Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

From June 21, 1997 to August 5, 1997

Jack B Tue Aug 19 10:39:01 PDT 1997

 Make that 'has it written into his contract that he is published without editorial review' I can type. Really I can. 

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Aug 19 10:36:34 PDT 1997


In some ways I agree with you about later King. Part of the problem may lie in a rumor I have heard that he has it written into his contract that he is published with editorial review. This may or may not be true, but I suspect as a writer gets the awesome success of a King, a Greshim or whoever, the temptation is to not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs by getting them mad at the editor's suggested changes. So, poor editing. King is an excellent writer, but he could benefit by some simple editorial review at times, as do we all :-).

    As I indicated in an earlier post, both King's The Stand and Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land did not work as well when you read the unedited versions or author edited versiosn. In Heinlein's case the book came across much more dated as situation specific humor was added back in. This might be a lesson for us all. If we ever get as rich and successful as a King or a Greshim, always submit our works to severe editorial review. Actually, in Greshim's case I see no evidence that he is not doing that. His novels seem tight as a drum as far as I can tell. My 2 c. worth. 

Bob Hanford Tue Aug 19 09:55:59 PDT 1997

 Kae: I guess I don't think that far ahead. I want people cussing me out because they couldn't put the book down and were late for work. I want people talking about rage and punishment the way they now talk about baseball. But I have a very disinterested ego; I don't need the acclaim or the cameos. If I can give someone a good read and start a nationwide discussion, that's all I need. That is just ME; there is no right and wrong here.

Enjoyed your post and I wish people would stop apologizing for being long. Were we sitting as a group face to face, we'd talk all night. 

kae Tue Aug 19 08:01:44 PDT 1997

 I think that just getting a novel finished (not to mention published) is a great feat in itself. I don't consider what I termed "pulp" writers to be "sell outs." I guess I used the word "pulp" wrong.

People write what they write. When I was in college, I discovered that FOR ME it was infinitely easier to write about the horrible side of people. For instance, Martin Amis' novels are very clever and very well written, but the characters are all such SHITS that you end up not really caring about them. I find it infinitely more challenging to write about characters that are likeable, and that are good people. Villians are great fun, and you DO need to have an antagonist/conflict, but I like to use my imagination to write about something that could actually happen. I figure I could write a pretty good slash-em-up, blood-and-guts first-person serial killer novel, but it's more of a challenge TO ME to write a novel about everyday people who do everyday things, and to write it so that it's interesting.

But that's just ME. I'm truly an adocate of writers writing whatever they want. I would never write someone off (no pun intended!) becuz of the genre they write. One of my best pals writes romance, and another friend writes fantasy, and I am a HUGE fan of both their stuff. I am not trying to slam anyone, tho I'm sure it probably sounds like it. I find it particularly fascinating when a horror novelist writes a book that is BELIEVEABLE, ie, SK's Carrie, Whitley Streiber's The Hunger, Ellis' American Psycho. Katherine Dunn's GEEK LOVE was the third best book I've ever READ. (Everyone, please, read it.) I don't know if it was ever a book, but the movie Seven was something I wish I'd have thought of first. So I DO have respect for horror lit and the writers of it. Please do not take offense. Just trying to get a discussion going here.

Now, in defense of my attack on Stephen King....I'm talking FORM here, not CONTENT. Sure it's horror, so what? Nothing wrong with that. But c'mon, you guys, when was the last time he wrote a really good book? I haven't read Delores Claiborne, which everyone seems to like, but I have read some of those 1000-page monstrosities (again, no pun) he's cranked out over the past ten years or so. He'll spend twenty-five pages going into the background of a minor character that dies on the twenty-sixth page!! What, does he get paid by the word or something? In the preface to his novel It, he boasts that it took FOUR YEARS to write that long, boring, overblown, stereotypical piece of crap. FOUR YEARS? For real? Granted, the guy has a great imagination and ideas, but he's developed a serious pattern, and all of his more recent books follow it. You get these two characters in every book: a) wickedly intelligent (usually breathtakingly beautiful) woman, usually old enough to have lived a little (i.e., hurt by a man). She's quick witted, strong, and swears like a drill sergeant. and b) a fragile, handsome male, former substance abuser, with a heart of gold, who's usually been rescued by the woman--if not now, then sometime in the past. This guy usually dies. Those two characters are in all the later books. And the Maine thing, man, get over it (the hook brings you back....). Then there are the generic secondary characters: the cranky, whip-smart, frank-talking old woman; a burned-out older, blue-collar man; some really precociously annoying children, etc. His latest novels are the horror equivelent of Stephen Spielberg movies--predictable characters, predictable plots, happy, hard-won endings, children/animals in danger, etc. I DO think King has "sold out," becuz I HAVE read his early novels--Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, to name a few--and compared to his older stuff, when it was obvious that he really cared/tried, his new stuff just plain HACK.

Have you ever noticed how often his characters "burst out laughing"? I used to highlight the phrase whenever I saw it in his books becuz it's frequency made me burst out laughing.

But anyway, I digress. I was simply asking yall if you're more interested in critical acclaim or being a famous writer. You know: writing with a day job, or writing and doing cameos in movies. Acclaim or Entertainment? William Faulkner or Anne Rice. (Now don't go slamming me, I LOVE Anne Rice, but they're probably never going to teach her in American Lit 301. In the Horror Lit class, yes, but not "straight" fiction classes.) Taking for granted, of course, that they both ARE art, they're just different. Of course, it would be great to be both, like John Irving, or Vonnegut, but you must admit it's pretty rare. I was just asking, not out to slam anyone on the page, or anyone else.

Shorter next time, I promise.

I for one would love to be studied in college, but my writing is such that that is probably not going to happen (if I ever publish, for crying out loud).. I would be just geeked, tho, to do a cameo in a Spike Lee movie. (Yeah, baby, dream on!!) ;-) 

Philip McLaren Mon Aug 18 22:45:17 PDT 1997

 Would some junior editor just like to jump in and fix that last post for me... thanks. 

Philip McLaren Mon Aug 18 22:24:59 PDT 1997

 HELLO EVERYONE: it's fairly fizzing and crackling in here!

Firstly, in a memorable comeback, Bob blazoned a new trail to the left with his observations about standards at the coal face then in no time Britomart bush-bashed a way clear for clear us though to the scrub to the popular fiction pasture. It's somewhat reminiscent of last year when hot barbs in the form of screenplay writing were being tossed about this site.

Anyway BRIT, regarding the Brisbane Writers Festival - it's Chaired by my Canadian mate Dr Adam Shoemaker. Adam usually sets topics for his writers/panellists but if he doesn't do that he simply wants you to be yourself. Introduce yourself, give a short biography, how you got started, read a little - this they like to take twenty minutes. You may be on stage with three others, the plan is that the session might take ninety minutes. Each person speaks then they let the public off the leash to grill the poor panellists for half an hour - you have to think on your feet, no notes and no script. But hey, you'll come through with flying colours because all they'll want to ask about is your work and you - the very things on which you are the world authority. A good number of the people in the audience will be your fans, your readership (I would love to see how they're dressed - maybe as characters from your book?). So, just have fun and enjoy the acclamation. And what will you be wearing?

KAE: I know exactly what you mean but you did stop me dead in my tracks with the female anatomy riddle..... Would I write a commissioned book on devil worship for a million dollars? Mmmm... would I have to use use my real name or not? Now if it were two million....

CHARLES: my friend, you have the answer, the single most important factor to writing... passion.

Welcome to newcomers DAVID, PATRICK, GARY, JACK K, MICHAEL, ROSEMARY, LIAM, DEBBIE, SUSAN, JOAN and my old mate Bob Hanford's daughter MARIA. The real test for you guys will be when you email your biographies to Jack B. then we'll know if you are serious in staying with the group - and we'll all know a little about you, (imitating polite society).

JACK B: nice to see you about the site with words of wisdom, diplomacy and guile.

Now back to my manuscript, I left a plane load of people high above the mid Pacific, they may need my help to get down on to other side.

Back soon - Philip. 

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Aug 18 20:16:26 PDT 1997

 I have to agree with Britomart on Stephen King. He could be a shlock hack at times when he is pumping them out to fast, but he can also be tremendous as in The Stand. Although, I have to admit that the unedited version was worse as was the unedited version of Stranger In A Strange Land.

