Archived Messages from May 15 to June 8, 1998

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Jun 7 18:01:46 PDT 1998

On use of accent and vernacular in dialog, I wanted to recommend Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress In this, Heinlein weds English and Russian and sprinkled it liberally throughout. It is a delightful read in its own right.

W. Olivia Race Sun Jun 7 09:14:09 PDT 1998

I think dialog is only easy in real life. I often go back to a book by a favoitie author for inspiration just to see how their conversations flow. Then I try again. I think description interspersed with dialogue works best to help the flow. I use "he said, she said" alot but I also use, other things like "he snapped" or "she spat out angrily" but only sparinly or else your characters are snapping and spitting all over the place. Yuk-hows that for descriptive.

This is the first time I've posted do be kind and don't hurt me. I think the rejection notices have battered me enough!

S.N. Arly Sun Jun 7 07:22:56 PDT 1998

Hayden: As I'm long winded and shorts are not my forte, short shorts are something I really avoid. However, I'll think about it and see if I can come up with something under 50 words that actually makes sense. It will be a challenge, yes. And perhaps I could learn something from the... er exercise.

I haven't much else to say on dialogue. I had english profs in college who thought Hemmingway was just THE MAN when it came to dialogue. "It's so realistic," they said. I don't see this. Not to knock Poppa or anything, I did like some of his books. But I didn't see that his dialogue was remarkable, realistic, or in some cases easy to follow (wait now who said this?).

So these would be other issues to consider when using dialogue: Is it realistic? Is it necessary for the story? Can you tell who the speaker is? All of this without excessive he said she said, and dialogue uneccessary to the story.

Guess I had more to say than I thought.

Hayden Sat Jun 6 19:08:02 PDT 1998

Davidson Cory
Oh, ah... as they tend to say at odd times!

SNArly...porcstan oya fenne glicholshj. (Pity I can't put in the accented characters). Notice it even sounds like I have mentioned the Porsche, which runs on dc...deisel carbonate, which is like sodium carbonate, but not quite :-) I liked you example of putting in description to give a difference to the he said, she said character acknowledgement.

Goodweed, good to see your posting. I have read very little Harrison, but will definitely look up the books you mention.

As an, almost, way back into my challenge, in the dim dark past a newspaper ran a competition for a short story with as few as possible of words. I think their maximum was 50 words. Note: that was their maximum number of words. If we accept that SNArly has laid down the ground rules, why not take up the gauntlet and produce a work within the maximum, and see how it changes what and how you write.

As a serious posting to this aim I submit:

Restaurant. Twilight.
He, "Wine?"
"No, thank you."
Shrugs. "Cigarette?"
"No! Was she good?"
"Not really."
"Then why?"
He shrugged, filled his glass. "Just happened."
She tapped her glass with her ring. "Just happened."
He shrugged. "Forgive me?"
"An apology?"
"Not really. Forgiveness?"
"Never." Throws down her ring and leaves.

Kitty Fri Jun 5 23:50:19 PDT 1998

Rosemary, there is a fourth Fremont Jones mystery: Emperor Norton's Ghost which is due out in hardcover July of '98. You also might like an early K.K. Beck mystery Young Mrs. Cavendish and the Kaiser's Men.
Davidson, I think I am laughing and will be checking out your turkeycity site for a hoot and a holler.
And in the dialect/dialogue vein, what about A Clockwork Orange? Wasn't one of the points of the book (and the film) was to use language to create a sense complete alienation between generations, a complete lack of understanding? I think you have to be very skilled to pull it off effectively but it can be a powerful device to get a message across.

Fri Jun 5 23:49:58 PDT 1998

Goodweed of the North Fri Jun 5 23:00:31 PDT 1998

Does anyone know anything about Bawn Publishing Literary Agency out of Cincinati, Ohio? They responded to my query and asked to see a synopsis and the manuscript. I can't find them in my new copy of "Guide to Literary Agents" purchased when I was in Cincinati. They have a web page on the net but I can't verify the titles they have claimed to have sold to publishers because of my small town location (no large bookstores). I will see if any of the authors listed have web sites and e-mail them.

I like the short story, Hayden. Have you ever read the anthologies "Dangerous Visions", and "Again Dangerous Visions" by Harlan Ellison? I think you would like them.

SNARLY; You make a good devil's advocate. I don't see a response to Hayden's challenge. Put up a short story. You are obviously an intelligent writer. The rest of us can learn and be entertained here (besides, I can think of no better way to learn focus than by writing a short story or poem). Myself, I prefer to write poetry when writing short.

Anyway, It's good to be back from training, and I'm going to enjoy sleeping in my own bed tonight(hope you noticed the comma splice).

Seeeeeeya; a too tired to care (after 10 1/2 hours of driveng) Goodweed of the North

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Jun 5 15:34:21 PDT 1998

One aspect to consider about Katherine Kurtz's use of Scottish accents in her books is that she elected to move to the British Isles as her place of recidence so she is deeply immersed in that vernacular on all sides. This automatically gives her rendering of the accent a great deal more authenticity. However, it is still jarring for the unsuspecting reader until he or she gets used to it.

S.N.Arly Fri Jun 5 14:14:38 PDT 1998

Davidson: Nice poem. Not my style though.

More on dialogue: I guess I don't have a problem with alternate words for said, if used properly. In fact I get a bit annoyed if I keep seeing the word said, as it's obious that the words are spoken/said and the word itself lends nothing to the scene, character, yadda yadda.

There's an individual in my writer's group who always uses said. Nothing else. The characters can be screaming at each other, whispering , whatever, and it's all said. In fact it's all 'he said' or 'character name said.' Usually if it's pretty clear who's saying it, you don't really need it. At least not on every line.

One thing I often like to do is put desciription or action in with the dialogue to make it a) more realistic since no one stands perfectly still while talking; and b)add more to the story.
"Seven? That would have been a chore!" She looked back at the pile of books, books he'd never read, and grinned. "I'm about to get a bit harder for you to find in the back forty."

Katherine Kurtz uses a bit of a Highland accent in places in her Deryni books. When I first hit one of these parts I had a little trouble figuring out what the hell the characters were saying. If I read the problem words out loud it all made sense and I haven't had trouble with her since. But I think that's an important thing to consider. Is the reader going to know how the words should sound by looking at them on paper? If not, is the meaning going to be obscured?

Davidson Corry Fri Jun 5 13:52:35 PDT 1998

Less impudently, on dialogue:

Dialect -- the melange of accent, spelling, vocabulary, word selection and ordering, jargon and
idiom -- can be useful for garnish or flavor, but it's too strong a spice to base the whole dish on
it. It's terribly distracting, and it's hard enough to get your reader's attention in the first
place. It also descends too easily into schtick.

That may be its most useful place, in fact. Let me swipe a line from one of my own stories:

-- "But ve called it Little Carpathia!" he crooned.

"We" spelled with a 'v', the place name 'Carpathia' and 'crooned' are meant to evoke the lilting
accent of Bela Lugosi... because the character who is speaking *is* pretending to be a movie
vampire, to tease his colleague -- and succeeds, and drops it in the very next line, because he
knows he'll get a pot of coffee thrown at him if he keeps it up.

But would you want to read an entire page of this, much less a story, much less a book? Yuk!
Especially if it was intended to be serious.

Extended dialect can be successful to suggest ethnicity, though it's hard to do well. For instance,
in _The_Education_of_*H*Y*M*A*N**K*A*P*L*A*N*_, we empathize with the title character, an immigrant,
not least because we're having some of the same trouble stumbling through his language that he is
having with ours. But note that Leo Rosten rarely uses spelling to suggest the Jewish accent.
Instead, he does it with vocabulary, word ordering and sentence structure.

Could do same with Russian character, nyet?

Speaking of which, in STAR TREK we had a Scots engineer and a Russian-chauvinist ensign, both with
vaudeville accents, plus an Oriental and a human robot, and (as someone else has pointed out) they
combined their token woman and token black into one character... and made her a telephone operator!
I've always been impressed that the actors were good enough to largely transcend these cliches.
(Compare with ST:TNG's abortive use of a Scots Chief Engineer named Argyle, in the first season.)


