5.31.2006

Help Absolute Write

Go here to see the original post on Jenna Glatzer's blog.


Absolute Write's former hosting company has missed the deadline to hand over the databases again.

It's disgusting; there's absolutely no reason for it. It's data, for christssake. If you have a grievance, make a copy for your records (which is probably illegal too, but hell, it's better than holding an entire company hostage until they sue your pants off).

Anyway, Jenna is asking for donations to help get Absolute Write back up and running.

Oh, and that crappy hosting company shouldn't think for a minute that they've won in any way. If AW had to start over from scratch today, it would just be better than it was before because everyone is pitching in to make it better. So holding the databases hostage is doing nothing but making the hosting company look petty and spiteful, and opening them up to some serious legal issues.

I'm cynical and currently cranky, but I wouldn't be surprised if they aren't trying to hold onto the databases for their new, excuse me, relaunched "writing website" (link is nofollow), although I can't imagine how that'd really be possible.

Some people are just that stupid.

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5.30.2006

Size Doesn't Matter

Iseult, Iseult, what grace may death not keep
As sweet for us to win of death, and sleep?


It occurred to me recently that I had no idea how long a chapter is supposed to be. Yes, I know this is a non-question; a chapter is as long as it needs to be to convey the information it's supposed to convey, and all that.

But still... what's a good length for a chapter? I'm not big on constraints, but sometimes they can be useful. If I knew, say, that a chapter is generally 30 pages long, I could write with an eye towards that. No stress if I'm under or over, but at least I have a guide, right?

So I googled, and discovered that just about the only people who want to tell you how long a chapter should be also have a magical formula for writing a bestseller and want money to share this information. This reinforces my original guess that chapters are as long as they need to be and all that.

I could have given up, but that might have meant actually working, so it was time for some research! I pulled four books of roughly the same size (around 400 pages) off the shelf and figured out how many pages per chapter for each.

Chapter length ranged from fifteen pages per chapter in a very silly paranormal romance-comedy to thirty pages per chapter in an angsty horror-romance. The other two (both fantasy romances) were at twenty and twenty-five pages per chapter. It was interesting to note that each book's chapter length remained pretty much constant throughout the entire book.

So, in my not very scientific survey, the average chapter length was twenty pages. For what it's worth.

5.28.2006

I Hate Commenting


I am a serial almost-commenter. I swear, it's the most annoying thing... I write long, detailed, well-thought out, lovingly edited comments, and then I don't post them.

Usually it's because I realize at the last moment that it's all useless anyway. This might be years of internet communication participation speaking, but I can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm either preaching to the choir if the thread agrees with me, or spitting into the wind if it doesn't. This is defeatist, yes, but ties in nicely to the other reason.

Why should anyone care what I think anyway? I'm not an author, a publisher, an editor, or an agent. I'm in the writing equivalent of physical therapy at the moment; struggling to take those first halting steps after years of avoidance, hoping to start actually writing fiction again. I'm pretty darn good at critiquing, but I don't have the patience to prove it again, and I'm not sure I have the stamina to take it up again.

I guess, fundamentally, I'm a reader; I read. And when it comes to reading, I'm usually confident in my opinion -- anything else is just me talking to hear myself talk.

5.25.2006

Shame, Shame...

Barbara Bauer is on Writer Beware's Top 20 Worst Agents list


So it looks like Absolute Write will be back online again soon. Get this -- it turns out that AW's host's owner, after panicking and pulling the plug on AW, is now rolling out her own similarly targeted writing site (link is nofollow). For shame.

And for stupid, too; I have no doubt this new site will manage to build an audience of sorts (PublishAmerica has no lack of hopeful soon-to-be sadder and wiser clients; Kangaroo Jack was #1 at the box office for a week), but the reputable writers will stay away.

I'm starting to feel pity (in a very general way) for the behaving-badly Barbara Bauer. Have you ever googled an old drama (say, the MZB fanfic drama, which is how I stumbled over this thing in the first place) and found pages and pages on it even though it happened a decade ago?

That was before blogs; now there will be hundreds and hundreds of blog pages about her unsavory acts stored in the internet collective memory for decades (if not longer). And our parents' generation may not think to google a company's name plus 'scam', but many of us do now. And our children will as a matter of course before doing business with anyone.