Susan Mon Aug 18 17:33:55 PDT 1997

 In defense of popular fiction I would like to add that a lot more genre fiction is making it on the bestseller list these days. The Dragnonlance books were bestsellers and helped to popularize the fantasy genre. A number of Star Trek books have been bestsellers. Terry Brook's Shannara books have been bestsellers as have many of Agatha Christie's mystery novels, among others. So, bestseller does not mean cheap, trashy, novel. And in defense of pulps, many popular mystery, horror, and science fiction authors got their start in the pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s. Asimov's Foundation and Robot novels were initially published in the pulps. 

Britomart Mon Aug 18 14:12:12 PDT 1997

 Kae: it's a common fallacy that Stephen King is a bad writer, and I do wish that people wouldn't use his name as a generic term for "pulp". He is one of the premier writers of the late twentieth century, he has a style and a wit that are entirely his own. Sure he writes an occasional turkey, but books like "The Shining" and "Dolores Claiborne" and "The Stand" are a testament to his considerable skill. He gets called trash because (a) he writes horror, and (b) he sells a lot of books. I don't know about Mary Higgins Clark, but I presume that for the most part, these people that sell truckloads of books enjoy what they do, and really love the genre they write in. To assume that they are "selling out" makes me a little cross, because I have already been accused of that with my first little popular fiction novel.

If you mean, however, "would you jump on a bandwagon to get a book published?", then no, I wouldn't. Nor would I expect the large majority of band-wagon jumpers to get published. Editors and readers know what they like, and have a sense of what is genuine and what is a carelessly cynical melding of generic elements.

In short, sorry if this sounds a bit defensive (cyberspace + communication = confusion sometimes), but popular fiction writers do generally get a bad rap. All I know is this: I wrote a popular horror novel because I adore the genre, and every idea I have falls within those generic boundaries. I made the commitment to get up at 5am every morning to write the book because I cared about the characters. I focussed all my care, energy, attention, and love into the work, and I'm sure that's why it's now published. And if it hadn't been published, I'd still love it and I'd still be proud of it, as I'm sure popular fiction writers all over the globe are of their own works.

Congratulations on finishing your novel. I hope you loved it as much as I loved mine.

kae Mon Aug 18 07:14:21 PDT 1997

 Damn, I hit the "submit" button w/my pinkie. Please ignore typos and/or awkward language. To continue: Think about it. Would you do it? There are a lot of people out there that respect Stephen King, and everything he writes turns to gold. You must admit it would be tempting.

I've met a few musicians who said they would do the New Kids on the Block thing if it meant $$, fame, and, uh, unlimited access to certain parts of the female anatomy. Me? Nah. But we had that conversation a few months ago, anyway.

As a side note, finished the rough draft of my novel. I started it at the same time that I began posting here, back in April. It's probably around 250 pages double-spaced. Now I get to start editing, my favorite part. Just wanted to let you know I'm not just some blow-hard that sounds off here without actually writing. 

kae Mon Aug 18 06:54:08 PDT 1997

 Per the topic...

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but if I knew there was absolutely NO CHANCE of publishing, I'd probably never write another word. Sounds pretty shallow, doesn't it? I seems that writing w/no hope of publication would be like wearing an evening gown w/full make-up to watch TV. What's the point?
I know that everyone will say, "but writing for one's own fulfillment is the best reward there is," and I agree with that, if the actual creative process if is the thing that rocks you. I do get a rush when writing something I feel is particularly terrific, but to me it feels a lot better if someone ELSE recognises it as terrific, too. It's along the same lines as getting a promotion at work--if you busted your butt for twenty years and you were never recognized, it probably wouldn't feel as good as it would if you were made VP. I think that most artists' main goal is recognition of their work. We're a weird breed of people who feel they must make their mark. It's our way of rebelling against our own mortality.
Here's a question that falls right in line with the topic: if you knew you could only write pulp fiction, along the lines of King or Mary Higgins Clark (or whoever), and you'd make scads, tons, millions of dollars, but never be recognized for being anything but a hack, would you still do it? I know everyone's immediate response will be, "HELL NO! SHUT UP & GET OFF THE PAGE!"

David Alin Sun Aug 17 23:53:16 PDT 1997

 Dear Friends,

First time visiting this site, I like to meet some of you, and also find ways to not only publish my ideas and scripts, but also find the right connections to new writers, and hopefully sell some of my scripts.

I'm also an aspiring screen-writer as well!

Thanks again!

David Alin

Bob Hanford Sun Aug 17 21:11:03 PDT 1997

 Charles: Missed you a lot. So much wisdom in your last post. Thank you.

Will finally send you that copy of Diane Ackerman's "A Natural History of the Senses" I'd promised you. But will need your snail mail address again.

Brit: Couldn't happen to a nicer woman. 

Bob Hanford Sun Aug 17 21:06:07 PDT 1997


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Aug 17 15:49:24 PDT 1997

 Joan: Quick major correction. All I said is that if I can get my collective fiction writing act together I will apply to try to get accepted to Clarion West next year. That sort of depends on improving my fictional writing skills and getting past the acceptance process. All things being equal I may go to Clarion next year. We'll see.

Britomart: Congratulations!! Since your book is now winging its way from the online Australian Bookstore to me via economical Air Mail I will shortly see what all the excitement is about ;-). Hope you make the big bucks for the screen rights.

Charles and all else who say that this is their default web page, I'm a little blown away. I have it bookmarked to hit, but not the default page. This place never ceases to surprise me.

Take care all and good writing. 

Charles Samuel Sun Aug 17 13:36:03 PDT 1997

 It's just like old times around here! Bob, I can't tell you how great it is to see you again. I missed you.

Needless to say it's been very busy here in Jerusalem. Like Deb, I have the notebook as my default web page so I keep up with the conversation when I log into the web, but I haven't had the time to sit down and throw in my two cents. Usually I'm just downloading and sending emails.

The current topic is something that has been bothering me the last few days and I want to thank you all for helping me get things in focus. About a month ago I sent out a book proposal which was snapped up by a top agent. He wanted about fifty pages of "first draft" in order to try and close a deal with a top publisher. I got thirty pages done and guess what? I realized I wasn't really passionate about the project. It's something I know well, the writing was good, it was very marketable and could make an impact. However, it wouldn't have been my first choice for a medium to communicate my message. I was simply responding to a current trend in the market.

Spookily, twice I spent a few hours working on pages thirty through forty, carefully saving the file as I worked, and then... zap! The computer crashed and I lost all my work. I took it as a message to re-evaluate the project. Was this something I was really into writing? What was my motivation?

I have an associate who has almost completed a similar book in Hebrew and is in the process of translating it. I've decided to help him get his book published first.

The discussion we're having here of "to publish, or not to publish" I feel boils down to, "Is the purpose of writing to benefit the author or the reader?"

I believe that really successful literature focuses on the reader. It lifts the readerís spirit.

Personally I get turned off by books that were obviously written to help the author process his or her feelings about an issue. If they need a psychiatrist, let them go see one. Don't burden me with your problems.

However if the author has some wisdom, beauty, or passion to help me, the reader, deal with life's challenges, then I'm all ears. It doesn't matter if it's fiction or non-fiction.

A friend once told me that real giving is when you give people what they need, not what you feel like giving. I think that's what successful writing is all about. Let's put ourselves in the readersí shoes and feel what they need and want to hear. Then write it. But write it with passion.

That's the lesson I learned this past week. I found something that the readers wanted and needed, but I couldn't get passionate about it.

Itís time to call my agent and let him know about my colleagueís book. My colleague is REALLY passionate about the subject.

And as for getting published... if your motivation is give the reader what he wants to hear (not what you feel like telling) and you can get passionate about it... you'll ultimately be published and your readers will thank you for it.

Shalom from Jerusalem,


P.S. Way to go Brit! You're an inspiration. Philip: Hope you're progressing on your new work. 

Britomart Sun Aug 17 13:29:12 PDT 1997

 Dear all

I'm the worst person to ask about how far to persevere with a manuscript. I finish 'em and file 'em in the bottom drawer and start the next - I think I give up too easy. I wrote four novels before the one that got published, just because I felt they weren't "right" and because I was dying to start the next. Editing is fun, but actually creating something new is the best, and the call of the new novel was always too strong for me. Just think how much better your second novel has got to be than your first, and so on. And in a really competitive market like the States, it has to be absolutely the best it can be. So if you're still hawking your first novel after a year, I'd advise filing it for now and starting something new, to keep your sanity in tact if nothing else.