Getting back to 'crooned': among the errors they warn us newbies about are flowery variants for the
word 'said', Tom Swifties and countersinking. [If these terms are new to you, see] And rightly: they are most often crutches for weak
writing -- I've neglected to properly describe the scene, or I'm not trusting the reader to pick up
on it. (That's 'inclusive OR' for you hacker types.)

So, inspect them ruthlessly, guilty until proven innocent, right? Try to find a better way to convey
the mood. Still, sometime I think it is the best -- clean, effective, economical -- way to set the
scene. Does 'crooned' tell you how the line is delivered? Or is it countersinking?

And, hey, maybe I *want* to countersink a little. Countersinking is not the same thing as screwing
the reader.

What do *you* think?

Davidson Corry Fri Jun 5 12:18:41 PDT 1998


"Not I."


SNarly won't like it, Hayden might. Let's see...

- Dialogue, check. (and on-topic, yet!)
- Conflict, definitely.
- Characterization, yes, I think you can tell the players apart.
- World description, uh... is it cheating to use the title? (probably!)
- Plot, short but sweet. No chance of a sequel, definitely a plus!

...and it rhymes. Why, it damned near scans!

{grin, duck and retreat...}

Rosemary Fri Jun 5 10:20:48 PDT 1998

Hello Everyone,
Joan, good to see you appearing again.

Kitty--I want to thank you for mentioning Dianne Day's third book because I had read the first two and loved them. A friend and I have been watching for another one for so long that I had forgotten the author's name.

About the "he said," and "she said" problems, I usually use beats instead. You know, movement, including the character's name if necessary. It's a good way to sneek in descriptions and characterization without boreing the reader. Of course, my writing lately is mostly action packed space opera and maybe there is more oppertunity to include action.

I, personally, don't like to read dialect. It distracts from the story and reminds you that you are reading. The best way I have seen it handled, is for the POV character to mention it or think about it. (referring to another character. It gives me a headache to think about the main character having an accent.)

That should be enough from me for a while,

Fri Jun 5 10:20:46 PDT 1998

Fri Jun 5 10:20:27 PDT 1998

S.N.Arly Fri Jun 5 06:53:01 PDT 1998

Hayden: Guken sie einmal im Spiegel. Any tenseness in my typing arm would be tendonitis. What's your excuse?

And would that Porsche be powered with ac or dc?

Jen: I'll see if I can remember where I saw that wretched brogue and will let you know once I have.

Incidentally I think the play Major Barbara had a really dreadful British accent in it... from a reader's standpoint anyway.

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Jun 4 23:42:33 PDT 1998

Kitty: Your comments probably mean it is about time to archive. I'll try for tomorrow and try adding the cookie fo the topic at the same time.

     I am little sore physically, actually. Someone decided to nail Fran and I in the back end of our car as we were waiting at an intersection. No apparent damage initially, although it was a very hard hit, but later we discovered the bumper had separated slightly from the body frame on the left side. And it is a relatively new car. bummer :-(. Still, the fact that there is so little damage is really amazing. Kudos for Honda. More neck and shoulders pain seems to have been the major outcome.

Anyway, see what I can come up with. Also, for those who enjoy the rest of For Writers Only, I am actively considering a new look and arrangement for it, going along with finally getting the PERL script for the Workbook operating correctly. For one thing, I am actively looking at making For Writers Only a non-framed site. It will take a bit more finaggling, but might be worth the effort. Take care all and sorry to run on so much.


Hayden Thu Jun 4 20:41:56 PDT 1998

Why SNarly, is that a tenseness I see in your typing arm? Your response annoyed me. Too superior in tone. No light-hearted edges anywhere. Let it go free. Let it go free! If you become obsessed with being right about things, about being so perfect with your interpretation of what is the correct way of writing, and not allowing anyone else to have a bit of fun -- no matter how wrong they appear -- you might begin to think that no-one else is as capable as yourself.

As to my Porsche, it...well...goes as fast as the electricial circuitry will allow it.

Gariess. The photo shoot was delayed due to bad weather. See how I go this weekend.

Jen Thu Jun 4 20:35:31 PDT 1998

Snarly, since we're on the subject, and I happen to use Scottish burrs in my writing, I'm interested in your idea of a dreadful one. Can you give me an example? For comparisons sake?

S.N. Arly Thu Jun 4 19:39:49 PDT 1998

Dialogue is a tricky, yet necessary aspect of any story. I don't consider myself especially good at this particular aspect. I can make real sounding dialogue, but I've been told in my writer's group that I need to use more of it.

Another aspect of dialogue that can be quite rewarding, but only if done well, is writing in vernacular. Mark twain is always the big example for this, and I agree he did a good job. I've read some dreadful attempts at writing a Scottish Brogue and the like. Whenever I try to write in vernacular it comes out hard to read, stilted and I usually end up losing it partway through.

S.N.Arly Thu Jun 4 19:34:52 PDT 1998

Implication does not a story make. Although I could accept your arguments, I also can play Devil's Advocate.
As I didn't catch the sadness or happiness I don't think it was truly implied. There was no emotion loaded into the text, from the reader's perspective. Although the writer may have seen emotion there, the reader does not live in the writer's mind/world and can only access the information on the page.
I don't think completely implied elements are sufficient. You leave the writer conused, and although some confusion can be OK, you don't want to completely alienate your readers.
As the world was actually mention, not implied, you did get that element down.
So you don't consider yourself a pet, eh? How 'bout this... it's prose.

And how fast can a virtual Porsche go?

Kitty Thu Jun 4 16:57:06 PDT 1998


Kitty Thu Jun 4 16:51:58 PDT 1998

Hey, ho, y'all! I'm testing my ability to post here. Love the new format, Jack but once again it is taking forever to send the message (I usually give up and click out). I would like to recommend two books I read while touring California (San Francisco to L.A., one sun-drenched week alone with the beloved filled with quirky adventures and scrumptious feasts). For California content I read: The Bohemian Murders by Diane Day. It is the third in an excellent series that takes place round the time of the great earthquake and fire of San Francisco at the beginning of the century with a feisty heroine, a mysterious hero, and loads of local color. This particular story involved the dastardly doings amongst the artist colony in Carmel. The second book was Connie Willis' Bellwether which is technically sci-fi (and I think was up for a Nebula?) but I'm not sure it should be so neatly catagorized. A very thought provoking book, but then she is a thought provoking writer. It isn't ponderous in the least, in fact you might call it a love story, but one with a scientific, sociological slant. Ted is reading it and his idea of light reading is studying the training manuals for IFR flying. I apologize if I haven't adequately described plotlines and characters, but this is a mainly a test to see if I have figured out how to post with the new format. Happy writing y'all!

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Jun 4 12:26:28 PDT 1998

      Well, everyone, I have to shame facedly admit that I somehow replaced the bookstores and libraries topic for discussion with an older one on short fiction. I was wondering why everyone was talking about short fiction. Oh, well.

      Let's shift gears slightly here and go back to a topic that we have not dealt with in a while. What is our current take on the whole question of dialog. The 'he said', 'she said' and how to frame dialog has already been roundly dealt with in previous discussions, but is there anything new to be said on how dialog can move the action, provide a palatable package for an info dump, set the tone with a little bit of accent (Scottish and starship engineers comes to mind) and other little known or well know aspects. Hope this gets us lively again and is of interest to all.

Joan Wed Jun 3 21:49:47 PDT 1998

SNarly-- Don't know if Cara ever clubbed him in that scene. I canned that beginning and went for another---in which she decidedly did not. Thanks for asking, tho---always good to know you've piqued someone's interest.

Hayden!-- You should've been a politician (ouch!). Guess that must be how you talk your way out of all those tickets in that racy Porsche. (On the other hand, the police don't always like it when you play devil's advocate.)


Hayden Wed Jun 3 19:52:59 PDT 1998

Give me a break!
You said: All you have is conflict, with none of the other elements essential to a story... character, plot, world, description, yadda yadda yadda.:
A reasonably fair statement, and in most cases I would agree with you--especially if I had not made the statement in the first place--but I think I'll try being the devils advocate and argue it out for the fun of it.
I'll start with....