Oh, and for the record, I didn't leave AW because of anything it did. I stopped following all forums because I tend to lack discipline in the first place, and having forums to browse wasn't helping. I got to meet several of my favorite authors on AW (I should like to add that I did not fangirl squee at them -- but I wanted to), and I always felt very welcome there.

Here's that technorati tag for BarbaraBauer again (it seemed to have worked last time!).

[Update: There's another very good set of links from google here. ]

[Update #2: For the full story, take a look at the big thread on Making Light.

5.24.2006

Scam Artists Are Everywhere

Barbara Bauer is on Writer Beware's Top 20 Worst Agents list


Absolute Write was a great source of entertainment and a little enlightenment for me last year when I was still thinking about maybe writing something else again someday. While I don't really participate there anymore, nobody should have their hosting yanked because of some blustering bully.

So, while I am usually not one to jump on internet bandwagons (since there's usually no one driving, as the proverb says), I'm participating in this one. No business, legitimate or otherwise, should be allowed to use the chilling effect on people who speak out against it, and Barbara Bauer is no exception.

See James C. Hines' post for more information, or Miss Snark's post about it. There's more on Dawno's blog as well (but watch for the lime green background, it nearly made me go blind).

Here's the (I think anyway, since I've never used a technorati tag before) from Dawno's post.

The Last Unicorn

That is most of it, being a wizard--seeing and listening. The rest is technique.


I can't believe I just found out about this, completely by accident. Pretty despicable, if not entirely unexpected; essentially, the owners of the animated The Last Unicorn were supposed to pay the author a percentage of the net profits and never did.

I think I've seen something like this before while trying to find out how Uwe Boll continues to get funding; from what I gather, 'net profits' is movie speak for 'none'.

Apparently, according to my somewhat lazy research, the movie studios have hordes of accountants whose jobs are solely to prove via paper manipulation and chicanery that a movie never made a dime of net profit, no matter how much it actually made (see "Hollywood Accounting"). So I'm not surprised the author made nothing (although I am definitely outraged -- this is disgusting and unethical).

It's OUTRAGEOUS that this sort of thing goes on, and that nobody can seem to stop it. I bought the DVD when it first came out; I had been waiting for the DVD release for months. I would buy a special edition in a heartbeat -- but not if the author is being shafted.

On Writing Psychics

if dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts


Some notes on psychic abilities that should probably be considered if one is going to write about them. Note, while this is inspired by a synopsis I saw today on the Evil Editor blog, it's not aimed specifically at anyone or meant as an attack. There wasn't enough information there to make the assumption that the author of the synopsis made any of these mistakes in that work. So 'inspired by' is it, okay?

Also, I do not believe or disbelieve in psychic powers. This sounds horribly wishy-washy, but I've seen too many odd things (and some of them sober) to declare the paranormal impossible. I usually try to abide by Occam's Razor, and to my mind, 'psychology' is more likely than 'parapsychology', or at least should be checked first.

--

Twins are not psychic by default. I am a twin; I am not psychic. I did not just get passed over for the psychic twin gene; it doesn't exist. When you spend every moment from conception onward with someone, essentially being half of another being, you develop an uncanny intuition about what they'll do or say (as well as some really ugly dependancy issues, but that's another story). When you stop associating with that person, the intuition goes away. Eventually.

Would you say I'm psychic because I finish my SO's sentences occasionally, or know that he'd like a cup of tea when he settles in to work? The 'twin psychic connection' boils down to shared experience and coincidence, and that's it.

It can be handled well, I suppose; I liked how Dick Francis portrayed the twin connection in Break In, for example.

--

'Psychic' encompasses a huge array of possible abilities. Characters who dowse for water or oil using sticks are psychic. Characters who get impressions from touching objects are psychic. Characters who start fires with their gaze are psychic. Many of these abilities are already defined and have proper names. It's like referring to a monkey as a primate; you're technically accurate, but you could be a lot more precise.

The Skeptic's Dictionary and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural are both great resources for learning more about this.

