Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday 20

Two observations about the book biz this week:

1. It's difficult to feel sorry for writers who are

a) miserable while in Hawaii
b) miserable while on publisher-funded book tours
c) miserable while "cranking out" a single book per year that will get more publicity, backing and print runs than an average midlist author's entire backlist received.

2. Writing synopses and pitching them to other, miserable writers' editors is more productive, not to mention more lucrative, than writing impolitic online rants.

Floor is open for questions: what's on your mind this week?

42 comments:

  1. Technical authoring! Currently working on building up moonlighting business.

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  2. I have a question about your visualization process for your novels. You said that you visualize the entire book and then start writing (correct me if I'm wrong). How do you remember everything you've visualized? Do you make notes or do you just remember it all well enough?

    Thanks,
    E.

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  3. vamp_writer wrote: You said that you visualize the entire book and then start writing (correct me if I'm wrong). How do you remember everything you've visualized? Do you make notes or do you just remember it all well enough?

    I do visualize the novel in my head from start to finish before I write a single word. Once I've worked it out in my head, I can also recall the entire novel image stream or bits and pieces of it anytime I want. Disclaimer: I was a mnemonic prodigy as a kid, so my cognitive processes are a bit different than most people's.

    Two things I do that might help other writers: when I mentally plot out the book, I think only in images, not sounds. I don't even try to work out the dialogue until I start writing. It's like watching a movie with the sound turned off. I also use music as a visualization aid, and when I listen to whatever song(s) I've chosen for the novel, they act like image/scene prompts.

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  4. A co-worker used to say that I had a "photogenic" memory. Not real sure what that means, but it sounds like a compliment.


    There's a lot of controversy these days over first-person presnt-tense. What are your thoughts on why so many writers think this is a good POV and tense to write in? Also, why do you think it's so hard to do it well?

    Thanks!

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  5. I was going to ask if you use an outline. I guess this answers my question. I'd love to be able to carry an outline in my head. Sadly (for me), I can't for anything longer than about 7-8000 words.

    My great-grandfather had a prodigious memory. He was able to pass his surveyor's examinations easily because he could memorize books of logarithms. He could remember where he had placed posts many years later.

    He could not, however, drive a car, because he had to know the gear ratios of the steering gear and work out in his head how far to turn the wheel before he got to a turn. Oddly enough, he ended up running the car off the road.

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  6. On my mind this morning is how often many writers self-sabotage. There are enough outside influences that can screw with a career, we don't have to strangle ourselves.

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  7. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Are you ever going to publish the short stories you used to do or make any into novel length? Yours are some of the few short stories that I like (I usually prefer novels)

    Cris

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  8. I'd like to hear more about the voice recognition software you use, which I think you said is Dragon Naturally Speaking. Do you use the professional version or the personal (home) version? I'm wondering how much time it took for the software to recognize your speech patterns and how difficult it was to work with the program in the beginning.

    Thanks!

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  9. Reading more and more about the difficulties of getting picked up by a big publishing house, who isn't real likely to do much marketing for you anyway, what are your thoughts on the benefits of a big publishing house compared to self-publishing (not vanity press, mind you)?

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  10. Carter wrote: There's a lot of controversy these days over first-person presnt-tense. What are your thoughts on why so many writers think this is a good POV and tense to write in? Also, why do you think it's so hard to do it well?

    First person present tense is one of those literary writer devices that rears its pointed head regularly as a minor trend blip. As with second person present, there are only a handful of writers who can pull it off and not commit story suicide, but like climbing Mt. Everest, it has a certain lethal allure.

    First person is a natural, intimate narrative form that provides a direct feed from writer to reader. Intimacy breeds confidances, which evolve from experience, history and backstory. Present tense forces the writer and reader to exist in the now of the story with little or no opportunity for forming intimate connections. In a sense, they're almost at odds with each other, and that's probably what makes it so hard to write both.

