Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

November 1 to November 23, 1997

Britomart Sat Nov 22 17:57:30 PST 1997

If a writer isn't reading widely and regularly, she is only doing half her job. No cop-outs. The good thing about it is that it makes every book you buy tax deductible! - B

J. Dishner Fri Nov 21 22:05:20 PST 1997

Thanks for the comments about writer's groups. I just joined one and have only been able to meet with them twice. I thought everyone there was too apologetic about what they had to say about members' works, so it seemed whimpy to me and not very constructive.

I just think artists of most types have to have some sort of thick skin about them, as their work is going to be "out there" for others to view, and they have to be prepared for whatever anyone might say about it, and then realize not everyone will like it, and that's okay. When I first began studying journalism in school, it was very difficult for me to watch a teacher or editor rip apart my work. I didn't always learn from it, rather I was often offended by it, like the women in my group seem to be.

Maybe I need a more experienced group of writers to work with. I don't know. I was just wondering what your experiences had been. So I read back in the archives and found more comments about this same topic. I think I'll continue with this group for a while, though, and see where it goes.

NEW TOPIC: Does anyone out there write anything besides fiction? Do any of you freelance with magazines or have a newspaper column, for example? I write for a few publications but cannot seem to attract more work and could use some advice on how to better market myself. I send out letters, resumes, fliers, brochures, business cards, etc., but marketing is really not my cup of tea, and I so dislike cold calling. Do any of you have a method that actually works?

Please respond.

J. Dishner

Toby B Fri Nov 21 20:08:17 PST 1997


Two things. I use a a multi-file approach to word processing my novels. The latest 'Bloodstorm' is a file which has nine files within it (each is a 'part' with a title) under which are grouped three to five chapters with each being a seperate word file. It is the same principle as the Corel, only I use word and windows desktop to do it, as I don't have the money or time to switch wp's. I also religously back EVERYTHING I write on floppy's entrusted with a friend, with my parents, and a stack that are next to the door of my room in easy reach on my way out during a fire alarm. (Yes I'm paranoid, but I've been through four devestating hurricanes, and learned. The dorm fire alarm also goes off once a week, sometimes for real).

The second thing I do (just me) is read. A lot. I have nothing against reading loads of science fiction (which is what I write). I don't see how this can harm but only help. Many reasons. One, this way I enjoy what I write, because I read it as well. Two, it gives me a familiarity with the subjects of the genre, and the feel, making my writing more authentic. Three, (particularly with SF), I don't re-invent the wheel, going over what is now hashed cliche in the genre and making a fool of myself, I am familiar with what has and has not been done. For example, I don't read much Fantasy (of the elvish sort), but I had a cool idea for a Fantasy story, and I wrote it, and got back a quick handwritten note from Realms of Fantasy saying it was an old idea but good writing. I have yet to get that with sci fi as I have read so much of it. While I do believe that you sometimes get too steeped in it and imitate, that the writer is able to recognize that is good and part of the whole deal. (I allow stories a two week-month sitting time before mailing for a re-read to see my obvious mistakes). Orson Scott Card wrote an excellent short story about a little boy and his ability to create music (can't remember name), it was a varition of a similar story he had read as a kid. There is a fine line between outright plagary and innovation (this isn't a plea for plagary, by the way, I'm strongly against it), if we allow ourselves to use the work of others before us to mature our own work, it is that much better (to stand tall we stand on the shoulders of giants, and thus reach higher than we could ourselves). This is how literature as a whole develops and becomes that much better.

Well, that's my two cents worth. I'm heading for Florida for a vacation (my family calls it that, but with them, I'm never sure. There's always an element of stress in these things). I'll be back around December 1st, so I'm taking a notebook and pencil with me and doing it the old fashioned way. Tell you what, I'm looking forward to getting a laptop sometime soon.

Have fun, and write just a little bit every day.

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Nov 21 16:16:10 PST 1997

    At least one author I know who publishes in the science fiction genre with a strong admixture of fantasy involved indicates that he avoids reading anything in his own genre to avoid his unconsciously picking up plot elements, names or other features and using them as his own.

   I do not really subscribe to this view. However, I could see where it could potentially be a problem. Personally, when I now have the time I enjoy reading anything I can get my hands on. Where it primarily relates to my writing is when I read someone who has a beautiful command of language almost in the lyrical or poetic sense and I get drawn into the spell of that language. It will act as a inspiration for my own writing. In the past, Samuel Delaney had that effect as did David Brin and even Steven King. Each imparted something that resonated so strongly that they created a creative itch to be writing. In some cases what came out bore an uncomfortable close proximity to what I had read, but it was a beginning exercise that quickly laid the fertile soil, fertilized and watered it to come up with something uniquely my own.

   Oh, and J.Dishner, I agree with Rhoda that a face to face criticque group is useful. I have mentioned my own a couple of time. Perhaps or perhaps not, this is a mixed blessing ;-), because in recent months Writer's Cramp has grown to over ten people. Yikes!!! Still, it gives us a lot of material to criticque and a lot of different voices to assess what we write. Take care all and happy storytelling.

Michael Boyer Fri Nov 21 07:41:17 PST 1997


I'm of two minds about reading and our craft. I too am an avid reader (at least in the fantasy genre) and there is little I enjoy more than a good book. Reading inpires, the better the book, the more inspiration. Like you said, I get this great feeling of: "Yes, that's how I want write," when I read a profound work by another author.

However, I have begun to notice something. In the genre I write in, you must create whole worlds with which to place your characters. I rely on a little nudge in the back of my head that tells me that a name "fits" and search for a name until such a nudge occurs. Lately, however, I have begun noticing that some of the names I "make-up" for places are not my own. That little nudge seems to be ringing true for names from some of the books I have read and that are still roaming in my subconscious. This is quite a dilemma, as I do not have the time to re-read all the books I have read to make sure I am not swiping from other authors. It is good I have friends who read the same genre to help to remind me.

So in this case, reading too much is causing a slight problem. However, on the flip-side, with having read these books, I can occassionally see that a name seems to "fit" because it belongs to another author's work that has made an impression. If I hadn't read it, it would not have shaped me and I might use the name and never know it was used already....

Thu Nov 20 17:31:57 PST 1997

Rhoda Thu Nov 20 16:47:58 PST 1997


You brought up a good question. There are many reasons for writer's to read.

1.) Reading enhances your cognative abilities. It builds your vocabulary and sparks your imagination. Everyone should read for these reasons, espacially writers.

2.) Read to learn your market. When you write you must target for a particular market, or no one will publish your book. Try to decide what type of boods you wish to write (mystery, romance, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, etc). Then go and read the current books offered in that genre or catagory. This way you learn what editors have bought within the last couple of years of so. You don't have to pattern your work on what you read in these books, but at least you will know the expectations of a particular market.

3.) Read to refresh yourself. Much that comes into our writing has been sparked and inspired by outside stimulus filtered through our personalities. Reading will help inspire you.

4.) Reading helps you look at your own work more objectively when compared to someone else's.

5.) Learn technique from other writers. Find those writers you absolutely adore and try to find out what it is about their writing that impresses you. You don't have to be just like them or copy their style, but subconsciously as you read and analyze, this good writing will pervade your work.

A note about great writers. Unfortunately in today's publishing world great writers such as Tolstoy, Charlotte Bronte, and even Hemmingway, might have a hard time getting published. I personally believe good writing is good writing in whatever century, but so many publishing houses are looking to the quick bottom line. To some of them, what book doesn't appeal to Joe Sixpack, or some disciple of the Nintendo generation should never see itself in print.

I hope, Jennifer, you are not thinking that if you do not consider yourself in the ranks of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Margaret Mitchel, or any of the "greats" that you are not talented enough or worthy enough to write. It is not so. You must develop your own unique style and voice. That takes time. Talent is a very small percent of what goes into a good published writer.

I hope some of this answers your question. I'm sure others will have some good ideas of this topic.

Jennifer Thu Nov 20 13:08:28 PST 1997

Question: How does outside reading help/harm in your writing process? The reason I ask is because I am an avid reader and read "literature" (both classics and modern fiction) but have trouble with grandiosity in my expectations of my writing. After reading "great writers" it's hard not to look at my work and decide it's all whiney crap. On the flip side, when reading something so beautiful that I can taste it, I think "this is what I've always wanted to be and to do." What are your experiences with reading and writing?