--

Psychic powers aren't a substitute for plotting. If your plot hinges on the airy handwave of 'she used her psychic powers', your plot is as weak as a fantasy novel that relies on 'they used magic'. The best plots dealing with psychics interweave the psychic ability into the plot, and show us how this character deals with her unusual abilities. Try replacing 'psychic ability' with 'broken leg'; if you aren't giving your psychic abilities the same amount of weight and incorporating the ramifications of it into the story to the same extent as you would a broken leg, you're not giving it the depth it deserves.

--

Blogging is addictive; I wonder if I should maybe be working instead? Nah... that'd be... productive.

5.23.2006

Rejection Collection Addiction

Okay, I might have been cruising rejectioncollection.com instead of writing, but in my defense, uh... I found some hilarious ones.

Aspiring author Rejected once, but not twice. got the old 'doesn't meet our standards' rejection. It's not hard to guess why once you reach the part about "Being that this was my first book, I knew that I would be rejected. If I had been Steven K. it would have been sucked up quickly."

He adds that revenge is sweet; he mailed the agency's prepaid postage reply card back to them glued to a brick. Ahahahahaha, oh, Rejected, you're so funny. And, frankly, you scare me. This just doesn't really seem the best way to, ah, build a working relationship with the professionals in the business you're trying to get into.

---

Shocked In Canada insults and berates the agency he was rejected by, then adds a virtually incoherent ramble that indicates why he was rejected.

Tangent here, but why don't people proofread their comments and posts? I'm not saying you need to go over them with a fine-toothed comb; mistakes happen, and it's not supposed to be polished anyway. But you're trying to communicate, people! Jovial, giggly, unpunctuated, and/or uncapitalized stream of consciousness comments do not further this purpose. End tangent here.

---

A guy in Maryland who just self-published his novel has been taken for a ride and hasn't figured it out yet. Hint: when an agent or publisher rejects your novel for free but offers to enter it in contest for money, you aren't going to win. Unless you're involved in a poetry anthology scam, of course.

Here, put it in a different context; the "selling your car" analogy. You be the hopeful guy selling his car, and I'll be the buyer. First, I test drive it and, well, shucks, it's just not right for me. But... $50 will buy you another test drive, and maybe this time I'll like it enough to buy it. Sound like it's "worth a shot" to you? Didn't think so.

---

Here's another good one, from someone who styles himself Novelist. Essentially, the person he was slushing responded with "We don't accept mss. submissions.". The rejected writer was shocked and outraged; how could a publisher stay in business without accepting manuscripts? The nerve! Why am I not surprised to see that this writer was shotgunning his manuscript to boot? If nobody has hit you with the clue stick yet, Novelist, it's called a query letter. Google it.

Anybody can make a newbie mistake; the tragedy is that Novelist sent a heated email off to the publisher while under this misconception. He got no answer, but I'm willing to bet that this one ended up on the publisher's bulletin board. Ouch.

---

My all time favorite has got to be Rejection Queen, though (see here as well). She describes herself as a "carpet-bomber"; to quote, "people that shoot out copy & paste proposals to any vaguely publisher related email". Ugh. In her case, this means 1,000 rejections in ten months, and "a number of" email addresses shut down as spam. How would an interested party even respond in that case? Ugh again.

Reading those two posts is like a little mini-lecture on What Not To Do; someone should make a quiz out of them, and if you fail to recognize any part of what not to do, you have to actually study the industry you're trying to get a job in. Hopefully RQ has grown up a little (the second post makes it pretty clear that she wasn't very old at the time of the posting) and figured out that publishing is a business.

---

Okay, that's enough from me... I'm not being productive at all. But it's like a train wreck, I just can't look away. Some of these people seem just fine; they post standard form rejection letters or ones with suggestions from the editor, and offer a polite "glad he liked it, wish he'd bought it" as commentary. The vast majority, however, are downright scary.

The sense of entitlement is shocking, even to me (and I'm jaded and cynical. You know this because I tell you so). And the lack of research is crippling. If I wanted a job working retail, I would at LEAST determine if the store I was about to apply at sold hardware or lingerie first. Of course, I remember there was a study a year or so ago that showed that incompetent (I would have said 'stupid' but I'm not a scientist) people tend to be unable to judge their own level of incompetency properly. Maybe it's a survival mechanism.

I suppose I can chalk up the last few hours of wasted time as research in the event I ever decide to write a novel and attempt to sell it.

