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KristenS
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Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Re: starting books

I'm just popping in, new to this group, but I think one important bit of advice was left out here ... don't worry so much about the first chapter! Not yet, not if you have't written the rest of the book. Just about everybody's novels have to be edited. It's a waste of time to work really hard at polishing the first chapter before the rest of the book is written, because by the time you finish the book, you might find other (better?) ideas for that chapter. If you get yourself bogged down on that first chapter, you might never get done.

Drafts aren't meant to be perfect. They're meant to be written. Perfection comes later. :-)
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book_worm
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Re: starting books

Great advice Kristen :smileyhappy:
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galenem
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Re: Questions for Marta

[ Edited ]
Do the facts have to be scientifically possible? It seems that you could spend a lifetime researching and never get around to writing. I read Tandy's Story and 2064 or Thereabouts today and neither of those seemed to contain real science. Same with The Handler and Alpha Ralph Boulevard. Rather, they simply state how things are or were, etc. For instance, some of the writers here are dealing with subjects like evolution or space travel. My first thought was that the stories should be true to the science. Now I think that's unlikely and probably not necessary. What seemed to matter to me in the stories I've mentioned is whether I could suspend the need for explanation while I was there. I could. At the moment, I think that I could do that because the characters were true and I believed in their action and motivation. My story deals with tiny poeple made that way to deal with shortages of resources. Someone else is writing about changes that occur after colonization of a different planet. If the "how" is not a necessary leement to the story line, can we just say that's the way it is without saying how it got that way?

(I don't see any New button at the top of my screen nd I can't figure out how to edit.)
(Just found the edit button!)

Message Edited by galenem on 02-10-200710:55 PM

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Josh_Crowe
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Re: Questions for Marta

[quote]
Do the facts have to be scientifically possible?
[/quote]
Read the book (Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy). That answers the basic questions you may have about science.

Oh and if you you started the other book and thought it was an incredible snoozer you don't need to worry.
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Cluecorner
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Re: Questions for Marta

Galenem, this is just my opinion..well, a little bit of Ursula K. Le Guin's as well, but I think you're on the right track. Especially for short stories, where there isn't enough room for lengthy explanations, I see a lot of "take it or leave it" premises. In "The Handler", we aren't subjected to a massive explanation of how one man can step inside another man and control him. We're just asked to accept that premise, and the author helps us do that by having his characters accept the premise as well, and by writing carefully and cleverly so that we don't have the time or the will to question the premise of the story.

In The Norton Book of Science Fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin says (paraphrasing), "Though science is the megatext, science-fiction stories cannot be judged according to their actual scientific content. Serious writers in the field take pride in careful research and fact checking...'not denying what is known to be known'...But there are serious and beautiful science-fiction stories in which the science is completely imaginary and the technology not only implausible but impossible."

In one of my favorite books, Tim Powers writes about a man who has eaten the ghost of Thomas Edison. Ghosts may be considered to be paranormal junk science, but Expiration Date is a killer novel.

The premise for the novel I'm working on starts with continental drift theory. I'm trying to get the facts about that mostly right, but once I've nailed that, I plan to extrapolate wildly from there. Absolutely none of it will be true. Even just writing that makes me smile. With your short story, I hope you tell just enough about why the people are so small, without telling too much. I don't really care about the scientific details for that story. If you can make me believe the reason for it, I'll believe it's possible. I'm very interested to hear what happens to the people...not so much on how they got to be so small.
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Josh_Crowe
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Re: Questions for Marta

Be careful following Ursula’s advice. While she is a noted SF author he stories are popular (with a very limited audience) in spite of her scientific ability. The advice given by most other SF authors/editors runs contrary to her opinion.

Everything she says is also steeped in her own personal politics to an incredibly unprofessional degree. This is important because the strong science people also tend to be misogynistic and pro-military (in her opinion). In other words; Ursula is anti hard SF in the first place, the justification came later.

Science is important in SF. So important that they included it in the name.
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Bonnie824
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Re: Questions for Marta



Josh_Crowe wrote:
Be careful following Ursula’s advice. While she is a noted SF author he stories are popular (with a very limited audience) in spite of her scientific ability. The advice given by most other SF authors/editors runs contrary to her opinion.

