Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday 20

This right here, according to Blogger's calculations, is the 1000th post I've made on Paperback Writer. Kind of a generic landmark, as blogs go, but I still feel as if I should write something special. Something momentous. Something that is forever passed down from writer to writer as wisdom of the ages and so forth and so on.

So: How many SF writers does it take to change a light bulb?*

To be serious for a split sec, I would like to say how much I appreciate everyone who regularly visits, comments, lurks, and otherwise stops in here. Your comments and links and everything you contribute keep the blog rolling, and make it fun and interesting for me and everyone else. Thanks.

Okay, mushy part over. Floor's open for questions. Ask!

*See Jim Winter's blog comments here for the answer.

34 comments:

  1. Lleeo1:28 AM

    Okay, allow me to start off by saying that I adore this blog and that it completely ROCKS!!! All thanks to you, of course, because you're just so witty, insightful, and entertaining.

    Now where's my cookie for saying that? ^_~

    Question: You write the kind of sci-fi that I love to read; fast-paced, action-packed, character-driven. So, when you're creating a science-fiction universe and obviously might have a lot of things to explain about this world you've built, how do you put in a lot of description without losing the pacing? I've been reading your Stardoc series and you do it so effortlessly. Especially with all the medical jargon you put in there which I do admit, a lot of the time goes right over my head until Cherijo explains it in plain English. *g*

    Second question: You may think me incredibly silly, but give a romance fan a bit of a break. ^_~ I read Afterburn before I started on the Stardoc series and was surprised to learn that Omorrs like Squilyp are not sexually compatible with Jorenians. So, in a very roundabout way, this question is tied to Emily Kim from Afterburn: Are Terrans and Omorrs sexually compatible?

    Third question: Will poor Hawk ever get a break? *g* I'm about 2/3rds through Eternity Row and I'm wondering if your publishers would object to Hawk having a relationship with another male because the Stardoc series is more of a mainstream sci-fi series.

    I'm in love with Hawk, by the way. And I absolutely adore the Stardoc series! Will you ever get all of them reissued, just because I haven't seen the first five books in bookstores and I know that I had to find them at a second-hand bookstore myself.

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  2. Bridget Medora8:05 AM

    Thank you for everything you do here, every day, giving us so many reasons to keep coming around. You've made a real, qualitative difference in my writing, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Why do you think we hang around here so much? We appreciate you too! =)

    [/mushy]

    Anyway, an incredibly, unfathomably selfish question: would you ever consider producing Way of the Cheetah as a physical book through Lulu? I've been wanting to read it so badly, but I prefer physical books to e-books (I know, blog rules say no whining...sorry, I'll stop now). If the answer's no I'll probably still buy the e-book, but I wanted to ask first.

    And btw I totally understand if the answer's no. And after all, I have to get dragged into the 21st century sometime. They just can't stop me kicking and screaming is all. ;-)

    Also -- you've heard the old one about how many copyeditors it takes to screw in a light bulb, right? Three -- one to actually do it, and two to argue about whether it's actually possible to have sex in a light bulb. (Or something like that...I'm notorious for wrecking punchlines. =P)

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  3. Your blog is a staple in my morning ritual. I *need* me my paperback writer fix!

    My question is: Do you work on more than one project at at time? I mean the actual writing part of it. I'm writing on three right now and I feel like maybe I should choose one and continue with it until I'm finished. Problem is that I keep getting ideas for the other ones while I'm writing, and so I'm jumping around a lot.

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  4. You describe your plots as being driven by three main questions:

    Who is the main character?
    What does she want?
    What's the worst thing I can do to her?

    In your example plot (John the half-demon cop), there is an obvious romance. But the story itself is driven by John's struggle over his humanity, not romance.

    If you were writing this novel as a romance novel, would you use the same approach? Or would you change the answer to "What does John want?" to reflect John's emotional/romantic needs more clearly? Would John's "worst possible thing" also change if you were writing for a romance publisher?

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  5. No questions... but a congrats on 1000 posts.

    AND... I'm patting myself on the back. i actually outlined about 2/3 of my current WIP. Granted, it's sketchy, basically 1-2 lines of what has to happen in that chapter, but for me... that's practically a thesis.

    A side note~I write romance and PBW's three questions can definitely still apply. In most romances, while they have a hero and a heroine, each story is more focused on one of the characters, the one that does the most growing or changing. I usually have the characters in mind and by using those questions on the one who is going to 'lead' the story, so to say, I get a clearer picture of the character before I really start writing.