But what of implied elements! This is not straight narration, so you have implied character. Plot is there--the world is going to end, and someone is sad and is saying goodbye but it doesn't and that makes that person very happy--so look again. World is implied, because you can't have a character without a world for the character to exist within. Description is superfluous in some cases (this being one of those cases)...and is the first thing that is culled when you need to break down a lot of text into a short piece, so let not "tell" the reader what is there, but "show" them wih the emotion loaded into the text.

Yeah, Okay they're tenuous answers, and likely to have no impact at all on what you think. But give me a break about it being free verse poem, and have a bit of fun!

S.N.Arly Wed Jun 3 13:35:53 PDT 1998

Joan: So did Cara club Jarin, or not? That 'graph piqued my interest.

Hayden: 17 words is a poem (granted it's free verse), not a story. All you have is conflict, with none of the other elements essential to a story... character, plot, world, description, yadda yadda yadda. Now let's see if you can put all that stuff into one page, then it'll be a short short and we'll have to tremble in your shadow. Sort of.

Hayden Wed Jun 3 00:12:26 PDT 1998

A seventeen word story.
Can you do better? How about a competition?

Hayden Grayell Wed Jun 3 00:10:29 PDT 1998

Short stories: Fast action, quick plot, suspense, emotions

Two seconds till the end of the world...
hey, there's a three!

Joan Tue Jun 2 19:53:56 PDT 1998

Hi all--

Sorry to be silent so long. My communications will be spotty as I'm studying for a major 2-day test at the end of July.

Michelle---!! I'll E you today or tomorrow !!

Jack--Sorry that I don't have a lot to say on short stories. They ARE harder to write, and I have a tough time with them. I've written one good one, and the rest either totally suck or turn into book manuscripts.

Colleen---Let me open myself up for a few pot shots here. I've been thinking about your conflict dilemma. (That's the nice thing about this site; it forces you to think!) Since you write for young people and must get to the action quickly (which, by the way, seems to be becoming more and more common with adult books!), maybe you could start in the middle of the conflict or action. Then, if that seems a little cardboard, go back and fill in some small things about the characters that will make the reader connect with them. Here are a couple of examples (tho I can't say they're successful---one I decided not to use, and the other [the one that's a kid's story] I never finished).

Luke sat on top of his favorite knoll overlooking a lonely meadow. The bunch grass tickled his bare foot, and he heaved a sigh and stood up. Dumb. It was just plain dumb to cry. 12-year-old boys weren't supposed to, anyway. But what was he going to do, stuck up here in the boonies without his best friend--make that his only friend--Pete? Pete had moved away this morning, the flatbed four-wheel drive filed to the top of the racks with household goods, and Pete's beat-up Schwinn laying on top of the pile. He was Luke's only neighbor for more than 10 miles, if you didn't county that old dragon Mrs. Buttcress, who owned the ranch above their property. And he didn't count her. She was nothing but a mean old witch.

OK, that's the kids' story beginning. I've tried (don't know if succeeded) to set the reader up to empathize with the kid, and at the same time develop a conflict or 2: (1) Luke's only friend is leaving, and (2) he's going to have trouble with Mrs. Buttcress.

Here's the beginning of an adult book where I attempted to jump right into the action. Reviews are varying, but maybe it will provide some ideas:

"Quickly! Here--this way." Jarin grasped Cara's arm and hauled her up from where she sprawled, unhooking her toe from the root that had tripped her.
Cara bit her lip. She wanted to do two things: sit down, and cry. But only after she hiit this idiot over the head with the nearest stick. No, a stick wouldn't do it. Judging from his size, it'd have to be a real club.
She actually started to look for the weapon, but suddenly his face was before her, and she could only stand very still and sink in to the blue depths of concern she saw there. Damn! That's how she'd ended up in this mess in the first place---those eyes of his.

Ok, it's open season. Hope those ideas help.


S.N.Arly Tue Jun 2 19:27:52 PDT 1998

I never noticed that I have trouble with POV until I started writing short stories (oh, and having other writers read them). I don't have this problem in longer works, for some reason and I'm not sure why.

Ending is very very important. Nothing ticks off a reader like reading an excellent or even just well written story only to get to a sucky ending. I haven't ready anything by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman since the Rose of the Prophet trilogy. Which was the first thing I'd ever read by them.

Tue Jun 2 18:14:15 PDT 1998

JAN MCGHEE TERWIN44@LDD.NET Tue Jun 2 17:44:31 PDT 1998

Hello everyone. I've been reading your questions and answers to each other and found many of them helpful. I have also read most of the story bits some of you have sent in. The one thing I found most lacking was dialogue. We all have a tendency to want to tell instead of show through dialogue. As a reader, I quickly become bored and tend to scan the words when there is no dialoge to break the pace and bring the characters face to face with the conflict. That is what keeps me reading on. To find out how they handle their conflict and what happens in the end.

I agree short stories are much harder to write. Mainly, because of the necessity to keep only one POV. Having read novels for years keeping to one POV was and still is at times extremely difficult for me. However, the more I made myself write short stories the more accomplished I have become with POV. I now find myself enjoying the challenge.

I find dialogue easy to write, developing a problem or conflict isn't a problem either, but wrapping it all up into a ending with the proper twist keeps me writing and rewriting and finally putting the story away for a breather.

JAN MCGHEE TERWIN44@LDD.NET Tue Jun 2 17:44:30 PDT 1998

Hello everyone. I've been reading your questions and answers to each other and found many of them helpful. I have also read most of the story bits some of you have sent in. The one thing I found most lacking was dialogue. We all have a tendency to want to tell instead of show through dialogue. As a reader, I quickly become bored and tend to scan the words when there is no dialoge to break the pace and bring the characters face to face with the conflict. That is what keeps me reading on. To find out how they handle their conflict and what happens in the end.

I agree short stories are much harder to write. Mainly, because of the necessity to keep only one POV. Having read novels for years keeping to one POV was and still is at times extremely difficult for me. However, the more I made myself write short stories the more accomplished I have become with POV. I now find myself enjoying the challenge.

I find dialogue easy to write, developing a problem or conflict isn't a problem either, but wrapping it all up into a ending with the proper twist keeps me writing and rewriting and finally putting the story away for a breather.

S.N.Arly Mon Jun 1 13:53:03 PDT 1998

Colleen: I don't actually have this probelm, and I can see where it would be tough to work around. The one thing I usually know about my stories right off is the conflict. I may know nothing else, but I guess it's a start.

You could try using some cultural description or character internalization to make it clear to the reader just how the character(s) view(s) the conflict. A minor dilemma in one culture may be a significant issue in another. Likewise with individuals.

Just an idea, and I hope it helps. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

Sesi Mon Jun 1 12:21:35 PDT 1998

Well I told you all that I rewrite my stories like crazy. I;ve done it again! I decided to start right from the beginnin and take it slow. I'm in no hurry to publish a book. I don't see why anyone should be. I would really appreciate all the comments I can get on what I have so far. Thanks.


Harry Sun May 31 15:49:10 PDT 1998

I haven't read your work, but based on your description, let me say that it sounds like the problem lies not with the conflict itself but within the characters' stakes in the conflict. What is at stake? is the important question here.

Maybe you just need to emphasize the tragic results/ soaring victory that will result when the conflict is played out, and make sure the characters behave as though it means everything to them.

Colleen Sun May 31 07:56:58 PDT 1998

Hello Everyone,
Trudy-I am so greatful to see you back on the site and I am
thankful all is well. My heart goes out to you and your family. Please stay in touch so we know how you are doing. There is a really good site for children's writers at,, by Harold Underdown, an editor for Charlesbridge Publishing. It is my favorite and I couldn't recall if I gave it to you. You might enjoy just cruising through it. Others reading this may enjoy it also. It has lots of pertinant information.

Michele-Good to see you too. I will try to e-mail later on today.

I have a question, well a weakness, that I am struggling with and thankfully I can ask here....I have a very difficult time developing the conflict or problem in my work. I have great ideas, but not enough struggle in the text to maintain reader interest. One editor said she liked my book, but it was "slight". Any suggestions? I spent part of last night reading my books on writing. Nothing seems to help. In writing for young people, you have to get to the action quickly and it has to be significant. Any advice is welcome. If it works I may become quite prolific. I just need to get over this stumbling block. I'll check back later, take care everyone.

