, we're going to take five VERY well deserved minutes of break here.
<Kaelle> Oooh, good suggestions, everyone. Thanks!
<Izunya> Oddness can be as disconcerting as evil.
<Lucas> A magic talisman with its own ends (good or bad), that only provides magic if it thinks its for its own good. So she never knows who's end she is serving.
<James> Ah, caffeine time! brb
<@SLViehl> brb, getting a chamomile infusion
<Izunya> I'll be right back.
<joela> night. spouse is calling
<Gayle> me too...brb
<Lucas> True Izunya, even being an tool for a good power would be "unsettling".
<Kaelle> Lucas, that's good too.
<Anne_Marble> Time for Law & Order SUV I mean SVU. And staring at Christopher Melloni.
<Kaelle> I liked him in the sitcom "The Fanelli Boys" (I think that was the name)
<Lucas> What number were we up to? So I know how we're progressing...
<Kaelle> I was #7
<Anne_Marble> All I know is that BJ is next.
<BJ Steeves> 7 down
<Robert> It's moving real fast, I thought seven or eightt.
<Lucas> Ok.
<Izunya> I'm back.
<@SLViehl> List of people to be served, as follows:
<@SLViehl> BJ, Blair, James, Lucas, Anne, Crista, Izunya, and Joel if he comes back.
<@SLViehl> In that order.
<@SLViehl> Sorry for the confusion, this is the test run to see how it works, folks.
<Lucas> Everything seems to be running smoothly so far.
<Kaelle> Maybe if we put our number in after our names like Blair did?
<Robert> So far it's working great. I got lots of good suggestions and everyone else's are stimulating that nomad novel!
<@SLViehl> Excellent idea, Kae
<@SLViehl> What I like is the energy. You guys are burning up the screen
<Kaelle> I was having trouble reading them as fast as they came in. When I went to answer there was another to read.
<Robert> Yeah, and even unrelated things like 'laws of magic' are making me think about the situation on the ship and ways I can screw over the crew.
<Lucas> We'll have to install heat-sinks on our monitors at this rate.
<@SLViehl> I'll definitely be posting a transcript tonight, in case anyone missed anything.
<Robert> I'll mail you mine ASAP - whoops good time to switch files!
<@SLViehl> brb, kettle's whistling
<Izunya> Transcript is good. Transcript is very good. As Kaelle said, the text was sort of bouncing up the screen in bits.
<BJ Steeves> I have a current one.
<Robert> I've got it from the moment I came in and I even managed to grab caffeine in the intermission.
<@SLViehl> Okay, is everyone back and fluidated?
<James> Yep.
<Izunya> Yup.
<Kaelle> <burble> yes
<Anne_Marble> Yuppers
<Robert> Yes, fluidated and caffeinated!
<Jinx> I'm here. Tonight may be a banner night for me.
<Lucas> Ready.
<@SLViehl> Here we go -- BJ, you're up
<Sarah> Yup.
<Crista> Back with soda. I'm still trying to eat my way through the chinese food.
<BJ Steeves> What is a reasonable number of characters to handle for a story at one time: How many Main Characters, Subordinate Characters, Background Charactors, etc.... And how do you keep track of them all?
<@SLViehl> Novel or short story?
<Robert> Depends on the length and how much depth to the characters.
<James> In five minutes? We'd better type fast
<Crista> Depends on the length.
<BJ Steeves> Novel, can never seem to keep them short.
<Robert> I had three in a 100 word flash story and it worked.
<James> The short answer is as many as you need and you can handle, I guess.
<Kaelle> Have you used either Holly's or Sheila's templates to track what you have?
<@SLViehl> I like between one to three MCs, and seven to ten supporting characters. About ten more background characters.
<James> I mean, it's going to be a very subjective number.
<Izunya> I can't answer the first one, but as for the second one, I keep lists. Lists with a few good descriptors and the main conflict that the character is looking at.
<Crista> I keep track of my characters by keeping a list and grouping them together logically, by family or group, whatever. then, if I need a detail, i look at the lists and either use on already there, or if it's not there, make it up. <g>
<Robert> I use RoughDraft and now instead of Cast LIst file, I use Pad to jot all the entrances next to their chapters for easy lookemup.
<Gayle> back
<Anne_Marble> I've heard that while typing the first draft, you can name the background characters after something silly (like types of cheese) -- that way, you can keep them straight for the time being and keep writing.
<@SLViehl> I think you'll find you'll write less about the less interesting characters, BJ, those would be good ones to drop if you think you have too many.
<@SLViehl> If you're running your characters around too much, you may need a few more to make an interesting mix
<Anne_Marble> Sometimes you can combine some characters.