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  11. When you visualize, do you use your outline? or do you see the story in your head as you outline?

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  12. Is it wise to tell an agent in a query letter where you think your book fits into the market? Say you wrote a romance novel based on the instructions of one of the Harleqiun lines. Should the writer mention that she used the guidelines to write the book or should she let the agent figure it out? (I hope this makes sense)

    A shy romance writer friend wants to know so I said I'd ask. :) Bleh, I can't type this morning. My eyes are all glazed over already from lack of sleep.

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  13. Dean wrote: I was going to ask if you use an outline. I guess this answers my question. I'd love to be able to carry an outline in my head. Sadly (for me), I can't for anything longer than about 7-8000 words.

    Oh, I still outline just like every other writer; usually to work out synopses for proposals. Unfortunately I can't jack an editor into my skull to watch my novel movies (yet.) Most of my novel-related research also ends up in outlines that I keep in my novel notebook along with my character sketches and other book-related notes.

    Memory quirks abound among mnemonics. I can accurately date events that happened thirty years ago down to to the time and day of the week, but I generally can't tell you what today's date, day of the week or month is without double-checking a calendar. One of the brightest kids in our gifted student program could tell you the longitude and latitude of anyplace on earth, but had to be picked up by his mom because he kept getting lost on the way home from school. :)

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  14. Mary Stella wrote: On my mind this morning is how often many writers self-sabotage.

    I have known one writer for years who routinely finds some excuse to bail on whatever work is in progress, and will likely never have a novel published because of this. It breaks my heart, because this person is one of the most naturally gifted writers I've ever met (and I have tried to help, with no success.)

    This depressed me, until a good friend of mine pointed out that while you can try to help another writer, you can't write their books or navigate their careers for them, anymore than you can live their lives for them. If it's any consolation, there's always a chance that when they hit bottom, they'll bounce back up.

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  15. Cris wrote: Are you ever going to publish the short stories you used to do or make any into novel length? Yours are some of the few short stories that I like (I usually prefer novels)

    I've not decided yet what to do about my old short story collections. They need to be re-edited and updated, which is a spare-time project I have for this year. However/wherever they end up, I'll be sure to make free .pdf copies available online, as I wrote these for my readers, not for profit.

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  16. I do visualize the novel in my head from start to finish before I write a single word. Once I've worked it out in my head, I can also recall the entire novel image stream or bits and pieces of it anytime I want.

    Wow. If I could do that, I wouldn't need to write the book.

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  17. Isn't miserable in Hawaii an oxymoron???

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  18. Writing synopses and pitching them to other, miserable writers' editors is more productive, not to mention more lucrative, than writing impolitic online rants.

    I put this on my monitor, eyelevel. Ha! I've been on a tear recently. PMS, or some dreadful peri-menopausal hoohah, methinks.

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  19. No question, but in regards to item 1.c -- ANGHRRARRRAAR GOD YES YES YES YES. I can think of a specific example RIGHT NOW and aaagh HULK SMASH rarrr.

    The author in question IS within a 30 minute driving radius of me, I might add. I could easily acquire a salmon and smack him/her with it.

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  20. Caryle2:58 PM

    This may not be something you can answer, and I know it's not a writing methodology question, but I'm extremely curious and hoping I can talk you into divulging a state secret. Would you be able to share if we've met the main character of Night Lost (Darkyn #4), and if we have, would you perhaps share their name? If you can't share or want to wait to reveal this information, I completely understand.

    Thanks for your books and this blog. A day without PBW is incomplete. :)

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  21. Dang, now I want to know who's miserable in Hawaii. On the other hand, a writing acquaintance told me shortly after I moved here that people seem to believe just because you live in Hawaii that you don't have any problems. Turns out her marriage was abusive. None of her mainland friends were sympathetic until she and the hubby ended up in divorce court and the truth came out. :/

    Not that that has anything to do with writing, but I've never forgotten it. I don't have any problems on that scale, thank heavens, but I do have my down days--like we all do. I just know better than to complain about it. ;) Hawaii ain't all sunshine and hula skirts. You get down days no matter where you live.

