Discussion in 'The Workshop' started by garamet, Sep 18, 2018.
...and I'll answer them based on one writer's experience.
How does one learn to properly write in different voices?
If you're writing for established characters (media tie-ins such as Trek or Star Wars or Doctor Who or...), just listen to the actors. Get their cadence, their accents, and try to reproduce them in the written words.
If they're your own characters (and I have the advantage of having written more original work than Star Trek), I find thinking of an actor who looks/sounds like your character, or someone you know IRL and just closing your eyes and listening helps.
Now, that's just me. I'm more aural than visual (wonky eyesight), so it may not work for you. But it's one way to do it.
Do you know when you start a work if it's going to be a short story, novella, or full-length novel? And have you ever planned for one form only to have the story dictate a different length?
If you're under contract, obviously, you write the number of words the contract specifies (usually 100K words; the standard for a novel, with a little wiggle more or less).
When you're on your own, you write as many or as few words as your story tells you to write.
Personally, I'm a blabbermouth. Unless the client says "Try to keep it under 25K words," I just keep on keeping on.
The latest work, Ailuranth is, technically, a novella at >62K words, but it's intended to be the first book of a series.
The work will tell you how long it needs to tell its story.
What sort of process do you follow?
Do you decide where you want a story to end and work backwards? Do you set things up and see where they go? How set is your story when you actually start writing the text?
If you're submitting to an editor, you have to produce an outline and a couple of sample chapters. If you're self-publishing you can take your narrative anywhere it wants to go.
I usually start with characters and a situation. I can see the beginning and the end (though that isn't always where I end up). It's getting through the middle that's the challenging part.
For @Dayton3: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midlist
Maybe if I post it a few more times he'll get it.
If anyone else wants me to elaborate on it, I'll be happy to.
Addendum to @NAHTMMM: Think about your character's personality. Han Solo speaks in short, pithy sentences, like a latterday Gary Cooper. Kirk and the various Doctors pontificate as long as the cameras are rolling. If your character is a person of action, less is more. If s/he's a thinker, a ruminator, or even someone who's reluctant to just be, that character might talk just a little too much.
Oh, and some characters love to interrupt each other. That makes for fun writing.
"But I thought you -"
"You thought wrong! You should have asked me!"
"Well, maybe if you'd shut up for two seconds I might have -"
"See? This is what I'm talking about!"
Not sure if that helps or hinders.
I love reading Mark Twain, and his "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" not only seems a great treatise on writing fiction, it also packs a lot of laughs. Here are his rules that pertain to writing dialogue...
Yep, sounds like real conversation.
Damn! I haven't read The Deerslayer since high school. *Puts it on my list.*
Twain was a sumbitch, but he never pulled his punches.
When telling a completely made-up story, do you find that it's better to plot everything out ahead of time or just write it as it comes and see where it takes you?
I usually sketch out a rough outline with an idea of where I'm going, but often the characters surprise me by going off in a whole different direction.
I almost always write in third person (the Omniscient Narrator), but I got halfway through the first volume of the Others trilogy when the protagonist decided she was going to tell the story in first person. First person's difficult, because often things happen "off stage" where the person narrating wasn't there, so it becomes an as-told-to.
Naturally once I let Lingri tell the story in the first book, I had to let her run with the two sequels. Not easy, but a challenging exercise.
So, just out of curiosity, do you still employ an agent, or do you do all the legwork on your own? Do you get much/any fan mail? If you're writing for an established franchise do you prefer to pitch/write a story first or would you rather take an assignment from the franchise?
My agent of 35 years retired a few years ago. He referred me to a colleague who wasn't interested (even though I'd worked with him before on a joint project). The brick-and-mortar book business is apparently too much work for the younger agents (I tried a few of them). If it doesn't say "Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture," they're not interested.