Harry Sun May 31 07:56:53 PDT 1998

Try short story collections of Dashell Hammett and Theodore Sturgeon. You'll fing them in the (gasp!) genre sections of the bookstore, but they are both amazing, skillful and talented writers.

Good luck.

zorkie Sun May 31 00:22:14 PDT 1998

help! poisoned by raymond carver. unable to write without sounding like a cheap imitation of him. tried chekhov and hemingway, but they just made it much worse. any suggestions?

zorkie Sun May 31 00:18:07 PDT 1998

help! poisoned by raymond carver. unable to write without sounding like a cheap imitation of him. tried chekhov and hemingway, but they just made it much worse. any suggestions?

Allen Sat May 30 10:10:28 PDT 1998

It feels like i searched the entire web for you guys,A treasure,i thought i was alone in wanting to be a writer,your my kind of people and i enjoy your words.

Michele Sat May 30 06:00:59 PDT 1998

After all that I forgot about the topic for discussion.

My favourite bookstore has to be Blackwells in Oxford. I usually spend AT LEAST an hour in there when I go to Oxford. I usually start up on the top floor in the second hand department - I've found many an out-of-print book in there (including volumes by Sassoon - always a joy !). Then I wander down to the History section (next floor down). Then I wander down another (!) floor to the Literature section and finally if I've time and I haven't lost interest I wander down into the basement and look at the computer books (usually the Internet ones these days since I've given up the programming job) and then down another half floor to the psychology/philosophy books. After all that I go and get something to eat 'cos I'm shattered !!

My local library (despite being underfunded) does a really good job most of the time and getting me all the obscure and long out-of-print books I want for a small fee - and although I've more literature on my shelves than they have on theirs I somehow seem to survive - at present they're fed up with me badgering them for books by WHR Rivers (background to Sassoon) - poor things. It's my hope to one day be rich enough to give them a nice fat cheque to by some books with (other than the bestsellers which is where all the money goes - yes I know that's why most people use the library BUT some of us want to read other things !!)

Anyway at this rate Hayden'll be rich enough for TWO virtual porsches so I'll go away and hope to catch up with you all next Saturday - unless anyone feels like emailing me in the meantime !! (Hint !)

Michele Sat May 30 05:52:36 PDT 1998

Hey gang !

Bet you forgot I existed huh ? Sorry I haven't been here a while - as some of you know I have to rely on the local library for Internet access as my old slow PC at home can't cope and guess what ? The library PC has been outta action a clear fortnight (some fool broke it !!). Besides which I've been working (I'm now temping) so couldn't get here in the week even when it was working PLUS which - I started writing the first draft of the old Sassoon book (don't anybody faint OK ?) - however owing to the amount of time the temporary job is taking up (way too much !) I've only got the first chapter and about half the second chapter written so far (and that needs rewriting - the second chapter that is !) Anyway I've begun - once you've started you're half way there (so I'm told !). I still have a fair bit of research to do but that's gone into the background for the time being !

Good to hear Philip has a "proper" job (it makes me laugh that people think writing isn't a proper job !)

I look forward to seeing Hayden's virtual porsche.

Glad that Joan's husband is OK.

Good to hear Toby's finals are out of the way.

Charles - I don't think it matters WHAT your daughter writes so long as she writes something - it's getting it to be a habit that is the hard part - once you have the habit I don't think there's much of a problem (but that's MHO !!)

Jack the new look is "way cool, dude" !!

Write to me you people and keep me in touch huh ??

Trudy Fri May 29 19:05:09 PDT 1998

Hi! For those who remember me from many moons ago, I have returned briefly to say all is well...I have been cancer free for two months and am well on my way to emotional recovery as well as physical. It's nice to see some of the old faces, so to speak, Goodweed, Philip, Charles...etc, as well as some I had met more recently, like you Colleen, who reached out to me when I was ill. I just wanted to say all is well!

As far as writing goes, I'm still working for the daily newspaper in advertorial so doing tons of writing there. And I'm concentrating on doing book reviews which some of you will remember my excitement at the first one...I just had a fourth published and am waiting for two others to come out; plus I have two books to read and review. That's keeping me busy, of course. Haven't done much on the fiction front, but I'm sure it will come with time.

Hello to all newcomers.

Jack, love the new look!

As for libraries, they are one of the reasons I love to read. I remember in elementary school and junior high school searching the stacks for books to read, both at the school library and the public library. Don't really have any interesting stories that I recall at the moment, but that many books under one roof and my access to them always tends to amaze me.

Must run...nice to see everyone getting along so well. Hope I have more time to get to know all of you and to reaquaint with the veterans, as Charles so affectionately (I'm sure) refers to us. Later all. Trudy

Lydia Sweet Fri May 29 11:32:03 PDT 1998

I have just posted another chapter of my manuscript to the workbook. Some of you have already seen and given me your opinion. I would appreciate all the comments I can get.

I also wanted to say I haven't been able to visit here as much as I would like becuase of my work load and I have only been able to scan the conversation.

Once things slow down, I will be back in the middle of things. Even if I don't comment very much I will be there.

Thanks, Lydia Sweet

Gary S Fri May 29 06:43:58 PDT 1998


It amazes me how many writers share common experiences. How often does a writer complete a novel only to find that s/he can't write the synopsis. I went through the same thing and I know others present have also suffered synopsis frustration. The best advice I know is to make a synopsis read like a book cover jacket without the excess of hype. Not very specific, I agree.

If you have the guts for it, you could post your synopsis in the workbook and let the gang have a go at critiquing it. I know that someone here in the notebook did that, and can attest that it was helpful. Maybe I'm a bit late with my offering since I've been away for a while.

Best wishes, eveyone,

Gary S

Gary S Fri May 29 06:43:37 PDT 1998


It amazes me how many writers share common experiences. How often does a writer complete a novel only to find that s/he can't write the synopsis. I went through the same thing and I know others present have also suffered synopsis frustration. The best advice I know is to make a synopsis read like a book cover jacket without the excess of hype. Not very specific, I agree.

If you have the guts for it, you could post your synopsis in the workbook and let the gang have a go at critiquing it. I know that someone here in the notebook did that, and can attest that it was helpful. Maybe I'm a bit late with my offering since I've been away for a while.

Best wishes, eveyone,

Gary S

Jen Thu May 28 07:46:21 PDT 1998

I had a pretty good experience at the crappy library here on Incirlik AB in Turkey. The place usually drives me crazy because they have NOTHING. It's a dead end anyway you approach it. But I happened to be browsing one day and I came across an author I had never heard of before, Cecelia Holland, who is now my favorite author. They have five of her books, all of which I have now read twice and sit on my shelf for inspriration. I recheck them out every month. I'll be back in the states in July and I look forward to checking out the other 19 books she has written!

Clyde Dixon Wed May 27 22:16:22 PDT 1998

Well, that was 13 years ago. And conveniently enough, I forgot to do a self portrait when I recently borrowed a friends digital camera--must be all those years of trying to avoid the never ending family pictures.

Goodweed of the North Wed May 27 19:28:08 PDT 1998

Has anyone ever heard or dealt with this "Readers.Com"? It sounds intrigueing. As with all things however, I have a healthy case of cynicism going on. Keep writing.

Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Rhoda Wed May 27 19:02:00 PDT 1998


After that interesting story, I believe you should include a picture of yourself with your biography.


Clyde Dixon Wed May 27 15:49:03 PDT 1998

My most unusual bookstore expierence, unfortunately, has nothing to do with books. I was managing a shoe store in a small town in Washington. The bookstore next door had a table of sale books set out, so I went over to check it out.

Another guy showed up, flipped through some book, and hit on me with a very explicit proposition. I looked him in the eye and said "Thanks. But NO thanks." I was already turning some interesting shade of red, which I do fairly easily when mad or embarrassed.

He persisted; I believe he actual called me "A real babe" or some such thing. With some anger to add to the embarrassment, I deepened in color, repeated my rebuff, and walked over to talk-up the store manager.

I never saw that guy again; gladly, not that I have anything against gay people--because I most certainly do not--but I already had two girls hanging around the store and it was getting a bit of a chore to keep them out of the way of doing business. Not that I am some love god or something, but the six months I spent in that town sure were strange--Nirvana's home town, wouldn't you know.