    On the self sabotage thing: This depressed me, until a good friend of mine pointed out that while you can try to help another writer, you can't write their books or navigate their careers for them, anymore than you can live their lives for them. If it's any consolation, there's always a chance that when they hit bottom, they'll bounce back up.

    Thanks for saying that. Just this week I've been worrying over a friend's book and future. I finally realized this morning, before logging on, that there was nothing I could do about it. She will never publish if she doesn't change her thinking and it drives me crazy. I need to stop letting it get to me. It's counterproductive to my own writing.

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  22. I'd like to know who the complainers are, too. And I want to read their rants. *grin*

    I visualise scenes of my novels, too (though not the entire novel in one go). Without the sound, like Sheila. And I often wish those damn characters would talk already, instead of making me twist my brain to come up with some good dialogue. ;-)

    I wonder, with that writing schedule of yours, how many books are you actually reading, and reading for fun, not because someone wants a blurb or other obligations. And what makes you give up on a book not worth your time?

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  23. A couple of new authors have started a DVD-like "bonus features" content for their books on-line. Specific examples: Brandon Sanderson and Tobias Buckell. These extras include things such as deleted chapters (or even entire characters), author commentary on certain chapters, short stories, etc. Is this a brand-new thing, a growing trend, or something that may have been tried before in the past in another medium? And, here's the million-dollar question, would you ever consider doing something like this for your upcoming (and even past) releases?

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  24. Great blog, PBW. It's the first one I look at every day and keep returning to for the comments.

    I'd like to ask a question about editing. I read in WOTC (really great, BTW) where you say you have a first draft and a "daily edit draft" (DED). I wasn't clear on these points:

    1. Do you cut and paste your daily work from the first draft into the DED and then edit the day's work in the DED?

    2. Is the DED the copy you print out for the full manuscript edit, or do you do it on the first draft? If not on the first draft, what do you use the first draft for? You mentioned you kept this for a reason but didn't say what it was. I think ;-)

    I hope the questions make sense. Sorry about asking about these technicalities, but I'm having a real bummer of a time keeping track of my edits. I have about 6 versions of a WIP because I keep on making revisions as I go along, inserting and deleting paragraphs and wondering whether to keep them in case I decide to use them again. I don't know whether it makes sense to keep the cut-out bits in a separate document? I think like most writers I fall in love with some of the stuff I write, although you later realise it's not appropriate for that story. Are these bits worth keeping when you know you won't use them again? I just don't know.

    Of course, I could avoid this altogether if I just wrote the first draft without fiddling about so much!

    Cheers.

    CK

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  25. Kellie, I think you just answered my question about what to do with the cut out bits. *g*

    CK

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  26. Darlene Ryan wrote: I'd like to hear more about the voice recognition software you use, which I think you said is Dragon Naturally Speaking. Do you use the professional version or the personal (home) version?

    I currently use Dragon Naturally Speaking 8 Standard, which I believe is the personal/home version.

    I'm wondering how much time it took for the software to recognize your speech patterns and how difficult it was to work with the program in the beginning.

    For the first week I had no problems with the program because I was basically playing with it and learning how to use it. After the fun initial period was over, I started using it for work, and immediately had word recognition problems in almost every sentence.

    I watched the pattern of the words Dragon was missing and realized the program wasn't picking up my pronunciation of certain letters and sounds (especially R, CH, TH, A, I, L, AY.) With my accent and from the speech therapy I had after a car accident, I know I tend to soften or drop consonants, neuter vowels and slur double consonant sounds.

    I figured I had to clean up my voice before the program was going to work for me, so I talked to some other writers who used it and all of them recommended I speak more slowly or try to imitate someone else when I used the program and see if it made a difference.