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  6. lleo, who wrote many kind words and gets a huge cookie while PBW tries to deflate her skull, wrote: So, when you're creating a science-fiction universe and obviously might have a lot of things to explain about this world you've built, how do you put in a lot of description without losing the pacing?

    I'm a big believer in giving the reader the right bits of description rather than a ton of it; the jewels instead of the jewelry store.

    Selecting which details to put in and what to allow the reader to imagine or work out depends on how much you trust your reader, and what you want to show them. I stay away from the weather report/travelogue narrative-type description; whatever I want to show the reader is usually seen through the eyes of my protagonist or is introduced through dialogue or action. That tends to keep me from over-describing anything.

    Are Terrans and Omorrs sexually compatible?

    They are. Actually I have a Terran and Omorr who become lovers in my Mercy stories from my old short story promo e-books; have you ever read those?

    Will poor Hawk ever get a break? *g* I'm about 2/3rds through Eternity Row and I'm wondering if your publishers would object to Hawk having a relationship with another male because the Stardoc series is more of a mainstream sci-fi series.

    Answering this one is going to be like walking through a minefield...Hawk makes his return to the series in Plague of Memory and I move his storyline along quite a bit. I can't say more without spoilers. My editor did object to Hawk's storyline when I presented the outline for the book, but only because she was worried it would distract the reader from the main conflict, but I was able to pull it off in the manuscript and she didn't ask me to cut it out after she read it (one of those careful, pre-writing battles you have with your editor.)

    Will you ever get all of them reissued, just because I haven't seen the first five books in bookstores and I know that I had to find them at a second-hand bookstore myself.

    All six StarDoc books are still in print, but after seven years it's rare to find them on the bookstore shelves. New copies are available through most major online booksellers, or you can order them at your favorite major bookseller. From what I've seen out there, Barnes & Noble is most likely to carry the latest books at ome of them at their larger brick-n-mortar stores.

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  7. Hey bridget -- I hope this is kosher with PBW, but I bought my copy of Way of the Cheetah and then sent the PDF to Staples to be printed and bound. Cost less than ten bucks.

    (PBW, I hope that's not a problem. I made a single copy and still have my single copy of the ebook. I just don't like reading long bits of prose on a computer screen.)

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  8. Bridget wrote: Why do you think we hang around here so much?

    You're masochists? Lol. Thank you.

    would you ever consider producing Way of the Cheetah as a physical book through Lulu?

    Not a selfish question at all. I have trouble reading e-books and still print out all the ones I buy so I can read them in hard-copy form.

    Way of the Cheetah has been very successful; enough for me to consider doing a print version. What's holding me back is book length and reader cost. WotC is a very brief book, and the costs involved in doing even a short run paperback version would likely end up making it a lot more expensive than the e-book version. Some friends have suggested me writing an expanded version, adding some things from the blog, but my schedule is pretty tight. I also like it being a small book; I said everything I wanted to say on the topic and adding filler just to make it "bigger" bothers me.

    I will keep thinking about it, but if I do a print version, it probably won't be this year. I could make some hard (printed on bond paper) copies of WotC, put them in notebooks and give them away here at the blog; would that be a decent alternative?

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  9. Stop with the compliments, you guys. Right now. You're killing me (but you probably know that. Sadists.)

    Trace wrote: Do you work on more than one project at at time? I mean the actual writing part of it. I'm writing on three right now and I feel like maybe I should choose one and continue with it until I'm finished. Problem is that I keep getting ideas for the other ones while I'm writing, and so I'm jumping around a lot.

    I do write three or four books simultaneously (four at present) but I don't work on more than one book per day unless I absolutely have to. That allows me to work on multiple projects while still maintaining the focus I need.

    I know what you mean about getting ideas, and I often take a day or two to write mine into a rough outline, short story form or some scene sketches to get the idea on paper. Then I file the idea away in my idea file and get back to my current scheduled stuff. Getting those ideas on paper seems to placate them, and they quit bothering me and taking up space in my head. I don't know if that will work for you, but you might try it and see.

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  10. Rook wrote: If you were writing this novel as a romance novel, would you use the same approach?

    Depends on the type of romance, and I should note that I am not much for the rules of writing romance anyway, so I probably wouldn't. A classic romance writer would definitely not take the same approach.

    Or would you change the answer to "What does John want?" to reflect John's emotional/romantic needs more clearly?