Everything she says is also steeped in her own personal politics to an incredibly unprofessional degree. This is important because the strong science people also tend to be misogynistic and pro-military (in her opinion). In other words; Ursula is anti hard SF in the first place, the justification came later.

Science is important in SF. So important that they included it in the name.




A writer giving their opinion about writing cannot be unprofessional IMO. All good writer's work is "steeped" in their own personal politics. I think your opinions on UG, as well as others (DK and JE from another post) is proof of this. Some people see any time travel, ESP, etc as non-scientific. IMO, the fiction part is at least as important in the genre as the science.
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Josh_Crowe
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Re: Questions for Marta

Writer to writer yes, as the editor of a collection of SF I consider it reprehensible. Though certainly within her rights. But lets be clear, it is within her rights to steer people to her agenda. Do you really want that?

Put it in another frame, what if she was pro-NRA or NAMBLA? Do you think that they should be surreptitiously steering you?

If I was trying to present Science Fiction, I think I might do it more neutrally.

Besides, I never said the fiction is inferior to the science. Both are needed.
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marta_randall
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Re: starting books

Well said, Kirsten. One of the things we will discuss as the workshop continues, is that the most important thing in first draft is getting the thing written. First drafts are supposed to be awful: otherwise, what do you have to work on? :smileywink:
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angelfly72
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Re: Questions for Marta



Josh_Crowe wrote:
Writer to writer yes, as the editor of a collection of SF I consider it reprehensible. Though certainly within her rights. But lets be clear, it is within her rights to steer people to her agenda. Do you really want that?

Put it in another frame, what if she was pro-NRA or NAMBLA? Do you think that they should be surreptitiously steering you?

If I was trying to present Science Fiction, I think I might do it more neutrally.

Besides, I never said the fiction is inferior to the science. Both are needed.




I think we're intelligent people, Josh. If Ms. LeGuin is pro-NRA or NAMBLA (extreme examples,JMO), I think the people on this list would be able to figure that out for themselves. She was only expressing an opinion, something that was certainly within her right. As you have the right to refute it. But don't assume that the readers of the anthology wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Leguin. I've seen no indication of limited critical thinking ability on this group.

I've read many Norton anthologies over the years, and every editor expresses an opinion of the genre in the introduction. Personally, as an English major during my undergraduate days, I wholeheartedly disagreed with what the editor of the Early American Literature anthology had to say. That entire period in literature was nothing but boring rubbish to me, with the exceptions of a few poems by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Oh, and the writing of Henry David Thoreau, of course. But the rest of it put me to sleep, and I couldn't wait for the semester to end so I could sell the book.

I'm telling you this because I strongly feel that while I might not agree with what a writer or editor is saying, I have to defend the right to say it. And I'm also not against a little genre bending, either. Rules are in place for a reason, I know that. But if Shakespeare and others didn't trash the very limiting idea of writing in rhythmic couplets, we would be condemned to life without blank prose. Oh, what a fun world that would be!

"There was an old woman
who lived in a shoe,
who had so many children
she didn't know what to do..."
:smileywink:

Angela
"Think, think, it ain't illegal yet!" George Clinton
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marta_randall
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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a reminder

Just a reminder to everyone that we are a writing club. Discussions about the personal beliefs of other writers or other club members should really be taken elsewhere. Thanks.
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book_worm
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Short Story vs. Novel

What is the difference between a short story and a novel? Besides a short story being shorter of course; but is there a word limit to a short story? Only so many chapters or pages? Not so much background in the story? Please advise me in this, I'm confused. :smileysad:
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Josh_Crowe
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Re: Questions for Marta

Let me put this on slightly different terms.

FACT: LeGuin’s opinion is the diametric opposite of what most SF authors recommend (with regard to the discussion at hand).

FACT: LeGuin writes with a particular style.

MY ASSERTION: If you like LeGuin’s style (over other author’s writing styles) you may want to consider following her advice. If you do not, or if you prefer other styles, you may not want to pay attention to her advice. Remember that since her advice is the opposite of what others recommend, you are going to only be able to choose one or the other.

---------------

Part of the problem here is that writing, by its very nature , is contradictory. Take the essays “you and your characters” and “seeing your way to better stories” as an example. They offer somewhat contradictory advice, to the benefit of the reader.