In good news I'd like to share: Have had a serious film offer for my book, and an offer of money to write the screenplay. My agent is considering it, but these things are apparently mighty slippery so I'm not planning my Oscars speech. I don't know if it's such a good idea to sell the film rights six weeks after publication. Also, my publishers are ready to offer me a contract for my next book, so I'll be moving on to solid foods really soon.

Finally - Phil, help! I'm on a panel at the Brisbane Writers' Festival in a couple of weeks, and I have no idea how to approach my topic. You're such a veteran, maybe you've got some advice for a beginner. My panel is wedged between Peter Carey and the Good News Week people, so I'm thinking it will be pretty packed. :-{

Bye all

Susan Sun Aug 17 08:19:43 PDT 1997

 Hmmm, I wonder if there's hope for that fantasy novel I abandoned midway through the second draft. I loved the characters and the world, but the plot was too complicated, at least to me it was. Maybe one of these days I'll give it a second look. It broke my heart to abandon it. I still remember when I gave up on trying to get my first novel published. I loved that book. Writing it gave me so much joy, but it was simply unpublishable. Still, I learned that I could write a novel. Now if I can truly finish one.

I didn't realize I was going to start a controversy when I responded to Bob's comments about writing well vs. writing for publication. I do agree that there needs to be more focus on writing well. Believe me, as a former history graduate assistant who had to grade essay exams, I saw some bad writing. I still shiver in horror when I think of some of those essays. 

Joan Sun Aug 17 07:30:01 PDT 1997

 Hi Jack---Thanks for your comments re giving up on manuscripts. I have this webpage you very generously created to thank for a renewed motivation (read that as lack of procrastination!) and since "joining" writers notebook I've not only revised the finished novel, but also plan on continuing work on other projects. I posted the current revised beginning to the finished novel on Writers' Workbook, too, so we'll see how that fares. I noted that you're going to Clarion West (lucky dog!!) next year. Do you have plans to attend the world fantasy convention in Monterey?

All: I found a web site put out by Susan Graham Literary Agency (for those of you who write mysteries or sci-fi/fantasy, I think she may specialize in those, and she's currently looking especially for mysteries and sci-fi). It's got a lot of neat links, and there's an option to "ask the agent" general questions like those we pose here. The site is 

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Aug 17 01:15:30 PDT 1997


Speaking only for myself, I would not necessarily give up on that older manuscript. Perhaps set it aside and move on to some other things and come back to from time to time. The key here is not to get stuck by it.

   I know of at least a couple of writers who could not get their first novel marketed for love or money, came up with something that hit like wildfire and then were asked if they had anything else. That was when their earlier pieces got published.

Others with more experience on multiple novels will probably have a more knowledgable perspective. Good luck with it. 

Joan Sat Aug 16 20:00:33 PDT 1997

 About writing for publication: I will always write, even if not for publication BUT I don't write happily in a vacuum. I want people to read what I write---and of course, to make them feel, to have it touch them, which isn't always going to be possible. However, it's tremendously exciting--exhilirating, really--to me to think that someone else is experiencing whatever world I've put them into. But I think the distinction lays (lies?) in whether you're writing certain material just because it's what is "hot" for publication, rather than because it's your passion. I write fantasy because that's where my stories take me. I've started straight fiction, and the stories eventually turn into fantasies, or at least have some fantastic elements. As others here have said, write what you feel---whether for publication or just for yourself.

The discussion and all the different points of view are great, and run right along the lines of the 3-4 workshops I've attended where work was critiqued both by published authors and participating writers. (I remember sitting with them, feeling as if they were Gods, and I a mere . . . well . . . dog.) It was daunting to have negative criticism, but OH SO HELPFUL, if you can get past the hurt. Luckily, most critiquers alternated criticism with praise, and I only ever saw one person's manuscript that made it hard to find ANYTHING good to say---the grammar atrocious, the story line confusing and apparently without sense. The point is, negative comments are at LEAST as important as the positive. I believe we all need to learn to look forward to criticism, to see it as more valuable than a pat on the back---and at least it's not a @#!!$!! form rejection letter!

Can I throw out a question not related to the topic? Is there a point where you should give up on a manuscript? I actually finished the 1st draft of my one completed novel in 1989, then revised it several times, procrastinated a LOT, sent it out a few times---even got some rejections with positive comments, and just finished a major rewrite. Am I kicking a dead horse?? I have other manuscripts in progress, but none finished. I think the hang-up is finding a resolution to the finished novel---I love the story, and others have too, and I hate to give up. Any comments???? 

Deb Borys Sat Aug 16 16:17:24 PDT 1997

 Nice to meet you, Jack (K). Everytime someone posts how they're so glad they've stumbled on this page, I remember how I felt when I first found you all. I've done a lot of surfing since then and have found LOTS of writer's sites, but there are few who come even close to duplicating what we have here. Even though I don't post often, be assured I'm a presence nevertheless. In fact, my browser is set with as the default opening window, so I always give new posts a quick read at least, before I move on to business.

Now, for JACK B (this could get confusing), I think for the most part you could probably delete the excess postings, keep the archived files smaller, give us all less to scroll through. Most of the explanations people give are self-explanatory, even if the mess they're referring to has already been cleaned up, and if we know your policy is to clean them up, we'll be more likely to figure out what the explanations are referring to. Make sense, does that? Hope so. I'm off, now. Got some web surfing to do (purely career oriented, of course--research, don't you know!)


Britomart Sat Aug 16 13:11:31 PDT 1997

 PS. Rosemary, as a reader with 45 years experience under your belt, you are more than qualified to comment, because you know instinctively what works and what doesn't. I've met a lot of authors lately who say they don't have time to read, but it would seem to me they're only doing half their job. What do you think? 

Britomart Sat Aug 16 13:07:49 PDT 1997

 Dear all

I just have to say that Bob is one of the sweetest people in the universe, and would be mortified to think he'd offended anybody - unfortunately in cyberspace all we have are words on the screen, not tones, facial expressions, body language etc. He would *never* elevate himself as a dismissive critic, and has been nothing but encouraging and supportive in the past (and he has been around on the notebook since before me - but had a long sabbatical).

The stuff in the workbook is wonderful - moving, breathing, full of potential, colour, mood, creative energy and, in some cases, divine spark. I'm sure that Bob merely meant that some of the pedantic mechanical stuff required attention in some of the cases, if the authors were really intent on publication. We all love having the workbook, reading it, and finding those resilient, glittering threads of potential amongst it. None of us, least of all Bob, wants to discourage people from posting there.

Am I right, everybody?


Debbie Osorio Sat Aug 16 10:12:11 PDT 1997

 Haven't read all the messages, so I don't know what's going on, so let's move on. I love writing. I love the feeling of power that it gives me. I think writing for its own sake is just as important as writing for publication. There are things I have written, that I hope I will remember to burn before I'd die, because I wouldn't want anyone to read it. Some hateful things, some nasty things, lots of embarrassing things. Make no mistake, even if I am never published, I would continue to write, just because I can. For me personally, it is something that I own, and that no one can take from me, whether they know it or not.

BTW, Hi Bill!! 

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Aug 15 23:24:19 PDT 1997

 Quick Question about when the server does something stupid like trippling a message. Or difficulties when someone tries to enter a message and just triples a blank entry. We might call it server hiccups. Would you like me to go in and excise it or leave it, lest comments in regard to it suddenly do not make sense. Just wondering.

Also, a general comment from someone who has been playing hooky from writing, build a cedar wood fence (it looks really pretty, BTW) over the last two days and got moderately sun burned, I really do enjoy everyone here. This place has taken on a wonderful life of its own and on only two instances in the entire time of over a year that this place has been in existence have we had any heat generated from our monitors, as someone pointed out. All of that said, let me say that, though I like that about this little place on the internet, this place was designed, as Robert Heinlein put in several of his books, as Freedom Hall where you can spit on the floor and call the dog a ... well, maybe I'll leave it at that ;-). Take care and good writing. 

