Thursday, April 17, 2008

(Finalized) Friday 20 Index, V 2.0

Tom and I are about a third of the way through retuning the Friday 20 Index to make it more user-friendly, and today I'm going to post what we have done so far so we can see how the links survived the switchover. This is just a test version; it's not finished. It is what the final index will look once it's done, just with a lot more questions, so I guess we'll call it a preview.

Don't worry if there's a broken or erroneous link; that's what we're testing to try and find.

[Note to Tom - 10:20 AM: Replacing A version with B Version ~ 4/18/08- 11:51 AM: Replacing B version with C version 4:56 PM: Replacing C version with D version 4/21 11:02 PM Replacing D Version with E version 4/22 8:40 AM Replacing E version with F version 4/28 1:47 PM Replacing F version with G version 11:33PM Replacing G version with H version 4/29 7:05 AM Replacing H version with I version 8:48 AM Replacing I version with J version 4/30 10:36 AM Replacing J version with K version 5/1 12:00 AM Replacing K Version with Final Version]

Friday 20 Index, Final Test Version

This is an index by topic to the questions asked by my visitors and answered by me during the sixty-odd sessions of the Friday 20. In hopes of providing the most useable information, I've omitted all questions that were not related to general writing and publishing topics. Note: Tom and I will be checking through the links one more time today to make sure they all work, so if you find any that aren't working, bear with us.

Most of the questions have been edited and/or paraphrased here for length and clarity. Click on the "Q" prefacing each question to read the original question in comments. Click on the "A" to go to my answer. In some cases I've also linked to other, related answers to similar questions. My visitors often provide answers to the questions posted as well, so do check out the entire thread if you'd like to see if other writers weigh in.

Q: Do you have any recommendations on how to choose an agent? A
Q: Does an agent who no longer represents you still receive commission on series books, even future ones the agent didn't personally sell? A
Q: Do you have a checklist of any sort as to when a book is ready to be sent to an agent? A
Q: How do you decide between two agents? A
Q: In the agent-querying process, when should a writer bring up the "I'm-not-wild-about-the-idea-of-self-promotion" subject? A
Q: Is there anything you think should or shouldn't be in an agent query letter? A and A
Q: How can I approach a published author for an agent referral without putting her in an awkward position? A

Q: Do you have any advice for a writer starting a blog? A
Q: What advantage is there for an unpublished writer to keep a blog? A

Q: What should I do when a minor character tries to take over the story? A
Q: What do you do when one character has to give another character information that the reader already knows? A
Q: Do you have any suggestions or writing exercises to improve using all of a character's senses in a story? A
Q: What can you do when one of the characters' scenes doesn't seem/feel right? A and A
Q: After you've outlined a story, how do you deal with a logic problem with the protagonist's motivation? A
Q: How much presence does a character from book one need to have in book two before his/her storyline picks up again in book three? A
Q: How do you keep your characters from sounding like cliches? A
Q: How do you depict a character who is the strong, silent type without having him simply stand around and look at other characters? A
Q: Do you ask/answer your three questions for every character, or just the main(s)? A
Q: Do you ever give in to the urge to be horrible to a character rather than stick to your outline? A
Q: To what degree do you give your characters backgrounds? A
Q: How do you get your characters to behave? A
Q: How do you go about making sure your characters actually "grow" during the story? A

Q: Are conferences worth the time and money? A and A
Q: What's the secret to giving great workshop? A
Q: What is a legitimate conference (as opposed to one that nickel-and-dimes you into the poorhouse)? A

Q: Does posting up a work online affect your chances of later shopping it to an agent or publisher, by using up your electronic rights to a story? A
Q: How can I build on an idea I get from another author's work while avoiding writing something too similar? A
Q: If you write under a pen name should you copyright under your own name? Could you get the copyright in your pen name? A
Q: What do you think of the current state of copyright, particularly the current duration of copyright? A

Cover Art
Q: Who has the final say on the cover of a book, how is it decided, and how much control does a writer have over it? A and A