David Guest Wed May 27 05:19:29 PDT 1998

Readers and Writers is a site dedicated to publishing completed works from new fiction writers, including poetry, short stories, novels, plays and screenplays. It is a not a vanity press. There are no costs for the writer. The whole idea is to give writers more exposure to readers, and vice versa. We would like to bring thousands of readers to every writer. Please check out the submissions page in our site, and while you are there, enjoy some contemporary fiction, poetry or a short play.

Jack Beslanwitch Wed May 27 00:57:33 PDT 1998

One endorsement does not a majority make. However, I think I will go ahead and add the cookie and a new topic. Until I get the moments to rub together and do the cookie and change the weekly topic above, I will make a proposal for a new topic here in the body of the Notebook.

     What are your favorite or first or most unusual experiences in either a bookstore or a libary. What are your more interesting encounters with the proverbial bookstore cat or other non human keeper of the bound tomes. What are your favorite precious successes at ferreting out that long lost out of print treasure that finally came into your hot hands.

I will have to thread through a host of potentials since in a past incarnation I was the owner of two bookstores in Laurel, Montana and Billings, Montana. They ended up being non profit organizations if not intentionally so. However, I have a couple of precious stories to tell about those and dealing at World Science Fiction conventions in Chicago and Denver that might amuse. More on that tomorrow.

Clyde Dixon Tue May 26 17:28:05 PDT 1998

mmmmm cookies!

Great idea Jack. Probably the most straight forward and efficient solution.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue May 26 15:51:38 PDT 1998

      Hello all: I am back and possibly have a bit more time to finally work on some of the improvements I wanted to make here. A contract that was eating up a great deal of my time got pulled on me abruptly last Thursday just before I was heading out on vacation. This was a bit of a bummer and am pretty much reconciled to it now.

      At any rate, I will attempt to get the password protected Workbook working now. Also, at least one person emailed and wondered if I could set apart the new topic in some way. I was wondering what people thought about cookies. I have not really experimented with creating and using them, but they seem pretty straightforward. I could create a cookie that would write a small file that would be checked and subsequently only display a new topic in a pop up window the first time you hit the page with a new one. However, some are dubious about cookies and just wanted to make sure this was agreeable to everyone else before I explored it. Take care.


Sesi Tue May 26 14:07:20 PDT 1998

I have never written a novel before but I believe that there is a first time for everything. I love to write and have tried manytimes to write a story. However I am never satasfied with my work. I am constantly crossing things out and rewriting it. I guess I just feel I can do better. I have always looked up to the author. I feel that those who write and publish their work have gained something that I can't possibly imagine. It is not fame, money, prestige or anything like that. I feel that it must be something deeper. Something that I will only understand after experiencing it.

Sesi Tue May 26 14:07:17 PDT 1998

I have never written a novel before but I believe that there is a first time for everything. I love to write and have tried manytimes to write a story. However I am never satasfied with my work. I am constantly crossing things out and rewriting it. I guess I just feel I can do better. I have always looked up to the author. I feel that those who write and publish their work have gained something that I can't possibly imagine. It is not fame, money, prestige or anything like that. I feel that it must be something deeper. Something that I will only understand after experiencing it.

S.N.Arly Tue May 26 13:54:59 PDT 1998

Fais: I think that's the wrong message to send (If it hurts don't do it). Nothing in life is easy at first. If you have that attitude, you'll try nothing new and become stagnant. A real artist looks to improve and sometimes that hurts. Yes, and sometimes we run across something that just doesn't work for us. You can't tell which it's going to be until you've tried whatever it is more than once (ie: you've got to give it a real shot).

Granted I never liked word requirements on papers in school. When the paper is done, it's done. And until the story is done, it's not done. But I do find shorts helpful in tightening and improving my writing. Even if they are kinda tough to write.

Mira: You mentioned that you don't particularally care for grammar rules and such. They may be a pain, but they will be very important if you're serious about wanting to get published. If you haven't already, I'd recommend you read the article posted by Bill Whitney in the Writer's Workbook. It's titled "Why Write Right" and it has some very good points about this issue.

Toby Buckell Sat May 23 07:57:43 PDT 1998

Hi all, this is probably my last post for at least the next two weeks, I'm leaving soon for a trip back to the Caribbean and won't be able to communicate till then.

On writers block, I used to be so scared when I froze up, but enough writers have convinced me that it is nothing much, the trick is to keep writing anyway. Ultimatly, that little trick of self discipline has helped me a great deal. Also, some writers block is often just the mind's refusal to work on the same project. I often switch what I'm working on if I feel my mouth go slack and my hands start twitching nervously. It doesn't matter if it isn't all that good, re-write re-write :)

Thanks to those who dropped by my little niche on the web, the comments are appreciated. Eventually I'll link this place and some other things, but not until I get back from sailing. I only just put it up this week, the poetry section being a little something that managed to bring my grade up to a B in Studies in Poetry, and my personal page was built on the momentum of that. I learned a lot in the two days I worked on it. It looks best viewed in 600*800, I haven't gotten it to look as good under other circumstances.

Take it easy all...

Toby Buckell Sat May 23 07:57:41 PDT 1998

Hi all, this is probably my last post for at least the next two weeks, I'm leaving soon for a trip back to the Caribbean and won't be able to communicate till then.

On writers block, I used to be so scared when I froze up, but enough writers have convinced me that it is nothing much, the trick is to keep writing anyway. Ultimatly, that little trick of self discipline has helped me a great deal. Also, some writers block is often just the mind's refusal to work on the same project. I often switch what I'm working on if I feel my mouth go slack and my hands start twitching nervously. It doesn't matter if it isn't all that good, re-write re-write :)

Thanks to those who dropped by my little niche on the web, the comments are appreciated. Eventually I'll link this place and some other things, but not until I get back from sailing. I only just put it up this week, the poetry section being a little something that managed to bring my grade up to a B in Studies in Poetry, and my personal page was built on the momentum of that. I learned a lot in the two days I worked on it. It looks best viewed in 600*800, I haven't gotten it to look as good under other circumstances.

Take it easy all...

Rhoda Fri May 22 18:42:32 PDT 1998


The best way I have found to combat writer's block is to write through it. Writer's block occurs either when I am writing a difficult transition in a novel or when I have not written for awhile. In getting through writer's block, the first ten pages I write might be bad, but after some point of doing nothing but writing, I get back on track. It is easier to write when you write consistently for an extended period of time such as an hour or two or more each day.

Don't be so concerned about the quality of your work or your grammer as you write your first draft. Sometimes there is a tendency to try to improve a chapter or a passage over and over again before going on with the story. On difficult passages that you just can't seem to get right, it is better to gloss over them and go on with the story. After the story is completed it is much easier to go and clean up the bad passage.

If you are serious about publishing your work, you must know that you will have to go through more than one draft of your novel or story as you polish and improve. There are always opportunities to fix things later. You just need to concentrate on getting all of the story down on paper.

As far as friends and family, don't depend too much on them now. You are writing for your own satisfaction and your own approval, not theirs, so it really isn't too important how seriously they take you. It took my husband several years to see that writing for me was more than just a hobby. If I had depended on his encouragement or anyone else's when I started out, I wouldn't be writing today. The best people who can encourage you right now are other writers. Find other people in your community who write. Join a writer's club or a critique group. Go to writer's conferences if at all possible. People you meet at these places know what you are going through. They are more likely to help and encourage you because they know how you feel and can relate to your desire to be a published author.

Hope all this helps. Good luck with your writing and hang in there.


MiraCapela Fri May 22 14:20:27 PDT 1998

I have just started writing. I have always wanted to write and publish a book. It is my dream so to speak. So I recently decided to go for it. I have a fairly solid idea and am pursing it. However I have found this to be a more difficult task than I had thought. I now understand all the work and effort that goes into writing a novel. I have been working for about two weeks and have finished only the first chapter. I recieve cases of writers block very often and their seems to be nothing I can do to get past it exept to go around doing what I normally do and wait for an idea. I wish their was a more efficient way of going about it but I can't find one. I don't care much for grammar and spelling it's just tedious work that I would rather not do. yet I know I should. I have been recieving many words of encouragement from my friends yet I don't think they believe I will ever finish this book. I have tried before and always failed but this time I am going to go throught with it. I will publish this story. That will make them think twice about doubting me. However I mostly just love writing. My friends and family and some of my past teachers ahve said I have a flair for writing. I like to believe that's true. Yet I must prove it to myself.