Bill Thu Nov 20 10:34:03 PST 1997

Welcome everyone new.

I had "out of memory" problems with a 1.6 GB hard drive with only 600 MB used (That's a different kind of memory anyway), a 133 Pentium processor with 32 MB of ram. Most likely, Ben, your file IS too large. The recommendation given about keeping your chapters as separate files is very sound advice. Besides, if one file, one chapter becomes corrupt, then you haven't lost as much. BUT, do by all means keep backups on floppies as mentioned.

I like Corel Suite 7. I wish that I could afford Suite 8. With its Word Perfect processor you can set up a "master file." As you write each chapter, you save them separately, each having their own file name. The master file has its own name. After you open the master file, you can open a single chapter, several chapters, or all of the chapters into the master. That solved the out of memory problem for me. I usually only have the chapter open that I am working on. Likewise, you can print each chapter separately if you wish. No offense to "Word" users or any other word processor users, but I would give you .02 for most of them. I have used WP every since it first came out. (Don't ask me how long ago that was. Lol) In fact, the first one I bought cost me $495.00. By the way, a helpful hint if anyone is planing to by Corel Suite #?, don't waste your money on the full version. Buy the package that says "upgrade" for $80 to $90. IT IS A FULL VERSION. Read the package. It will tell you that it upgrades if you have "Word", "Lotus" and etc. (No I don't work for Corel. Hehe)

HAVE FUN.....Bill...

Michael Boyer Wed Nov 19 19:54:35 PST 1997

Can't say much, it's going to be a crazy few weeks until the end of the semester (eat, sleep, program *sigh*) but I noticed Ben's comment about his computer running out of memory....

Someone else suggested that you break the file into smaller chunks--this is a good idea. Large word processing files have a habit of getting corrupted, so even if it saves fine, later on you open it and *poof* things are missing. Watch out for it and make sure you keep back-ups. I reccommend keeping back-ups of each chapter separately and make sure to update them regularly. Another thing too, depending on what program you are using to write your manuscript in, saving it in a later version may effect the size of the document. For example, Word 97 files are HUGE, and Word 6.0 files are much smaller. For things such as a manuscript, there should be next to nothing lost in saving it in an older version. Of course, Wordperfect keeps files much smaller than both (almost 200k on large files).

Finally, your memory problem could be caused by several things: Either your wordprocessing file program is running out of RAM to keep it running and such a large file in memory, or your hard-drive is getting full. If your hard-drive is getting full, that's simply, move some stuff to floppies temporarily and do what needs to be done on your manuscript.... Good luck!


Joan Rhodda Wed Nov 19 19:21:56 PST 1997

Hi all,

Geez, on a surface level, adversity is certainly affecting my writing right now by leaving me zero time to write! I've been working a part-time job, so haven't been able to write or attend to this wonderful site. It'll be a while, but I'm glad you're still here.

TABITHA---CONGRATS! I read a portion of your Fairy Beery that is being serialized. Good work.


Wed Nov 19 19:10:01 PST 1997

Rhoda Wed Nov 19 18:41:26 PST 1997


Thanks for the suggestions. They did spark an idea. I'll have the crafty Maelgwn set up a diversion--one that takes this character out of my way indefinitely. I've come up with some ideas on this. I really hate killing a character off arbitrarily. It pricks my conscience.

J. Dishner, I have found writer's groups to be a great benefit to my writing. The only problem is that in this community these groups do not stay afloat for long. I would suggest that you try to find a writer's group and then from there see if you can hook up with a critique group of three to five writers. I was involved in a critique group for awhile, and it was wonderful. I wish I could find another.

As for people to read your work, that can be tricky. I find that it is good to have a writer friend to read it as well as a reader friend. I have found that writer's view things a little differently than strictly readers. It is really good to get both perspectives. I personally have had the most trouble getting relatives to read what I write. They will receive the manuscript and then never get around to reading it. Try to find someone who is not too close to you personally--someone who is not too afraid of hurting your feelings. It is good if this indiviual reads fast and reads a lot. The last person to read my manuscript was the sister-in-law of my best friend. I never met the lady, but through my friend the woman gave me valuble feed-back. Keep your eyes and ears open. There will be someone. You'll find out very fast whose advice you can trust and whose you cannot.

Definitely find other writers in your community who can help and support you. It will also help you to support them. I have a small network of three writers besides myself and we help each other immensely.

Well, I had better run and get my children off to bed.

Goodnight and good writing,


Clyde Dixon Wed Nov 19 10:19:02 PST 1997

RHODA: Perhaps you could avoid directly killing off that character by getting him involved with something else that would divert his attention and efforts. I am not sure of the correct events to use for your time period and location, but perhaps he could be tried as a witch, or something.

Of course, since he is a minor character, you would just need to explain his absence from your plot, and perhaps eventually his final fate, rather than give the blow by blow details of his troubles.

Perhaps, he has the habbit of walking through the slum area just to make himself feel big. One flea bite, a short illness, and he would be no more.

Any stimulation here? May my drip stir your own brainstorm.

Good luck,

J. Dishner Wed Nov 19 09:04:42 PST 1997

Thanks for the welcome Rhoda. I appreciate that very much. I don't know enough about The Dark Ages to give you any ideas on what to do with your villain. Good luck with it though. I'm sure you'll come up with something.

And good luck to you too, Ben. It would appear there are some very understanding and giving people on this site, so you've got some resources to take advantage of, and I think that's cool! If you get a little extra cash soon, it might be a good idea to install a zip drive (if your system can handle it). That has helped me a bunch. Of course that costs $$ which is a catch-22 in this instance, and who ever has enough of that....

Do any of you out there belong to a local writer's group where you share your writing with others to critique? Do you like that process? Has it helped? Please share your experiences. I just joined one, and I'm not sure I like how it is run. Where do you go to get others to read your work for ideas and comment? Please respond. Thanks.

J. Dishner

Britomart Wed Nov 19 07:39:08 PST 1997

Hear, hear, Jack. I'll be in that - I can afford ten bucks.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Nov 18 21:19:37 PST 1997

   If you feel comfortable with it, leave your address and we can contribute toward your effort on a piece meal basis. Or others can voice their willingness and you can email your snail mail address separately. I cannot afford to send $100. However, I could certainly send $10. Maybe if others jumped in, we could get you on your way to printing this mammoth manuscript out and on its way to your potential agent.

Rhoda Tue Nov 18 13:13:47 PST 1997

Hello, all.

Good to see you back Ben.

J. Dishner, I'm glad that you have felt free to contribute to the notebook. It is good to have you here. I hope that you are able to find here the support a writer needs. This notebook is also a good place to find writing sites on the net. Once in a while someone pops up with a good homepage or someplace where other writer's post their work. I agree with you, by the way. Adversity does help our writing. Adversity gives us depth as individuals. Without that depth in ourselves, it is hard to impart it to our characters.

Now I believe that in principle, but I could do without adversity today.

I just thought I'd check in with the notebook. I am half way through my book right now. I've reached a point where I need to eliminate a bothersome minor character who has served his purpose. Should I kill him off? He is a buzzard and is very cruel to my heroine, but I'm not sure that he deserves to be killed. Then who should do it? I could have my lurking Saxon pirate do the deed, or I could have it done by my suave, sophisticated, hypocritical, and very sly Maelgwn of Gwynedd who did that kind of thing all the time in real life back when he lived about 1500 years ago.

This book is a romance. I really need the limit the amount of carnage. The Dark Ages are bloody enough without me making them worse. My problem is that this character is not the type of man to give up and go away. Getting rid of him any other way is going to be awkward.

Well, I'd better go. I have to pick up my kids at school. Hopefully I will decide what to do with this poor man by the time I return to my writing sometime this evening.

Happy writing,


Britomart Tue Nov 18 12:57:26 PST 1997

Ben - if I had a hundred bucks spare, I'd have it in the next mail for you. Hopefully your computer geek friend can work it out for you. Your computer is probably saying "not enough memory" because the file is so big. Why not split it up into three or four parts, and save them all separately. When I had to print out the final draft of the Infernal (about 500 pages) I had to do this. It didn't like having it on the screen and having to format it for printing too. And btw, CONGRATULATIONS on finishing it. I just know it's going to be a success.