<BJ Steeves> Good point Sheila
<Robert> And sometimes a background character only does this stagehog walk on for that scene and goes away giggling, it's weird.
<@SLViehl> good point Anne -- combine the ones who are otherwise weak or uninteresting
<Izunya> Note that there's a difference between a plain old character and a main character; you can have a story with a cast of thousands, empires rising and falling, and end up focusing on this one dude and his cat. For example.
<Crista> I do that, Anne.
<@SLViehl> Yeah, you don't want any cardboard characters. Think of them as tools --- how can you use them?
<BJ Steeves> Didn't think about that Anne, Thanks!
<Anne_Marble> After writing my third novel, I realized that I had three pairs of cops! I would forget myself and write new characters instead of using existing ones.
<@SLViehl> Characters should always serve some purpose in a story.
<Robert> I always imagine I've got this long line of character actors in Central Casting all trying out for the book.
<Robert> And they'd love to get in even if they get shot in their scene.
<Crista> LOL, Robert.
<Kaelle> Red shirts, Robert
<BJ Steeves> Do you let them wear red shirts?
<@SLViehl> Robert's character casting couch. Now there's an image
<Robert> Sometimes they do to try to get attention - and those I cast, because they will not be nonentities int heir half page of dying, they will make reader feel something.
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for BJ?
<Anne_Marble> Robert's character casting couch is covered with cat hair.
<Robert> hehehe, there's always my Emperor's harem. lol
<Izunya> If you know what the main, dramatic thrust of the story is . . . someone help me with proper writerly words here . . . if you know what it's *about,* you can pick the characters who have similar conflicts inside them. They'll generally be the most important.
<BJ Steeves> Many thanks All...Great help here!
<Robert> rofl, the only sex scene in Thrice was the cats, Anne
<@SLViehl> I think you mean theme or main conflict, Izunya. Okay, thanks al -- Blair, you're up.
<@SLViehl> al=all
<Izunya> Main conflict, most likely. Thanks.
<Blair #9> I'm having problems coming up with ways to make my bad guy REALLY bad... beyond torturing and killing people in horrible ways. Basically he's a 'mad scientist' kinda guy who aspires to dominate the known universe. He runs a large crime syndicate kinda thing to fund his operation, but I need to show him as being worse than he's becoming....any ideas
<Robert> Petty cruelty to the people who agree with him and think he's cool. Minor nastiness.
<Crista> My trick is to show the villain hurting those who care about him. That just sticks with me as beng really, really evil.
<Robert> Mind games on their heads and they still believe in him, control freak.
<@SLViehl> Have him manipulate people -- lie to them, gain their confidence, aid him in his quest -- then he slams them with betrayal when he's done using them.
<Sarah> Good one, Crista.
<Izunya> Well, he's a mad scientist, right? So get into the creepy side of his scientific, analytical self. Show that people and rats are absolutely no different to him. There's a character in Sheila's Endurance who's really nasty like that.
<James> You can omit all emotional or emotion related words from his dialogue, his thoughts, and narration from his viewpoint. It gives an odd, emotional flatness to the text that makes the character feel sociopathic.
<Gayle> or killing them when he's done with them...
<@SLViehl> Have him care about someone, too -- you want every villain to have at least one minor good point. Then you give him depth. And it doesn't have to be a person, it can be a thing.
<Robert> Cheerfully rationalizing what he's doing as for their own good while he's hurting them, assuming they will agree.
<Izunya> As a scientist, maybe he cares about knowledge. Or truth.
<Lucas> He could cultivate enemies on purpose, because he has a complex that makes him feel inadequate unless he's squashing an enemy.
<Anne_Marble> When he kills people, he makes sure they live a while. Like he'll order a fink's head to be covered with plaster while he's alive.
<@SLViehl> That was my mad scientist's plus -- he was really into research to study other life forms. He just maimed and killed them to do so.
<James> If he does care about something, so the least aspect of what he likes being more important to him than the most significant aspect of what he doesn't. I mean, he likes cats, he has you beaten for moving the cat's hairbrush.
<Robert> And the insane idea that they will agree with him if only they understood science was a higher good is scary!
<@SLViehl> Or, give him a wonderful talent or gift, like the ability to play beautiful music or paint gorgeous art. Something in direct contrast with his villainous acts.
<Lucas> A good motive is always a point for a strange villian.
<James> oops, so should be show.
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for Blair?
<Blair #9> sweet...thanks guys
<Robert> The unintended positive effects of his research are poignant and tragic, like if Mengele had discovered a real cure for a disease.