    I tried speaking slower but it didn't make much difference. Neither did my imitation of HRM Queen Elizabeth, Daisy Fuentes or Catherine Coulter. I got frustrated with it and started talking to it like Keir Dullea does to the killer computer Hal in the movie 2001 when he wants him to open the pod bay doors. Lo and behold, Dragon understood every single word. :)

    This all took about three months of daily, four hours of practice and use of the program. Bad Keir Dullea imitation aside, necessity forced me to keep at it and refine my voice every day, because I knew very shortly I would either have to use it or hire someone to transcribe my writing from a dictaphone.

    Another thing I always do even now is watch the words Dragon misses and repeat them several times until I hit the pronunciation Dragon understands, or in the case of exotic name/place thing words, come up with a unique but common-sounding replacement word, which I later do a search-and-replace with its exotic counterpart.

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  27. Michael Ezell wrote: Reading more and more about the difficulties of getting picked up by a big publishing house, who isn't real likely to do much marketing for you anyway, what are your thoughts on the benefits of a big publishing house compared to self-publishing (not vanity press, mind you)?

    I think the differences between a major publisher and self-publishing that every writer should consider before the marketing aspects are distribution and shelf space.

    A major publisher provides national and often global distribution to every writer they publish, wherever you end up on the totem pole. The same with shelf space: your books are shipped to major chains and indy shops and get on the shelves.

    Self-publishing offers little to no distribution and from what I've seen, zero shelf space.

    Look at it from this angle: you can't market what's not out there.

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  28. 1 l Loyd wrote: When you visualize, do you use your outline? or do you see the story in your head as you outline?

    I always try to see the story first, then write up the outline for a synopsis. I will write up notes as I'm fleshing out the idea and go through them before I visualize, but they're usually a chaotic mess of name and thing prompts.

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  29. Pixel Faerie wrote: Is it wise to tell an agent in a query letter where you think your book fits into the market?

    Gently. You don't want to come across sounding like you're already telling the agent how to do their job. :)

    Say you wrote a romance novel based on the instructions of one of the Harleqiun lines. Should the writer mention that she used the guidelines to write the book or should she let the agent figure it out? (I hope this makes sense)

    Yes, but I'd mention it more casually within the novel pitch paragraph, i.e. "My novel's theme and length would suit category romance lines such as Harlequin American Romance."

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  30. Elizabeth wrote: Wow. If I could do that, I wouldn't need to write the book.

    I keep trying to sell New York my brain wave patterns, but they won't buy 'em. :)

    Jordan Summers wrote: Isn't miserable in Hawaii an oxymoron???

    I suppose if you're allergic to gorgeous beaches, spectacular sunsets, amazing weather, incredible food . . . okay, yeah, it is. Lol.

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  31. Monica wrote: I've been on a tear recently. PMS, or some dreadful peri-menopausal hoohah, methinks.

    Hugs, same here. I've almost run out of kindness duct tape this week.

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  32. Stephanie wrote: No question, but in regards to item 1.c -- ANGHRRARRRAAR GOD YES YES YES YES.

    Monica, you and I need to take Stephanie bowling. Or javelin throwing.

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  33. Lynn Raye Harris wrote: Hawaii ain't all sunshine and hula skirts. You get down days no matter where you live.

    Good point; I've certainly been miserable enough at times while living in some of the most beautiful places in the country. Visiting them, though, I've always enjoyed -- I saw it as getting away from my troubles for a bit -- but not everyone is a happy traveler, either.

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  34. Lynn Raye Harris also wrote: I need to stop letting it get to me. It's counterproductive to my own writing.

    This is the flip side of the issue, and an important one for those of us who are close to our writer friends. You do what you can -- and you should try, because this is a friend -- but at some point you do have to let go. I'm still working on the letting it go part, too; that's the toughest for me.

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  35. Gabriele wrote: I wonder, with that writing schedule of yours, how many books are you actually reading, and reading for fun, not because someone wants a blurb or other obligations.