Q: Is it a bad thing to have a hobby totally unrelated to writing? A
Q: How do you know when a story idea is ready to be written? A
Q: How can a writer improve their ability to visualize a scene? A
Q: Does drawing or illustrating a story help or hinder the writing of it? A
Q: How do you deal with going through creative cycles? A

Q: How can I teach myself to write dialogue that isn't on-the-nose (candid/blunt/painfully honest)? A
Q: Will it date a novel to use slang in the dialogue? A
Q: Any suggestions on how to practice dialogue writing skills? A

Q: What's your opinion of a writer who says they never have to revise their work? A
Q: How do you shut up your Inner Editor? A
Q: How can I edit and revise my WIP in a short period of time? A
Q: What's your opinion on hiring an outside editor/book doctor? A, A and A
Q: How much editing do you do at your publisher/editor's request? A
Q: Should I revise my first WIP, even though I don't think any amount of revision will fix it, as practice? A
Q: How do you handle revising/editing issues, small and large? A
Q: What is the etiquette in dealing with your editor's requested revisions, especially if you don't completely agree with them? A

Q: Do you know of any good books or sites that can help teach me to develop a story worth telling? A
Q: What's the worst piece of writing related advice you ever received? A
Q: What can a writer with some writing experience do to improve their craft? A
Q: What's something you've learned recently about writing that you wish you'd known years ago? A

Q: Should writers be depressed about shrinking publisher advances? A
Q: It's harder than ever to break into the business -- is it still worth the earning potential to fight to get in? A
Q: I'm doing all the right things -- why aren't my sales getting better? A
Q: What's the reasoning behind an author receiving an advance? A
Q: What makes a publisher offer an extremely high advance for a book which doesn't make an outstanding performance on the market? A

Q: How do you know if you're writing in a genre that's 'right' or 'wrong' for you? A
Q: How rare or common is it for a writer to be successful in multiple genres? A
Q: Can you address the pros and cons of writing different sub-genres under different pseudonyms? A
Q: What things do you suggest doing to keep current with what's happening in a particular genre? Other than reading voraciously? A
Q: What can give me a feel for the current style/voice in writing urban fantasy? A
Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to move into a new genre, pertaining to referring to past work? A
Q: Do you think publishers will become more genre-driven than acquiring manuscripts from 'known' authors? A
Q: Any tips on writing a love story, as opposed to a an adventure with a romantic sub plot? A
Q: How should a multi-genre writer establish themselves? A
Q: How do you handle both mental switching from one genre to another and the business side of it? A

Q: How does a writer know when an idea is viable enough to sustain an entire novel? A and A
Q: How do you remain focused on one project when you have other story ideas impeding your progress? A, A, A, A and A
Q: How can I keep from being distracted by my Muse so I can focus on one WIP? A
Q: How do you overcome being bored with your WIP? A
Q: How do you choose between two ideas for the same novel? A

Q: Which hair color (real or fake) brings the most respect/authority to a writer? A
Q: Given that there are more women than men reading, do you consciously write for a female market? A
Q: How, in your opinion, is writing for women different from writing for men? A
Q: Does a writer have to "live a little" before attempting to write about life? A
Q: Why is it so difficult to write about myself? A
Q: What do you anticipate being the next big thing? A and Q: Who are the writers to watch? A
Q: Any advice on a neo pulp fantasy novel protagonist who indulges in "competitive swiving" to choose between two love interests? A
Q: How do I keep from killing my back during NaNoWriMo? A
Q: Who is the oldest person to (recently) publish a novel? A
Q: How come some writers who claim never to read other peoples' books, ever, are wonderful writers anyway? A
Q: What do you think about using signature tags in e-mails? A
Q: Why is it impolite to say that you've never read another writer's work? A
Q: Define the 4th Rule of Write Club (Only one coincidence per novel.) A
Q: How do you know that a book is officially out of print (as opposed to just hard to get)? A
Q: I'm debating pen names. At what point do you start using one? A
Q: Is there any difference between an ARC and a store bought copy? A
Q: How do you determine your word count? What is your best advice on length? A
Q: What's the right way to go about getting blurbs/cover quotes? A
Q: In a query letter, should you give away the ending of the novel? A
Q: Where do you use your pseudonym in your submission (and when do you use your real name?) A
Q: How do you find your market? A
Q: Does watching market trends ever make you feel torn over what to write? A
Q: What makes you give up on reading a book not worth your time? A
Q: What's the stupidest thing you've seen writers do? A
Q: What is the most useless technique, process or bad habit that you see writers fall into? A
Q: What sort of printer do you use? A
Q: Do you recommend joining writer organizations? A