Jenna Fri Aug 15 21:39:15 PDT 1997

 This is a great topic! And actually something we were discussing at my Young Writers' Reunion during those late late *S* nights.

For me, all my work starts out strictly personal. I write to get out/past/through some emotion or experience that is bugging me. That is where most of my ideas come from and where the overriding emotion of the piece comes from. This is why I often have such a hard time sharing it with others; it is so personal.

But once I DO show it to someone else and realize that it has potential to be enjoyed by others (if it doesn't, it goes to my journal). I work on it, revising and what not, and then present it to more, gaining energy from the responses I get.

As far as publication, that has never been the real issue with me. I know I'm young and haven't had too much published (so maybe this view changes as you get older and desperately need the money), but I've never been into it. I get my energy and joy out of simply the writing itself and, if I do share it, seeing the actual reactions. With publication, you can't be there when everyone reads it and you miss out on a lot, I think. Publish or not, I will always write. 

Rosemary Fri Aug 15 20:25:00 PDT 1997

You're not the only one to feel a twinge at that previous comment, but there are a lot of opinions in this world and we get to pick the ones we want to consider important.

Hi! If I get posted this time, I hope to become a member of this group. My only publishing experience is in a writers' group newsletter and anthology. I don't really count them. I worry about giving advice to other writers because my only real experience is about 45 years of avid reading. 

Jack Kilgore Fri Aug 15 17:08:01 PDT 1997

 I just got through downloading a new browser and thought I would search for Writers Digest. Didn't find WD but stumbled on you guys! Just what I've been looking for ever since I decided to write fiction some 10 years ago! Never could find a group of people who could meet together face to face. But I like the tone of the conversations here. I'm a person who can say that writing, in a very tangible way, kept me alive during some really dark years. So about writing I am: fiercely opinionated, terribly passionate, and would love to spend the rest of my life doing it if only I didn't have to eat once in awhile, pay the rent... I wrote my first poem at about age 9. You don't know how good it feels to be writing to people who share similar values! OK, I'm bumbling around. I make my living writing and editing in the non-fiction world. I write at night on the good stuff. Just so I can jump into the game, I have an "amen" for Maria Hanford and Michael. I completely agree with Maria's advice. When you are writing for yourself, write what feels right, even if you transition into something that scares you about yourself. Or maybe you think you shouldn't be thinking/writing something. Let it come out. You don't necessarily have to show it to anybody. As a little exercise once in awhile, I will write whatever comes out. Sometimes it isn't very nice stuff. But I get it out. It helps me keep my writing nimble and honest. No, I haven't had any fiction published yet, but I owe it to myself to keep at it. I took the Writers Digest fiction writing course--took 2 years to complete and I learned a lot. I'm still working on the re-write of the novel I developed through the course. I look forward to hearing from y'all. 

Bill Fri Aug 15 09:34:52 PDT 1997

 Hmmmmmm! I don't have any idea what happened here????
I wasn't even finished and all of a sudden, it poster--several times. Oh well, you know how computers are. Sorry!

Anyway, I have just completed reading "So you want to be a writer" by Robert E. Moore, which by the way, was recommended by one of you kind folks. I don't remember who.
This is a quote from the book.

"KEEP COOL. Listen in Silence, masking as well as possible your true feelings, whether murderous of suicidal. You have heard what piranha fish do when they smell blood; don't let it happen to you. If you swallow yourself to reply, you will only find yourself getting defensive and the attackers more truculent. Set your jaw and take notes or doodle."

The book goes on to say that one should examine the criticisms again, at least 24 hours later. "by the end of the third day, you should be in the right frame of mind to rewrite, carefully considering the comments worth considering."

I for one do not have a good way with words and tend to be offensive sometimes. Not that I do it on purpose. Sometimes my good intentions aren't understood, so I know what some of you must have felt here. ENOUGH SAID.

I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes here, because as I said, everyone has made some good points.

Speaking of which, I like Britomarts the best when she said "because it makes me happy"

The same book also says NOT to write just to be published, but to write from your heart. Rewrite your novel as many times as it takes (based on criticisms you accept) and when you have done your job well, then worry about being published. 

Bill Fri Aug 15 09:05:37 PDT 1997

 Hello all: Hi Debbie Ororic. I hope you make it here okay.

Tammie, I agree with you, and for the first time since I have been coming to the notebook, I have felt heat coming from my monitor. From what I have read, everyone is correct in their own rights and some very good points have been brought out.

Tammi Kibler Fri Aug 15 00:22:00 PDT 1997

 JAMES, LIAM, BOB: please let it go. I don't ask as one who claims any
ownership of this domain, but just as a frequent visitor who has enjoyed
that this forum never degenerates to name calling.

Perhaps we could all agree to keep criticisms of Wookbook entries
(particularly negative ones) private and constructive. For many months
now, I have enjoyed this one spot on the net where published, unpubbed,
and completely newbie are able to meet and converse without elitism.

As to the art vs. market argument, I wonder if this isn't partly behind
the enthusiam for Natalie Goldberg's books. I wonder if her journalling
exercises not only enable us to reach deeply for our creativity, but
also allow a purging of those aspects of our writing which don't lend
themselves to the market.

Just my thoughts,


James Armstrong Thu Aug 14 20:28:05 PDT 1997


I was with Liam when I read your note, sure you didn't mention names and sure some people have not researched their basic writing skills and I am probably one of those people, but I was on the defensive when I read it. Why, new and young writers are at a critical stage where they are not confident in what they are doing and rejection hurts, while we welcome constructive criticism, we want it told to us in manner which does not seem condensending, I am sure you did not mean it this way, but this is how it felt. If you believe that some writers work is not up to par then how about advice on where they can go or what they can do to improve their skills.


Bob Hanford Thu Aug 14 14:56:54 PDT 1997

 Liam: Don't know why you got so defensive. There are many writers in the Workbook and I purposely did not mention names. And I am far from being a master of the game.


Liam Hays Thu Aug 14 12:13:26 PDT 1997

 Bob, It was my understanding that this page was not exclusive to masters of the trade. We come here not to learn that our work is not up to par, but to gain insight on how we can improve it through constructive criticism, and perhaps a little encouragement and comradery so that we don't feel alone in our passions. We write because we are inspired to do so. You can seperate business from pleasure so to speak, but when it comes down to it, if you write for commission, or write tailoring for publication, you still project your passions for your craft into the work. I would be hard pressed to find somebody who chose to be a writer just for the money (unless you're a celeb). The passion comes first. However, publication is more than money. It's also recognition to yourself. Writing is terribly introspective, and to share it with others, and to put it up for criticism or rejection in the first place is a leap of faith, a hope and a dream that somebody, maybe lots of people may like what you do. It's a realization that Hey! I might be pretty good at this. Maybe I should do for a living, and do it because I love to do it. 

Patrick Conlin Thu Aug 14 09:38:17 PDT 1997

 I've been lead to believe that one should write on the subject that interests the author. Write your story with the flare and enthusiasm that comes with having a sincere interest in your own story. Now, the hard part has to be finding the publisher that best matches your story, and editing to fit their guidelines. I find the book, "The Writer's Market," to be fabulous for this. 

Bob Hanford Thu Aug 14 08:41:23 PDT 1997

 Phillip: Totally agree with you re the introspective, esoteric writing. My point is this: In the Workbook right now are some writings that tell me the author(s) have not done their homework in the basic writing skills. Yet, they are looking to have their writings published and are measuring themselves by that yardstick.

I didn't intend for the discussion to be about whether we can write what we want to and somehow force the publishing industry to publish it. But to reinforce the understanding that being published will happen after one has learned to write very well. Writing very well is a wonderful reward and there is untold joy in discovery.

When I'm finished my book, I'll know whether rage is possible without resentment. I'll know whether rage is a relatively new phenomenon. I'll have a sense of what it is like to be a male adult sexually abusing a young male. I'll know some other things I don't want to reveal in this forum. That discovery is what pushes me to write, not the thought of being published, of having other people read my book or of making a lot of money.

Great talking with you again.


Philip McLaren Thu Aug 14 04:04:09 PDT 1997

 HELLO EVERYONE: the current topic is extremely interesting. Peter Faiman, the film director (who did Crocodile Dundee) told me once that it's okay if your ideas or concepts are personal and you only want to share them with friends but if your really want to reach a wide audience you need to adhere to certain industry expectations. Esoteric or introspective work that may be great fun in the doing may alienate a lot of people. If that is what is important to the originator, that's fine, but don't expect offers from publishers or film producers to come over the phone.