<Izunya> Perhaps you could show him doing something truly vile to someone, and he's almost kind as he straps them in to be killed. Explains how they'll benefit the scientific world, bla-de-bla.
<@SLViehl> Okay, James, you're up (Lucas, you're next)
<James> A piece of technology has been stolen from my character. As he investigates, it's clear there's a conspiracy building around him. On the outside of town there's a new, large complex building a new but unrelated technology. Every reader's going to know (correctly), they're behind the conspiracy, so how do I obscure that, or do I need to obscure it?
<Blair #9> I would say my characters thank you... but you've just made things worse
<Lucas> What is the main character's goal?
<Robert> Obscure it with more details of other equally well hidden conspiracies that are red herrings.
<Lucas> Who cares if the tech is stolen?
<@SLViehl> You need a red herring, James. Something to make the reader assume it was [the red herring guys]
<James> Really, to get the technology back, but he uncovers worse as he investigates, then it becomes to topple the conspiracy.
<@SLViehl> Have the evident technology benign on the surface, could act as camoflauge
<James> No one but him and the conspiracy know the technology exists.
<Izunya> Well, does it need to be obscured? I mean, if he doesn't know what they're up to, uncovering the layers may be enough mystery.
<Robert> This is great stuff. Spooks attract spooks. Who else is investigating all this? ANy other spies in town, anyone he can discover is Massad-equivalent
<@SLViehl> Have the tech people offer their expertise to help him nail the offender -- that way, they can seed evidence and control his investigation
<Robert> Anyone else with something to hide that thinks his clue is a minor detail?
<James> There's actually half a dozen equally peculiar but powerful groups who could be up to something -- I wondered if the technologically sophisticated one is going to stand out no matter how suspicious the others look.
<BJ Steeves> Hide it in plain site, it a small agricultural college on the surface, etc...
<Lucas> If the other groups have something to gain by pretending to be guilty, that will really muddy things.
<Robert> Any information brokers more in the know about a lot of things that don't know what he's fishing for?
<James> Oh, hide by helping him. I like that.
<@SLViehl> I just flashed on Robin Cook's "Coma" -- where patients in hospitals for routine operations were actually being harvested for organs.
<@SLViehl> You do need to muddy the waters if the tech revelation is a big twist, I think
<Robert> I loved that, Sheila! That's the kind of thing - and lots of other stuff went on in that hospital unrelated to it.
<Jinx> Perhaps he's friends with someone who's now working at the new complex, someone he'd trust to tell his story to. This friend pretends to help him with his investigation, etc.
<James> Sheila knows bits of this story -- the techno complex looks like a new kind of public transport, but it's actually going to steal the planet's sun.
<Crista> I read that, Sheila. Scary stuff. My mom bought me a used copy of it when I went in for an appendix operation. <g>
<Izunya> Maybe not. Depending on the sort of technology, if it's useful enough to one group or another, the oddest people could be after it. So if it was technology for, to pull something out of a hat, astral projection, you could have a bunch of near-Luddite mystics after it, just because it parallels their interests.
<@SLViehl> Good idea, Izunya
<Robert> Some terrorist group may want it just to wave it and scare some country.
<Kaelle> Well then, the public transports' competition could look guilty.
<@SLViehl> It's almost like having a nuclear warhead -- if the terrorists have one, we worry. If China has one, we don't.
<Robert> While some corporate spy is trying to get it believing the cover story!
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for James?
<Lucas> Find out who couldn't possibly want it, and figure out why that person suddenly goes after it.
<Lucas> Or pretends to already have it.
<James> Thank you very much, everyone!
<@SLViehl> Okay, Lucas is up (Anne, you're next):
<Lucas> I'm working on the outline for a story. There is a plauge & a revolution, an invading army (connected to both prior problems), a doctor (main character) from another world who married a woman he doesn't love in order to save her life, and an entire system of strange magic stuff he is trying to get a handle on.
<Lucas> This sounds like a ripe situation, but it seems to be lacking vital energy. I think my main problem is that I don't really know what kind of things a doctor would do. Doctors try to heal people, sure, but after he gets rid of the plague, what then?
<Lucas> I wanted to have more things happening in this world to this character, since it seems like such a ripe situation, but everything I come up with seems to short-circuit potential future conflict. As in, every problem is somehow explosively solved all at once.
<Lucas> How's that for prep, eh?
<@SLViehl> (applause)
<@SLViehl> Medical science is one of those wonderful things that always throws a wrench into the works.
<Robert> Doctors always want to know more about any disease or injury, they're curious people with strong stomachs.
<Kaelle> Maybe the plague causes side effects that magic has a strange effect on.
