Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

October 16, 1997 to November 1, 1997

Victoria Sat Nov 1 16:20:37 PST 1997


To answer your questions...For me, the question isn't "how do you keep up the steam to write a novel," but "how do people manage to reign themselves in enough to write a short?" I've never had success in writing anything but novel-length fiction. I tried writing shorts when I was first starting out, because I though that's what one was supposed to do--but they were all just terrible, and I hated writing them. Every single one just begged to become a novel. I haven't written a short in...let's see...must be twenty years now.

I'm a single-minded sort of person, and I can only work on one idea at a time. I do begin planning, in a general sort of way, the book I will write next, just so I will know which project will follow the current one. But I don't get down to detail until the current project is done. And I do work from a synopsis.


Bill Sat Nov 1 13:16:57 PST 1997

Welcome. If you can write a scene that many ways, perhaps you should pick out the best one(s) to use, slap it in and then go on. Save the others for another book, or even make a few changes and use the scene in again in another part of the same book. Just a thought.

I learned something recently from more than one source and maybe it will help. I am told that many professional writers work on more than one book at a time. I am experimenting with the idea. Presently, I am writing a sequel to my first SF/F book 'Galactic Entanglements' and am also writing a fantasy novel. I have just started the latter and have only written one chapter so far, but it gives me a break from the other novel when my thoughts get hazy. I just put it aside and start plugging away at the second book. I am also in the planning stage of writing a third book, so if I get bored with the other two, I have something else to work on. It really seems to help and I am always making progress on one or the other. By the time I get back to the first book and have read the last several pages to refresh my memory on what I have written, I have a new set of ideas to hit at it with. I learned a long time ago, if you want to be a professional, then do what the professionals do. I hope to become a professional writer and the above seems to work out real well for me. Good luck and HAVE FUN. ....Bill...

Jack, come to think about it, that picture looks like my exwife. Lol

Jackie Fri Oct 31 08:37:29 PST 1997

Hi, folks!

This time I haven't been around for the week, but as soon as I read this week's topic, I decided to write before I read.

As a writer, and as a human being, I think the best way to express fear, horror, and violence in writing is to simply include teenagers. Their simple presence can instill it in anyone. I know from personal experience--I have two of them in the house. Actually, I usually tell people, I have three children/teenagers--the two I gave birth to and the one I married. Just kidding, guys.

I'm kind of on a roll with teens (also in keeping with the impending arrival of Halloween) lately because, in addition to my novel project, I've decided to write an article or articles about the joys of owning/being-owned-by such creatures.

But, I really love my kids. I figure every night that I allow them to go to bed alive, I've been a good mom and controlled my need to kill them for one more day.

Happy Trick or Treating,


Steve Jackson Fri Oct 31 07:59:59 PST 1997

Well met, Micheal.

I'm glad to see that you've found insperation once more. I'm new here, and have read some of the past messages and am filled with a sense of insperation myself. While I was not in quite so desperate a state as you seemed to be in, I was disheatened with myself (as pertaining to my writing, the rest of my life seems to be going quite well) and frustrated with my lack of continuation. Even though I write (at least a little) every day, I seemed to find myself writing the same thing over and over agian, rewriting the same scene a hundred different ways. I don't know what it is but I can't seem to move past it and lately have been actually trying to avoid wrtiting. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to move past this barrier I have found blocking me?

Maybe a little background of myself is in order. I first knew I wanted to write when I was in grade nine, a little later than some of you it seems but not too late I'm thinkin. I've been writing for about 12 years now but it was more of a hobby than anything else. I work full time as a draftsperson of the city of Windsor in Ontario and I have been writing my first novel on my lunch hours. It's not my choice of time to write but with a new baby (born on Canada Day, July 1st, a true Canadian I guess) I just don't have the time or am to tired to write at night. I read somewhere in here, I think from Ken, asking how novel writers can carry a story through that long. Well, I have found that it is the story that carries the writer and I think it right to wait until an idea is just too overpowering for you to keep it contained on a short story. Plus I think short stories is an excellent way to learn to cut to the chase while writing and thus make the written novel that much more moving.

Anyway, I have written overly long and just wish to say that it is a joy to see other writers come to the aid of others in need.


Christine Thu Oct 30 23:04:45 PST 1997

Hi everyone!!! And Happy Halloween. Sorry I haven't been here in a while but I've been very busy putting together a 16th b-day party for my daughter. As for this weeks topic, I don't write Horror but the ones I find the best are the ones that rival my nightmares. I have heard that some Authors use that tool as a start to some of their stories. I write mysteries as I have said in the past. Oh before it slips my mind I am sorry to anyone who has e-mailed my in the last couple of weeks my server had a major crash and everything was lost but if you will resend I promise I will respond. Well Have a good one and Happy Writing!!!!
Christine AKA Katza

Rhoda Thu Oct 30 18:32:45 PST 1997

Just a quick post to let you know I'm still here and I check out the notebook daily. There is so much here I'd love to respond to, but life is so crazy now. I've had no time to write, and I've barely had enough time to check my mail.

I hope everything settles down soon. I hope next week I can have a few nights where I don't have to take a kid somewhere or someone doesn't have a doctor's appointment or someone doesn't have basketball practice. I hope I am done sewing costumes for a little while.

Well, I have two children who must get to bed so that I can get to bed. I am so tired. I miss you all. I wish I could stay longer and add my two cents worth about this week's topic, but I'm afraid that must wait.

Goodnight all,


Ken Scholes Thu Oct 30 18:24:21 PST 1997

I have a question for those of you out there who write novels....

Let me preface it by saying that I often am accused by friends of having novel length ideas that I cram into short stories--ending up with short stories that are too long and too fast ("too" being relative, probably...) Novellas don't seem as popular (or is it just me?) but I lose steam consistently around 50 pages in.

My question: How do you keep up the steam to finish a novel? I'm assuming it's different for everyone, and I'm sure there is no right or wrong answer but I'm interested in how YOU handle it. Do you find yourself juggling between projects? Do you work from an outline so you're handling "bite-sized" piecesl?

My thought now is to stick with short fiction until I run into a story that I can't live without telling and the sheer weight of it forces me to keep at a novel until it's done. (Or could it be that it's just damned hard work sometimes no matter what????)

Interested in your input! Also interested in knowing how your first novel went (how much time it took, how many drafts, etc.)



Clyde Dixon Thu Oct 30 16:16:42 PST 1997

oops that was me.

Thu Oct 30 16:15:11 PST 1997

TRUDY: I recently read one of those time planning books. The author talked about the fact that people tend to do the things that they HAVE to do (like the laundry) but yet never find the time for the things that are very important to them, but for which there are no deadlines.

Well there are deadlines; you only live so long.

So if finishing one's novel is more important than laundry, then one needs to set some goals and daily tasks that make some progress on the novel before the laundry is done.

I'm not there yet myself. I have been trying to reserve reading as a reward for writing. Make my daily quota of 2-pages (or whatever) and then I can read a P.K. Dick short story.

An idea I have seen mentioned here, and many other places, is to write everyday for a certain amount of time or to a certain word or page count. Tie that in with a reward (like getting to read) and I might actually get something done.

The deadline: Say your goal is to have your novel finished by November of 1998. Break that down into a daily task, one page per day. A year from now you would have a 300 page novel that had been polished for two months.

Well, that's the theory anyway. I have yet to prove it to myself, but I am working on it. I'll think about it this Sunday, when I'm doing the laundry.

We are creatures of habit. If I wrote yesterday, then today there is about a 50% chance I will write. If I wrote the last 2 days then today there is about a 75% chance I will write . . . 50, 75, 87, 93 . . .

Set Goals, Translate Goals to Daily Tasks, Turn Daily Tasks into Habits, Reward yourself for accomplishing your daily tasks. Hey, maybe I could write a motivational book; well, if I had the motivation.