Adversity? Hmmm - I've actually had it pretty good for the last 7 years (which, I guess, is my "adult life" as I'm only 27) but my childhood was pretty hellish. I was very surprised recently when a friend pointed out a certain aspect of my book (it was the structure of a relationship between two main characters) and said: "do you realised you've mirrored the exact relationship between yourself and your father here?" I burst into tears because she was right and I hadn't known about it. This says to me that writing, no matter if you're writing throwaway pop fiction like me, is a way of expressing what's too big to fit inside you anymore. Even subconsciously. Adversity, in my opinion, is one of the reasons we write.

J. Dishner Tue Nov 18 12:47:37 PST 1997

I just stopped in for my first "real" visit. I've been experiencing that isolation freelance writers often do and decided to check this site out again. I read most of the comments on the page and am excited about being able to communicate with other writers.

About how adversity affects my writing and scheduling: I've known adversity all my life. My father died when I was 3, my grandpa when I was 9, and my stepdad when I was 10. We lost our home when I was 11. My brother went AWOL from the military when I was 13. I had two children and a husband by the time I was 19. I divorced when I was 21, remarried when I was 25, and became a widow seven weeks later. I am now remarried with two step-children and an ex-wife--his!

In spite of the odds against me, my life "ain't half bad". Though I can be somewhat cynical at times, I'm basically a happy person with a happy family.

Adversity has shaped my life to the extent that I am afraid when things go well. That actually scares me and that's when I can't write and stall projects. That's when I need to work on self-motivation the most. It's like I need stress in my life, otherwise I get uncomfortable. Sometimes I think I even create problems just to provide the stress that might not otherwise be there; however, because that's not healthy, I am learning to take control of my life more--at least to the degree that I have control. That's why I was able to quit my job last year, because I wanted to have control over what I did with my life. Most of what has happened to me has not been in my control, but writing is. I don't think it's so strange that I have chosen writing as my profession. If I had not chosen it, it would have chosen me anyway. So, what the hell....

I think adversity can be a good thing; it helps a writer delve deeper inside of the self to explore human emotion, feelings and thoughts. It has enabled me to develop a greater sense of awareness of the world around me and of the people I share it with. I write better because of adversity. I write what's real, I think, and I'm much more observant, intuitive, and explorative.

What do you think?

Ben Woestenburg ice Mon Nov 17 23:06:40 PST 1997

Hello to one and all and I'm glad to be back.

Great topic for the week Jack, just seems to fit into my life right now like a hand in a glove. Christmas is coming and right now I think the best think I could have for Christmas is a job I know will pay the bills. I was laid off last week because of the market problems in Japan of all things. But that's because it's a saw mill and we sell primarily to the Japanese market. So things are a little tight right now. They called me on Friday to say come into work next week, but then the rumours started to fly. We might only be working until Wednesday, and then get laid off again. I have to break this good news to my darling wife. I don't want to, because she can't handle that kind of stress.

At least with all the time off I was able to edit twenty chapters of my novel. I finished it by the way, but I don't have a printer and trying to find someone to print it is proving to be more of a bitch than I thought it would be. I had to double space it of course, so now it's about 700 pages. I'm looking at a hundred bucks just for paper and ink cartridges, but with no income at the moment, well, you see the problem. I went to the writer's conference in October and found an agent who said she was willing to look at the whole thing. She didn't want the usual synopsis and three or four sample chapters, she wanted the whole thing. I thought great! Once she reads it she'll have to take me on. All I have to do now is try and get it to her. It's a CATCH-22 situation. A hundred bucks! Jesus, I used to piss that up against the wall every Friday night! Now it looks like it might be hard to get my hands on ten bucks so the kids can go ice skating every Tuesday.

So I've come up with schemes and ideas trying to get things done. I want to ask the computer geek at work if he can print it up for me -- I already talked to him and he said there should be no problems with it. I told him I already had the paper...He's a nice guy, and no geek at all. He's kinda cute as far as my wife's concerned. But I have to get it printed A.S.A.P. because now I'm getting these flashes on my computer that come up and say NOT ENOUGH MEMORY. If it's not one thing it's another. I've got to get it printed up just so I can erase what's on the computer and make more room to finish editing.

I guess I'll be talking to him tomorrow and see what he has to say. I had a great week off as far as weather was concerned, but last night when I went to bed I could hear the rain tapping against the window. It was still there when I woke up. It would be no problem if I was still doing my old driving job, but now I'm on the water again. I came home looking like a drowned rat. People kept calling me on the C.B. asking me if I've gotten a haircut yet. I tell them the same thing I always do, not yet, but it shouldn't be too long. They all think it'll be down to my waist before anything happens. I think that's because there are two me's: the one is the guy they see at work, swearin' and cursin' in that industrial language we all use at the work place, and the other is the guy that gets up at five and types all morning and rushes into work late because 'I just wanted to write one more page'...They don't know that guy. But listening to them and all that crap they put me through is more than enough incentive for me to make it as a writer. Besides, where else am I gonna find a job that pays as well as this one? Epecially with the big 4-0 right around the corner? If I'm going to have to change jobs this late in life -- not that it's old -- I'm going to do something I want to do. I don't want to have to get up early and have to go to work for the rest of my life when I can get up early and write for the rest of my life.

I have to go now, because it's 11:00 and I've reset my alarm for 4:45 a.m. I'll bring a disk to work tomorrow, and some paper, and see what happens. I don't forsee any problems, but hey, it's been that kind of a month I guess, so I won't hold my breath.


Tabitha Mon Nov 17 13:26:10 PST 1997

Finaly THE FICTION NETWORK is up and running. They are serializing a book of mine called FAIRY BEERY. This work marks an important step for me.
It was the first time I promiced to deliver a piece of work before it was finished. Its not a paying gig but knowing I'm capable of delivering
a piece of as yet unfinished work was a big boost to my self confidence.
Take a peek at the site...they are looking for more work.

J R Deveau Mon Nov 17 11:40:26 PST 1997

Hi all! I have a concern that someone here may be able to help me with. I have a rough story and I'm starting to think about sending it out to see how it will fare with some science fiction magazines. I'm not sure if this is the appropriate action I should take or should I copywrite my work. If I copywrite my work, what do I have to do? (I live in Toronto, therefore Canadian laws apply.)
I hope to be writing here again soon. Another address where I can be reached is: . I work crazy shifts so this is the best address to write me if you expect a swift reply although my Globalserve address is more dependable.


JR Deveau

Rhoda Sat Nov 15 10:09:18 PST 1997

In commenting on the current topic, I would have to say that the effect that adversity has on my ability to write depends entirely upon the type of adversity.

On my most recent setback--a snooty response from an agent whom I had great hopes in--I must conclude that increased my productivity considerably. Since that incident happened I have written from four to twelve pages a day. That was a pride issue, and pride is a great motivator.

My mother died back in September of 1990. That loss definitely impacted my writing. I couldn't write for almost two years after she died. When I finally picked up my pen again (or started once again useing the word processor), my writing had drastically improved over what I wrote before her death. I can't explain the reason for that really. I only wish she were still around to read what I have written of late. I think she would be proud.

Probably the most difficult time I experienced while I have been writing was the time after the birth of my third child. I went through a serious post-partum mess involving high blood pressure and the medications to treat it (sometimes worse than the high blood pressure itself), post-partum anxiety syndrome, arthritis, and basically a falling apart emotionally and physically that no doctor seemed to be able to explain. I could not concentrate on writing at this time. My whole life was on hold. A crisis came when a doctor told me he thought I had lupus. I hardly knew what that was, but I knew that it was bad and could be debilitating.

All through these problems I had several people praying for me. I was desperately seeking the Lord myself. As my problems moderated, I returned to my writing. I found out from a rhumatologist that I definitely did not have lupus and didn't even have most of the symptoms. After that incident I got very serious about my writing. I suppose during my crisis I had to face my mortality and I realized that life passes by rapidily and we waste a lot of time. I believe that God allowed me to go through that crisis for partly that reason.

I had always wanted to become a writer and after that incident I became more serious than ever before. I realized that God had given me the gift of time and talent. He had also restored my health, and so I felt that there was the green light to go full force with my writing career, and to do it for His glory. I don't believe that until that incident that I was ever really serious enough to become a writer.