Q: What is the industry standard definition of a novella and a novelette? A
Q: How can I successfully make the transition from writing short stories and other short-form fiction to writing novel-length fictions? A
Q: If your book seems finished but you still feel something is missing, how do you identify what's wrong with it? Is it better to try to fix an old novel that's completed and had promise or start something new? And finally, how do you go about setting goals? AAA
Q: What are the merits of writing a standalone novel versus a trilogy or series? A
Q: Do you approach short stories the same way you do novels? A
Q: What is the ideal chapter length? A and A
Q: What are the merits/drawbacks of being published in hardcover versus paperback versus “paperback originals”? A and A

Q: Any advice or posts on pitching? A
Q: How should I pitch my series novel? A
Q: How do you manage to put together multiple proposals simultaneously? A

Q: I'm stuck on plotting, and bored with it. Advice? A
Q: How do you avoid "tea party scenes" and inject more action into a story? A
Q: How does one find a good balance--planning without stifling the fun of writing and writing with enough of a plan to stay on track? A
Q: How do I prevent a novelette from growing into an epic novel? A
Q: I think I'm plot blind -- is this normal? A
Q: Do you plot in key suspense points? A
Q: At what point do you fill out your character worksheet, gauge how much story each outlined event will take up, and add details to the outline? A
Q: Any suggestions on how to actually get more into the habit of plotting something out? A
Q: How do you come up with plot twists? A

Q: How do you make promotional bookmarks? A
Q: What can I do with the promotional postcards my publisher sent to me? A
Q: What are your thoughts on writers' newsletters? A
Q: How do you get your publisher to be okay with the fact that you'd rather write than promote? A
Q: Where is it okay to announce you've landed a book contract? A
Q: What are your top suggestions for promoting and marketing a new release? A
Q: How can I figure out what sort of promotion will work for me? A

Q: How should I handle a call from a publisher who's interested in my work if I'm unpublished and don't have an agent? A
Q: Do publishers attempt to keep their writers from taking their sub-genre books elsewhere? A
Q: Regarding profanity, is there an unspoken rating system for publishers? A
Q: What phrases or tricks do publishers have that allow them to keep their authors restricted as to what genres they can be published in, or at least published by that one company? A
Q: Any advice on how to deal with a former publisher that's being sort of difficult? Not responding to email, that sort of thing. A
Q: Can you clarify the conditions of the standard "Options on Next Work" clause in a publishing contract? A
Q: Is there a right way to self-publish? A
Q: What does it mean when a publisher says your novel is good, but “not good enough for a first novel”? A
Q: What are the benefits of publishing with a major publisher versus self-publishing? A

Series Writing
Q: How do you write a series so that it could end at any time and yet stays open to more books? A
Q: What do I call (and how do I market) a nontraditional trilogy? A
Q: What are the pros and cons of writing a series versus stand-alone books? A and A
Q: What's the knack to making a series just arced enough, without being impossible to pick up 12 books through? A
Q: What are some of the challenges of writing a series of standalones set in the same universe, and how do you handle them? A and A
Q: Do you need to publish a stand-alone before a series if you want any chance of sale/representation? A
Q: How do you handle a publisher not wanting anymore books in a series you want to continue to write, and if you do press on, how many series books per year should you publish? A and A