    That's a good spin on that question, Rook. If that's the navigator of the romantic story arc, I'd run with it.

    Would John's "worst possible thing" also change if you were writing for a romance publisher?

    No, but I have a very understanding and open-minded romance editor who supports me and gives me a lot of room to write my way. Most romance writers are not this lucky, so if I were working with someone else, sad to say that I probably wouldn't write it at all.

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  11. Shiloh wrote: i actually outlined about 2/3 of my current WIP. Granted, it's sketchy, basically 1-2 lines of what has to happen in that chapter, but for me... that's practically a thesis.

    That's excellent. Would you stop in and let us know how it works out for you with the writing? I like seeing if the theories I keep throwing out here actually work for you guys in practice.

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  12. Eliza wrote: Hey bridget -- I hope this is kosher with PBW, but I bought my copy of Way of the Cheetah and then sent the PDF to Staples to be printed and bound. Cost less than ten bucks.

    (PBW, I hope that's not a problem. I made a single copy and still have my single copy of the ebook. I just don't like reading long bits of prose on a computer screen.)


    Terrific solution, Eliza! and no, I don't mind at all. I do the exact same thing myself here at home.

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  13. Bernie10:26 AM

    I have a few questions. Feel free to answer only one, if you don’t have time for them all. 

    Question One: This touches back to the plotting discussion. Since you begin with those three questions about character, then start plotting, at what point do you fill out your character worksheet you’ve talked about in the past? Do you fill out all that background info after you’ve plotted the whole novel? At the same time?

    Question Two: When writing out your plot in barebones mode, how do you gage how much story each event will take up? For example, if you’re doing the chapter summaries. Your chapters in the StarDoc series average about 20 pages and you have twenty chapters. Your summary for your example novel’s Chapter One goes like this: “At the party, John and Marcia meet, Marcia leaves with diamond, thief makes her car crash.” Is that 20 pages worth of story? Do you even consider word-count/length at this point in the plotting? Does this question even make any sense?

    Question Three: At what point in the process do you start adding the details to the barebones outline? (I guess this is sort of a sub-question to #1.) As you’re writing? Is there a second, more detailed outline?

    Thanks! I love your blog. Here’s to another 1000 posts!

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  14. Bridget Medora10:33 AM

    Eliza -- great idea, thanks so much! I don't know why I never thought of that myself.

    PBW said:
    I could make some hard (printed on bond paper) copies of WotC, put them in notebooks and give them away here at the blog; would that be a decent alternative?

    Ooh, I'd love a giveaway like that! How generous of you that would be!

    Of course, if you do that giveaway and I don't win a copy, I'm using Eliza's idea. =)

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  15. Happy 100th! You're a much better way to start the day than a 3rd cip of coffee.

    My question is about writer newsletters--and if anyone else has a comment too I'd love to hear it. Right now my email newsletter is every second month. I'm never quite sure what to put in it and it hasn't turned out to be much of a promotional tool--probably because I'm lousey at promotion. I'm thinking of getting rid of the thing and just doing a newsletter when I actually have some news--like a new book coming out. What are your thoughts about writer's newsletters?

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  16. PBW, I'm also working on the plotting thing, like Shiloh. It seems to be working, but there were ants on my table yesterday, so I can't have food, especially my cup of cocoa or bowl of cookies, anywhere on my table, which has brought me crashing to a halt. *stops whining* I fully plan to finish the plotting right through the end. I won't find out whether plotting works for me or not until I do.

    I don't have any questions today.

    Oh and congrats on a thousand posts!

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  17. My burning question for the week is this: when writing a standalone that may have a sequel (or series) but it's too soon to know (ie writing stage before submission), can you leave a few plot threads unresolved? Or is that a no-no? Because I would think that a hook or two would keep an editor interested enough to want the next installment. Assuming of course that said editor buys the first installment. ;)

    Congrats on 1000 posts!

    Erin K.

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  18. Bernie wrote: Since you begin with those three questions about character, then start plotting, at what point do you fill out your character worksheet you’ve talked about in the past? Do you fill out all that background info after you’ve plotted the whole novel? At the same time?

    I fill out character worksheets generally as I go. While I'm thinking and brainstorming and otherwise plotting up to writing the outline, I'll use character worksheets to record anything that comes up. I prefer to have the worksheet finished before I outline, just so I've nailed the character to my satisfaction, so I try to finish them before I commit the plot to paper.