Adversity is a heart check. During these times we are thrown into devestating disarray. It is hard to be productive during the storm. It is only after we have sucessfully weathered that storm that we come out with a deeper understanding of life and of ourselves. It is then when not only our writing benefits, but every aspect of our life.

Michael Boyer Fri Nov 14 22:06:56 PST 1997

***NOTE:The webpage is now active, so please feel free to check it out...****

Adversity? There's a quote I like, I forget who said it, but it goes something like this: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." I truly believe this. I could spend hours talking about the bull and hardships that I have made it through, but I wont bother. I'll just use the most recent example: My wife and I couldn't pay rent this month and two weeks into the month we received a quaint little eviction notice. So we spent three days going crazy trying to find a way to come up with the money. We finally succeeded, but in doing so, our course work for classes at college slipped. If it's not one thing, it's another, you know? But you realize after a while, that no matter how bad things get, things could always get worse, so you have to count your blessings and go on. And in the end, when you look back at a previous hardship, you realize that it seemed simpler than the one you're currently trying to deal with. It's like life is a test to see if you have the "right stuff" to make it.

So what does this have to do with writing? Everything. Every hardship overcome drags you down and sapps your will. But you dig down inside and find that determination to carry on, striving for your dreams. And you know if you faulter, you only have yourself to blame, because you gave up, you let the dreams die.

Well, I will not give up. I will not become one of the walking wounded too afraid to try and too lost to grasp at hope and the dreams of better things. I WILL write. I will overcome. And that which does not kill me, will make me stronger....

(Just thought I'd put my 2 cents in... *grin*)

Toby Buckell Fri Nov 14 19:46:02 PST 1997

Greetings all.

While one may or may not be able to write during crisis/adversity, crisis and adversity make a background of conflict and experience that a writer draws from to add that element of reality and empathy/sympathy that draws the reader in.

Short one, gotta run.

Billy Jackson Thu Nov 13 22:51:24 PST 1997

ive recently started writing again, after months of telling myself that i didnt have the time, or many other excuses that seem to come freely.
After looking over your website i decided that if everyone here had the dedication and commitment to finish what they have started, even though some think they will never see print.
the first thing i would tell you is to believe in your goals, if in your head you think you've already failed then more than likely you will fail. But if you think you can succeed and try hard, then the rest will come naturally and you will see print.
on another note since ive recently started writing again ive noted that there are a lot of web pages out about authors, thier books, and about publishing companys, but there isnt that much to help new writers. (most pages take it for granted that most people already know a great deal about writing)
take myself for instance, if i wanted to write a book, a fantasy novel, where would i go to look up how to start on my novel? What kinda word processor would be the best to use? in the word processor that i have it has nothing to do with writing novels (using microsoft word 3.0) if anyone can direct me to a site that will help me... then please email me. The imagination is there but i still have a huge learning curve to go through...

Goodweed of the North Thu Nov 13 19:22:54 PST 1997

This one is easy, Jack. Recently, (two days ago) my boss lost the vacation request papers I had submitted for approval. He had the gall to say that I just thought I submitted them. He had never seen them. A week ago last Wednsday, he and I went to a neighboring town to get information on a telephone system move from one location to another. He told the manager of the buisness to call him the following day and tell him when to get the phone lines moved by the local phone company so we could move the system on time. The manager called my boss and left him voice mail three times the following Thursday. I was out of town on another project and was tied up Friday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednsday of this week on emergency phone outages. Yesterday, I got a call from the manager of the buisness asking why we wern't moving his system yet. I responded that it was my boss's responsibility to order the phone lines moved as I wasn't given authority to do that. I also explained how I had been away for so many days and that we would get to it as soon as possible. The manager was understanding. We had been freinds for a long time before my boss was my boss. Anyway, the boss tried to pin his failure on me, saying that I had had two weeks to get the job done. I'm not one to jump up and down and holler, so I just logged it in a personal gripe log that I have just started, along with the lost vacation request incident.

These kinds of things are constantly happening in the department I work for. What this has to do with writing is that it has lit a fire under me to do whatever it takes to become a successful author. I know the talent is there, if not all the training. But I'm am learning all the time and bettering my skills. I will succeed. There is no doubt in my mind. I have never failed at any major goal I have set for myself, and this is a major goal.

I wil not retire from this place. I do not trust that it is in the best interest for me or my family. I will make a great deal of money with writing. I started because of my love for the creative process. That hasn't changed. but I'm using a negative situation to help me grow and solidify my resolve. In Three days, I have proofread over 60 pages. I have contacted a freind who is trying to put me in touch with a U of M professor in literature to edit my work.

If it is one out of fifteen hundred submissions that make it, you can bet mine will be one of the few that does.

This is not boasting, for I know that I must still improve. Rather, this is determination to get out of a rediculous work environment and quit working to make someone else rich. I will be doing what I enjoy, and make a good living from it as well.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Jennifer Thu Nov 13 12:16:54 PST 1997

Thanks for the topic Jack!

Adversity is actually what prompted me to write, I discovered that even people who love me, tired of listening to me, especially when I was "consumed." I had alot to say, I had questions and fears and self-pity and that slow and encouraging process of coming out of the fog. I needed a notebook to listen, and to help me untangle myself. Granted, my writing was not clear or consise, but it was emotionally charged. Now, (several years later) I can go back to notebooks and use the past emotion combined with the present clarity to write strong peices.

I believe in "writing through it" because I have a commitment to write daily. My commitment is not to write well daily, but to write daily. If I allow my present difficulty to excuse me from my writing, I begin to allow other excuses as well. Writing "against my will" sometimes produces some of my most honest work. I don't know much about this craft, but I do know a writer writes. I believe good writers have the courage to put life down as it happens, even when what happens is painful, or frightening, or sad--and especially when it is "too close to home." Our personal pain has fire and energy, and that may be the most truth we will get the opportunity to tell. I believe it is truth I can draw on later to create "real" stories.

Happy Scribbling!

Loren Thu Nov 13 08:45:49 PST 1997


Excuse my small-mindedness. I am glad to hear your wife is doing better. Best of luck in the future.


Jack Beslanwitch Wed Nov 12 21:38:47 PST 1997

Victoria: Yes, Fran is doing quite well actually. She is a year and more out of radiation and a lumpectomy and doing great. The operative word here for me while it was all going on was bright moments of terror punctuated by reflection and feelings of helplessness. Fran was actually probably more together at least initially than I was. Check out her website to get her own thoughts about her journey. It needs some updating, but was a catharsis for her. I guess it really was not fair of me to throw out a synopsis and not fill in the details.

Debbie, consider yourself cheered on. Turn lemons into lemonade to use a very tired cliche. Still, it applies :-)

Take care and good writing.

Debbie Osorio Wed Nov 12 20:19:16 PST 1997

I lost my job at the end of September. Three days before my birthday, and a week before my son's birthday. I was out of work until October 29th. During this time, I found a renewed sense of purpose towards writing. I felt that I better get it together with this writing thing, and start producing. Either i make a firm commitment, or quit. I couldn't bear to quit. In the past month, I've written *something* everyday. I'm not sure if I'll ever be published, but I damn sure am gonna try. If not now, when.

Victoria Wed Nov 12 18:43:56 PST 1997

P.S.: Jack, I hope your wife is doing much better now. From your message it sounds as if she is.


Victoria Wed Nov 12 18:40:21 PST 1997

For me it's real simple--when I'm beset by personal adversity I can't write at all. Writing isn't an escape for me, it's a journey into my own head, and when there are horrible things in there there's no room for creativity. It's something I'm constantly struggling with, but so far I haven't found any way around it. When I force myself to write past it, what I produce isn't worth keeping. As a result I'm not nearly as productive as I should be, or as I'd like to be.


Loren Wed Nov 12 17:21:55 PST 1997

I stumbled upon this site about two hours ago, and I think it's great!

I can relate with Jack's thoughts about relating personal experience and feelings into writing. It is almost inevitable that anything I write will relate to me on a personal level. I guess that's what I get for writing fiction based on the the real world. My characters melt into the world as I see it.

There is nothing wrong with this, but I change my mind philosophically so often that long term projects like my novel become disjointed as my slant on life changes, and believe you me, that happens far too often. Lately, it's been about as often as I blow my nose, or tell my kids "NO!".

That may be why I have spent the last two years editing something I want to consider finished.

Oh well, it's time to feed the kids, but I will return!