Hope there is some inspiration in there somewhere.

Bill Thu Oct 30 06:24:00 PST 1997

More later cause I'm getting ready to go to a doctor's appointment, but I just had to ask; Jack, is that your graduation picture? lol lol

Michael Boyer (note: the url has some dead-links) http// Wed Oct 29 20:38:56 PST 1997

First, let me start by thanking those who responded to my request for help. Your words were inspirational and gave me the kick I needed to get myself back on track. I just reworked the last chapter I have written for my unfinished novel and feel motivated to continue. I'm also playing with writing down some short stories that popped into my head in the past days (amazing, hadn't happened in 6 months, but suddenly, there they were!)

Now a response to this week's topic:

For me, fear is a mood in the writing itself. It is easy to show characters who are afraid through facial features and such (wide eyes, gasping breath, shrieks, etc.) but conveying fear to the reader is a lot harder. I think the true task is to make the reader feel the fear of the character, and to do that I set the tone. Since we don't have audio cues and such, I rely on other cues.

Writing fear-filled passages is a matter of choosing dark colors in imagery, hesitant or tense dialogue (if there is such) and very dark foreboding. Combining this with the character's own fear, and the reader feels it.

Horror is done in a similar fashion, perhaps with a twist of an unexpected surprise throne in to keep the reader on his/her toes.

Violence is simply writing angry. What I mean by that is that I think as writers we all know these emotions (fear, horror, violence). To write them, I think we have to allow that to come out in us. When we, as writers, sit down to create a scene, we must allow ourselves to remember or connect to these emotions we have felt. With violence, remember the time you were most angry, and then throw out that little critic in the back of your mind that determines write and wrong and imagine what you would do when you were that angry.

Another thing I'd like to mention is that fear and anger are not so far removed from each other. In psychology, one learns that anger is often repressed or shunted fear.

Anyway, that's all for this time. As you can all see, I'm long winded *chuckle* but I must say this is one of the best places I've found yet on the net and I thank all the writers out there for participating. It saves some of us *LOL*

Trudy Wed Oct 29 18:15:19 PST 1997

OK last post...This one's for Michael Boyer...chances are you've kept that 6th grade story...I know I still have the one I wrote in seventh grade (two people stranded on a desert island getting ready for winter with snow and I have to ask myself when I read it niow "didn't I know anything about geography?"). Anyway get that story, read it and remember the feelings you felt creating it...then take half an hour or an hour and in pencil (which is what you likely did in 6th grade) write a story...continue the one you just read...and don't worry about it being good. Recreate that feeling, even if just for an hour. You should find your muse lurking somewhere nearby and who knows what will happen then.

And I do know where you're coming from...I have a full time job (luckily I do get paid to write) but I often feel guilty that I don't work on my fiction more often...but I do once in awhile and when I do I love it, just as I did in Grade seven...and luckily my writing is a little better than it was then. Good luck and may you find your muse. Trudy

Night all!

Trudy Wed Oct 29 18:04:36 PST 1997

Clyde, hi...have to respond to something you said as an advertorial writer for a daily newspaper, which means 40 hours plus a week writing on the job...I find it exhausting to come home and write anything else. So I defintely have to say hindrence in my case. But that is more because I sit down and say...ok I could do some work on my short story or novel, or I could read a good book (book wins) I could do some work on my short story or novel or catch up on the notebook doings (notebook wins) see the trend I'm sure. I become a major procrastinator when I'm home but I think it's because I work on deadlines and not ones I self impose. I find if I have to submit something to a publication by a particular time I can write but otherwise everything else, including the laundry, wins at home. It's a matter of priorities I guess and hey clean clothes are important after all.

Also forgot to say the last time...welcome all newcomers. Great to see so many new names...hope to get to know you all soon. Trudy

Trudy Wed Oct 29 17:57:02 PST 1997

Michael...I went to a writer's conference workshop at the University of New Brunswick in Canada several years cost around three hundred bucks not including meals or accommodation but was a week long and did include daily classes with a writer in one of five areas of writing (fiction (which is what I chose), non-fiction, poetry, children's and something else) The week also included readings by other writers who were manning classes as well as by us up and comers. Plus there were mini lectures by published writers. It was basically a week of living and breathing writing. The next time I do it I'll stay on campus with the other writers attending because there's quite a bit of brainstorming that goes on at that time but I had an apartment in the city and the extra money wasn't there at the time.

Anytime I've taken weekend type courses too; they have been around $50 and that included one writer talking about the craft and giving us exercises and making us read and be critiqued. Also good. I'm sure there must be a lot more to that conference that was charging over $300 than one writer, but you never know.

Everyone else hello...was just catching up after finishing some late work for the paper...will try to pop in now and again...wanted to respond to this conference thing though.

Take care all...Trudy

Goodweed of the North Wed Oct 29 15:29:28 PST 1997

Hi Michael: Don't give up just yet. For inspiration, you might try a different genre (though I don't know which you write in now). Do a bit of daydreaming about how you would like your life to be versus the way it is. There's a storyline. All you need to to now is flesh it out with characters and situations. How could you make your fantasy world come true?

You'll be writing about what is near and dear to you. Just make it interesting for others.

It may or may not work, but it's worth a try. I often find that if I just start writing, the ideas just seem to flow.

Keep the faith.

Seeeeeya: Goodweed of the North

Britomart Tue Oct 28 22:23:46 PST 1997

Hey folks! Sorry I haven't written for a while, but I've been busy finishing my BA (I had my last class this morning).

Michael Boyer: Go easy on yourself -- the more worried you are about not writing, the harder it will be to write. Have a notebook or a folder with your ideas in it, and get it out once a day, even if it's only for a few minutes. Scribble in the corners -- whatever. Just don't cut the thread all together. Then read a good book or two, imagine who'd star in the film version of your novel, write a bit here and there and don't stress. You'll get to it eventually. Studying and writing at the same time is difficult because you have to switch between two different mental modes. You'll get there -- just keep going a little at a time.

Fear in books: I think it's important to engage as many of the senses as possible throughout the entire novel (that's why horror and erotica often go so well together) because when the scary/yukky/painful bits come, the reader feels them more. Creating horror is, I think, a sensual experience. Also, obscurity helps -- lots of dark places for bad things to hide. Emphasise isolation -- nobody to turn to if things go bad. Hit a pressure point or two -- tap into those fears that get us where it hurts (fear of dying painfully, fear of infinitude, fear of madness) and tweak them gently and subtly throughout. Be brave and don't flinch.

Bye all.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 28 21:51:27 PST 1997

Since some may not be able to see the topic window, I will repeat the topic I have chosen for this coming week here. In keeping with the impending arrival of All Saint's Day, Halloween and Samhain, how does a writer best express fear and horror in his writing. What is the right balance in doing so. Also, what are the best tricks for creating horror based tension in writing in much the same way that music and sound are used in movies. In the Exorcist the Movie, they used the sounds of swarming bees and a pigs slaughter house incorporated almost at a subliminal level into the sound and the music. How do you insert your own written equivalent into your writing.

Ken Scholes Tue Oct 28 19:22:45 PST 1997

Hello, everyone! I'm new to the group and look forward to participating. I think it will be good for me. I started writing in my teen years and took a long break--now I'm back and trying to get published.

Just wanted to say "Howdy!"


Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 28 18:54:07 PST 1997

P.S. Suddenly, my version of Internet Explorer is throwing up an error message when this page tries to spawn to secondary window with the topic. If anyone else is using the release version of Internet Explorer and it seems to be working correctly, please let me know via email. I would like to know if I need to reinstall IE or if there is a real problem. Take care.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 28 18:19:44 PST 1997

Re the writers conference. Anytime you are talking about a conference of any kind, generally you will be talking about an entrance fee. It really would depend on the writer in question. However, I have some doubts about someone who would be charging $325 for a two day conference on writing in which he was the only presenter. It might be appropriate if you were talking about a setting where there would be lots of agents, publishers and other writers and a hoste of possibilities for personal criticque of your manuscripts from published writers.