Q: Can you write SF/F about ordinary lives versus the extraordinary? A
Q: Is there an easy-to-read source out there for physics research? A
Q: How do you plan out a SF novel? A
Q: How do you find out all of the different things you needed to make your SF books believable? A and A
Q: What happens when you can see the alien race in your mind - but can't think of a way to describe them without sounding oh-so-20th/21st century? A
Q: How do you think the SF market is doing these days? A
Q: How explicit can you go with a sex scene in an SF novel? A
Q: Is it an unwritten law that the character has to learn something this life-changing at the start of a SF series and not later on? A
Q: When you're creating a science-fiction universe, how do you put in a lot of description without losing the pacing? A
Q: What do you think of futuristic romances? A

Q: Do you have any advice as to what kind of VR software works well, or how to use it to best advantage? A
Q: What writing software do you recommend that is content-appropriate for teen writers? A
Q: Any scriptwriting software suggestions? A
Q: What VR software do you recommend? A, A, also Taming the Dragon, also Links to alternatives to the Dragon
Q: Is there a tutorial on MS Word for its editing features? A
Q: What sort of software programs do you use for writing? A

Q: Any advice on coming up with titles for a novel? A and A

Web Sites
Q: Do authors really benefit from having lots of things on their websites? A

Writer for Hire
Q: How do you get started doing WFH work? A and A
Q: How do you go about finding a writer-for-hire job? A and A
Q: If my publisher approached me with a WFH project, is it okay to tell them NO without damaging our 'real' relationship? A
Q: Is money the only reason a writer goes writer-for-hire? A
Q: What types of projects are generally WFH work? A and A

Q: How should I handle ending a first draft? A
Q: Should first drafts be rewritten until they are perfect, or is okay to write one that isn't so polished? A and A
Q: What do you do when you get lost in plot, and you realize a good portion of your WIP has to be rewritten? A
Q: What do you do when you know what you want to write but can't settle on the right words to express it? A
Q: Any advice for writers aspiring to pen a historical? A
Q: How do you deal with your inner critic/editor while you're cranking away on a first draft? A
Q: Is a writing process that has you producing scenes with approximately the same wordcount a bad thing? A
Q: How do I overcome forgetting to add in setting and other descriptions when I write a scene? A
Q: Is it possible to fake your way through a scene? A
Q: How much detail should you use to establish setting? A
Q: What's your opinion on collaborating with another writer(s)? A
Q: What do you do when you have difficulties with the final scenes of a novel? A
Q: Any advice on how to write that 'perfect' ending to a story? A
Q: When do you know you've done enough preparation and you're ready to start writing the story? A
Q: How do you go back, fix and begin writing again on a partial WIP that you stopped working on? A
Q: How do you practice to write in a totally different style? A
Q: Does voice grow and change and evolve as you write? A
Q: Do you have any tips on how to help add description to your work? A
Q: How do you think a writer can better define their voice to bring it to the level that you have without killing the natural tone? A
Q: How much world-building do you recommend someone do before they get into a novel? A
Q: When writing an as-yet-unsubmitted standalone that may have a sequel or series potential, can you leave a few plot threads unresolved? A
Q: How do you decide whether or not to put sex in your book? A
Q: How can a writer learn to develop narrative voice? A
Q: Do you have any pointers for writing good action/fight scenes? A
Q: How do you handle writing a scene that may be too intense or inappropriate (pushing the envelope) for the genre? A
Q: When should I move on to writing my second novel? A, A and A
Q: How do you know if what you're writing is interesting? A
Q: What do you think about using flashbacks? A
Q: Do you have any tips on how to write comfortably in third person? A
Q: What are your thoughts on writing in first person present tense? A

