Tag Archives: plot

Editors are like elephants…

The Thing has stayed a rite-de-passage tale – (about growing up – literally, rites of passage – to adulthood), when i thought the main character was going to be a mature person, like me – but some brat’s moved in and taken over.

Not only that, but i realised despite over a million words set in this world, i’d never written the story of the man who made the kingdom. So i’ve gone back 2,050 years in their time.

This is the advantage to being the Antichrist, and a god in my own right, you see? I can do what i like. Well, the pesky buggers have minds of their own, but generally, i’m forcing them in the direction of the plot.

This is radical, this plot thing. I’ve only recently started writing with a plot laid out before i start, and it’s actually much easier. People have been telling me this is a good idea for years, but nobody said it was easier. I’m not sticking to it 100%, and it’s not super-detailed, so characters can still jump out and surprise me.

Just before i started The Thing in its current incarnation, I joined a hashtag group on Twitter – #amwriting - nice bunch of people and very inspiring. There are  pertinent posts for writers, and of course, you get to read other people’s work.

Tip: don’t spam the #hashtag.

Writers are generally polite, but there are some who post a link to their blog over and over (not even to a new post) with”#amwriting, #writing, #writer, #writers, #author, #authors, #novelwriting, #blogger, #blogging” so it shows up everywhere. Some of those hashtags are very quiet – so all you see is one writer, spamming over and over.

About a millimetre away from being blocked.

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Some Advice for Writers

I don’t think i have an original thought in my head, so i’d like to thank the people i’ve been taught by, or whose wonderful books on writing i have read. And those whose books i read and thought, hmm, i love this, or i hate this – why?

I once had to suffer through an otherwise-excellent fantasy epic where the writer kept confusing the front of the saddle with the back.

If you don’t know the facts, or you’re assuming, check with someone who’s experienced – if you don’t know anyone, and it doesn’t show up on Google, make a polite phonecall or email to someone who does know, and ask if you can pick their brains.

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Everyone has a story inside, and I believe Anyone can write, but of course, the corollary is that Anyone can write garbage. Over the last 14 years or so, since i started writing books as well as the poetry, songs, and scripts which i’ve written since i was a child – I’ve written quite a few books.

I  tried to count them, gave up, but it’s about 17, all over 100,000 words – i wasn’t happy with them. They weren’t proper stories - because i kept removing most of the conflict. (Essential bit of a story.)

I presume it was some control freakery that reflected the bad times i was living through, which i couldn’t have an effect on, so i was trying to write away real life for a while there.

It’s all experience.

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I learned a lot from all my non-books. The crucial importance of using the right word at the right time, and of pacing out fight, rescue, and ESPECIALLY sex scenes.

Unless you’ve done it, try lying down on the bed, or the kitchen table, test out your character’s actions. Oops, guess what? He can’t reach her pink bits with an egg-whisk from there.

You may not have had the kind of wild sex you’re writing about, but you must convince the reader that you’ve done it. You don’t have to be explicit (and i don’t mean just about sex – explicit means “clearly developed or formulated”) but if you do decide to go into exact detail, get your freaking facts straight.

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Quick quiz: which side would a right-handed man have the scabbard of his sword?

Answer: The left.

Quick tip: Want to make me stop reading your bit of swords-and-sorcery or historical novel? Fuck that one up.

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A writer i picked up at the library used a word in the wrong context – so jarring i went to a dictionary – and went steadily south from there.

I’d just got used to a main male character, who was the first introduced, so i assumed he was a main man, but he was killed. i presume the writer did this because he thought his character was a cliché or that he should “kill his darlings” when he wrote and he was fond of the character, so the character had to die.

Do not do this to your readers – don’t give them a protagonist then kill them! Then the writer pretended to kill another one, but in the same style as the first, so i assumed he was also actually dead. But he wasn’t. Oh har-fucking-har. (“Kill your darlings” = cut out the bits where you’re being clever and showing off, as people don’t need to read such self-indulgent twaddle.)

The plot was one of the worst ever – it was the end of the world because of a Nasty Thing, but somehow, the Nasty Thing went away without any effort from anyone. “Arrhh, there we go, guv’ner, *sound of angels farting* it was the Hand of God wot saved us all.”

Do not do this, i will track you down and kill you, or more probably, never read anything of yours again. I won’t be reading this writer again, either. It’s the laziest, snidest,  CHEAT to your readers to suddenly say after they’ve slogged through at least 100,000 of your words…

“OMG! The Nasty Thing is gone! Whatever was wrong is fixed! Nobody knows why! But it’s terribly convenient, because obviously the author didn’t think the bloody plot through! We’re saved!”

At least try to give a plausible reason. *cries* To top off the insult to me as a reader, aside from the Nasty Thing just going away, the action in the human side of the plot was resolved by the writer’s equivalent of saying this…

“Haha, the main protagonist’s wife was working secretly with the guerillas, and saved everyone from the power-hungry evil guy who was taking advantage of the Nasty Thing messing up society – but nobody knew until the last page, especially not the reader, because the writer only put that in at the very end, (haha, suckers!) in a sad and futile attempt to force the book to make sense.”