    If you were talking about science fiction, I would possibly recommend a science fiction convention. We have a lot of these in the Pacific Northwest Most cons have associated writers workshops in which published writers criticque the works of the writer and depending on the con, a host of panels on the art of writing. Most of this is slanted towards science fiction and fantasy, but the kicker here is that most cons charge $25 to 45 depending on whether you buy your memberships in advance. Also, the usually entail all kinds of events. Again, you will have to pick and choose very carefully to see whether or not the con in question has what you are looking for.

My 2 c. worth. BTW, I am still considering another possible topic for the coming week. Will probably have it up tonight or tomorrow. If someone would like to suggest something, drop it off here or email me

Good Writing :-)

Michael Parish Tue Oct 28 17:44:34 PST 1997

Sorry I haven't posted anything for a few days. I enjoy reading what everybody contributes, but I must confess that I'm here sometimes when I probably should really be writing. I have a writing journal that's over 70 pages long, full of notes and ideas for stories, and I have had a trilogy in mind for three years and still haven't written one useful page. Is that pathetic or what? I have a subscription to Writer's Digest, which I love (although the older issues, like from the late 80's, seem to be better than the ones now). I also use a thing called Inter-library Loan where I can order writing books through the library (when my library doesn't have them) and have a couple weeks to read them without having to pay for them. I've been able to read some really good books on writing that way. If anybody would like a suggestion on a REALLY good writing book, then here it is: Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein. I think there a few books on writing that you could possibly read that would teach you more about writing than this one. Stein has been both a writer and an editor for decades and knows his stuff better than practically anybody.
Well, that's my little campaign, so, moving to other topics,
I was really pumped up about a writing conference that was going to be held at my university. I read the ad in Writer's Digest and so I had months to get excited about it. It was supposed to last two days in early October, and (silly me) I assumed all I had to do was show up. Then a few days before the conference I saw a flyer for the conference that said admission was $90.00. NINETY BUCKS?!? FOR TWO DAYS?!? The flyer also said that the guy who conducts the conference usually charges $325.00 for the same two-day conference in Los Angeles, and that he's one of the hottest writing instructors around. PEOPLE, PLEASE! TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK. Would the money be worth it? Of course, I can't remember who the guy was so I don't expect an evaluation based on the instructor, but just writing conferences in general. This is a sincere question. Why should I pay all that money to have somebody stand on a podium and say the same things I could read in a best-selling book on writing? I know that you get interaction with other writers, but I already get that in my writing classes at the university. I've already paid enough money in tuition. Did I pass up a good opportunity? Any input on this at all (personal experiences with writing conferences, etc.) would be greatly appreciated.

Victoria Tue Oct 28 11:29:57 PST 1997


I know just what you're going through. I've been there. The drain of work...the sapping of the desire to's awful. You feel your life is going nowhere, and that the one thing that would make it all worthwhile is forever out of reach. It's very painful to see what's best in you slipping away. It's an extraordinary person, I think, who's able to work and write and make a success of both. I certainly didn't have that in me.

What I did isn't something that wouldn't be practical or possible for a lot of people. About a year and a half ago I made a conscious decision to sacrifice comfort and security, and quit my job in order to write full-time. This was a very scary and difficult decision; it took me two years or more to get up the courage actually to do it. My husband and I had extensive discussions, and we agreed that if I don't try it now, it'll be too late; if it doesn't work out, I can always go back to work, but at least this way I'll have given it my all, and will never have to reproach myself by imagining what I might have accomplished if I'd just taken the risk. We can survive on his income alone, though it's tough; anything I make from writing will go into investments for our (hopefully not too poverty-stricken) old age.

As of now, I'm still convinced I did the right thing. Our standard of living is lower than it was, but some things are more precious than material comfort--I know that's a cliche, but for me it's profoundly true. I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive husband--it's not every husband or wife who would be willing to take such a risk on their spouse's behalf.

I don't know what your situation is, or if this would be a possible decision for you--from what you say, probably not. But I do know that if you give up the thing you want most in the world, or let it be taken from you by an accumulation of time and debt and mundane circumstance, you will be bitter about it till the day you die. Achieving any place in life requires sacrifice; sadly, the easiest sacrifice to make is that fragile creative part of yourself.


Clyde Dixon Tue Oct 28 11:15:49 PST 1997

A few words of "wisdom?" for Michael Boyer. Been there, done that, got over it. I too became enchanted with writing at a young age. I too went back to school for a masters and worked 30 hours a week on top of it. And I too managed to pile up debt; school isn't cheap.

Yes, it was hard to write during that time. In fact I didn't - well I did jot down the occassional idea or brief outline - but no real writing.

It was hard to read during that time, as well. Classes required that I read about one book per week, on average. So I didn't do much recreational reading. Now for a writer, you must realize that reading is also inspiration and education. So my writing was pretty much at full stop.

Now, I am sure that I would be further along in my writing if I had continued with it while I was at school. So don't think that I am suggesting that you don't write.

Tired of sitting in front of a computer all day? I am. Try writing on paper. Once you get something down, you can type it into a computer as you polish the first draft.

Uninspired? Find a good book and read a little each day. You may remember what you liked about writing.

Set aside a certain amount of time each day (even just 15-minutes), to think about writing. Use the time to develop the plots or characters for story ideas that you have had. Keep a folder for each story idea. Eventually you will find yourself finishing one of those stories.

Technical and Scientific Communication - sounds like technical writing - an area of employment that I am flirting with. It still involves sitting infront of a computer AND it involves writing. Would you want to work on your novel after writing at work all day? Something to consider. My skills do increase the more I use them, but I wonder if that would be overload.

WHAT DOES EVERYONE ELSE THINK? Would a job where you write all day help or hinder your own writing efforts. Would it be burn out inducing or a sharpener of skills.************

One last thought for Michael, don't quit your day job. It takes years to get established as a writer. You will write much better if you eat during that time.

and to all a good write,

Bill Tue Oct 28 10:26:29 PST 1997

This is a little something that I picked up from Writer's Fantasy List.

Q: Where do vampires learn how to suck blood?

A: Law school.

Have fun...

Michael Boyer Mon Oct 27 18:45:32 PST 1997

I have a bit of a dilemma.... As early as 6th grade, I knew wanted to write. I wrote my first story (22 pages) back then and was hooked--not because it was profoundly good--but because I enjoyed creating worlds and people.

After high school I went to college and graduated with a BA in English, Creative Writing Concentration. And then stumbled because the first book I was working on was not finished as I originally planned and I found I wasn't prepared for the working world.

So I went back to school again to get a degree in computer science to learn skills for the employment world.

At first I liked it. It was new, it was tough, and I was learning things (which I love to do). But then it began to cut into my writing time. And then that began to cut into my writing desire.

And now I am sunk in debt deeper than when I started with a nearly completed novel (which I know still needs a lot of work before I'll be satisfied with it) and hating being in college again. I go to class 8 hours a day, do homework or other menial tasks for another 4, and have nothing left to give. And I see my dreams slipping farther and farther away.

I struggle with my classes and by the time I find time to work on my novel once more, I have been in front of the computer so long that I can't stand to sit there and work on the novel. And the less I write, the harder it is to start again.

There is another major at my school--Technical and Scientific Communication which is a new field combining writing skills, editing skills, and communication skills that looks promising, but I'm not sure if I could make enough with such a degree to dig myself out of debt.

And the worst part of all is that my muse has left me. I have written so little, creatively, in the passed 3 years that I sit down to write something and its like dipping a quill into a dry inkwell.