When I was intensely into my fine art, my work went so far out on a limb that it left most people behind. They didn't experience what I intended for them in my work. I was absorbed into the Japanese photo-realism fad and went full speed into abstract expressionism, following the New York school. Producing abstract art is the best fun without laughing or getting naked. But my stuff had such narrow appeal I had to abandon it.

I am now a full time writer and most of my work appeals to the majority of readers and are best sellers - that is no accident.

I painted a picture today, a commission for real money, but it was not my art. It was a painting that someone really wanted me to do for them.

I suppose what I'm suggesting is for us to seperate our art from what we do for money - recognise the fine line that divides the two.

Another reason I'm here today is to ask for your input. I have been invited to deliver a paper at the 'Spring Writing' festival in Sydney, the second biggest writing event on our calendar. A well known, right-wing journalist and I have a moderator and our evocative topic is "Literary Fraud or Artistic Licence?"

In recent times we have had a spate of European Australians posing as Aboriginal writers taking out prizes and grants but never appearing in public to collect them. We have also had a run of fraudulent writers ripping off other's works and creating a whole manufactured life for themselves to make themselves more interesting as writers.

We all know about writing under another name but what about posing under another skin colour?

Back soon - Philip. 

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Aug 13 23:04:33 PDT 1997

 Interesting discussion. So much so that I dropped it in as our official discussion topic for the next little while. I have a slightly hard time with this one. I lean a little towards writing for publication but with the inherent absolute need to write regardless. When my current computer book project is completed, I hope to start thinking about writing fiction and perhaps attending Clarion West The one next open is next summer, but the avowed purpose of this bootcamp for writers is immersing them in writing short imaginitive (read that science fiction and fantasy) fiction for publication. They are unashamed of focusing on the features of writing as a business, writing as an art and writing and critique as skills worth practicing on overload. Their final week's teacher is usually an editor.

Then, too, of late, technical writing may make my focus a little different. Take care everyone. 

Gary Howard Wed Aug 13 18:16:53 PDT 1997

 Greetings one and all!
I'm no biblical scholar, but I've been 40 days in the desert ... not a word written, distracted by commitments in and around our house, caring for our 2 yr old and 5 month baby during a heat wave, with Shelly gone on vacation for a week. Carly, our toddler, came down with heat stroke, running a high fever, and Benjamin teething heavily! I survived, having a greater appreciation for Shelly's capabilities and for single parents. I don't know how they do it. Can you believe it, I actually thought I might get a little writing done during all this. I did manage to log in to the Notebook every other day just long enough to print the latest and keep up with the group.

Ben, you and I should just hike up Grouse Mountain, find a cave, leave small cryptic notes for our wives, and damn well complete our respective writing projects. We can take my computer. While I'm typing you can be writing and vise versa ... what a great rhythm we could create. Wishful thinking, huh?

Anyhow, I have been working on getting my own litte cave prepared (we moved and my office has been a wharehouse for all manner of things for some time). I've finally got my storyboard up so I can map out Act III of the screenplay, taking it sequence by sequence.

The Notebook continues to fan the flames of my faith. Thank you Jack. And the contributions are truly enlightening. Newcomers, welcome and please post your biographies. It adds depth.

The current discussion about being published and writing for the pure joy of writing is interesting. It's pretty simple for me. I want to be published. Also, like Brit, if I'm not writing, I'm not happy. From the likes of Kerouac and Steinbeck we are reminded to let the writing flow! Take it to the finish ... no revisions ... not til you're done with the first draft. Don't disrupt the rhythm, and stay out of your own way. Let the subconcious percolate through, and as Steinbeck would say, your script must become the most important thing on the face of this earth (even if that's not true).



James Wed Aug 13 17:34:46 PDT 1997


I am sorry, it does sound like something that somebody who has the luxury of being published can say. I find that being published will not be an unneccessary bonus until you have been published, breaking into the field is every new writers dream. I can see that from the view of someone has been published from what you have said and from what I feel myself, each time my submission comes back with no note as to why it is not suitable. I think this is rude and inconsiderate fo publshers, even a note to say it is not suited to our field of publishing would suffice, but no, I lay awake at nights thinking, what is wrong with it, what can I do better. I know I have a long way to go before I will get published. A little encouragement wouldn't go astray though! 

James Wed Aug 13 17:27:00 PDT 1997

 Hi everyone,

I agree with what Bob and Susan are saying here, I love to write, to create worlds characters and have the power to decide wether they live or die, although I don't know how I decide that, I just write and it happens. I will always write what I enjoy to write, and that tends to be what I enjoy reading! I don't yet have the discipline to write what I don't enjoy writing about, it bores me, it doesn't satisfy me as writing what I enjoy writing about does, so I quit and go back to something I am enjoying. The ultimate dream is for a writer to get published, sure you write for the love of it, and to satisfy yourself, but we don't write completely for ourselves, don't we feel even more satisfied when someone says, "I really enjoyed that!"??? I know I do! The story about the talking pig that thinks it is a dog, it is called BABE! 

Bob Hanford Wed Aug 13 17:01:12 PDT 1997

 Susan: You're making the assumption that the publishing industry knows what it wants, that it knows what will be selling two years down the road. They are only guessing and are continually saying the same thing: "We are always open to the unique voice." I read the Writer's Market cover to cover each year. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the markets beg us to please not submit stories that anthropomorphize an alarm clock or any more animals, please. We won't even read them. Please. Then, as every year, a writer ignores their pleas and writes a bestseller that is made into a Disney movie and smiles all the way to the bank. What was the 96 best seller/movie with a talking pig? They want the unique voice and it won't come from someone trying desperately to follow the changing rules.

And don't forget, I am talking about new writers not judging themselves and their efforts by whether they are published or not. First they have to understand the difference between good enough writing and great writing,

Liam: I would change your last sentence to: "If you are a serious writer writing what you love to write, publication is inevitable.

Brit: I love you.


Britomart Wed Aug 13 14:34:42 PDT 1997

 Hi everyone. I thought I might just wade into this little debate - but I'm going to be terribly personal to do it. All my life I have wanted to publish a book - I have experienced so many long afternoons standing in bookshops looking at the shelves and thinking "everybody else is published but me". I deferred my happiness to this final goal - I thought "I will be happy when I have a book published". Okay, now I have a book published and guess what? It didn't make me happy (it made me excited, pleased, thrilled etc, but it did not change me into a happy person). If anything, I worry about little things more now than I used to - I worry if the book will sell, if people will like it, if I could have done this or that better etc. And now I'm here, having reached the final goal, where is there to go next?

But the other day, I sat down here in the morning with a cup of tea, and started a really interesting chapter of my new book, and next thing you know half the day had gone and I'd written 3000 really good and exciting words, and - hey presto! That made me happy. I had a lovely sense of fulfillment and deep joy. And I said to my partner: "you know, this is the reason that I started writing in the first place - because it makes me happy.

Sorry if this sounds like a whinge from somebody who has the luxury of being published to fall back on. But the most important thing is absolutely to write. All else is a very nice, but ultimately unneccessary, bonus. 

Liam Hays Wed Aug 13 13:27:13 PDT 1997

 I share a mixed feeling on this as well. I made my way through college going to school full time, working 3 part time jobs and sinking myself 30,000 into debt. The time that I had left was spent mostly on sleeping. I burned to write. I need to write. It is how I heal, how I manifest my true spirit. But because of lack of money, and even now I'm working 2 jobs, I had a lack of "writing" time. Money is time, and more importantly, it is freedom. I can write. I'll never stop trying to improve the quality of my writing. I'll always be open to new ideas/genres/styles and ways to improve. But the obstacle to my dream, the block that forbids me from persuing what I really love to do is money. Someday I will be published for the stuff I like to write, I am determined to be so. And I am determined that what I publish will shine. I will demand nothing else of myself. If I can be published and be so successfuly, that will give me a little more breathing room to do what I really want to do. In my opinion, if you are a serious writer writing what you love to write, publication is a neccessity unless you've got a silver spoon. 