    There are exceptions to this (there are always exceptions.) Several protagonists and secondary characters have been so clear and strong when they've popped in my head that I fill out their worksheets immediately to capture all the details that come with the rush. After the rush, I tweak the character facts as needed while I'm plotting.

    When writing out your plot in barebones mode, how do you gage how much story each event will take up?

    I used to think out/plot out everything to take exactly so many scenes and so many pages so that my chapters would be symmetrical (yes, I know, I'm a ninny.) I like things to be balanced. Anyway, I don't know if it's from years of doing that or just naturally a part of my OCD way of thinking, but I can look at a portion of a novel timeline and tell you almost exactly how many pages it will take for me to write it.

    For writers who aren't cursed with this kind of obsession, I'd say don't worry about chiseling your chapter outline in stone. Outline what you think you can write in a chapter, but if while writing you run over, don't sweat it. You can always make the chapter shorter or longer, or move the end scene to begin the next chapter.

    At what point in the process do you start adding the details to the barebones outline? (I guess this is sort of a sub-question to #1.) As you’re writing? Is there a second, more detailed outline?

    Once I've done a rough outline of the book, and I'm sure it's going to work and I want to write it, I prepare a formal proposal to pitch to my agent or editor. That's the point at which I finish buffing and polishing the outline. I know I may get a phone call about it, and I like to be prepared to answer all the questions my agent or editor may throw at me. I also have to be ready to make some story changes to clinch a sale, and if I don't have all the details of what I intended to write, I can't change what's needed in an intelligent, workable fashion.

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  19. Darlene wrote: My question is about writer newsletters--and if anyone else has a comment too I'd love to hear it. Right now my email newsletter is every second month. I'm never quite sure what to put in it and it hasn't turned out to be much of a promotional tool--probably because I'm lousey at promotion. I'm thinking of getting rid of the thing and just doing a newsletter when I actually have some news--like a new book coming out. What are your thoughts about writer's newsletters?

    I think writer newsletters are like breast implants. They can be amazing, great, okay, lopsided, very bad or a personal tragedy. As to whether you need them, everyone has an opinion, but only you know if you need to go through all that effort and pain to have them.

    I think your comment about waiting until you actually have some news is smart. Trying to think up interesting filler is a bitch and a half.

    I'm sounding very negative, though. Anyone else want to jump in on this?

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  20. Milady wrote: I fully plan to finish the plotting right through the end. I won't find out whether plotting works for me or not until I do.

    Same goes for you, then, lady -- let us know how it works out for you, if you would.

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  21. Erin wrote: when writing a standalone that may have a sequel (or series) but it's too soon to know (ie writing stage before submission), can you leave a few plot threads unresolved? Or is that a no-no? Because I would think that a hook or two would keep an editor interested enough to want the next installment. Assuming of course that said editor buys the first installment. ;)

    I'm going to say a very cautious "yes" to this one, because the more you leave hanging, the more the book is going to read unfinished. Yes, you can leave some threads unresolved, but make sure they're not easily resolved threads, and that you don't throw too many of them at the editor, otherwise your book WILL read unfinished.

    I'm the unofficial Queen of Cliffhangers, but whatever I write, I always resolve the novel's central conflict. Not to everyone's delight or satisfaction, but by the end of the book, it's done.

    Another caution flag for everyone reading this comment: If you're setting up running threads for no other reason than to intrigue the editor into buying more than one book, don't. You can mess with readers a little, but you can't play an editor like that. They've seen it done too many times.

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  22. Anonymous3:59 PM

    It's we who should thank you. This is one of the best writers' blogs out there.

    Congratulations on 100.

    D

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  23. I wouldn't do that to an editor on purpose. At the moment I'm re-thinking my 300k WIP and I thought maybe a few plot threads could be resolved in the next book. I wouldn't want to upset an editor. *shudders* Thank you for the insight. :)

    Cheers,
    Erin K.

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  24. De-lurking to say congratulations on 1000 posts and thank you for providing daily entertainment AND education. Here's to the next 1000!

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  25. 1000 posts. How prolific AND informative is that? Congrats.

    Chiming in on Darlene's question about the newsletter. As a reader, I'm not so fond of newsletters -- if a writer is doing something electronic, I want to interface with their website or blog. You have a beautiful website (ooohhh, and I see the new book is up, too--congrats). You could use that or tack a blog onto the site (there are several good free ones to work with -- WordPress is my personal favorite). If you are worried about infrequent updates, another writer friend of mine handles this nicely for her infrequently updated blog by using the mailing list to inform interested readers about a new post -- works like a charm. MarFisk, if you're reading, feel free to chime in with more information or how easy this was to set up.