So I guess what I'm look for here is some words of wisdom, perhaps a little sympathy, and some way to get that spark back that I found one day in 6th grade when I knew that more than anything else in the world, I wanted to be a writer.

Anybody who can help, please e-mail me....



Hester Eastman Mon Oct 27 06:18:01 PST 1997

Hi there, I'm a lurker, have been for a while, and the topic so intrigued me that I had to ask a question.

What if you're a white woman, and you have a character that's a black man, and he's a racist? His being a racist is part of his character (he has a moderate amount of power in the story) and there are other characters of color, of course, who are not racist. It's not politically correct, of course, but is it okay?

Britomart Mon Oct 27 00:54:13 PST 1997


Goodweed of the North Sun Oct 26 11:25:41 PST 1997

Hi everyone;

I was going to apologize for being long winded in past postings, but I think it better to be complete with my ideas. I hope some of the things I have said help.

My manuscript is in the hands of an agent. It got there yesterday Sat., Oct. 26, 1997. I know that I have gotten past the second hurdle on that long road to being published (the first is writing and proofreading a story about a zillion times). All I can do now is wait for several weeks.

I'm about 68 pages into the second book of the series and would like a bit of feedback. The first book had at least 8 strong chaacters and as many supporting ones. In the second, I've brought in at least 3 more strong personalities and 10 supporting characters in the form of a team of a squadron of misfits, who for having the difference of unique mental abilities, i.e. starting fires, empathic healing, holographic illusions, etc. have been outcast from mainstream society. They are taken in by leaders from the first book who have similar powers and are formed into an elite squadron who are tasked with the job of protecting the blossoming cultures of a primitive people. This raises various problems such as inferiority complexes, anger, frustration, and the need to deal with several age groups and their personality differences.
For all you readers out there. Do you think the time necessary to properly develop these characters will bog down an action/adventure/fantasy work too much. I'll post a bit of the story for you on the workbook. Please let me know what you think.

Thanks everyone for being on this sight.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North.

Tabitha Sun Oct 26 06:16:17 PST 1997

I havent been by because absolutly nothing worth talking about has happened to me lately. Untill now that is.
A screen writer friend of mine in Calefornia has offered to pitch my work to a literaty agent that he knows.
There are not guarentees but when you consider that is the way a lot of agents get their new clients I am
currently holding my breath and have cramps in my fingers from their being crossed. Think good thoughts everyone
I need this to work out.

Bill Sat Oct 25 10:38:55 PDT 1997

That is, I added the piece to the WORKBOOK, not the notebook. DUH!

Bill Sat Oct 25 10:27:03 PDT 1997

Boy is it hard to catch up when one has not looked in for a while. I usually check out the notebook about 6 times per day, at least, but I have been so busy with doctor's appointments, researching going back to college, and etc.

Well, the word is in and all the votes taken. I will return to college this next semester and work toward my BA. I plan on taking as many writing courses as I can squeeze in, but I don't think they will teach me, this rookie, as much as I have learned from the great, unselfish, professional, folk in this notebook. (And, to the inexperienced in here, you are included in the above list, including professionalism) You have all taught me so much and I will always maintain an undying gratitude.

Of course, I'll still continue to work on my novels and stay here to help others, or beg for help.

Valencia, Anders, Jim, Matthew, Jackie and all other newcomers, I bid you a warm welcome. Stick around. This place is exciting and the people are the best. By the way, Anders, How can one have finished a novel and NOT be a writer????????????

Gordon, if you find your way to the notebook, I bid you welcome, too. We would look forward to your professional expertise with your journalistic background. Every individual has a different outlook and it is through sharing these outlooks that we all grow and mature in our endeavors. Please share yours with us.

Yak, Yak, but I'm not finished yet. I got a wild twitch someplace and instead of sticking solely to SF/Fantasy, I sat down and began dabbling at Fantasy. I wrote about 4000 words in 12 hours. I am still working on my other novel, however. If there is anyone here who might like to give me some comments on whether or not I should trash it or continue, please send me your comments. When I get done here, I will add it to the notebook for your scrutiny. Be rough on me, I can take it and appreciate any and all criticisms, good or bad.

Bob and Tai Ming. I can't resist this!!!!! Will you two make up? Will you get married over the Internet? And, does Jack have a license to preform the ceremony? The saga continues. (Payton Place?) There must be a story here somewhere. He he, lol, lol, lol, lol, lol, lol, lol.
Tai Ming. I hope those poetry links that I have sent you were useful.

Good Weed, Please, please, please don't send any snow this way. Burrrrrrr.. Lol

Topic. As I am yet such a greenhorn, I don't feel that I am qualified to comment, but I sure enjoy reading everyone's perspectives. Thanks and hugs.

Jack, did the link that I sent to you finally get to you. I'm good at forgetting attachments and such. Oh well.

Well, off to get that piece into the workbook. Later all. Have fun.

Jackie Fri Oct 24 16:44:23 PDT 1997

Hi folks:

I won't apologize for not being here lately. I have been here, but it's always been for such short periods that I usually only have time for a bit of reading, no comments. I do love reading what everyone says, though.

Welcome, Valencia, and anyone else new. I'm fairly new myself--to the Net and this group, but not to writing. I agree that the best way to learn to write is by writing.

TaiMing, I'm sorry. There's nothing more I can say except if you need a shoulder to cry on, feel free to "call" me.

Jack, I love this week's topic! I've been giving just this idea great thought lately because my current novel has a main character (one of two) who is of a different ethnic background than I am. I have several friends of this background (not to sound hokey), but my main concern is can I get into her head? Finally I realized we are all human beings first. We all have hopes, desires, and dreams. Most of all we all have feelings, to varying degrees, about similar emotional situations. Besides, part of our j-o-b as writers is to study, know, and understand human beings.

It helps to get to know your characters and make them into real people. One way that helps me is to write down everything about each character--name, date of birth, favorite color, college education, profession, anything about a person that makes him/her a person. Even if you don't use all the information in your story, the character is real.

I have to tell you it is really difficult writing this with the chaos around me. My two teenagers and their friends, my husband, the dog. It's amazing how everyone congregates where I am and each has to yell to be heard above everybody else's yelling. I think it's supposed to be called a conversation. Oh, well, they say life is what happens when you're planning something else.

I'll sign off for now--my ears are ringing.


toby buckell Fri Oct 24 11:17:20 PDT 1997


Welcome. I am one of the sci-fi writers of the group, and I am also very young (eighteen years old, sophomore in college), been reading sci-fi for a looooong while, and writing seriously since fourteen. I agree with Jack. Don't excessively worry too much about finding books about writing before you actually start writing, because once you have written and then read those books, you will understand more about what the author is talking about, and can fix it, once you have the experience of writing behind you.
Good luck.

TaiMing Fri Oct 24 09:14:45 PDT 1997

Hi Everyone....Sorry I haven't been here or participating lately. This will obviously change soon. As we speak, Bob Hanford is returning to love his girlfriend of twelve years and we are no longer a couple. I'm probably going to be throwing myself into my writing and trying really hard to heal. Kay...I'll get that to you as soon as possible. Hugs for everyone. Tai

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Oct 23 21:25:22 PDT 1997

Valencia: I would also like to welcome you and second the implication that you are on the right track. As for first attempts at writing, I want to also emphasize that the important thing is just to write. Turn off the editor and get the words down. Our standard joke (and sometimes I do not think it is a joke) among my writers group is that we have to write a million words of drek before we get around to writing something worth reading. Of course, there is always beginners luck ;-). And I am one of those who fancies writing science fiction when I am not being bewildered by editors and trying to write a computer book. Take care everyone.