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Nov 12 14:11:29 PST 1997

Welcome to all the new visitors to the Notebook. Please come, visit, poke around the archives and leave your ideas. Also, if you are planning to join our little group on a more recurring bases, send me your biographies so we can get a better idea of who you are.

OK, despite a rather debilitating bout of a bug, I finally got to updating the topic for discussion. Since some might not be able to see the pop up window, here is my suggestion for a topic of discussion.

What impact does adversity in our own lives have on the content of our writing and the scheduling and habit of writing itself.

     I encountered this in my own life when my wife Fran was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. My writing collapsed to short snippets that were, in my own eyes, profound and intensely personal, following the pattern of my own ups and downs and finally very ups as the course of treatment followed its course. It does not necessarily have to be anything quite this close to a face to face with mortality. It can be as simple as finals coming or the kids are all sick. In this topic I would suggest an emphasis on personal adversity rather than something that impinges from afar as the death of Princess Diana. Have fun with this and good writing to all.

Writer Tue Nov 11 21:19:29 PST 1997

In re: Use of dialogue, "he said/she said," etc.

I agree that "he/she said" should be used as little as possible. It can, however, create a sense of deliberation in the reader's mind. I refer you to George V. Higgins' "The Digger's Game," particularly the last page, as an example.

Harry Butterfield Tue Nov 11 20:39:46 PST 1997

Hiya all.......

Just found this page and am looking forward to checking it regularly.....


Zak Davis Tue Nov 11 19:27:12 PST 1997

To all interested parties:
I just found this page today, by doing a YAHOO search for 'writer'. I love it and plan to check it everyday. Good work!
My writing has been at a stand-still for the past 8 months due to matters I'd rather not go into at this moment (or ever)... :-) I am planning to use this site and others like it to get myself motivated enough to finish my long over-due novel. e-mail me if you know of any other cool sites, please. Or just to say 'hi'. I am new to the internet, so please forgive me if my "net-equette" is not properly fashioned. I know one thing for sure which is I am sick of telling people that I'm a writer and I'm working on a novel and then going home and doing anything I can to NOT write. We have meet the enemy and they are us! I hope you'll forgive my ramblings.

Clyde Dixon Tue Nov 11 13:54:09 PST 1997

Rhoda - I use Netscape Navigator Gold 3.01. It has been trouble free for me, and others here where I work.

The bookmarks are stored in a file named BOOKMARK.HTM. This file is in the NAVIGATOR subdirectory under the NETSCAPE directory.

To back up your bookmarks, just copy the BOOKMARK.HTM file to a floppy disk every now and then. If you ever have a major computer problem (hard drive death, etc.) just reinstall your programs and then copy the BOOKMARK.HTM file back to its directory.

Your version may use different directory names but the general idea should work. Look for a file named BOOKMARK in the directories where the Netscape program is installed.

Good Luck,

Christine Rollins Mon Nov 10 20:42:20 PST 1997

Just a quick Hello from re-write land!!!

Brian Mon Nov 10 15:58:08 PST 1997

Anybody on this board in the Salt Lake area? If so, anyone want to get together and start a fiction workshop? I write sci-fi and supernatural but am interested in several genres. I'm working on a couple of novels right now and looking for an agent. If you're serious about writing and wanting to get published, write me at


Jennifer Mon Nov 10 13:54:24 PST 1997

Friday was my first discovery of this site and I love it! I started a story yesterday and ran with it for several hours--still very ruffff but closer to a beginning, middle and end than I've been able to accomplish lately. I now am struggling with living in an apartment that constantly looks like a tornado threw up in it. I want to use all my free time to write! It seems stupid to work to pay for school, to go to school to write, and then discover that with work and school there is little time for writing. Something has got to give. I've thrown cleanliness (and probably Godliness) on some pile of laundry somewhere or perhaps it's under that pile of papers near where the table used to be... I find myself turning down dates (okay, singular, date) to spend the night with my notebooks. Sometimes I feel dedicated, other times just "twitchie" and anti-social.

Guess that's about it for now. Check with ya'll again tomorrow.

Keep Scribblin'

Jennifer Mon Nov 10 13:40:13 PST 1997

Rosemary Mon Nov 10 12:53:42 PST 1997

I have Netscape 3.1. It is 100% or more, better than Netscape 2. So far I haven't had any trouble with my bookmarks, but I lost all of them a couple of times with 2.
Now, just to be sure, I copied all of them into a file in Wordperfect (Whatever wordprocessor you use). Instead of copying the names of the web-pages, it coppied the www.whatever. Thinking about it, this is the only way it could have been any use, but it was really hard to tell which one is which. As a result, I put a copy of the bookmark file in another area of my hard drive and made a note of the area in the WP file with the bookmarks. This sounds like a lot of trouble, but I lost some addresses I haven't been able to recreate and I really regret it.

Good luck with your program.

I heard from netscape tech's that netscape 4.0 is a real space hog and not that much better than 3.1.

Mon Nov 10 12:53:38 PST 1997

Mon Nov 10 12:53:28 PST 1997

Rhoda Mon Nov 10 11:47:40 PST 1997


It is good to see your post on the Notebook. You haven't been around for awhile. I wish you all the best of luck on your finals.

I don't have much new to add today. I have been writing a lot. Things around home have quieted down, and my Christmas shopping is almost done.

I appreciate all the kind things people said after I recounted my experience with the New York agent. This probably won't be the last time something like this happens, and I hope that next time I will have acquired a thicker skin. This rudeness is not about to hinder my writing. As someone who posted about this said, how I react to this incident and how it effects me is my own decision.

For some reason, I lost several of my bookmarks on my Netscape Communicator. Fortunately, the Notebook wasn't one of them. This web broswer really gives me fits sometimes. I wonder if I should replace it with Netscape 3.1 or with the Microsoft Internet Explorer? I would appreciate any ideas. For some reason I can't get the bookmarks off the brown screen to the blue screen where they can be edited and catagorized. Trying to do this is how I lost all my latest ones.

Well, I had better return to my writing. Have a great afternoon, everyone.


Clyde Dixon Sun Nov 9 18:38:15 PST 1997

I just saw Starship Troopers. Good flick. All in all, they didn't butcher the book too badly, the important concepts are still there, even if they do take a backseat to the action. No powered armor though. Anyway, not perfect, but far closer to the book than I feared it would be.

Now if only they had made it while he was still around to get the payout!

May we be so lucky,

toby bcbuctsa@bluffton Sun Nov 9 15:16:12 PST 1997


Monday, tomorow, three two hour finals back to back and I've only just begun to prepare for them this week. Burn out city baby! (It's why I haven't posted much).

I hate the amount of nitpicking I have to do at authors in English. It's such a narrow minded major. Sociology is much more fun in my book. God!

Recomended book: High Noon on the Electronic Frontier, Edited by Peter Ludlow.

Anyway, I have five papers to write, a lot of reading for English Lit and the X-Files 100th episode to watch (Simpsons too). Time to crack out the Coca-Cola.

Will be back in a few days. Pray for me, it's always madness the last three days of a quarter!

Sat Nov 8 18:27:24 PST 1997

Victoria Sat Nov 8 10:17:29 PST 1997


Be very, very wary of any agent who offers to do anything--anything at all--for a fee. Agents who offer editing services are often charlatans.

I've seen the name of this agent/agency before, in posts on other writers' boards, and my impression is that things may not be aboveboard. Log onto Deja News ( and run a search under the agent's name and also under the agency's name. It's my understanding that you'll find some posts that may make you think twice about resubmitting to this agency.


Jackie Fri Nov 7 23:36:12 PST 1997

Hi, folks!

I recently saw an interview with Harrison Ford. He told the story of his experience in his first movie, DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND (1966). He played a bellboy. It seems the producer, or someone like that, called Harrison into his office for a lecture. "When Tony Curtis played a grocery delivery boy in his first movie," said the producer, "you looked at him and said, 'Now there's an actor.'" Harrison Ford leaned over the guy's desk and answered, "I thought you were supposed to think, 'Now there's a delivery boy.'" The man was so angry he yelled all sorts of things, including his belief that Ford wouldn't be a success at anything in his life, much less acting. A few years later when Ford had become quite successful, he was in a restaurant when a waiter presented him with a business card on a silver tray. It was the card of the producer, and on the back was written, "I guess I lost the bet." Harrison Ford looked all around that restaurant and couldn't even remember what the other man looked like.