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  26. Anonymous wrote: This is one of the best writers' blogs out there.

    Okay, Mom, cut it out.

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  27. Erin wrote: I wouldn't do that to an editor on purpose.

    I should clarify that I was directing that part of the comment more toward other folks who have argued the point with me, Erin. :)

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  28. Beth wrote: Here's to the next 1000!

    May I not screw them up and chase you all away. :) Thank you, ma'am.

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  29. Jean wrote many nice things, and: Chiming in on Darlene's question about the newsletter. As a reader, I'm not so fond of newsletters -- if a writer is doing something electronic, I want to interface with their website or blog.

    I agree. I was just over at Robert Gregory Browne's weblog (see sidebar) and downloaded his .pdf preview of his novel. I probably wouldn't do the same from an e-mailed newsletter, maybe because it seems pushier, if that makes any sense. Anyway, just my 2 cents on this.

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  30. Anonymous11:13 PM

    You never spoke out against the Paperback "Reader" blog trying to use your popularity to get traffic for their romance reviews (the site is dead, btw.) Now Karen Scott and others are using your Authors Behaving Badly for their trolling. Any comment this time, or don't you care?

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  31. Anonymous wrote: Any comment this time, or don't you care?

    I don't own the words, and I don't care.

    I don't want to preach at you, but if you're into the Bible, try reading Matthew 5:38-42. Good stuff.

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  32. I stay away from the weather report/travelogue narrative-type description; whatever I want to show the reader is usually seen through the eyes of my protagonist or is introduced through dialogue or action. That tends to keep me from over-describing anything.

    Thank you, that's a good guideline to start from, considering how much I like the way you write science fiction. Science fiction has always fascinated me, but I'd rather read (and write) more of a character-driven, details as needed book than some of those hard-core science-intensive sci-fis out there.

    Just curious: Is the term 'space opera' a derogatory term? And would you consider any of your books 'space operas'?

    They are. Actually I have a Terran and Omorr who become lovers in my Mercy stories from my old short story promo e-books; have you ever read those?

    *squeals* Yesss! And no, I have never heard of these stories or promo e-books. Can you tell me where you sell them?

    Answering this one is going to be like walking through a minefield...Hawk makes his return to the series in Plague of Memory and I move his storyline along quite a bit. I can't say more without spoilers.

    Now I get to do my happy dance of sap! :D Hawk is just...such a great character. He's the tortured character who also manages to be both sweet and honourable at the same time. A romance author I read was asking in her blog a while ago whether readers were getting sick of alpha males, and I was like: "For the the love of all that is holy, YES!" What's wrong with a sweet, sensitive hero? Variety is good!

    Also, I would love to own a hard copy of WotC, so I most definitely approve of your alternative suggestion! ;)

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  33. lleeo wrote: Just curious: Is the term 'space opera' a derogatory term? And would you consider any of your books 'space operas'?

    I've noticed that "space opera" is generally used as a derogatory or condescending term around the genre. I never heard of it until after I was published, so I don't use it myself. I call science fiction, and my books, science fiction. :)

    And no, I have never heard of these stories or promo e-books. Can you tell me where you sell them?

    I never sold them, I used to give them away for free to my readers during the holidays. I can e-mail .pdf downloads of them to you if you'd like; send an e-mail request to LynnViehl@aol.com and I'll send them along.

    A romance author I read was asking in her blog a while ago whether readers were getting sick of alpha males, and I was like: "For the the love of all that is holy, YES!" What's wrong with a sweet, sensitive hero? Variety is good!

    Amen to that. :) And Hawk is one of my favorite characters from the series, not that I'm gloating or anything....

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  34. I've noticed that "space opera" is generally used as a derogatory or condescending term around the genre.

    Yeah, I'm not sure of where I first heard it, but it just seemed like a snobbish term used to snub any kind of science fiction that dared to be character-driven or have any romance in it. I'm definitely not going to take any more reviewers on Amazon who use that term very seriously anymore.

    Oooh, excellent! I shall be emailing you shortly. You're just so cool. ^_~

    Also, my favourite author, Suzanne Brockmann, admitted that her favourite characters from her books are a gay FBI agent and an 80-year-old World War II veteran. I think sometimes the most obscure characters worm their way into our hearts the fastest. ;)

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