Rhoda Thu Oct 23 18:04:06 PDT 1997


Welcome to the Notebook. Don't worry about protocol, you are doing fine. On the Notebook most of us ask questions, comment on the topic of the week, and speak our minds in a polite and gentle way. As far as knowing where to begin, I'd say you are doing the right thing. Read as many books about the genre you wish to write in as you can. If you have read a dozen science fiction\fantasy books or more, you are most likely ready to start writing one. The best way to do that is just write. You might want to outline first. Figure out your plot and your main characters. If you have read several books you will know how to structure your novel.

There are several books about how to write. The best one that comes immediately to mind is HOW TO WRITE A BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL by Al Zuckerman. For what you write, I believe that you have come to the right place. There are several people who visit the Notebook who write Science Fiction\Fantasy. Unfortunately I am not one of them.

Don't feel that your first attempt at writing has to be perfect or outstanding. Writing is a learning process, and the only way most of us get to be great writers is to practice and learn. The best way to learn how to write is just to do it. You might want to join a local writer's group or enlist the aid of a friend to read your work. It is helpful to post some of your work here on the Workbook. People will read it and offer suggestions on it.

I would encourage you to visit the Notebook often. There are many people here who are very helpful.

To the general public:

It has been a busy week, and I am forced to admit that I've not worked on my novel. Today I started sewing a Halloween costume for my daughter. I've had to replace a bad tire on my car and I've been trying to catch up on the laundry.

I did write an article for a local newspaper. I didn't get paid, but I did enjoy getting a byline to add to my collection. Well, I must go and get busy. Maybe I can complete some of my domestic commitments and get back to writing.

Everyone have a great evening.


Valencia Daniels Thu Oct 23 17:26:05 PDT 1997

I am not sure about the etiquette here since I am new to the Internet and to science fiction/fantasy. I am a young writer both in age and literary experience and feel very unsure of myself. I would like to get into writing sci-fi/fantasy and would appreciate any advice. So far I have been doing a lot of reading and deciding who I like and why I like them so I have a better idea of what I am aiming for when I actually start to write.
I have a few ideas that I would like to work on but I feel that I lack the experience right now to do them justice. So what do I do? Where do I start? This is not the sort of thing you earn in college so I am hoping to get in touch with other writers so we can build some sort of learning process.

trudy Thu Oct 23 15:17:19 PDT 1997

OK sorry I haven't been around for awhile but life never seems to calm down for me and now that the newspaper is into the Christmas season I won't have much free time until January...just remember I think of you all often.

Anyway stopped in to let the young writers know about a site for young writers. I found out about it in a BBS chat room and thought I'd pass it on. I think it's for writers under 21. Check it out and let me know if it's any good for you.

the address is
don't blame me for the length. I don't make them up, just pass them on.

Later Trudy

Congratulation Bob and TaiMing. How romantic!

Michael E. Davis Thu Oct 23 12:05:10 PDT 1997

OK. I finally got back to the Workbook and saw several messages that intrigued me. Without going back to all the notes since I was last here I'll try to get this right.

To several who are writing, or have just finished their first book, me too. I'm 10,000 words into my second one and have ideas for 3-4 more. I have every intention of writing and publishing them all.

Anders: Welcome, and please don't feel you have to apologize for your English. I hate to think what would happen if I had to try to communicate in Swedish. One of the workshops I went to talked about a story "sagging" in the middle. We sometimes think of a great beginning, and an exciting finish, but things drag along in the middle. It's hard work making it interesting all the way through. There are several books I've read that help, but I'm not sure if they are either availble in Swedish, or sold in Sweden. In any case, I will jot down the titles and authors and put them on here.

Jack: I think it was you who asked several questions about writing as someone else. I mentioned in my last note, the collection of short stories called "The Pugilist at Rest" by Thom Jones. He has a short story in there about a women dying from cancer of the uterus. It is the best job of one gender writing about the other that I have ever encountered. (No, I'm not Thom's agent and I'm have no financial interest in his book. Don't even know the man.) Not being a woman, it is difficult to know if my reaction to his story is accurate, but my wife assures me he surpassed anything she has come to expect from a male author.

To several who responded to my line on treating each other with dignity before we can claim the title of most "intelligent"...etc. I chose the word intelligent because that is the one word we use to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom. We consistently point out that it is our brain, our ability to reason, our very intelligence that has allowed us to dominate all other living creatures. Not our size, or speed, or worthiness, nor even our morality, but our intelligence. We will concede that there are other animals larger, faster, perhaps more worthy and moral, but none more intelligent.

Hey, I'm beginning to enjoy all this banter. It's an opportunity to exchange thoughts and, since I know I'm communicating with others who take pleasure in the use of words, I find myself paying closer attention to how I construct my comments than I might do otherwise. I assume this is another tool we can use to perfect our craft.

Toby Buckell Thu Oct 23 07:40:32 PDT 1997

Thanks Kay.

Again on characterization. My belief about characterization of a person you are not (opposite gender, race, culture) is research. Read as much as you can about those people, and talk to these people that you are trying to represent. I find that approaching people, learning them, and their habits, culture, goes a long way towards being able to put yourself in their mind.

If I am going to write about an ethnic group from their viewpoint, I usually research the culture, read books written by that culture etc. The one reason I have yet to really use a Native American character that is round, not flat, is because I have yet to meet one who I have befriended. It sounds weird on my part, but it is one of my tools that I apply towards believability. It also helps to have a friend who can counter the criticism by being a part of that group that is trying to criticize. However on short stories I tend to fudge a bit more, as the short needs more idea and sketch than in depth plumbing of a characters socio-psychological makeup.

Like mentioned before, though, in my novels and most short stories I have an advantage, I usually write sci-fi, which means people don't take it as seriously as a regular fiction piece. Unfair, but usually true.

One of my biggest character debates is the Rasta. I like a cyber-punk type edge to some of my work, and being from the caribbean the Rasta is a natural character for me to include, but I'm afraid of being stamped as a copier of the cyber greats, Sterling and Gibson.
Sorry about the long post.

Thu Oct 23 07:40:31 PDT 1997

Thu Oct 23 07:40:12 PDT 1997

Jim Bennett Wed Oct 22 17:27:17 PDT 1997

I was just passing through and was interested to read the comments about
writing from experience and adopting a persona for a viewpoint character
from a background which is different from your own.
Over the years I have writen using viewpoint characters from
numerous backgrounds and many not even human.
The advice to write from your own experience is sound and as true as it has ever been, but
our range of experience is now, individually, far wider than at any time in
human history.
Writing from our experiance means tapping into the store of information and knowledge
we accumulate over our lifetimes. We dont have to be a person from an
ethnic background to write about a character from that background, we will have recieved
knowledge of it, but we do have to
be from that background if we are to do it well.
When a writer invents a character the authenticity is supplied by the detailed
knowledge of the characters life. If it is all invented then OK no one can say you are wrong.
But if your character is going to be read by people who it perports to represent
share the character's background then it had better be right in every detail.
Thank you for a most interesting an enjoyable site.
I am a writer 32 (published) books on my account so far, two more due this year.
And much as I would like to say that I do that full time
I am afraid I don't. I am too busy having fun the rest of the time with my family,
Yes writing can set you free, in more ways than two!

Just love your site!

Sandy Zentgraf Wed Oct 22 06:11:49 PDT 1997

I would like to share a dream that has been shattered with you. I have been given an opportunity to express my experiences on The Unpublished Authors site, by Don Halstead, and hope that you be in touch with me. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts and I am hoping for a door to open for me as time slips away.


Kay Tue Oct 21 18:01:38 PDT 1997

This is a GREAT topic.
Rhoda: I'm fighting deadlines, but do have comments on your synopsis. More to follow.

Victoria: There is a reason that minority individuals writing from majority points of view are not typically excoriated. If one thinks of a point of view as a language, then: the minority, black, female, homosexual ---- has to learn the majority language - white breeder male - to communicate, to get along..... the converse is not true. The politically correct backlash, however, that majority cannot speak the language of minority is not true. With study, the majority can speak the language of - write from the viewpoint of - the minority. Tony Hillerman comes to mind.