Susan Wed Aug 13 09:45:24 PDT 1997

 Hi Everyone!
Bob, I agree with you to a point. Too much emphasis is placed on writing to be published. The result is that people write not what they want to write or what they are good at, but what will sell, and I think that hurts all of us as writers and it hurts the publishing profession, by lowering the quality of fiction and non-fiction that is being published. I write what I want to write, space opera type science fiction, heroic fantasy, and murder mysteries and I'm happier because of it.

But my dream as a writer is to be published. I want people to read my books. I want to be able to make my living writing. I want to make writing my career. I would like someday to be able to get able and write rather than have to go off to my job at McDonald's. Right now I divide my time between work and school (I'm working towards a teaching certificate) and this limits my time to write. I'm working towards that dream, which may never come true, but I've got to work towards it. I guess as writers we need to strive for a happy medium between writing what comes naturally to us and writing what will break us into the business and get us published.

Bob Hanford Wed Aug 13 09:05:55 PDT 1997

 Hello everyone.

Phil and Trudy: Thanks for warm welcome.

For all the newbies: I've had the following scotch-taped inside my notebook for years:

You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result, but think of the writing in terms of discovery, which is to say that creation must take place between the pen and the paper, not before in a thought or afterwards in a recasting. Yes, before in a thought, but not in careful thinking. It will come if it is there and if you will let it come, and if you have anything you will get a sudden creative recognition...The great thing is not ever to think about form but let it come.

Gertrude Stein

I feel strongly that too much emphasis has been placed on being published and not enough on writing extremely well. This is understandable due to the large number of published authors we are lucky enough to have in this group. But being published is not the end result of writing. Writing well, finding your own unique voice and interpreting the universe through your eyes, is the end result. If your book, short story or poem happens to be published, that is a bonus.

I just feel that as a quite sophisticated group of writers, we have the responsibility to new writers to discourage writing for publication and encourage writing well. For instance, while it is fun perhaps to mention nouns that are a bit unusual, verbs are our heavy-hitters. Verbs make or break our stories. Diane Ackerman (A Natural History of The Senses) mentioned a flower that blooms only one night per year saying that it "ached into being."

So...I'm going to be a voice for writing well, for the adrenaline rush we get when we turn a lovely phrase, when everyone else is asleep and we can't share it till morning. And that's okay. And being published is nice but it is not everything and should not be the immediate goal of new writers.


Philip Mon Aug 11 16:22:24 PDT 1997




HELLO EVERYONE: yes, I've become a believer, convinced about the potential reader/publisher/agency reach of the American Internet Homepage. I think as a tool for writers it should not be taken lightly. My daughter (a university student) has had a U.S. based homepage online for three months and has seven times more hits than my Aussie page managed in twelve months (785 to my 106).

My new U.S. page is now listed with all the major search engines of the world under various categories: Authors, Books, Literature, Publishing (books), Writers etc.

I read that as near as they are able to estimate the net is growing at the rate of 20% per month and is now estimated at having 100 million world wide connections with a potential of 2-300 million users - that's a hell of a lot of surfers.

A previously modest publication, The Australian Music Industry Directory, experiences 20,000 hits on its site per week - suddenly they've been thrust onto the world stage.

Publishers maintain elaborate homepages for their hot authors among those I've seen I like the pages for Canadian writer Margaret Atwood ( ) and Aussie writer Thomas Keneally ( ). And of course we all love BRITOMART's ( ).

JACK: I'm sorry about the bad link. I did use the old address for Writers Resources, I'll fix it right away.

KITTY: thanks for visiting my homepage, I'm pleased you liked it. I'm sorry you weren't able to reach the FRENCH RECIPES link, I've taken it out. I believe you are able to link it from home though, here is the address at Berkeley University -

This will be the French replacement link: ANCIENT ROMAN RECIPE - - fascinating and exotic.

Authentic Aboriginal bush medicine and bushtucker recipes to follow.

I've taken the guest book from the site until I locate the error.

And yes, you got me, I think Shakespeare is the greatest writer of the English language... I have to set him apart from all others that I know of... a freak. I don't have a pic of myself that is scanned ready for linking, so I grabbed Old Will for my front cover - I don't look anything like Old Will :-) *LOL* You can see for yourself, there is a pic of me on the back cover of the Scream Black Murder book which is linked to the site.

KAE: to get my books in the U.S. you can link directly to Amazon Books Online from Jack's biography page. If you find that Amazon have delivery problems, I'll mail whatever books you want directly to you - just email me your postal address.

Back soon - Philip. 

Trudy Mon Aug 11 16:06:38 PDT 1997

 HOLY COW!!! I can't believe how busy this place is and I've only been neglecting this page for just over a week. I'm not even going to try to respond to everyone, but I have to say...WELCOME BACK BOB...MISSED YOU TOO!! And Ben, as always, great to hear from you. Nice to see all the newcomers and I promise to visit more often...otherwise I get way behind.

For those who are interested (Hope Kasin doesn't mind this) Kasin has a page which accepts submissions so anyone interested might want to check out the showcase page. It can be accessed at...

You should also check out the rest of Kasin's pages if you haven't already. They're a lot of fun! Kasin's home page can be accessed through

Now I'm off to check out a few home pages mentioned lately...take care all. Trudy 

Mon Aug 11 15:15:02 PDT 1997


Mon Aug 11 15:14:25 PDT 1997


Mon Aug 11 15:13:41 PDT 1997


kae Mon Aug 11 09:43:20 PDT 1997

 Hey Philip, excellent page, great links. How do I get a copy of one of your books, anyway?

PS You have very cool hair! 

JAMES ARMSTRONG Mon Aug 11 01:01:22 PDT 1997

 Hi everyone, I have been looking for something like this for a while and am estatic now that I have found it. I enjoy writing and have since I was very young although have never had anything published. I have two short stories that I have finished and I put them on my webpage, criticism is more than welcome. I am currently trying to get them published. (I am from Australia by the way) I wish to turn these both into novels and I am currently working on them as well as a fantasy novel with no end in sight, and a few more short stories. I don't even have an agent and don't think I would be able to get one just yet(any advice?) Look forward to hearing from you. Whoever you may be! 

Ben Woestenbburg Mon Aug 11 00:01:21 PDT 1997

 Hi guys. I can't stay long because I'm at a party of all things and just sort of stealing time here. My son's standing here waiting to use the net so he can look for game pages, so I'm under a lot of pressure too. I wanted to read what I could so that I could keep up on things. I must say Liam, that your words were a great bbreath of fresh air, as Phillip once said to me a long time ago. I only have fifty pages of my original manuscript and I'll bbe done with this first volume. I want to find myself an agent to send it to, and hopefully will within the next month or three.
Anyways, I have to get off now. It seems I just can't find the time I need when I want it. If it's not one thing it's another. If it's not my mailman's kids waitng, it's my own. So, I better go now!
Cioa, BBen. 

Kitty Sun Aug 10 20:58:13 PDT 1997

 Philip, I visited your site and signed the guest book but am wondering if I got through. After posting, some message flashed on my screen about not accessing the site though the tool bar indicated that I had gotten through. Then I was refused access to your French recipes! Quel dommage! Je suis triste. I didn't try the FBI and am saving all the Aussie links for when I have time. If my words of praise were lost to posterity, rest assured that I was favorably impressed. I am still wondering, though, the choice of Old Will as a lead to your bio--is it that you look like him or is it that he is your favorite writer of all time?
For those who haven't been there yet, click spritely over to Philip's homepage. Lots of good stuff there. 

Philip McLaren Sun Aug 10 15:49:34 PDT 1997

 Hello everyone: I've finally got my homepage up and running at Geocities (above). Still some work to be done.... but I'm getting there. When you get time take a look and let me know what you think.

Jack Beslanwitch Sat Aug 9 03:48:42 PDT 1997

 Someone has emailed me that they had a difficult time getting posted on the Notebook. If anyone else has this kind of problem, please email me As a last resort, I can post something emailed to me. I do know there may be problems with the Notebook script for LYNX users. So, if that is the problem, please let me know. 

Fri Aug 8 17:32:16 PDT 1997


Deb Borys Fri Aug 8 17:31:05 PDT 1997

 Woops, forgot to fill in the blanks! 