    On tough weeks when my brain is being sauteed, I won't read any books for pleasure. On good weeks, I manage between 10-20 books (I always carry a book in my purse and a bag of books in the car for those times when I can steal a few minutes, too.)

    And what makes you give up on a book not worth your time?

    Any point where I feel smothered by massive amounts of infodumping, technobabble, vanity/authorial intrusions, elitist vocabulary, author egotism (aka self-indulgent stories, of which I've only read one I think fits so far), lecturing, patronizing or ax-grinding. Any amount of racism or misogynism. Protagonists who are cardboard, or the author in poor disguise, or girls in mensuits, or men in girlsuits. Seeing the buttons before they're even pushed. Lousy writing. Overwriting. Literary 101 writing. And last but not least, the classic "I went to [insert name of important writer workshop]" writing.

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  36. Lol, that rules out a fair amount of books. :)

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  37. Kellie wrote: These extras include things such as deleted chapters (or even entire characters), author commentary on certain chapters, short stories, etc. Is this a brand-new thing, a growing trend, or something that may have been tried before in the past in another medium?

    Rewritten print editions of a mega bestseller author's books (King's updating and expanding The Stand, for example) have always been popular. It's like a director's cut of a movie; if there are enough fans who want it and especially if the author is deceased, the publishers will be happy to provide them with fifteen different editions.

    And, here's the million-dollar question, would you ever consider doing something like this for your upcoming (and even past) releases?

    No. I don't particularly care for this kind of thing. It's like explaining the story; I never explain my books. If I delete scenes, it's because they weren't professional level writing, and I'd rather not publish substandard work. I have no desire to babble on about myself or my books, either. I think my time is better devoted to writing new stuff for my readers. I think other writers would be better off writing new stuff, too, but that's just my opinion.

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  38. Cassandra Kane wrote: Do you cut and paste your daily work from the first draft into the DED and then edit the day's work in the DED?

    Yes.

    Is the DED the copy you print out for the full manuscript edit, or do you do it on the first draft?

    The daily edited files are the ones that become the manuscript. The first drafts are strictly for my reference only.

    If not on the first draft, what do you use the first draft for?

    A first draft always needs some editing, but now and then I edit a little too much and cut out something I later decide was important or for whatever reason that I need to put back. Typically it's a line of dialogue or an action sequence. By saving my first draft in original form and editing a second copy of the first draft, I'm able to go back and get what I cut from the original.

    This might help you with your file juggling: I use a title, chapter and draft code for my file names to identify the day's work. If today I had worked on Chapter 11 of Dark Need, the file names would look like this:

    DN11Man = Original Draft
    DN11Rev = Edited Draft

    If I don't finish the chapter, tomorrow's files will be named DN11aMan and DN11aRev.

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  39. They don't let me near pointy things anymore :\

    I did go bowling tonight, though. Well, I went and watched other people bowl. Then I sang "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" at karaoke. I feel better already!

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  40. Me either, Stephanie. I don't know why. Trying to chop vegetables with the power of my thoughts is really a pain. ;)

    And I see I missed a question yesterday, sorry, Caryle.

    Caryle wrote: Would you be able to share if we've met the main character of Night Lost (Darkyn #4), and if we have, would you perhaps share their name?

    Sure. You've not met the protagonist of book #4, but you may recall him being mentioned a few times. His name is Gabriel Seran, and he's the brother of Angelica Seran, Thierry Durands's wife.

    The publisher also approved the title for book #4, so it will definitely be Night Lost.

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  41. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I know it's too late for questions, I just wanted to say about your #1 -- Indeed! Some people should learn to appreciate their luck.

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  42. Oh, wow, someone who vizualizes the whole book! I do, too. Not in such detail as you seem to do, but it is like a film in my head, and when I need to work on a particular section, I rewind or forward. Not much in the way of dialogue either, just some key sentences perhaps. But mostly... it looks like music video in my head, short, fast, and with a soundtrack :)

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