Michael: Words are tricky. Intelligence isn't the only virtue. How about "worthy" for a value-loaded word?

Toby: Your are absolutely right about SK.. And you are underrating yourself. I'm getting the character of your protaganist in the SFM, you really are showing, not doing.

Goodweed: I like the idea that we can access opposites for characterization. I haven't ever tried that, you've pointed out a new direction, thanks!

Tai Ming and Bob: Enjoy. Joy.

TaiMing: Thanks! please do send your critique.. I know "Old Man" has rough edges and bumps, and expect to incorporate your suggestions into the next revision.....

Anders: Please, send the novel or any part you can spare. I'll critique from an editorial, not artistic, point of view.

Everyone: That offer stands. I'm not an artist, but I do <> well know that from which, and other esoteric lore.


Victoria Tue Oct 21 13:42:08 PDT 1997

I'd like to offer a slightly different perspective on this week's topic.

Unfortunately, the current social climate makes it very difficult, in some cases, to write from he perspective of someone utterly unlike yourself. So powerful and exclusionary is the claim to gender/ethnic/sexual identity these days that those writing beyond their own group identity are likely to come in for a lot of politically-oriented criticism. A man writing from the perspective of a woman...a white person writing from the perspective of a black person...a straight person writing from the perspective of a gay person...take your pick. (Note that the converse will often not generate criticism--i.e., a woman writing from a man's perspective, a black person writing from a white person's perspective.) The assumption seems to be that only the identity group possesses an authentic ability to know itself, and that authenticity from outside the group is not only impossible to achieve, but politically incorrect to attempt.

I've written from the perspective of a man; a murderer; a religious fanatic; an assassin. None of these people are or ever could be me, yet because of my ability to speculate and empathize (the skills identified in the posts already up) I'm capable of imagining their emotions and motivations, and writing about them. I've also written from the perspective of a Native American character. Native Americans aren't as organized and aggressive an identity group as some, so I didn't get into a lot of trouble for this, but I did get into some. I'd never do it again.

I think that's sad.


Bob Hanford Tue Oct 21 09:17:24 PDT 1997

Michael: Just re-reading the workbook and realized the thought was yours. I had misunderstood thinking you were quoting an author. I probably would have said the same thing I said but not as harshly. My apologies.

Bob Hanford Tue Oct 21 09:12:22 PDT 1997

Anders: Welcome. I suspect you know what is missing. Perhaps you just need someone to push you to articulate it. So, I'm pushing. Come back into this wonderful forum and tell us what is missing.
Jack: Ditto on TaiMing's comments. Forever grateful to you in so many ways for this place. Number one is the chance to meet that wonderful lady.

TaiMing Tue Oct 21 08:55:41 PDT 1997

Welcome Anders! If you've just finished your first novel, then you certainly are a least in my book.....I am just beginning my first. And this is the right page. This is a wonderful page for writers to learn and to grow. Take a look at the Workbook to see some of the excellent work being posted for help and critique. If you have questions about a part of your book that you're having some difficulty with or that simply feels unfinished to you, submit that part to the Workbook and you will be surprised at the wonderful help you will receive. This is a very supportive group and a bunch of great human beings. About the spelling, nearly perfect....I'd just love to see the poor attempt I could make at spelling in Swedish!

Sorry about not posting or being properly prompt with my critiques and whatever poor help I could give anyone here in brilliant land, but, as you can see from Bob's posting, we have been spending a lot of time falling safely and wonderfully in love...And while he has been keeping up his end of the bargain in his committment to our page, I have been sorely lacking. Promise to pick up the pace soon.

Jack....thank you so much for your note. I woke up to it and it really made my day. You are such a generous soul and a genuinely great person. And thanks again Jack, for this forum. Without it, I'd have never met Bob.

Kay...I didn't forget you. Your vampire story was wonderful, unique and refreshing. You certainly do not have any problem I can see with getting into your character's heads. I'll finish my critique for you soon. There's only a couple of parts that seemed rough to me, but more later.

Toby B Tue Oct 21 08:37:50 PDT 1997

Kay- while I also don't go crazy over Stephen King, one has to admit that he is a heck of a writer. Particularly in the characterization department, it is what makes his horror hit home so well. He characterizes and gives us the person so well, that when something happens to them, it is conveyed to us. Thus the popularity of his books. It is also interesting that he charectirizes everybody. Even if that character is a flat victim that is there just for the purpose of upping the body count, King still introduces us to his thoughts, history, makes him as real as he can. That's why the books are usually so large.

Characterization for me is my biggest hump, and is usually the biggest complaint editors have for my stories. I usually tend to forget that I need to introduce the reader to my character before he takes off and wows the world. But I'm always getting better.

Now that I have my moniter back I intend to get back to my long neglected novel (another 6 fingered post will also be coming shortly), and revisions of some stories that garnered promising scribbled notes last summer.

Write lots, write well, may the muses inspire and the coffee stay warm throughout the long nights ahead.

Tue Oct 21 08:37:49 PDT 1997

Tue Oct 21 08:37:25 PDT 1997

Anders Tue Oct 21 06:55:57 PDT 1997

OK, maybee Im not a writer, and maybee Im shouldnt be writing to your page. But I have a small problem you see. Ive just finished my first novel and its about two old lovers meeting in a bar. I think it went out quite well but still something is missing. If you have any suggestionens and tips for beginners Id be very, very glad to hear from anyone of you. If you think my spelling I very bad then I can assure you that Im from Sweden and that I do all my writing in swedish.

Please do email me, thanks.

Kay Mon Oct 20 21:07:30 PDT 1997

This is a scary topic. It approaches my fear of letting friends or even acquaintances read my fiction. The character is not me, but how will my sister believe that? How can a writer write from the point of view of an adult child abuser? How did P.Z. Brite write "Exquisite Corpse"?

Sometimes, observation and memory work. My sister was brave. She played piano for the church, and during communion, played, very slowly and reverently "Little Brown Jug." I might have thought of it, but wouldn't ever have done it. Still, no problem to write that courage and cleverness and irreverence into one of my people, because I saw it, and knew it.

Empathy has to be part of the equation. Transference, too. I know how it felt to....... so I can imagine how this similar experience might feel, and, maybe, can describe the feeling well enough that the reader will feel the same way.

I'm not a fan of S. King's writing, in general, but he has done a couple of incredible stories from a female point of view - Gerald's Game and Rose Madder. I suspect his wife had a hand in the effort, but if not, well, I'm inspired.

I've read more than one review that excoriated the author for taking on an alien point of view. Maybe it is arrogance to write from the point of view of a person other then us. Can a white person ever write authentically from the point of view of a black? A man from a that of a woman, (females out there, was D.H. L.'s description of a female orgasm accurate?)

Ok, summary. I don't think an author can write about something she doesn't know anything about. But equally, I don't think "knowing" requires direct experience. I could't possibly write from the point of view of a ... oh, just about anyone on earth! But if I've studied, or observed, or interacted, or read the writing of..... maybe I can build a character that is believable, and even authentic, if I can internalize what I know, by whatever means, and then externalize that knowledge.

And maybe my sister won't think I'm wierd, after all.

Bob Hanford Mon Oct 20 20:51:11 PDT 1997

Michael: Re the quote you posted in the workbook: It offers a chance to remind all of us (myself included) of the importance of choosing the correct word. I know what the author meant to say and the quote sounds good but the word he chose, "intelligent" is not the right word. Intelligence measures the ability to learn something new. And no other species does that better than we do.