<James> He could try to set up a medical infrastructre to prevent any future plagues -- against traditional vested interests of some sort.
<@SLViehl> Your plague needs to have health consequences. Affect the population in some way. Or, the population reacts to the plague with hysteria over a subsequent, non-lethal epidemic
<Robert> He probably wants to study the magic in its healing aspects and integrate that with what he already knows as a new specialty.
<Jinx> Not all of the doctor's conflicts have to be global. Maybe some things are more personal -- he loses a patient (whether from his mistake or another's), etc.
<Sarah> The plague was keeping something nasty at bay.
<@SLViehl> True, Jinx
<Izunya> What if people were suspicious of the doctor? Maybe he's an outsider, using things that they don't understand. What if they think he's a necromancer? Or the local equivalent.
<Blair #9> maybe the plague and magic are connected....the suffering and dying of many people is what gives the magic strength
<James> He could uncover a link between the plague and the revolution -- the revolutionaries started it to give them an excuse.
<Anne_Marble> Think of the people who thought they had anthrax because there was white powder on the floor (under the chalkboard).
<Robert> On Jinx's note, he lost one patient in it to the wrong symptoms and that BUGS him a long time till he knows why.
<Sarah> Getting the plague and NOT dying of it is what makes the people of this world fertile...
<@SLViehl> Bio-engineered plague. And the doctor discovers there's a bigger, badder version being cooked up.
<Anne_Marble> Good one, Sarah. Some genetic diseases (in their inactive form) actually protect the person against certain plagues.
<Crista> Building on Robert's idea, maybe he found out the magic in conjunction with medicine cures the plague and then your docotr searches for more uses for the magic and the ways both magic and medicine can be melded..
<Robert> Sheesh, I remember Cherijo chewing ona couple of those for a couple of books!
<Sarah> Which they discover after the doctor has wiped it out.
<@SLViehl> Cherijo loves bugs.
<James> I like that, Sarah!
<Izunya> I think you could play quite a bit on the outsider theme. Suspicion, taboos, culture clash, etc.
<Robert> Cherijo's a perfect example, it eats her that deep if she loses even one patient.
<@SLViehl> Survivors will develop antibodies to the plague which could have health consequences, fertility was suggested, but how about genetic mutation"
<@SLViehl> Time -- any last comments for Lucas?
<Anne_Marble> Like having the recessive and the dominant genes for sickle cell anemia (which means you dont have them) means you're protected against malaria. Being a carrier for Tay-Saches is similar.
<Robert> Someone's religious vows eating habits might protect against the plague and monks say it's a blessing.
<Izunya> Perhaps the plague has an animal vector, except, unlike rats for the black plague, these creatures shouldn't be killed. It's taboo.
<Lucas> I think the plague was started by the invaders as a chaos inducing gambit, but I could always alter that. One of the ideas I had was that curing the plague made everyone who didn't already have it get sick.
<Kaelle> Are there hospitals - maybe he could want to start one?
<Izunya> Perhaps some groups don't get the plague, for whatever reason. Perhaps some people get very suspicious.
<@SLViehl> And the doctor has to save lives by inducing plague. Oh, man, what a conflict.
<Robert> I like that, the cure is 'get cowpox first'
<@SLViehl> Thanks all -- Anne, you're up.
<Anne_Marble> I was writing at a very good pace in my story about the barbarian who raped the mage. The barbarian now feels very guilty and all the mages hate him, he is depressed, etc. So I had to find something to move the plot so that the barbarian and mage can eventually heal. So now, I need to move the plot forward. I had the barbarian find a forest (where he's a home). He was bathing naked in a cold stre
<James> The plague could change, of course, become worse on its own and defeat whatever cures its creators imagine they had to protect themselves.
<Anne_Marble> stream. But then I got stuck. Does he meet the mage again, or is that too convenient? Or does he come across a large ferocoius animal and use powers he doesn't know to befriend it?
<Anne_Marble> BTW the mage is a man.
<@SLViehl> Does the mage want to get even for the rape? Take revenge on the barbarian?
<Anne_Marble> And they're both in a prison where heretical mages are enslaved.
<Robert> The animal anecdote demands he develop the patience to approach the man he wounded. So the animal's good but don't let him tame it right away. Make him want to and have to go back every day.
<Robert> Because that wild animal is the only creature talking to him.
<Anne_Marble> When he was raped, the mage used magic to make him experience the rape from the mage's POV. So now, the mage would rather just ignore him. Everyone either ignores or mocks him.
<Izunya> What does the barbarian feel would be proper penance? What's right for his culture?
<@SLViehl> M