Although I've heard similar stories from other famous people, I was very impressed with this one. Not only because Harrison Ford is to die for, but because he kept his focus on his goal rather letting anger or self-doubt take control.

Rhoda, I'm sorry that agent was so rude. Just figure she is a sad and/or miserable person and unfortunately there are more out there like her. Just don't let anyone--especially someone like her--decide what you are going to do with your life. That's your decision to make. Then forget her.


Goodweed of the North Fri Nov 7 23:03:39 PST 1997

Well guys, I got my first letter returned from an agent. He stated that my story showed great promise but needed some work with punctuation and things like where to begin an indentation before or following dialogue. He also stated that it needed a bit more character development. On the plus side, he said it was an exciting and solid story. He wants to see it again when it's cleaned up. He wants to try it both with publishers, and in Hollywood.

I am very exited but know I have my work cut out for me.
I do have one concern, He offered to edit the work for $1 per page but stated that I could get any pro-editor to edit it. I checked with a past proffesor I had at my alma matter and he said that the price was very reasonable. I am leary as the cost would be about $370. And as we all know, there is no gaurantee that it will sell when an editor is done with it and I make the suggested changes.

The agent is Mr. Valentiono of Cambridge Literary Assosiates out of Boston, Ma. I'm going to try to fix it myself first. Any rules concernig the mechanical aspects of dialogue would be greatly appreciated. In addition, are there any good self-help texts out there concerning character development? This page is a wonderful resource and I thank Jack, here, in public, for it. Thanks Jack.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Fri Nov 7 23:03:34 PST 1997

Fri Nov 7 23:03:23 PST 1997

Michael Boyer Fri Nov 7 21:10:05 PST 1997

Goodweed of the North: I just read your biography and I am quite impressed. You and I have a lot in common. I agree with you about the learning to fall and roll being a good thing. It saved my life. I fell 50 feet from a 60 tower (don't ask) and only lived through it because I rolled correctly when I landed (though luck and God probably had a good bit to do with it too). As it is, I had to walk 1/4 mile with 2 broken feet, cut scalp, and a shattered bone in my thumb to get help.

I learned my rolling from the martial art I have been studying since I was in 6th grade (off and on) and it definitely saved my life.

Just wanted to make a comment about it....

Michael Boyer Fri Nov 7 19:27:13 PST 1997

Rhonda, I must agree with the others about your treatment by the agent. That is abhorrent behavior for anyone to have. Too many people these days are forgetting the "Golden Rule" it seems. *sigh* I feel for you and wish you luck in your endeavors.

To whoever it was who posted a reply to my comment about dialogue (missed the name), I agree. An insight to the character's feelings is good as well.

Lastly, To everyone, I just have to say that this has quickly become my best hang-out on the web! *chuckle* Here I can talk daily and get information about the thing most important to me: writing. I actually look forward to the time I can spend logging into this page because it is both productive and involving. To whoever it was that design this and keeps it up and running: Thank you....

Lisa Nickles Fri Nov 7 14:55:11 PST 1997

Oops. It was me.

Fri Nov 7 14:54:36 PST 1997

JENNIFER- I have difficulty working one story start to finish, so what I do is have two or three going at the same time. Whichever one strikes my fancy is the one I work on. I find it to be one of my more effective tools against writer's block.

MICHAEL- A number of my writing friends use facial expressions in their work, and say that it is useful to them. I tend to lean toward sensations and feelings. Such as: Amanda swallowed, fighting the sick wave in her stomach, and stared at the revolver. "If you're gonna kill me," she whispered, "just pull the damn trigger."
(Okay, so it isn't Emmerson, but it's off the top of my head.)

Kim Fri Nov 7 12:54:40 PST 1997

Query writing 101:
Try Inkspot for tips on how to write a successful query. As a Journalism student in my first year; this came in handy!
Oh yeah! Anybody interested in reading and critiquing the first chapter of my SF/Fantasy novella?

Jennifer Fri Nov 7 11:54:32 PST 1997

I am a beginning writer and am having a difficult time with choosing a topic and sticking to it. I have half a dozen stories started but when I reach a difficult section or transition, I start something new. Should I get in there and duke it out with one peice or continue with several "works in progress" until one grabs me by the lapels. That's the real question: does the story grab me by the lapels, or do I grab the story by the lapels? Any suggestions would be greatly appriciated.

Bill Thu Nov 6 11:46:40 PST 1997

I hate to disagree with anyone about professionals, BUT if one acts unprofessional, then in fact they are NOT a professional. Just the fact that they act that way proves it. A TRUE professional knows how to act, to respond and how to treat people. Those who are treated in an unprofessional manner, are done so by no more than an immature, professional-dream-to-be, NOT a professional.
There are many professionals in the world. They may, at times, be hard to find, disguised somewhere among all the trash, but they do exist. Personally, rather than to get upset over the mistreatment by some idiot that has evidently not been properly trained on how to handle, or care about people, I choose to laugh at them, realizing that they aren't going to get one penny of my hard earned money--their loss. (Wow, long sentence, huh) I'll keep plugging away until I find the professional who wants to earn my dollars. If I am treated like dirt at one store, I walk out and go to the store down the street where they know how to smile.
So, Rhoda, I congratulate you. Why? Because you were able to ascertain that the people who were rude to you, are in fact unprofessional before you signed on a dotted line. Looking on the bright side, of course, what a shame it would be to have signed only to find out later that they aren't worth a shit. I am happy for you. Why? I learned this a long time ago in sales: Be happy, excited, and thrilled over every "NO." For every NO that you get passed, makes you that much closer to the "YES." In other words, like most things in life, it's a NUMBERS GAME. Keep plugging at it. DON'T get discouraged. Don't give up.
There must be a reason that you were treated that way by those imbeciles. Perhaps because someone is looking out for you and didn't want you to become involved with them. Keep looking. I have a feeling, from reading your words from your posts, that you will go far and prosper. You have what it takes. Just do it no matter what.
I can probably safely say that I speak for everyone here when I say, WE at the notebook care about you and your success, DON'T GIVE UP ON YOUR PROJECT. It will work. Don't be "hurt." Be happy that you discovered the agent's ignorance before it was too late. Most of all: HAVE FUN.

Okay, okay already. I'll shut up. Bye for now.

RCALIEN Thu Nov 6 11:26:19 PST 1997

Just a quick note about dialogue. I think the 'beats' before, after and during dialogue are as important if not more important than the conversations. It was only recently I found out these movements, descriptions, or whatever, were called 'beats' (excellent book--Self Editing For Fiction Writers) I always called them just movement. A friend was writing a novel and she had her character standing toe to toe and talking for a page and a half without any movements or reactions. It was almost unreadable, even though the dialogue was good.
These beats are also a good way to slip in the information or characterization that is so hard to impart without excess narration.
Just thought Id drop in that little note. Weve started a Novel Critique group of six members. We meet every Sat. for four hours and work on a portion of each novel. One sci-fi, one historical, one modern literary, one kill the lawyers, one spy and terrorists. A good diversity until we come to technical terms. No one understands the others references.
The Notebook has been prolific and usually interesting.
By, R.

Thu Nov 6 11:26:15 PST 1997

Thu Nov 6 11:26:09 PST 1997

Victoria Wed Nov 5 17:00:19 PST 1997


The behavior of the agent you describe is outrageous and unprofessional. How awful to treat you that way--she should be ashamed. The least she could have done was to repond politely to your query. I can certainly understand why you were angry and disillusioned! It's sad that professionals don't behave professionally...Hope you have better luck next time.


Rhoda Wed Nov 5 15:13:58 PST 1997


Thank you for sharing about your satisfaction with your agent. It reminds me that there are all types of people in every profession and that I shouldn't let a few bad apples spoil the pie.

I am aware of reading fees and charletains. My problem has been with unprofessional and rude behavior by "respectable agents." I realize that agents are busy people and are often overwhelmed by the masses of material people want them to read.

Victoria, I am following all the rules to my best ablility. I do my best to act in a professional manner. I never send unsolicited manuscripts. I never send to agents who I know are not looking for my type of work. All I would hope is to be treated with the minimum of respect and courtesy.