Usually, when someone  shows you they are crap, they then stay crap – at least for the rest of that book. So the moment they’re shown crap, most people don’t bother reading it all the way.

Unless they’re freaks like me, who are very curious, and can read several thousand words a minute, compared to the average speed of about 250. I try to limit my length in posts – i don’t succeed – but i know for instance, that most people don’t  have 16 minutes to spare to read a 4,000 word post. (This isn’t that long, not any more.) No matter how fucking witty i’m being. *sigh*

If I write one that’s even 2,000 words long, and they do read it, I am blessed with the nicest, most perfect Beloved Visitors in the world! And i had better make them laugh, be pleasantly and genuinely educational, and/or entertaining in some major way.

If i cheat them with my words, they won’t come back.

Books are different, people are prepared to devote time.  So the same goes, about not cheating your readers with your words, but doubled.

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The point is, (omg, she has a point!) the books that annoyed me were multi-published writers, (selling enough to say they ‘were a writer’ without people laughing at them) but they were so sloppy that i had to force myself to keep reading.

Far as i can tell, they’d had a big seller with one lucky book, and hadn’t learned their craft well enough to sustain their run, or maybe they had become lazy under the pressure of churning out the next novel.

I  can only imagine they’re surrounded with people too sycophantic to say, “Excuse me, but that really is tripe.” (Or perhaps something more constructive that gets the tripe idea over.)

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I’ve found it an intensely frustrating time, building my worlds, thinking each time as i wrote a book that it was going to work this time, but it’s ultimately rewarding.

I’m writing fantasy fiction, so eventually i need to look at who publishes that genre. (I will later, let me finish The Thing first. As an unpublished writer, there’s no point otherwise.)

Find a book that’s in your genre, look up the publisher online. They will have their specifications for submission there. (There are also paper publisher directories that give a nice range of detail, most libraries have them.) Read the specifications, then read them again. A day later, look again. Then consider doing your submission.

As a former editor and slushpile reader, i’d ask you to please do this, because so many people send something the publisher will never publish – like romance novels to a publisher of science fiction. You’re wasting your time and theirs.

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Oh – and before i forget. Do not argue with anyone who rejects your work. A polite rejection is not an invitation to write back and say they’re wrong and why. (This goes for people on dating sites, too, just by-the-by.)

Take your emotions out of any correspondence. You’re entitled to your opinion, to think that you’re the next big thing, however, tell me that, and I am entitled to  tell you that I think your work is a derivative piece of fluff and you copied the dialogue off a Hallmark card. I would not normally tell you this in such a hurtful way.

This is me being unrestrainedly rude, instead of constructively critical – spot the difference? Usually, I would be polite, suggest anything pertinent that came to mind with the piece, and advise that you join writers’ groups and creative writing classes, because i do believe, anyone can learn to write. (Anyone who’s prepared to work at it.)

You saying anything negative in response to a rejection is only going to make an editor remember your name, (not good if you want to send them more work).

And the funny thing? It was always the really crap people who thought they could argue me into changing my mind, or that they could explain their work so that it would be published.  You can’t explain your work. It stands alone.

An even more disturbing occurrence, in view of the completely psycho picture it painted of the writer was when i would get the same piece resubmitted a few months later, sometimes unedited, without any notice that it was a repeat submission.

Tip: If you’re resubmitting, say so.

Editors are very like elephants – they have long memories, thick leathery grey skin, huge tusks, roam the Serengeti, and are cranky. They Some of them enjoy trampling people. They work for vultures publishers who are often unpleasant people to work for.

Editors remember stories, so always say if you’re resubmitting something – and always make sure it’s been changed substantially in line with any actual criticism they gave you, otherwise you’re treating the editor like an idiot.

And exactly like elephants, editors will gore you to death if you don’t show respect. Until you sell well, in which case you become the biggest tusker in the herd, and they’ll all bring you bananas. Even the vultures publishers will be nice if they think you’ll make them money.

Elephants Editors are usually underpaid and well-educated, doing what they do because they love books – they’re not in it for the remuneration, *sound of hysterical laughter* as money in publishing is generally low. Alright, alright, it’s pitiful.

On the other hand, I think literary agents are like hyenas – everyone thinks they’re just unpleasant scavengers, but researchers have discovered that agents hyenas kill  more often than lawyers lions do. A good agent will bite off someone’s face for you make it much easier to get a vulture publisher.

Interestingly, girl agents hyenas have the biggest clitorises in the animal kingdom. Seven inches, momma.

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Anyway, I’m off, back to The Thing – hope you enjoyed and possibly learned something – even if it was just about the girl hyenas.

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Congratulations, you just read 2,087 words!

This post was more than halved in the editing process.
Worse than usual, my verbosity. I did keep some chunks of it for later.
Oops, and that’s now 2116 words.

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