Goodweed of the North Mon Oct 20 20:05:01 PDT 1997

This topic is thought provoking. To bring to life a ficticious character, one must become that character. All of us are a complex product of all persons we have ever met. Every person we have ever come into contact with has influenced us in some way. I am a man, yet I am a lifelong partner to my wife. We have had to make compromises and agreements. To do this, I had to obtain a knowledge of her personality. We are most of us adebt at tuning our own personalities to conform to whatever group we are with.

To create a believable character, we must draw from within ourselves the memories of other personalities, draw from those we know best, and draw from our own personalities we often hide from the rest of the world.

Another useful technique is to make a personality the exact opposite of ourselves. If I am an inherently good person, that gives me limitless information on how to create a truly evil character. I simply make that character do the things I abhor. I take the character to the extreme. That entity will respond negatively to every situation and will relish the pain of others, especialy if it increases his/her/its view of self power.

If I am male, I cause my female characters to respond with emotions I have been taught are foreign to the machismo side of me. I can also draw from those characteristics which I have that are believed by society to belong solely to the female gender, those characteristics most of us men hide for fear of ridicule. Some of us aren't so worried about what others think and so can let go with whatever we truly feel.

Men and women are far more alike than different if the truth be told. We both want respect, are somewhat mistrusting of the other sex, and tend to lean toward those misconceptions which enhance our own image. As a writer, I have the priviledge of introspection, and the ability to seperate truth from fiction and use both to make the story work.

My apologies for this rambling. It has become more phillosophical than given actual methodologies. It's like trying to describe the taste of salt. It's after all, salty.

To bring a character to life, role-play. Mentally, put yourself in the characters place. Be honest with yourself and give the character your reactions to whatever situation you are in. Don't be worried about perfection. No personality can be perfect and believable at the same time. Rather, we have moments of perfection interspersed with times of stupidity. Let the characters have the same.

Another great technique someone else told to me is; make the character come alive with animation. Cause him/her/it to perspire, move a shock of unruly hair away from the eyes, twitch nervously, whatever. If the character reacts with realism, scratches his beard, gasps, stumbles over the slightly raised lip of a doorsill, that character becomes a tangible being in the mind of the reader.

There are as many ways to animate a character and give it personality as there are writers. Look at a few techniques used by your favorite authors. It is alright to use the same techniques. There are no patents of intangible ideas. But always add your own twist, inject a bit of yourself into each character. you'd be surprized how many sides you truly have.

Especially we "Artists" who are at the same time techs, cooks, lovers, fools, geniuses, makers of sand castles, kite flyers, imitators...

Don't have time to proofread this. Sorry about any typos. Gddd whiting to ru all.

But seriously folks,

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Rhoda Mon Oct 20 09:09:35 PDT 1997

Jack, this is an interesting topic, and I look forward to reading everyone else's perspective on it.

If it were impossible to credibly write from the perspective of someone different from oneself, there would be no fiction, and if fiction did exist, no one would want to read it. One of the reasons people write in the first place is that they have an interest in the experiences and perspective of someone different from themselves.

The writer who draws internally for every character would have only one character. Good writers draw from not only themselves, but from other people they have observed and known. Characters are often an amalgamation of many personalities.

I would also mention that though the human race is made up of many different groups with their own unique history and experiences, that deep down on all basic levels, we are much the same. The only things that make blacks unique is their history and culture. The same could be said of British, Chinese, Navajos, Hispanics, etc. Take away the veneer of language, appearance, and experience, we are all merely human. The great paradox is that though we experience most of the same emotions, each individual is different. Each individual makes different choices, responds in unique ways to the world around him, and thinks his own thoughts.

I believe that humans are made with the ability to empathize with people going through different experiences. How often do we find ourselves asking ourselves how we would feel and how we would cope if we went through some debilitating illness, lost our spouse, or lost a child. These questions often come up after someone we know has experienced one of these tragedies. At the same time we fantasize about winning the lottery, inheriting a million dollars, or going to lunch with Mel Gibson. These inner workings are oftentimes the seeds of fiction.

Making different characters credible is an art in itself. Some people do it well, and others do it not so well. Some writers write best-sellers, and some of us never get our work published. I believe it is easy enough to know a character and understand his motivations, his feelings, and reactions, but it a completely different matter to get things across in writing. I struggle with this.

I notice this post is getting very long. To do this topic justice, I will need to add more another time.

Everyone, have a great day, and keep writing!


Bob Hanford Sun Oct 19 21:30:36 PDT 1997

Jack: Very timely topic since I just abandoned a novel in which I would have had to write from the perspective of an adult male child abuser of a young boy. I would not allow myself to go to that place. Will comment more later in the week but wanted to tell you that (as far as I know) you have your first cyber romance from within the group: TaiMing and Yours Truly. And yes, we are very happy.

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Oct 19 20:59:33 PDT 1997

Well, I'm back and to try to spark some additional comments and interest in the Notebook, I am proposing the following topic for exploration. How do we as writers approach a character that is different from us and do it with authenticity. How does a white man write about a black person? How does a human being writer from the perspective of an alien? How does a man writer from the perspective of a women? The list of possibility is virtually infinite. There are those who would say that it is not possible and should not be tried. I disagree with that. The writer's imagination is not about limits but the limitless, but to do it well and authentically takes a bit of work. How do we accomplish this?

Matthew Snowden Sat Oct 18 11:35:39 PDT 1997

New guy aboard!

This is my first time in the Notebook and I feel like I'm stepping over a cliff (that's me for you), but what the hey!

Speaking for myself, writing is my passion. I've been reading since beyond memory it seems, and I have a craving for writing and reading. I love everything -- from the idea of (almost sanely) creating worlds and characters to voicing theologies to successfully linking scenes together and making them real. Sometimes I just sit down and start scribbling on paper (or a computer screen), born of the desire to remind myself that I am a writer -- or even for the sheer joy and passion for gripping a pen and scratching with it on paper.

I am a writer if I never publish a single manuscript (though I intend to do so) and I hunger for the battle with the writer's one great foe: not to stretch a feeling, but to reduce a feeling, all feeling, all thought, all of life as it is in the head of a writer -- all tumbled and jumbled and broken -- to a single thought. Therefore the writer is a little bit of the philosopher, the pioneer, the astronaut who rockets himself into a virtual unknown. Perhaps even the mother who cares for her child.

Perhaps I ramble and leave a trail like a frayed rope, but then, that is the essence of writing: to take that frayed rope and make sense of it.

Or at least, it appears so to me, who am only a babe in the craft.

I don't know how often I'll be here, so if it takes me a while to respond (and here I am utterly presumptuous), I beg of you, patience.

Rhoda Fri Oct 17 18:20:08 PDT 1997

Just wanted to drop a note to let you know I have posted my three page synopsis of THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN on the workbook. I am considering giving the thing another round at marketting. I would like to polish up the synopsis and the first three chapters and see what happens. Any comments or suggestions would be most welcome.



Michael E. Davis Fri Oct 17 14:44:08 PDT 1997


Thanks for the hints. I too have a couple of books. One that I got from Poets & Writers has good advice and a list of 196 agents who promise not to charge reading fees. I'm hoping that through research I can find a recommendation that matches with one of these in the book.

One kind author I've exchanged e-mail with cautioned me to look out for the agents who want to send you to a "book doctor". Apparently some of the agents don't care if you ever get published. They say something like "This has real potential. Let me send this to "XXX" and they will edit it so it is publishable." They get a kickback from "XXX" and that's as far as it goes. Geez. Sounds like the business side of this writing gig is real fun. Oh well, my regular job has its drawbacks. Can you imagine that?

As long as I'm taking the time to babble hear, I've been reading a collection of short stories by an author named Thom Jones. The book is "The Pugilist at Rest" (I think I got that right). Powerful stuff. This guy can paint an image as well as most I've read. (I'm not that well read to be honest about it). Has anyone else read this guy's work? What did you think?

I'm not on here every day, so if it takes me a couple of days to respond, please be patient.