Carole E. Fri May 22 02:33:41 PDT 1998

I can't believe I have happened across a site filled with people that are equally as crazy as I am, but I think it is great. I am a fiction writer who is currently working on eight features for a newspaper. The truth of the matter is that I am ready to pull my hair out, but I'm not certain if I should begin at the temples or just grab the scissors and give it .... News writing is a job, but allows no room for creativity, and I feel stifled. Any suggestions for a forlorn cohort? Thanks, "Media Miffed"

Jen Holling Thu May 21 20:57:54 PDT 1998

Perhaps this is unnecessary, but I want to clarify my statements on short stories in case I have offended anyone. I only meant my own foray into short story writing was a failure, I certainly don't hold contempt for those who write them, in fact, I admire the writers of the few really good ones I have read. But in my reading experience, the ones that I feel have potential end too soon and leave me feeling unsatisfied and full of questions. And there's the ones that seem to have the same problems I experienced. I remember reading one I thought was so wonderful then I get to the end and it's like the author ran out of space and had to squeeze the ending in. It was really a let down to a great story. So it's a difficult art to master.

Jen Holling Thu May 21 20:19:58 PDT 1998

Fais, well, since it's an editor at a publishing house that asked for a synopsis and sample chapters of my book, I think I can bleed a little. (-: And if you were referring to short stories rather than the synopsis, I haven't written one since I finished the class--years ago.

Fais Betran Thu May 21 20:06:14 PDT 1998

Goodweed of the north:
Sounds like hardware (or even possibly wetware in an extreme case). Somehow you are selecting the text when you open the web, and it could be because you have dirty mouse balls (seriously) or the mouse buttons are getting stuck, so that when you are panning over the site you are selecting things. Try cleaning your mouse, or a different mouse, then check its connection; and if none of that works, throw the damn thing out the window...No, don't go to that extreeme.
Try changing the color of your display properties. If the box around the text changes colour, then you will have proof of it.

With apologies to Jen:
Someone hit me over the head with a baseball bat once, but it was a good learning experience. If it hurts, don't do it.

Jen Holling Thu May 21 19:48:56 PDT 1998

Does anyone have any experience in writing a synopsis that can give me some tips or advice. I'm trying to write one now and it is agony! I can't believe how much trouble I'm having with it! And so far it's drivel, but I figure at least I'm getting something on paper I might be able to work with later.
As for the topic, I have read few short stories that have moved me and when I try to think of good ones, few come to mind. I took a writing class a few years ago and wrote about a dozen short stories in the course of it. Every one I wrote was bad and I was well aware of it. The worst part about it was the word limits! They made it torture. I could never squash my stories down into those tiny word counts. But it was a good learning experience.

Goodweed if the North Thu May 21 19:38:23 PDT 1998

This has nothing to do with writing, but rather with web-browsers. Sometimes, when I enter cyberspace, the lettering isn't clear. Some letter will show up fine in both lower and upper case, while others show up as an empty box. When the computer behaves this way, it does so on every site I visit. Then, sometimes again, not always, if I reset the machine and re-enter the web, every letter and character shows up clearly, with no boxes. Does any one no a fix for this?


Seeeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

S.N.Arly Thu May 21 14:04:22 PDT 1998

Edit and rewrite does not mean edit andrewrite. It means delete and start over, huh?

Colleen - I am not especially fond of cats. Now dogs on the other hand, some of my best friends are dogs. The wolf is my totem and I am most fond of their domesticated counterpart.

Now on to the discussion topic: Short Stories

I think shorts are an almost more pure form os writing - more refined. By necessity it must be more precise and clear. It strips a story down to its most basic elements with very little elaboration or decoration. I think it is much more challenging nad I admire writers who pull it off WELL. As will all writing that is the key, but with shorts it;s so much more obvious.

I find advantages, disadvantages and neutral aspects in relation to writing shorts, all dependant on your POV (point of view).

1. There is less time comittment on the part of the reader. This is nice for those who may not have a lot of time or those who are too easily distracted to pursue a longer work.

2. A short is a great place to trey out new ideas/concepts. They can be somewhat of an experimental ground. If the experiment fails you won't feel you've wasted a great deal of time.

3. They are generally easier to sell - for those who haven't broken into the world of publiation especially. More places will take a risk on a new writer with a short because they don't make as much of an initial investment anyway.

1. They can be more of a challenge to the wirter - although this can be a very good exercise if nothing else.

2. Some can be expanded into larger works (Anne Mc Caffrey's dragonriders), serialized or put together in one volume (Asimov's robots).

3. Likewise you can summarize a larger work into a short to get publisher or reader attention or interest in a new idea.

4. Shorts can be a difficult change for those of us long-winded sorts who like character development and description.

1. There is considerably less room for error - you can't afford to have any unnecessary words or plot tangents, poor word choices, or unclear passages.

2. Due to the lack of character and world development, there is less reader attachement/involvement. This can make it difficult to get an emotional response (one of my recent experiments).

I think just anout anyone can write a lousy short story, and some even get published due to their artistic (?) nature ore merits. To write a good short, just like writing anything well, it takes practice and refinement. You can have a ton of talent but it's worthless without the skills to back it up. So as we used to say in journalism school: edit, edit, edit.

Toby B Wed May 20 18:07:51 PDT 1998

Toby B Wed May 20 18:06:45 PDT 1998

I'd like to log in here as a cat lover. I have two cats that grew up on my boat in the Caribbean, Mango and Peach. I also like dogs, but I like the bigger ones that sit around a great deal then go nuts only outside. We have a yip-yip dog that lives in the house called Perkins that I really don't consider of wolf origin as a dog should be. It goes beserker whenever I get home...

P.S check out my expedition into the internet above. It was done last night as my final project for Studies in Poetry!

Jack Beslanwitch Wed May 20 17:05:44 PDT 1998

Coleen: One place you might check is the Australian Online Bookstore (that's how I got Britomarts book - if you have not read it I strongly recommend it) or I just checked on both of the titles on Amazon and they list them out of print. However, he will be having a couple of books coming out shortly. Actually, I'll let Philip discuss this since he really is the expert on his own books ;-).

Well, I am taking a quick moment to read through here and would just like to welcome the new voices. I am scrambling to finish a commercial project requiring 17 web pages by morninig and then slip off to Missoula, Montana for Miscon. So, take care everyone. As I am able, I'll try to look in here. For those in the states, have a wonderful long weekend. I certainly plan to.


Colleen Wed May 20 16:32:58 PDT 1998

Hi everyone,

Thank you Jack for the beautiful site. It is such a treat to visit at the end of the day.

Gary-What makes the Border's addiction even worse is that it takes me l hour to get there, and I go..... thank you for sharing. Books have always been a source of comfort to me and relaxation. I am so greatful for this.
--Is everyone here a cat lover? Are there any large dog fanatics like me?
Charles-as a teacher I was thrilled to see that your child was interested in writing. I remember my parents letting me read whatever I wanted, including "Animal Farm" and "The Prophet", I devoured them and then discussed them with my parents. What powerful role models we are to our children. How marvelous that your child has been inspired by your love for writing. I know that it requires a gentle hand to guide young writers. Modeling is probably the best thing that you can do, and have done. My model was my Grandfather, a rough and ready newspaper reporter and editor, way back when. I am still amazed that he was able to write anything on the old, mechanical monster of a typewriter. It sits quiet now, but I can imagine him sitting there, pasionately tapping away at the keys.....

Phillip-are your books available in the USA? I would so much like to see one. Congratulations to you!

Welcome Sara. This is a cool place to visit.

Take care all, I have just come up with another children's book idea-maybe incorporating and old, clunky typewriter.....
-Bye for now, Colleen

Harry Connolly Wed May 20 15:22:19 PDT 1998

Rhoda, there are plenty of short fiction markets for romance, though not so many as for sf/f. They were compiled in Issue #93 of The Gila Queen's Guide to Markets, a strange title for an incredibly useful magazine. It has exhaustive lists, and #93 had book publishers and magazines, with the most current info. The web page is easily found with a search engine, and you can order a single issue if you want. I recommend it.