You should (as I point out earlier) keep an open mind and evaluate what you read, as opposed to blindly follow some particular line of advice. My problem was perhaps focusing on why LeGuin’s advice was bad, rather than the larger picture.

Most people decide whether or not they “like” something immediately. So it is often impossible to change their minds. However I think it is possible to show something that might be even better. Start reading WSF&F and see how you like it.
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Josh_Crowe
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Re: Questions for Marta

Q: What is the difference between a short story and a novel?
A: Short stories are short.

Like the definition of SF, there are many ways to define a short story. I think the best way too define it is as “one” and “many.” A short story says one thing. A novel says many things.

A better way to understand is to read examples from various authors. But remember, if people like what you write, then it cannot be wrong.
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seekingreader
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Re: Questions for Marta


Josh_Crowe wrote:
Q: What is the difference between a short story and a novel?
A: Short stories are short.

Like the definition of SF, there are many ways to define a short story. I think the best way too define it is as “one” and “many.” A short story says one thing. A novel says many things.

A better way to understand is to read examples from various authors. But remember, if people like what you write, then it cannot be wrong.




If you read a little deeper into "Writing SF & F", on page 255 - 258, you will find submission guidelines for Analog and Asimov's SF magazines. Analog classifies short stories as 2,000 to 7,000 words, novelettes as 10,000 to 20,000 words, and 40,000 to 80,000 words for serials (novellas and novels).

These are two of the major markets for SF writing, and if you want some ideas as to what SF writing is, read the guidelines. Asimov's will take fantasy, but is quite specific about what they consider fantasy. Analog publishes science fiction, and they mean SCIENCE fiction.

Jim
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marta_randall
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SFWA's word count rules

bookworm, these are the lengths SFWA uses for determining categories for Nebula awards:

1. Short Story: less than 7,500 words.
2. Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words.
3. Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words.
4. Novel: 40,000 words or more.

For those of you who don't know it, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America is a professional organization of writers within the field. What it offers for novice writers is an entire section of good advice on all sorts of topics: Articles on Writing. These are slanted toward s.f. and fantasy and cover everything from essays on writer's block to essays on world-building, etc. Everybody should spend some time poking around the site.
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book_worm
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Re: SFWA's word count rules

Thank you Marta and seekingreader, according to those stats, I won't be writing a short story, it will be a novelette or novella.

Thanks again for clearing this up for me! :smileyhappy:
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MasterWolfStar
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Registered: ‎02-20-2007
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Re: Questions for Marta

Dear Marta,

I am in the process of reading a book by Stephen King called On Writing that tells of how he got his start and gives tips on writing. I was wondering if you have ever read it and if so what you think of it.
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marta_randall
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Re: Questions for Marta

I have read it. I think King offers some very solid advice in it, and a good feeling for what his life as a writer as been like. I also like it that he's not preachy in the book, because I tend to distrust anyone who says that writing is like X, or you must always approach it this way, etc. There really are no rules to writing: Each writer is different, and each writer's approach to each story is different. Others can offer advice or say what worked for them, but nobody knows what always works for everyone.

Oh, except me, of course.
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book_worm
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Re: Writing SF and writing fantasy

Marta wrote:

Of course there are areas where the two genres differ -- when we get to those, make sure to bring up your questions and ideas, so that we can cover them. So do stick around -- I think you'll find the information here useful.


I have some questions about the Finding Ideas part. In the Finding Ideas thread it has some points on how you know if you have a good idea for SF.


BookClubEditor wrote:

The Good Idea

How do you know if your idea is a good one? The key elements to keep in mind when looking for SF ideas are simple:

Does this idea lead to something that interests you?
Can this idea be stretched into a plausible science fiction world?
Does your initial research indicate that this idea holds together?

If the answer is "yes" to all of these, then you're probably on to a good idea, an idea that may possibly evolve into a good SF story.


What I'm wondering is what are some points in knowing if you have a good idea for a Fantasy? In SF it seems that your story needs to be based on science but what about Fantasy? Is it just open to whatever you want it to be?

I'd be grateful if you could clear this up for me!
Thanks! :smileyhappy:
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