Writing Life
Q: How do you manage to make time for writing when your life is extremely busy, chaotic, etc? A
Q: How do you manage anger? A
Q: When you get stuck on a project, how do you break loose? A, A and A
Q: How do you get back into a project you've set aside for a while? A
Q: How do you block out negative influences while writing? A and A
Q: How do I get back to actively writing after taking a significant break from it? A
Q: Should I wait for feedback from an interested agent on a submission before I begin a new project? A
Q: Any advice for writers who are about to become new parents and want to keep working? A
Q: Any tips on writing in the presence of small children? A, A and A
Q: Do you have any recommendations about how to improve self discipline? A
Q: What do you do to plan your output for the upcoming year? How do you work in the inevitable changes to your plan? A
Q: Just took six months away from my paying job to write my first novel ... any words of advice? A
Q: What do you do to keep the doubts at bay? A and A
Q: What do you do with a book you believe in but you can't sell? A
Q: How do you avoid writer burnout? A
Q: With a busy life, how do you find time to write? A
Q: What do you do to minimize/ignore/avoid distraction? A
Q: How do you keep up the momentum for your work when you're swamped and tired? A
Q: How do I deal with the people who say that e-publishing isn't 'real' publishing? A
Q: Is it normal to go back and work on a novel you haven't written on in years? A
Q: Have any encouragement for a writer starting to *enjoy* writing for the sake of it again? A
Q: How do you handle work, home, getting in enough exercise AND writing? A and A
Q: Can you get a day job in publishing? A
Q: I'm feeling pretty down lately about my writing. Any tips on rejuvenating? A
Q: How do you get back into your writing after a long, unplanned hiatus? A
Q: How do you know when to let a project "go?" A
Q: What do you do to avoid burnout? A, A and A
Q: If you're shy or afraid of fame, how do you deal with the public side of being an author? A
Q: Do you ever lose motivation to work on something, or did you in earlier years? How do/did you get over it and keep writing? A
Q: How do you make a shift from writing at night to writing during the day? A
Q: What do you do when worries get in the way? A


  1. Hi Sheila, I don't comment often but read on your Live Journal feed. Thank you for the work on the indexing, this is wonderful.

    (By the way, my Dad is thrilled that Omega Games is coming out in time for his birthday)

  2. Oh. My. Goodness.

    That is a lot of work, but it's oh so helpful! Thanks for the hard work!

  3. This is extraordinarily helpful. I came late to the party and I am learning so much from this index.

  4. Q. What is the odds of getting published when you know no one in the publishing business?

    A. um, flying leap into oblivion.

  5. First - I love your books & your blog is soo incredibly helpful as I'm trying to write my first novel.

    Question: I've outlined/plotted the story. But when it comes time to writing it out, the scenes, plot or even characters change. Does that mean my outline is bad, boring? I can change a scene several times and it's driving me nuts.

  6. Sally wrote: Question: I've outlined/plotted the story. But when it comes time to writing it out, the scenes, plot or even characters change. Does that mean my outline is bad, boring? I can change a scene several times and it's driving me nuts.

    Welcome to PBW, Sally.

    I think we've all had the same problem at one time or another -- in fact, I had the same problem with some scenes while I was writing my last book. You can plan and outline as carefully as possible, but when you get to the page, the writing process is much different than the outlining process. Very often the story seems to want you to go in a different direction, or the characters won't do what you've planned, etc.

    When I feel I need to deviate from my outline while writing, I stop and think before I do. I look at what I want to do versus what I planned to do, and try to fathom what's happened.

    For example, one of the climatic scenes in one of my SF novels involved the two protagonists getting into a dramatic knife fight over custody of a child. I outlined the scene, walked through all the choreography, and even had the vicious dialogue buzzing in my head. But when I began writing the scene, one of the characters sounded so stiff and so unrealistic I wanted to change the entire scene. When I stopped to think about it, I realized it wasn't logical for this character to fight the other one. Not with the way he feels about her, and definitely not after he spent almost three years trying to find her. Although the fight scene would have been great as I planned it, on a subconscious level somewhere I knew via the characterizations I'd created that it would never happen.

    Another thing you can try is to outline more lightly versus a very detailed outline that nails you down to too many things. I did a post here on using timelines to plot, which I think might also help you if your outlines are very detailed.

    Finally, if you're changing a lot about your story when you're writing it, you might take a few minutes to think about each scene thoroughly before you write it so you make sure you know what's going to happen. I visualize my scenes from start to finish before I write one word because I can run that loop in my head while I'm writing and basically just chronicle what I see happen.


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