Macwrite, if what you want is to read sf/f, I'd suggest you seek out the award winners. The genres have two awards, the Nebula and the Hugo. If you find a novel that won both for that year, you know you're on the right track.

S.N.Arly Wed May 20 14:12:58 PDT 1998

Hello all. I have just discovered this place and gosh am I excited!

To summarize on who I am, I have always been a writer (this is my internal definition/identification of myself. I primarilly write SF&F with some straight fiction and a little horror. I'm more of the novel type (I just looooove description), but have recently learned that I really can write a short story and have it turn out pretty darn good.

Now to address certain comments I've seen:

Rhoda: Don't give up on short stories. I've never really envisioned MCALLS or REDBOOK as the pinacle of literature. There are some really well written shorts out there, unfortunately you will occasionally (more often depending on the sources) run into some crap. Oh, is it Ok to say that, or is this a family show?

I think shorts very often are genre specific, but I have noticed an increasing trend in that sort of thing across the board - novellas and novels.

There are quite a few periodicals that will take SF&F. Some are magazines and such designed specifically to the Sci fi and fantasy crouds. They'll take the more serious stuff. Many mainstream(?) magazines and such will take the lighter stuff. THis may sound terrible, but Playboy is like the top payor for shrt stories right now. They'll take the lighter stuff, and no there doesn't need to be any sex. Some of the periodicals that are more hardcore, as it were, can be a little tough to find at the reagular places and youmight need to actually go to a big ole Barnes and Noble or Borders or something.

Charles Samuel:
I was once a 13-year-old writer. IF she really really wants to do it, nothing you do or say can stop her. Encouragement is good, however keep in mind that at 13 we change our minds a lot. My brother used to say he was going to be a garbage man. Having her write in a notebook is a good start. Encouraging a regular routine is alos a good start. Whatever you do, try to keep it fun and avoid putting her under too much pressure. And don't be surprised if she doesn't really want you to read what she's done yet.

A fun project you might do: Over the summer while she's not in school (unless she goes year round, inwhich case you'll have to just fit it in) each of you write a story to share. Have a deadline and remind each other when it's coming up. Another idea is to take her some place (any place exiting or new) and each of you wirte a description of something you see. I always liked doing character and location set-ups and it's a very useful skill later on.

Macwrite: One of the most useful things I have found in my wiritng career is the creation of a writer's group. It does a lot of things. I get useful constructive criticism from people who know more about writing than the average reader. It's a great way to exchange ideas and information about the market and such. It also forces me to keep creating. I can get stuck in a rut of editing editing editing and sometimes forget about the other half.

Well, as you can see I'm a bit long winded. This is why I tend to write novels rather than shorts. Ad many of my shorts become novellas.

Catch you all again real soon.


Sara Townsend Wed May 20 13:46:54 PDT 1998

About bookshops:

One of the things I like best about London is Charing Cross Road - an entire street full of bookshops! My favourites are Murder One (specialising in crime, sf, fantasy & horror - all my favourite genres!) and the Forbidden Planet, sf & fantasy with US imports and film & TV merchandising as well. However, I spend money every time I go in either, so sometimes discipline is called upon!

Thanks for the welcome, everyone. Now I'm getting warmed up you're going to be hearing a lot more from me.

Charles - about your daughter being interested in writing. Encouragement is very important (it's depressing the number of talented writers I know who have never taken their writing seriously because they were constantly told, as youngsters, 'stop daydreaming and go out and get a real job'). I think a journal is an excellent idea. I have been keeping a diary more or less continually since I was ten years old, and it is and always has been a great source of inspiration. You write about what you feel like - things that happened during the day, things that have inspired you, upset you, depressed you. Even if you write uncomplimentary things about someone who's hurt you in some way it doesn't matter - nobody else but you is going to read it. It's the experience of putting your feelings into words that helps, but every once in a while you find something in your journal that inspires you come up with a story. It helps me, anyway. I can't say whether or not it will help your daughter, but she might want to give it a try.


macwrite Wed May 20 12:10:43 PDT 1998

Hello! I am getting into the genre of scifi and fantasy. I am wondering if anyone out there might have any tips for me. I'm not sure what kind of tips I'm looking for at this point... I think any suggestions will be good.

Thanks... have a good one.

Birgitta Kuuntytär Wed May 20 03:37:58 PDT 1998

HELLO EVERYONE! I have almost six years write stories. I still haven't publish any book, but I am going to do so. I love writing mostly fantasy and scifi. I hope you will write to me and share my thoughts about writing and publishing. Yours, Birgitta Kuuntytär.

Philip Tue May 19 16:22:33 PDT 1998


Nice fresh look to the site Jack!

Thanks to all well wishers re- my new post, it's getting better and better.

Hayden: unless your bookstore is into stocking backlists you may find it difficult in trying to buy my books - but they are still on the shelves in Sydney and are in most suburban libraries throughout Australia ... they are certainly in the National. Some libraries also have them in tapes "Talking Books" by Braille Books. Anyway, I plan to do a launch of "The Lightning Mine" in Canberra in March - so we may yet meet.


Gary S Tue May 19 16:07:12 PDT 1998


From what I gather, you are *quite* normal in your "Borders"
experience. The store here has become a virtual "Hang-out."

I see and speak to the same people on different visits. The
store has a monthly newsletter announcing jazz performances, art displays, free writing discussions led by published writers, and a whole slew of events. Most everyone I speak to says the same thing about spending money there. My last purchase was a new 'ten gallon' Webster's dictionary for under sixty dollars. I think I spend more time reading there than I do here.


What a relief to see that your still around. It's good that you're busy--less time to burn up all that fossil fuel in the Portia. I'm glad the pix got there so fast. Nancy and Kitty say, Hi, and Meow. When do we hear more about the competition and Supplejack? Or was that Applejack? I hate getting old.

There is actually quite a sizable market for short stories from what I see in '98 Writers Market, although I believe to earn anything substantial one would have to produce exceptional work, be prolific, and a buzz-bomb marketer. Easier to just get a real job, I think.

I'm off to the wilderness next week to do a shoot and interview with a couple who keep eighteen wolf-dogs, or hybrid wolves. I love America.

So long for a while,

Gary S

Rhoda Tue May 19 13:20:49 PDT 1998


What a wonderful new layout! I really like it. I can't wait for you to get the rest of it going.

Shortstories--I haven't read any since college and those were the Nathaniel Hawthorne TWICE TOLD TALES varieties. Then there was Herman Melville's BARTLEBY THE SCRIBNER which was interesting. I liked short stories in those days, but all those I read were considered classics and were found in Literature anthologies. I remember one I read when I was in junior high called THE LOTTERY. That was a great one with a strange and frightening twist at the end. I've read a bunch of O'Henry shortstories with GIFT OF THE MAJI being my favorite. I've also read Guy DeMaupasant (did I spell that right?).

One interesting observation is that most of these folks I've mentioned are known for novel writing also--Melville, Hawthone, DeMaupasant. Seems that writing one form of fiction doesn't take away from writing another. The only modern short stories I've read are occassional ones I see in a woman's magazine like MCCALL'S or REDBOOK. I honestly have to say that these poor examples I've run across are the reason I don't read short stories anymore.

As a sideline, there seems to have been renewed interest in the Novella, at least in Romance fiction. There are anthologies every Christmas, Valentines, etc. with seasonal short novels written by famous Romance authors. I see that as a nice trend, though I don't know how significant it will be in the long run.

I envy people who can do short stories. I have tried and haven't done well with them. They require much more discipline than a novel for the reasons that Sara Townsend described (By the way, welcome to the Notebook, SARA!). It takes a lot of skill to write a good short story and I applaud and greatly respect all those who can write them and market them.

Reading the previous posts, I have been wondering if these days short stories are more genre specific. Most people on the Notebook read sci-fi which I don't. Are there more periodicals that publish sci-fi short stories than romance? Are sci-fi short stories easy to find if you subscribe to the right periodical?