Fri Aug 8 17:30:06 PDT 1997

 BEN: From what I've heard, editors and agents don't want chapters sent to them out of sequence, even if it is the best chapter in the book. They know that for the most part a book will sell based on the first page, or even the first paragraph. I think it's unlikely they would even get to the chapter you say is so dynamic, unless they like it well enough to read through the first two or three you send, and then would prefer seeing how that chapter fits in with the rest of the book. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, so the decision is up to you. Just my opinion.

LIAM: excellent advice on short stories. Let me guess, you teach creative writing somewhere, right? Or at least have been studying the craft of writing at some length. Have you put bio information in the Bio page yet? I'll have to see if I'm right?

MICHAEL: Write what you know doesn't mean that I can only write about women who live in small houses in a small county in the mid-west who live VERY boring lives. Write what you know means infuse the stories and characters you create with the essence of who you are. If you can remember being scared of the shadows on the wall when you were a kid, you can write about a brave mercenary riding off through a storm to fight the evil sorcerer with only a silver sword. If your dog died and you mourned him/her, you can portray the depression and mind-enraging grief of a husband whose spouse has been murdered. Get it? Also, you are who you read as much as what you do. If you really enjoy reading science fiction, or novels set in Australia, research those areas and read your little heart out--then write, and you'll be writing what you "know."

TOPIC OF THE WEEK: I'm not sure my approach varies much depending on the length of the work, at least not at the beginning. They all start with an idea-sometimes the idea of a character, or the idea or a plot, or even just a title that says hey this could be a murder mystery. Then I need to come up with a sentence that catches my fancy, which I turn into a paragraph or more than springboards me into what I'm saying. If it's a novel I'm working on, this is the first scene. If it's a short story, well, this is it. Because actually a novel is just a series of short stories (scenes) all related to one another and involving the same characters. Maybe the reason there seems to be on difference in how I approach different length work is because the short stories I'm working on are actually series stories, and so feel a lot like chapters in a novel, except that they stand on their own legs.

Well, this is more than I've had to say for a long time. I'll shut up now and enjoy the rest of you talk.


Fri Aug 8 17:26:20 PDT 1997


Goodweed of the North Fri Aug 8 15:14:23 PDT 1997

 Hi all: It's Friday and I'm not on call this weekend!!!
That's a GOOD thing. Liam; I've never seen you here
before so welcome. Your comments were great. Your
education shows. Brittomart; I'm am ecstatic at your
success. Got nto your home-page and found it to be a good
advertisement. Bill; Hope to hear from you soon.
Kae; You've got me anxiously waiting for your critique.
You're so good at it. I check my e-mail everyday though
I know it takes time and you have a limited supply of that.
Michael; How's it cmming? Someone once wrote that all you
need to do is start writing and the juices will start to
flow. After you've completed a chapter or two, sit back
and then see if needs improvement.

My motorcycle is operational again but I have to adjust
the valve lash clearance tommorow morning. I am fairly
good with mechanics but don't particularly enjoy them.

A word for all of you to roll around on your tongues:
puiscance. Whats it mean to you?

Seeeeeeya: Bob Flowers, (Goodweed of the North) 

Britomart Fri Aug 8 02:48:49 PDT 1997

 Dear everybody

I typed my home page address incorrectly below. Thanks to Bill for pointing it out. The correct address is above.

I'm getting some feedback about book sales, and a couple of places have sold out and have more on order. How exciting.


Liam Hays Thu Aug 7 09:18:48 PDT 1997

 This is my first time on this site, and I would just like to say I've been searching a long time for a place like this. Thanks for being here.

As for Short Stories vs. Novels, I believe E. A. Poe had some helpful things to say about short stories. As mentioned in a previous post, the story should focus on or hurtle to a singular theme. Everything, every word, phrase, letter, nuance, foreshadowing, alliteration, etc. should support this theme and move toward it. Because in a short story you don't have room (and the reader doesn't have attention) for extraneous detail, you should cut anything that does not impact the theme.

As for length, Poe offered a simple guide-line. A short story should be short enough to be read in one sitting. Obviously this is a little vague and would vary from reader to reader depending on their attention span and the intensity of the story. Give your story to people to read, and among other requested feedback, ask them if at any point they felt like putting down the story and coming back to it later. This is an indication that it is either too long or it looses momentum at some point (Momentum is kind of key to short stories). Ask them what point that was and examine it closely to see if the story needs a boost, or needs to be cut back a little.

My personal opinion on short stories is that it is better to be too short than too long. The carnal rule of stand up comedy is always leave them wanting more. Never over-extend the story. The last paragraph, often the last sentence is usually the most important aspect of a short story. It is what really sinks the theme home and impacts the reader. This last impression will determine how the reader felt about the entire story. Make your statement, but don't necessarily explain it completely. This will exhaust the theme. Besides, the most important part of reading a story is after you've read it, when you have time to process it and how it relates to your life; how it affects you. Much better to be "God, what a great story! I got to find some more of this stuff" than "The story wasn't bad. I think I'll watch some TV". Leave them hungry. Leave the craving. The better you can do this, the more powerful the story.

I would wither without outlines. I like to write long fiction. Something that large is intimidating without the ability to set short-term goals "Ok, let's concentrate and think about this scene only". It's kind of like procedural programming if anybody has done any of that. You define a procedure (scene), define what's going into it as far as arguments or variables(exposition), what's going to happen during the scene (algorythm) and how are the characters/plot altered as a result of the scene (output/return arguments). But then again, some very renoun authors write without outlines in order to preserve spontenaity such as William Gibson (Neuromancer). Whatever works, I suppose. 

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Aug 7 02:08:49 PDT 1997

 As announced, the Notebook has just been archived. I cut it off with Mariah Hanford's comment to Michael. That's seemed to be a good intuitive place to start and since it was her first post I did not want to assign her to the archives quite that quickly. Take care everyone and good writing. 

Britomart Wed Aug 6 14:45:18 PDT 1997

 Dear everybody

How cool to see so much activity going on. I had dropped out for a while because my partner was very sick, so I was playing nurse. He's a lot better now, and spent 20 hours in the recording studio yesterday finishing the mixing of the new EP. He's so talented and beautiful... *sigh*

Anyway, you don't want to know about that. Short fiction... hmmm... well, I have a defective gene that renders me incapable of writing it, so don't ask me. I just love the latitude you get with a novel, the chance to explore characters and relationships and themes. My cousin, who is a poet, always says that it takes me 500 pages to say what she can say in 14 lines (or 17 syllables if she's writing haiku!). I don't read short stories, so it would be silly for me to write them.

Bob: Yay! I'm soooo glad you came back. You should check out my home page, because there's heaps more stuff on it now than there used to be.

Ben: Don't worry about cutting back your novel just yet. Wait until you get a bite from a publisher with your sample chapters - you never know, they might see the blockbuster potential and think it's the *perfect* size.

Michael: I too was a teenage writer, and now I'm a grown up published one. You have to be patient, and it's great that you're writing a lot. I didn't finish a book until I was about 18 - you learn the stick-at-itness as you go along. As for great beginnings, the important thing is to remember that today's reading public could also choose to go to the movies, so give them a bright, visual, spectacular opening to catch their interest, and set up a couple of questions that they will want answered. They will keep reading.

Joan: Whatever font is easiest to read. I heard that serif fonts (like Roman, Times, Courier) are easier to read than sans serif fonts (Swiss, Dutch, Universal). 12 point in scaleable fonts is a nice size, and 10 point in non-proportional fonts (like Courier) is a nice size. Whatever looks clean and clear is best.

Jack: I actually had a dream about you the other night! (Don't worry, it wasn't impure). I dreamed that I had flown in to visit you, but you forgot to get me at the airport, and I was madly looking through the telephone book for your number, but couldn't remember how to spell your surname (it is a strange one, after all). Who woulda thunk it? Dreams about people in cyberspace.

Bye everybody. Got to get back to my studying.


Michael Littrell Wed Aug 6 13:35:33 PDT 1997


Another few days has passed and I've received alot of responses to my posting.(through email and here)

I appreciate *every* one of them.

Well I've been learning alot about myself and my abilities here lately. Setting up till 4am, trying to think about people,my story,my characters,and the plots o' million.

But i have been writing every day . beggings, endings, puns,
short storys,dialouge. Ive been reading beggings and ending to fictional storys, non-fict,sci-fi,fantasy,

at the present im just searching for what makes that KILLER
beging. I think some of the better begings are when it starts off right into a conflict that the main char is facing.