So I figured, here's the rote: You spend months courting agents and maybe find one, who then spends months flakking your manuscript to one editor after another. Why bother? I'd have hesitated to self-publish except for two things:
One, a buddy of mine suggested we go in together. He was a journalist who'd had a column in his local paper for about 20 years, had written two novels and several collections of stories, and still nobody would pick him up. So we bought a block of ISBNs and formed Van Wander Press:
Two, a number of Name writers have started issuing their novels one chapter at a time with some success. Readers don't necessarily want to buy an entire novel if the first chapter leaves them cold, so why not treat it like a TV show? "Tune in next time..."
There are also venues such as www.wattpad.com where you can post short stories or novel chapters. There's no payment, but I'd imagine it's a good way to build an audience.
As for the Franchise (i.e., Trek), when the Studio "reorganized" Pocket (just as Unspoken Truth was in the galley phase) and let the two editors I'd worked with go, the tenor of the novels changed. My particular "flavor" isn't needed anymore and, frankly, I'd run out of ideas. Better to work on my own stuff.
No deadlines, no persnickety editors, direct to the reader. Works for me.
If I've ever asked this before garamet you have my apologies but why have paperback novels gotten so much longer than they were in the 1970s and early 80s?
Back then a Star Trek paperback was routinely in the 200 page range with many much shorter, 150-175 pages. Now almost every paperback I see tops 300-400 pages.
Was it because a number of early Trek novels were based on rejected television scripts and modern authors are more interested in world building than earlier ones?
That's a corporate decision, not something I'd know about. My guess is that with the rising cover prices there might have been a drop-off in sales, and the Suits decided "I suppose we'd better give 'em more book for their money." But that is just a guess.
Another thought is that the Suits finally figured out that the target audience isn't just 14-year-old boys. Adult readers want a bigger, more absorbing story.
How do you frame and describe action sequences? I'm not talking explosions and such, but properly illustrating body language? I have so much difficulty with that. I can see it in my head, but putting it down in words gets jumbled somewhere between brain and fingers.
My impression of the brick and mortar publishing industry these days is that it's trying very hard to stupid itself out of existence. Like your example of what happened when your long-time agent retired. Would you say the industry is healthy at this point? Or is the internet going to eat its lunch, as it has several other media businesses?
Frankly, I thought the Internet would have devoured it a decade ago. IMO it's been stupiding itself long before that. One problem is these constant mergers/buyouts. It's almost as if they want there to be Just One Publishing Company in America. That, IMO, will be the kiss of death for them, but maybe a strength for online publishing. Who knows?
One thing I've hated for years is a book serious becoming popular like Bartletts "Booktown" mysteries, then suddenly they start putting the new ones in the much more expensive hardback and not the regular paperback edition until a year or two later.
That was an unfortunate trend that started in the late 80s/early 90s. Mystery series, s/f, romances, etc. were traditionally sold in p/b before that because it was assumed readers would want to collect and read the entire series. When the first book costs between $20-30, most people will put it back on the shelf and say "Nah, I'll wait for the softcover." The Suits interpreted the low sales of the h/cs as "See? Nobody cares about this series," so marketing dropped off.
Nowadays all but the Big Name writers are expected to do their own marketing. And, judging from some novels I've read recently, we're supposed to do our own copy editing and proofing because there's little indication that anyone at the publishing house did more than skim the ms. Which makes one wonder exactly what it is those Madison Avenue editors are doing...except taking days off to go to their kids' soccer games.
Addendum to Post #22: Possibly the biggest misconception about the publishing industry is how much the writer earns in royalties. For original work, that's usually 10% of the cover price. For tie-in novels it can be 6-8% or even 2-3%.
Where does the rest of the $ go, you wonder? It's usually split evenly between the publisher and the bookseller, though brick-and-mortar sellers will sometimes offer a sale price to clear shelf space.
So, say a trade paperback sells for $15.00. The author sees $1.50 and, of that, 15% goes to the author's agent. That's before taxes, which are based on 1099s.