Literary Deja Vu

I was reminded today of a bit of oddness I encountered a few years ago (see? Contrary to popular opinion, I do have a sense of time outside of the broad categories of 'the other day', 'today', and 'later'.)

I had just picked up the latest in a series by an author, quite respected, who has written many, many novels in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I had stopped following him for a while, and decided to catch up, so I had just finished the next to last book in the series the day before.

The author uses a standard formula for this particular series. One hero, one heroine, one warrior, one monster, and one witch all go on a quest from point A to point B, encountering various obstacles and creatures along the way. Really, it works very well; the books are amusing, raise some interesting philosophical questions, and are usually enjoyable (although the first is still the best of them). Around the middle of the book, during one combat encounter, I had the oddest sense of deja vu.

I knew I had seen this chapter before. I'm not psychic; a quick comparison showed that the author had lifted a chapter, verbatim (as in 'word for word'), from another book in the series, changed the pronouns, tenses, and character names to match the new book's particulars, and dropped it into the new book otherwise unchanged.

I must admit, I wasn't angry; I was mostly astonished. Did his editor just not notice? This was a big publishing house, right around the time that we started hearing about the death of the midlist and the death of the mentor-editor. Perhaps his editor wasn't paying enough attention to him, and this was his way of retaliating. Or maybe he wanted to see if any of his readers were paying attention. Or maybe this one was ghost-written while he was convalescing on the French Riviera (something I hope to be able to afford some day -- the Riviera, not the ghost-writing). Or maybe... there are too many to list, the point is, I have no idea why. A casual google search doesn't turn up much more than a few people complaining the books were too similar. No mentions of the Identical Chapters at all.

I still wonder what was up with that, sometimes, even though I've long since stopped following that particular author. That was actually the last book of his I purchased, now that I think of it.

The Golden Character

So, I was thinking about Frazer's The Golden Bough last night. No, I don't know why, exactly -- I think perhaps it has something to do with my recent reinterest in the writing community. It's odd to see how perspectives change, especially among younger writers and readers. I think a lot of the sense of history has faded from the genre scene... or maybe it was never really there because it's not important? More on that later, I think.

Anyway, I've been having a lot of fun plotting my latest, and it's coming together very nicely, in a way I haven't really seen on earlier projects. Lots of layers, not by design or by intention, but rather... I feel as if I am chipping these elements out of the stone, slowly sculping something of meaning. Which is weird for me, because I don't particularly like meaning. But I love patterns, and I love it when two things that aren't related suddenly, obviously, absolutely are, in a new and unexpected way.

But, anyway, back to the subject at hand. The specific part of the book I'm referring to is the section on magic (since I can't remember much more than that, it's been a decade and a half) -- the principles a primitive magician might use to work his magic. And it occurred to me that these principles might be modified to work for writing, and character development in particular.

There are two branches of Sympathetic Magic. I had to look this up; I had remembered three branches, for some reason... I'm still convinced there are, even though I have no proof. Or inkling what the third branch would be. Or even an idea of why I think this.

The Law of Similarity is defined in the context of sympathetic magic as 'an effect can be produced by imitating it'. You have a character, a strong, intelligent type, and you want to reinforce this. So you create another character who is also strong and intelligent, but less so, and show the first character correcting the second.

The Law of Contact is that, once an object has been in contact with a person, anything done to that object affects the person. This principle is used to great effect in many novels for plot; it's essentially the domino effect. A character abuses his child, and the child grows up to abuse his own children. The abused children take poor care of their grandfather, shuffling him off to a nursing home. For character development, it's so simple it almost doesn't need saying; the things that touched your character in the past still drive him.

Eh, forgive this ramble, I'm indulging in idle keyboard pounding as I wait for the Dr. Pepper to kick in. These late nights are killing me.

Probably a Bad Reason

Wow, that was easy. I just clicked a few buttons, filled in a few fields... and now I have a blogspot blog. If I had known it was that easy, I probably wouldn't have bothered getting a domain name and setting up textpattern for my usual blog.

I don't expect to post much here that isn't writing related, since I really only made this thing so I could participate in blogspot comments in the writing blog community*. I can't stand typos, and if this lets me edit them out of my comments, it's worth it.

* See vacuuming the cat, or 'why I never get anything written'.