Victoria Fri Oct 17 13:02:39 PDT 1997


What's the name of Samuel Delany's autobio? I'd love to read it. I know someone who teaches at the university where he also teaches...she has some stories to tell too. I'd love to hear yours.


Clyde Dixon Fri Oct 17 09:58:45 PDT 1997

Good Topic! I have enjoyed reading the other postings.

The webpage I have listed here is not my own. It is an example of a writer who has ELECTRONICALLY PUBLISHED his own work (per Jacks request for some examples).

It is an interesting site. The host, sells his books over the net as Adobe Acrobat files and hardcopy. He also has an on going series of articles on writing, with the main focus being on science fiction.

BOOKS/INSPIRATION: I, like some others here, read THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and then THE FOUNDATION at a young age. Then I reread them, along with some science fiction short stories in a compilation called (I think?) THE WONDER MAKERS.

I read very little fiction for years after that. But I have always consumed information (science books/magazines)like it was an addiction.

While still very young, I made one attempt at writing a great extension to THE LORD OF THE RINGS. After that, I resolved to let the master's work stand . . . no need for me to butcher it. I have read little or no fantasy since.

Science fiction, however, is a whole different story. I have many ideas for stories and reading other science fiction works always serves to inspire me.

If I read some poorly written SF, I think "I can do better than that". If I read good SF, I think "Pretty good, but why not do this and this?" If I read great SF (Vernor Vinge A FIRE UPON THE DEEP), I think "Wow, he has SO many ideas in there! I don't know if I could put so many great ideas into one book/story. But what's this stuff . . . either he got lazy here or the editor screwed him . . . I can do better than THAT PART of his book/story."

BOOKS ON WRITING: I like them simple. A class I had years ago required a book named WRITING TO SELL by Scott Meredeth (not sure on last name spelling might even be Meredeth Scott!). I don't think I even looked at it while I was in college. Now, years later, I think it is a great book. It has the basics, nothing more, nothing less.

And yes, Rhoda is correct. I waited for the archive to happen. The only other posting I have made was archived very quickly.

Speaking of which, at that time Philip suggested that I participate in the Writer's Workbook. I agreed to give it a go. So by late November, I intend to get my Bio posted along with some writing. I encourage others who have watched from the sidelines to also participate. It is good motivation.

Thanks, and good writing (though it is OK to be bad to start with!)


toby b Fri Oct 17 09:13:14 PDT 1997

The Eye of Argon. I love it! It's so horrible it's great. I've been looking for a link to it since I got back from summer, now I've gotten it!
Thanks Jack!

Jackie Thu Oct 16 22:38:03 PDT 1997

Hi folks:

I have a friend who began selling her romance novels several years ago. She was called an over-night success in a magazine revue. "And it only took me 20 years to become that," she said.

Anyway, it's never like it is in the movies. You know. The writer writes the manuscript, sends it to the publisher, who buys it immediately. The book is in print a few days later and the author is sent on a nation-wide promotion. We writers work very, very hard writing and then equally hard selling what we've written. But, just think, we're the only people who can legally, morally, ethically, and semi-sanely create any world we want to live in. And when we get tired of it we create a new one. What a life!

I've read of many authors who submitted mss. to lots (sometimes 30 or more) editors before selling them. So keep on plugging. Also, once you break in, that first book or books often sell next.

Just my 2 cents,


Kay Thu Oct 16 20:24:07 PDT 1997

Rhoda, there is no life beyond the page. All else is a dream, or as the priest in "The Princess Bride" says, a dweam within a dweam. That, by the way, is a marvelous book and video, to return to the topic.

Re the topic, I too knew how to read before I went to school. Little school, town of 500 max, no town library. In second grade I was such a bother that the teacher sent me off to the school library, for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The first book I can remember featured an orphaned boy and his dog. He meets the girl by beating her to a parking place in his ancient car, then apologizing when he realizes that he's been impolite. If anyone out there recognizes this story, please tell me what it is. I'd love to reread it.

I also read paperbacks that the drugstore owner "lent" my father. Way beyond me. In one, the protagonist went to bed with his best friend's wife. It was years before I figured out why. I just couldn't understand how two adults could be that sleepy in the middle of the day.

Re rereading: I love to do it, because on the second or third or whatever, I can see what the writer is doing, how this section makes something that comes later believable, how that description lets the reader understand why what who.....

For those who read "Old Man" and made (great) suggestions for improvement... It goes out tomorrow. Prayers are welcome.

Re the six-fingered man: keep it coming.

Re the eye of whatever: No. Just no.

Re Dahlgren: Has any one else read SD's autobiography? I have a tale to tell regarding that story, but not in this forum.

Ok, second submission for Oct. 16. Over and out.

Oh! Old news - I still can't receive direct responses, sorry. Communication has to be by EMail to the above address. Messages to me by clicking on the address in the Notebook go into limbo. Arrrrrrrghhhhhh.

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Oct 16 19:46:50 PDT 1997

Lest Rhoda is correct and anyone is feeling somehow restrained by my announcement I was about to archive, well, it's done. Notebook archived and a not so tabula rasa waiting for some new entries from everyone! I retained from Charles post and on since it has been a while since he has visited and dropped off a comment.

Also, for everyone's notification, I have added a new area to For Writers Only called Electronic Self Publication. I have had several requests in this regard and have finally gotten around to adding this area. If anyone knows of some examples, please let me know. Or, if they are especially good, feel free to post them here. I reserve the right to pick and choose, of course, of what I will link to on For Writers Only. I do not want to link to a new Eye of Argon. For those of a non science fiction fandom nature, follow the link, print out a copy, try reading it in a group without breaking up laughing and if you do, take a drink and pass it on to the next person in the group. I guarantee you that you'll all be drunk in no time at all. This bit of overwritten prose was passed around in mimeograph form in early fandom as an example of what never ever to do in terms of writing. It is now passed into legend as so bad as to be good.

Rhoda Thu Oct 16 19:11:32 PDT 1997

You scared off everyone when you warned us you were about to archive.

Since it is so quiet here, I feel that I must post something. Ever been in a room where there are lots of people, but no one says anything? In those situations, I feel compelled to talk because silence amongst crowds is discomforting. That is how it is on the Notebook. Well, here it is--the first post of October 16, 1997.

Wow, what do I say? Nothing is happening in my neck of the woods. I have a query out to an agent regarding my first novel. I'm getting nervous because it has been a month since I mailed the query, and I've heard nothing. I had some hope for this agent because she was referred to me by a senior editor at Simon & Schuester. If this one goes cold, I'm retiring the novel indefinitely. I have come to the conclusion that after three editors and more several agents, that this book in its current form is not sellable. Perhaps someday, I'll blow the dust off the floppy disc and try again on it. It was a first novel, and such is the fate of many first novels.

So now, I must put all my best efforts into novel two. That is alright because I believe this one is much better than novel one. I can live with the disappointments and rejections that go with the business of writing if I at least know that I am still learning and improving.

No doubt, everyone is either hard at work with their writing or they are enjoying their families and going forward with the business of life. That is as it should be. There are a few more exciting experiences in life than posting a message on the notebook.

For all those who pass by the notebook, I wish you a good evening. Keep up the good work.


Bob Hanford Wed Oct 15 08:19:57 PDT 1997

Charles! So glad you're still here. Could you send me your snail mail address before you bum off to Toronto again? Want to send you Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses, or did you already get it? So glad you're okay. Really missed you.

Charles Samuel Wed Oct 15 02:15:16 PDT 1997

Dear Everyone,
Just a note to say that I'm still here. Been very busy with a recent trip to Toronto. Now we're in the middle of holidays here in Jerusalem and then back to Toronto for a week. I've been checking the notebook and watching the conversation. I hope to put in my two cents soon. Warm regards to all my friends,

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