Self-publishing, OTOH, can pay anywhere from 35-75% of the cover price, and without the months of bullshit (especially that from my least favorite type of editor, the wannabe writer who couldn't hack it on his own and tries to dictate what the author should write or "Oh, well, yeah, I kept you stringing along for three months, but thanks for playing."). Mercifully I've only had to deal with a few of those.
Damn, @Amaris, sorry I missed this earlier! It's a tough question to answer.
What I think I do is write it as a sort of slo-mo/stop-action sequence (Klingon swings bat'leth at Kirk. Kirk ducks, shirt tears. Kirk punches Klingon in the gut...) and then try to make it read as if it's moving much faster. Honestly, I don't do a lot of action scenes, so I'll have to go back through some of my stuff (I often forget what I've written once it's on the page) and see if I pulled it off.
Give me a couple of days.
^Follow-up on this, @Amaris:
I had to really think about this, and the truth is I don't write action scenes very well, so I don't write them. (Couldn't think of a single one.) However...
Shakespeare's major action scenes occurred offstage. He was working from a small stage with a handful of actors and trying to convey huge battles, particularly in the history plays, so he had a bloodied character stagger in afterward and tell about the horrors he'd seen. This violates one of the basic rules of Writing 101: Show, don't tell, but the man was a genius at it. And he also had sword fights. Lots of sword fights.
Now, I'm no Shakespeare, and I don't even do sword fights. I know what I can and can't do. Can't write scenes involving complex physics, for example, which is why I sidled into s/f via Trek (nothing like a "Level 1 diagnostic" to get you through) and then went on to write original s/f which is more about human behavior seen through the eyes of aliens than about hard science.
So what I guess I'm saying is: Go with your strengths. Maybe act out your action scenes (either with a friend or in front of a mirror) and jot notes as you go. Or watch an action scene from a favorite movie/show and freeze-frame, rewind, and "script" it, then transfer it to your own work.
Or, to quote the late, great Harve Bennett (who claims he wrote the "Your name is Jim" scene in TSFS after watching the "Wa-Wa" scene from The Miracle Worker): Steal from the best.
Hope that helps.
That does help! I think my issue is thinking too fast, and writing it down as I go. Thank you.
In your opinion how likely is the author to make more self publishing thanks to the higher rate of return as opposed to them having to bear the other costs?
There are many, many factors involved in that. For one thing, if a brick-and-mortar* publisher offers you a contract, there will be an advance against sales, and that advance will vary from writer to writer. A Name like Stephen King can demand millions; most writers are offered four to five figures (these days, more likely four). The royalties don't kick in until that advance has "earned out."
*I'm specifying brick-and-mortar, because strictly online publishers have been popping up in recent years, and they offer a contract, but no advance. You're at the mercy of their marketing decisions, if they market at all.
If you self-publish, you start with -0-. But it costs nothing to publish an e-book (which doesn't require an ISBN, but it's better to have one, and those cost) or a print-on-demand softcover. Now, if you're a Name, you bring your own audience with you. If you're a first-timer, you have to do some marketing. How and where you market (a blog with a large following doesn't cost you anything but the site maintenance; Facebook will let you attract more people to your site in small increments; buying a "marketing package" from Amazon et al. is pricey). Readers (and brick-and-mortar booksellers, especially the little independents) love book signings, but you need to be able to connect with the people who arrange these things.
The short answer is: Each writer's experience is different, based on the genre they're writing in, their previous credits, and how much time, effort, and expendable cash they are able to put into marketing themselves and still leave time for writing.
Shorter answer: You're not likely to become a millionaire unless you already are (q.v. Stephen King), either by self-publishing or by dancing attendance on publishing companies, any more than you're likely to become the next Tom Cruise just by going into acting.
BTW, I'm speaking about fiction writing. Nonfiction is not something I can address with any authority.
1099 meaning the IRS basically takes another 15% off of your income for committing the crime of being self-employed, as we found out when I did freelance editing
Separate names with a comma.