My theroy: A story starts with change. When there is something breaking from the normal routine of the characters, it creates a story. Im probably wrong... but just an idea i have.

Can you guys/girls tell me of some ways you start out a story?

Do you focus on the surrondings, a person, or...

Also Ive been reading some how to books on writing (i know pathetic) and one thing mentioned in the book was not to go into deep detail of your surroundings. Is this a bad thing or not?

also: Write what you know. Well what if i want to write fantasy or horror?

your response will me much appreciated as always,and ive looked at all the questions and regretfully admit that im just not experienced enough to help any one else.

For now im just going to stop being a baby and start writting even if it is crap. More to come i hope.

-Michael Littrell 

Michael Littrell Wed Aug 6 13:35:07 PDT 1997


Another few days has passed and I've received alot of responses to my posting.(through email and here)

I appreciate *every* one of them.

Well I've been learning alot about myself and my abilities here lately. Setting up till 4am, trying to think about people,my story,my characters,and the plots o' million.

But i have been writing every day . beggings, endings, puns,
short storys,dialouge. Ive been reading beggings and ending to fictional storys, non-fict,sci-fi,fantasy,

at the present im just searching for what makes that KILLER
beging. I think some of the better begings are when it starts off right into a conflict that the main char is facing.

My theroy: A story starts with change. When there is something breaking from the normal routine of the characters, it creates a story. Im probably wrong... but just an idea i have.

Can you guys/girls tell me of some ways you start out a story?

Do you focus on the surrondings, a person, or...

Also Ive been reading some how to books on writing (i know pathet 

Bill Wed Aug 6 12:05:58 PDT 1997

 Hi Ben. Nice to see you drop in again. I know this may sound odd, but I am very happy for you for getting the "NO". Something I learned in sales a long time ago and has stuck with me through the ages, (referring to the "numbers game") you have to expect so many "NO's" before arriving to the "YES". In other words, if we could fortell the future and knew that we would get 6 "NO's" before we arrived at the "YES", we would be estatic to get each "NO" out of the way. We would know that we were that much closer to grabbing the "YES". Unfortunately, we can't forsee the future and we don't know how many "NO's" there are in front of us, but no matter, each one cast into oblivion brings us that much closer to our ultimate goal.

Bob, if it is a small hole, fix it with JB Weld. That stuff can repair a hole in an engine block and hold forever.

Michael, Write from your heart and develope your own style. Learn from others as they can teach you much, but don't fret over what they do , or don't do. They say if you do what the proffisionals do, then you will be a professional, but that has its limits.

Koleolani, welcome. I think it would be neat to have been born in a different era.

Bill Wed Aug 6 11:04:02 PDT 1997

 I just found this interesting bit of trivia elsewhere:

There is a publishing company in England that wants first novels. And they
do not ask for money though they have small advances but good royalties.
Submissions should be made to Tony Harold, Publisher, HMR: The Wells
House, Hollywell Road, Malvern Wells
Worchestershire, WR14 4lH, England

For more information, the E-mail is THarold

They want to see and outline and one to three consecutive chapters. They
want a word count of between 50,000 and 250,000 words, and any genre. And
they are willing to work with new writers.

In your cover letter do not say things like "This is a heartwarming story,"
or "A brilliant, fast-paced thriller"--let them know whether it's a
thriller or a romance but let them decide how good it is.

This is a chance to sell a first novel that you haven't been able to place
elsewhere. Good luck!

Joan Wed Aug 6 04:27:08 PDT 1997

 Hi Guys---just a quick technical question: When submitting to an editor, is there a certain font size you're supposed to type in---12 point, 13 point---roman, courier?

Again, so neat to read everyone's messages!



Jack Beslanwitch Tue Aug 5 22:45:57 PDT 1997

 Ben: Glad to see you dropping by again.

Anyway, just to warn everyone. I am going to be archiving the Notebook, probably tomorrow. I'll try to select a jump off point towards the end and retain that into the new notebook. Things certainly did get exciting here.

    Take care and thanks for all the praise. Really, it is everyone else that makes this such a special place. Providing the place to collect is a labor of love and constant source of surprise for me. For that, I have to thank all of you. 

Ben Woestenburg Tue Aug 5 22:01:29 PDT 1997

 Hello one and all!
God, it's good to be back here. I just came over here to feed the cats and check to see if they had water -- Phyllis is away at the lake with Renu and the kids, visiting my Mom -- and I've just spent the last forty minutes reading all the entries. I just love reading them. I find they inspire me in ways other people can't. But I guess that's becuase they can't relate, can they?

Anyway, (we know it's going to be a bit lengthy when I start that way, don't we?)I've finally gotten a reply for my synopsis and query for an agent: NO. But it was a happy 'no'. A good 'no', and one that spurred me on. So now I want to get it out there and see what I can find. I've decided to send three chapters along with my synopsis, and the chapter I was working on last week. It took me a long time to write it because it came at a bad time. This was the chapter I wanted my Dad to see. This was the one that would have meant more to both of us. I have just changed religious history by stating that Christ did not die, and then writing a convincing enough dialogue that is satisfying, and believable. I gave it to a man at work who used to be a Mormon bishop if you can believe that! I also want to give it to the lady that has been working on editing and pointing things out for me for God knows how many years now. She's very devout as far as Catholics are concerned. Unfortunately the man at work was going on holidays when I gave it to him, so I won't get a response from him for another week or more. As for my lady friend, I have to get it printed up for her because I simply don't have a printer. Consequently I have to rely on other people to print things up for me. I've been going to the computer nerds at work lately. They're more than happy to do it for me. I think this would be a good sample chapter to give an agent, because it's the most controversial of the whole story. It's what everything hooks on.

I just had to get that out right away.

As for some of the questions and comments that I can remember after gleaning through the pages, I'll see what I can do.

BOB: I'm glad to see you're back with us, just as much as I'm glad to be back with you. I see you brought your daughter! Excellent.

KITTY: This isn't my computer (again!), but I'm sharing the cost of the net with my mail lady. She's a good drinking friend of ours, of course everyone who drinks with us is a good drinking friend. Anyway, they all came back at the wrong time of course, so I had to leave this. The kids are staring over my shoulders and waiting for their turn. But I don't care, do I?

MICHEAL: I started writing when I was about your age. I wrote a poem and sent it off to the queen. It was a long one, handwritten by my sister because we didn't have a typewriter at the time. She wrote back -- well, her lady in waiting wrote me, but it was a letter from Buckingham Palace and it got me thinking that, hey, this isn't so bad. I've spent the rest of my life learning to write. Phillip once told me that ten years was a long time, but I think it's not that bad. I spent ten years partying, ten years teaching myself, and the last year or two rewriting.

PHILLIP: Speaking of length there old sport. I know I'm going to have to cut this thing back. I've got well over 180,000 words so far, and another eight or so chapters to go. I know how I want it to end, so I'm just going to write everything that's in me and worry about it later. But I've always liked long books, especially Clavell. I've got HARLOT'S GHOST as well, but I never seem to find the time to get into it the way it deserves.

Now I have to go. The kids have been more than patient with me, and that means I won't be back here until next week. I have to go home and suck up to the wife becuase for the day and a half that I was alone, I didn't do anything. Of course, I'm not going to tell her that I didn't eat any food while she was gone, because that would be a bad thing to say, wouldn't it? But the damage is done because I have another kid sitting behind me and reading this word for word as I print it out. I guess I'm sunk, even if I try to erase it.
So, see you all later (That's how we say it here on the West coast Kitty.)

Maria Hanford Tue Aug 5 20:02:09 PDT 1997

 Michael: I believe I know exactly what you are going through. At the age of 14 (3 years ago) I had my own column in a local paper. There were deadlines and an editor, but I was able to write the way I wanted to and that is the best thing to do. When you are outside of school, write the way you like to, don't worry about how you are "supposed" to write because that might slow you down instead of helping you. Just do what feels right because that is the way that will help you and worry about the rest later. And I agree, DONT GIVE UP! That is the mistake I made and now it is time to get back into it and it is hard, So if ANYONE cares to help a young girl out with ideas or advice, please feel free. Thanks...Maria 

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