I was referred to a particular agent by an editor who reviewed my work. This editor, who is a senior editor and very well respected, must have thought my novel had some merit. I queried the agent, sending my SASE, etc. The letter was never read let alone responded to. When after waiting for a responce ten weeks, I talked to the agent on the phone, she informed me they were not taking on new clients. I told her that the senior editor referred me to her. The woman's voice softened as she asked me if the editor had bought my work. I told her no. She then asked me to describe my project. About four words into my sentence, she brusquely said she didn't deal with that kind of thing and hung up on me.

I wouldn't have bothered with the woman if the senior editor hadn't mentioned her (she gave me the agent's address and said she would be happy to hear from me!). If the agent had scribled "not interested" on my query letter, I never would have called her. I am not in the habit of cold-calling agents. I only did it this time because I wanted to know if she got the letter in the first place. I just thought that a direct referral was the best lead I had had so far and that I shouldn't let it grow cold.

So far, editors I have submitted to or have met at conferences have been more than kind to me. More than one agent has failed to answer my query. They all expect me to act professionally. Why can't they do the same?

Really as I think about it, this is a very little thing. The only thing that was hurt in the exchange was my pride. I am only out sixty-four cents in postage and the price of a very short long distance phone call. I realize every agent would not have treated me that way. No one ever told me that the road to selling my book will be easy. I'd best count my blessings and be grateful for the people who have been considerate.

I'll hang in there and find someone I can work well with.

Victoria Wed Nov 5 12:36:39 PST 1997


The subjects of agents seems to be a very sore one with writers who post in forums such as this one. When I first began exploring these forums, I was really surprised by this, and by the bad experiences so many people report.

I've had the same agent for more than 20 years, and I have never been less than happy with what she's done for me. I trust her 100%. She got my first novel sold (after about 5 years of trying!) and she stuck with me through years of false starts and nonproductivity. I frankly don't know where I'd be without her today.

I think an agent is essential to an author's success--in fiction, at any rate (in non-fiction it seems to be a bit easier to represent yourself). The large publishing houses generally won't even look at an unrepresented manuscript, or if they do, the person reading them is an intern or some low-ranking functionary without the power to purchase. For my money, an author's energy is better spent on querying agents and searching for representation than on sending his/her manuscript out into the publishing void.
Of course, the agent must be reputable (no marketing or reading fees) and good at what he/she does. It takes work to find a good agent--research, query letters, etc. But if one of these wonderful people does agree to represent you, you'll never regret it.

There do seem to be some scam artists and unscrupulous people out there, many of whom seem to specialize in preying upon unpublished authors--I've seen the same few names again and again in these forums. But there are various ways you can rule them out. Literary Marketplace is a good source of reputable agent names, as is the Association of Authors' Representatives (if an agent is a member of this professional organization, he/she is unlikely to be a charlatan). You can do a search on Deja News ( for posts regarding an agent/agency you're uncertain about. There's also a webpage at that lists agents that charge reading fees or refer to Edit Ink.


Rhoda Tue Nov 4 19:39:03 PST 1997

Just wanted to add that in my hurt and chagrin, I wrote hastily. If any who come to Writer's Notebook are lawyers, used car salespersons, or telemarketers, do not think I am knocking you or your profession. I know some very fine used car salespersons (my best friend's husband is one of them). I also know some honest and concientious lawyers. I don't know any telemarketers, but I am sure some fine people do that line of work also. As far as drug dealers, I doubt I ever met one.

I only brought up these professions because they are usually ones picked in surveys as the least trustworthy. There might even be some good people that are agents.

Goodweed of the North Tue Nov 4 18:34:14 PST 1997

Whew: What a bunch of information everyone has posted on the topic of dialogue. I get smug with my writing occasionaly because it comes easy to me. Whether or not it's any good will be determined by the agent, publisher, and most importantly, reader.

The postings are great. For me descriptive and expository writing are as natural as breathing. Where I need work is dialogue. You have given me great ideas. THANK YOU.

A basic premise of my belief system is that expanding knowledge teaches one how much there still is to learn. You have reinforced this concept.

I won't comment on this topic because it is a weakness of mine. However, I am not at all shy and will put in my two cents whenever I can help.

Good writing to you. Now I've got to work on book two of my trilogy.

Seeeeya: Goodweed of the North

Tue Nov 4 18:34:10 PST 1997

Tue Nov 4 18:33:56 PST 1997

Rhoda Tue Nov 4 18:09:03 PST 1997

I have to agree with most of what Victoria has said on the subject of dialogue. Use variety throughout dialogue to make things more interesting.

As far as tags, use them as sparingly as possible. One way I use speech is to set up a character doing an action:

Billy brushed back a lock of hair from his face and sighed. "Jenny I don't know what to say. If only I could explain to you."

Billy's actions set up his speech. There are other tags one can use besides said, of course. Some of these can be quite descriptive and can add to the mood of the dialogue. One can yell, shout, cry, whisper, and murmur speech.

I never had to think much of dialogue. Of all the things to do with writing, this seems to come the most naturally. I'm not saying that I do dialogue perfectly, but it is easier to me than description.

I might also add that a writer must be careful to make sure that the characters sound as they should. This is espacially true in historical fiction or in any story where people use a different dialect. I've read several regency romances where the characters either speak in modern dialect or for some reason or another, the author did not catch the voice of the period. When this happens, the book is ruined as far as I am concerned.

One should also be careful that all characters in a book do not sound the same. Not only the individual feelings of a character, but also the thought processes, background, degree of intelligence, etc. should come out in a character's dialogue. This is not always easy.

A topic close to my heart right now is agents. Do we really need these individuals if we wish to pursue a writing career? I certainly hope not. After an experience this week I rank agents down on the scale with lawyers, used car salesmen, telemarketers, and drug dealers. I heard this business is tough, but I never thought it would be as mean as it is working out to be. I do sound discouraged, but I'll get over it.

Well, I must go and help my seven year old son with his homework. I wish everyone a pleasant good evening and many happy hours of fun and productive writing.


Kasin Hunter of Kasin Keep Mon Nov 3 20:32:46 PST 1997

Good November to you all!

Good-bye to polyester spider web trails across my window and the crunch of unknown small feet coming across my drive-way. Halloween is over! Thank God. Thank God, I have only three bags of candy I don't like left over, waiting there by the dish drainer, daring me to do something with them--anything, anything except (please, no!) eat every last piece.

I learned my lesson for these later years of Halloweens. Always buy candy you don't like. Some have said the opposite. But my thighs agree with me, so the vote is unanimous.

With gratitude I flip the calendar and ready this month's Showcase. I've dressed up the entrance. Dusted off the code to reveal actual tables, unlike what I've done with my kitchen. (I'm sure the breakfast bar is somewhere under all that mess. Yes, I have a typical writer's house.) So now I can offer you another new Showcase, fit for your consumption with humorist Ronald Skinner who will tickle a rib or two with another fish story, and Karen McMichael, a self-proclaimed writer-wanna be. By the sound of her poem, she has plenty of potential.

Good November to all and to all a good Turkey Day! ( . . . food . . . again. sigh . . .) And happy birthday to me on the 9th of this month. I'm exactly . . . ah, well, we don't have to admit such things do we? Jack, if it's in my bio, please . . . Thanks! hehe

God Bless.

Kasin Hunter.

Victoria Mon Nov 3 18:36:02 PST 1997

I agree with other posts about dialogue being a way to show rather than tell. You can convey a lot of exposition through dialogue, and a lot of character development too. When I have a flashback, or a long expository section, I always try to break it up with dialogue. I try also to break up the dialogue itself with description--of the characters' reactions, their thoughts, what's going on aroud them. To me, page after page of unadorned dialogue is as dull as page after page of dense exposition.

Personally I don't worry about "she said", although I do try to avoid the "she said angrily" form. Generally, I use "she said" as often as I feel I need to. To me, it's the literary equivalent of a blink--it's basically invisible. It only becomes noticeable when people take that basic form and try to vary it: "'Let go of my arm!' she gritted." Or "'Come on, it'll only take a minute,' she cajoled."

I do try also to do as Trudy suggests, and use a description of characters' reactions in place of "she said." This can be an effective tool of character-building and add to atmosphere.

I think the key is variation. If you look up the page and see a succession of "she saids," try doing a reaction next time.


Trudy Mon Nov 3 17:00:45 PST 1997

Hi all; just had to pop in and give my ideas on dialogue.

The best bit of advice I have heard from a writing instructor was "show me, don't tell me". Now granted this was for a children's writing course when showing is of the utmost importance but I try to carry it over into other forms of writing, including my non-fiction at work.

So instead of saying "she said" say something like this:

"I can't blieve you did that," Susan's blue eyes rolled upwards before coming to rest on the object of her amazement.
"What?" Johnny looked at her as if he didn't know where she had come from.

OK so it's not great writing but hopefully you get the picture. I see dialogue as a great way to work in more description about characters, to make them seem more real with their reactions, but instead of saying they reacted, I try to show it.

Happy writing all...I'm off to check out the archives. Trudy

Michael Boyer Mon Nov 3 14:40:37 PST 1997

*PLEASE NOTE: My URL is still not functioning correctly*

This is in reply to the new topic: How to best include dialogue in a manuscript.

I think the fewer the he/she saids the better. I also think that things like "he said angrily," are too invasive for the reader. Granted, I use this frequently, but that is because they are things I will fix in rewrites and editing to get a clearer and less invasive way to get the emotion across. Sometimes he/she said is needed when you have to separate between two people, but once the dialogue is up and running, you usually don't need it.

One of the things I like to do to convey emotion in dialogue is to cue the dialogue with facial expressions first. Example: Sarah grinned, her face crinkling like a michievous child. "So you're saying that cat dances?"

Anyone else do this? And do you think it's effective? I'm curious.

Another thing about dialogue is that I think it is important to read it out loud to see if it sounds realistic. I think this comes from the characters. I know that if I haven't developed my characters enough, I struggle with dialogue with them. Once I have come to an understanding of the character, I find that I subconsciously know whether the dialogue I'm writing for the character fits the character or not, and thus sounds realistic.

When to use dialogue is a tricky one. I'm not even sure how to go about deciding where it goes. For me, it just seems to come naturally. A point comes in the manuscript where the characters have to speak to fulfill the "life" given to them in the story. When this point comes for me is different in every story I write....

What do the rest of you think?

Jackie Sun Nov 2 22:41:24 PST 1997

Hi, folks!

Michael B., I'm glad you're back on track. Always remember a dream is never dead unless you give up on it. That's just a little something I picked up in the last couple years, which is probably what accounts for my reentering the world of writing.

I have been published, Goodweed, but it's a friend of mine who had been writing for 20 years--the review of her book said she was an overnight success and she said it only took her 20 years to get there. I would have been a lot closer to 20 if I hadn't taken the last 4 off to regroup my sanity, although that sounds funny considering I've mentioned my teenagers. Anyway, I've had short stories and articles published and I've also published 5 magazines. I prefer writing mystery/suspense novels despite the time they consume and the frustration of dealing with editors. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I backed away from writing. Then a year and a half later an editor returned the first three chapters and a synopsis of a ms. I'd sent her 8 months before I left. How's that for a slow response?

I better end on a happier note before I depress myself and everyone else. I'm writing an article about life with teens (surprise, surprise), and am thinking of calling it "My Six Cents." It's a play on my sixth sense because if I had one in working order I would have run away from home before the teenagers took over; six cents is about all I ever have to my name; and due to inflation, my two cents is
now six.

I'm also still working on my novel. It's still marinating (in my head), but you'd be surprised how much work that accomplished--with or without my knowledge.

By the way, Michael B. Although I wasn't physically writing during my absense, a great deal of it was going on in my head. Now I just have to put it down on paper--that's the easier of the two.


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Nov 2 17:10:23 PST 1997

In case you had not noticed, I have archived up to yesterdays postings. Things had reached 90k and I thought I would act preemptively. Also, I have added a new topic for discussion since horror discussion had dropped off. Since some may not be able to see the pop up window here is the topic for discussion for this coming week. If you want to discuss something else, as always, please feel welcome.

In a recentWriters Cramp we got off on a discussion about how best to include dialogue in a manuscript. Where is the balance between repeated she saids/he saids and the heavy sprinkling of he replied with venom or the dreaded Tom Swifties such as "Please no," he ejaculated (substitute any other descriptive term that results in unintended humor). This weeks topic can also include how best to use dialog to best effect, as that is also part of dialogue ;-). However, touch on how best to frame that dialogue in your manuscript as well.

Ken Scholes Sun Nov 2 12:26:14 PST 1997

Big thank you's to Michael, Goodweed, Victoria and Bill for your responses to my question. Very helpful.

Michael, I think what my friends mean is that my stories end up in the 25-40 page range with a great deal at the front end and middle and a mad race to the finish. I am thinking that I may experiment a bit by editing down my beginnings and starting the stories closer to my present middle. The other thought is to do as you suggest and just let the story tell itself in the time it needs--something I've also considered. One thing that friends have said, as well: they like the characters and see them as deep and wide and worthy of a longer story.... Can you recommend a good work on Plot Development?

Victoria, loved what you said about stories begging to be novels and "breaking the tradition" of starting with short ficition.

Thanks everyone for your input!!!!

Michael Boyer Sun Nov 2 11:50:20 PST 1997

First I would like to know what your friends mean "novel-length ideas". I think every tale, whatever type it is, has a length to its own. Write until all is concluded (or left with the appropriate hanger for the sequel). Typically, the more plots and sub-plots a writer throws into a work, the longer it is going to be so that everything can be concluded by the end of the work. This may be what your friends are referring to. You may have so much going on that as work grows, you try and cut its size. This may leave the reader feeling cheated because the plot and sub-plots are concluded too quickly through tricks to keep the writing within size constraints. Remember, everything that occurs in a piece of writing should be something the reader can figure out from cues in the story (though this may take some hard thought). Throwing surprises into a piece of writing that have no cues from the writing itself may leave a reader frustrated.
So I guess the answer I'm getting at is this: writing novel length works has to do with plot development. The more you have going on in a story, the longer the story will have to be to bring it to conclusion. If people cannot see how the author brought the story to conclusion, then it may be that the plots were not expanded enough for the reader so they can make the logical step from beginning to end....

Goodweed of the North Sun Nov 2 05:05:34 PST 1997

Steve, I echo the words of Bill whitney. If ideas are coming at you too slow, or the ssme scene is being rewritten, try making an outline to work from. The story is not about the scenes but rather how the characters of your book react to situations. In your outline, create a loose framework with many differing situations. You goal then is to reach a final conclusion while allowing the readers to get to know the characters by their reactions. You create the personalities and bring them to imaginary life through their reactions, their likes and dislikes. The villains have a different objective than the good guys. The supporting players have aliegences to the main charatcters.

The scenes are the stage in which the characters play a role. Writing is the ultimate role-playing game. You have to become each of your characters and react accordingly.

Ken. The same is true for your problem. A loose outline (or rigid if you prefer) gives direction and stability to the story. It allows you to concentrate on whatever part you are currently working on by giving you the comfort of knowing where you will go next. An outline helps to organize your thoughts.

If that doesn't work for you, try writing many short stories about the same topic. Then weave them into a story. You may find that the common thread uniting them is enough to put them together. Of course a bit of modification will be necessary to allow them to work together just right. That however, is called proofreading.

Always remimber my favorite saying for it really does apply.
Good writing is 10% inspiration and 90% persperation. It's hard work, but the end result is worth the effort.

Hi to everyone else. Bill, I'm glad you are still working on your books. I'd like to read a bit of your fantasy work. I think that with your imagination, it must be an
interesting tale.

Jackie. I don't know you. You say you've been writing for twenty years? Are you published? Do you do it for a hobby? What kind of stories do you write?

Rhoda. Hi again. I got your e-mail and am very glad you didn't give up on you story. Fine-tune that query. If you would like, send it on over and I'll do my humble best to help. Though I'm not published yet, I did get some great advice and examples from Phil McLaren while he was with us. My query at least got my foot in the door with an agent. By the way, your posts with sugestions have helped me.

Why is it that we can usually help others but can't easily see our own mistakes? Could it be that we all have differing strengths? I think that is why this forum is so valuable. It lets us share those strengths. We only need to remember that we are on common ground and are all human. None of us have all the answers. Some are just more experanced than others.

Hi Toby. Have'nt seen a posting from you in a while.

Well, I've got to get my crew up and moving. Good writing to al of you.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

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.


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