Congratulations on your almost real job. Hope you enjoy the more regular hours and the financial rewards. I also hope the experience adds even more to your novel writing.

Happy writing, everyone!


Clyde Dixon Tue May 19 10:11:19 PDT 1998

Eddie - Welcome! I too suggest Theodore Sturgeon as a writer of great short stories--"Killdozer!" is a classic. P. K. Dick is another great short story writer, though he was erratic, writing some trash along with the gems. I like Asimov also, but then, his was the first SF I read.

I would even add Poe to the list; true the language is sometimes a bit much and modern people don't have the attention span his audience did, but there is much to learn from his work--"The Goldbug," "Loss of Breath," "Murders in the Rue Morgue." Such works inspired many later day writers, I think it pays to revisit the source.

A good way to sample from a variety of good authors is to read the books of collected fiction published each year like "The Years Best Science Fiction." If you have access to a used bookstore, you can probably find editions from recent years.

JACK, nice clean look!

Hayden Mon May 18 21:53:46 PDT 1998

Hi gang.
Note the new email above. We are back on line.

I finally found out how busy you can get without exploding into little bits of frenzied flesh. We are extremely busy at work, and I am in the middle of a new project which is taking every spare waking hour that is not allocated to wife, cats and sleep. I barely have enough time to drop by and see how all of you are. It's nice to see it all flowing.

Jack...I see you have been decorating, and have done a good job of it. The porcelain dogs in the doorway are quite apt, and the ivy on the front fence is a nice touch. When did you paint the letter box such a vivid red? What? Can't you see them...must be the browser I am using *S*

Gary...we recieved the photos...thanks...we will retaliate in kind and have planned an expedition this weekend to shoot the hills and trees around here. My regards to Nancy and Miss Kitty.

Phillip...seems like you are really going ahead with things, though I can't seem to find any of your works in local bookstores. I will hit the National Library to find what they have in their lists.

Goodweed, how goes the book?

For those interested, I have begun the creation of a virtual Porsche, which, when ready, should allow you all to travel the same hiways that I do. More on that when the current project is out of the way.


Philip Mon May 18 18:59:07 PDT 1998


Yes .... I almost have a real job.

This job (contract) jumped off the Net at me. I get to write, direct, produce, set design, illustrate and consult on all things creative. I have no staff of my own to herd or nurture and I get paid five times more than I get from my best selling books.

I am a year and a half ahead of my publisher in manuscripts so it was very opportune. My next book is due for release in March '99, my next a year later in 2000... and the book I'm writing presently (yes, I am still writing every day) will follow that a year later still 2001.


Jack Beslanwitch Mon May 18 17:07:40 PDT 1998

Charles: Thanks for pointing out my mismatched graphics. The resolution issue has been corrected and things look just fine on 640x480. However, I am intrigued by your comments about Philip. This is new to me. At any rate, without knowing any details. Good luck Philip :-) Being swamped by regular job issues is relatively new to me as well, but interesting. Take care everyone. I should be able to get a stab at establishing the new and improved Writer's Workbook sometime in early June. All the pieces are in place, just not the time to tinker and try to break them and generally make them work. It will happen. Glad everyone likes the new and improved and slimmer look.


Charles Samuel Mon May 18 14:56:25 PDT 1998

Hello Everybody,

Just catching my breath in between jet lag and my next trip. I've been trying to skim the notebook every now and then and just when I feel like throwing in my two cents, I realize you've changed topics and archived! It's wonderful however to see the dynamic developing between veterans and newbies.

Jack: The new look is refreshing. Fits in with the glorious spring weather we're enjoying here in Jerusalem. Too bad the political winds aren't as soothing. However, my notebook only handles 640X480 and the banner up top looks like it was designed for 600x800. This might confuse some newcomers to the cryptic world of computing and cyberspace.

Philip: Hey! A REAL JOB! (Just kidding.) You are everyone's role model here as a full-time published author and then you burst the bubble and take a 9 - 5'er. Seriously, it sounds like a wonderful, creative challenge for you. Good luck.

I don't have much to say on short stories, however my thirteen year old daughter told me yesterday that she'd like to be a writer! (Her great-grandmother, grandfather, father and aunt are all published authors - albeit part-timers. I guess if I was full-time she might not be as interested. I know the last thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a florist like my Dad. Yes, I admit it, I was a flower child... heh, heh) Anyway, does anyone have any ideas on how to encourage her without overwhelming her? I've suggested she keep a notebook and write a few sentences about anything at all for at least five minutes each day. She's started this already and is enjoying it. I'm pretty clear what to tell her if she were an adult, but what about a young teen? I was going to suggest short stories... which is our topic, but I'm not sure. What about poetry? A journal?

Goodweed, Gary, Rhoda, Toby, Hayen et al. I've been getting to know you over the past year or so and I realize you don't know me at all and I feel a loss.

Kitty, Bob, Ben, Brit and the rest of the vets. I miss shmoozing with you guys.

All of the newcomers... welcome, enjoy and take pleasure in your writing.

Best to all,

Colleen Mon May 18 13:25:41 PDT 1998

Gary S.
I too have the same experience when I visit Borders. It is my Nirvana. (I always blow a fortune on books there, mainly children's books.) I was so glad to know that other people do the same. That chain is so good at understanding the elements that go into selling books-people, comfy chairs and cappuchino....
As for short stories, I am suprised that there is a market for them, but love to read them. Sometimes they are just the perfect thing. Not too long and they get to the point.

Thank you for sharing the "Borders" experience, it made me feel a little more "normal".

Ron B. Mon May 18 11:27:22 PDT 1998

My cat decided to publish my prior message. I wonder if she was telling me something.

In my monthly article for "Signpost", I have one page(roughly 750 to 800 words) to divide among three or four topics.

One of the topics is devoted to one of my hiking experiences in which I must do a short story (Not to be confused with an Edgar Allen Poe short story).

Hooks are three words long.

Mon May 18 11:09:20 PDT 1998

Gary S Sun May 17 22:49:49 PDT 1998

Let's have a big welcome for the newcomers, Ed and Sara.

Short stories. Funny, you should ask. I just went to the recently opened "Borders" book store. Now, there's a chain that understands marketing. They seem to have a signing event every weekend. They have an art display in the lounge area that changes monthly, and a coffee bar with lots of over-priced and fattening snacks for yuppie and piggie alike. And every time I go in there I dump thirty to fifty on new books.

Saturday I bought a book of short stories at Borders from a local writer who does self-publishing. This guy is a former salesman, and even sells his work door to door. I read the first three of his shorts and they are really enviable (grumble grumble) work.

I spoke to him briefly about ss writing and his first recommendation is that every word should count. This is consistent with views already expressed here, and is no big news to anyone, I'm sure. It's just that the way this advice popped out of his mouth at the instant the subject was raised seems to confirm that the instruction is paramount. His work also shows that there is much more to the venue than conciseness. It shows that fluency, rhythm, balanced composition and substantial construction are also necessary in a really good work. One can see the writer's talent for salesmanship in the very work itself. He sells you the story every inch of the way. However sceptically and reluctantly you enter into it, you are soon sold and remain so till the end.

As our good freind, Hayden pointed out, "Talent has nothing to do with it. You just have to bribe the reader with good stories, great images and honest writing." Just find a way to do these things *without* talent and you win the prize of the day.

Later, all,

Gary S

Kirstin Ramey Sun May 17 19:33:33 PDT 1998

I love what you did to the page Jack. I haven't stopped by for a while but I haven't been able to use the computer much either. The web site above is for my page on my novel Twin Gates. The first chapter and pictures of the main characters are up.

Short Stories - I have writen a few of those. I prefer writing novels though. I tend to start writing a short story and end up with a novel or at least an idea for a novel. The only short stories I have been able to write are the ones about my mother's dogs. They were told to me as bed time stories when I was younger and have always made great short stories. I am working on making a book out of all of them. I have found that if I restrict myself to a certain amount of time or length for the rough draft that I can keep it a short story and it normaly turns out really well.

Joan Sun May 17 17:24:18 PDT 1998

Hi all--

Things have been seriously frantic (somewhat due to a medical emergency of my husband's---resolved successfully, thank God!) but I've got just a minute to answer Eddie's question about short story writers. One of the best I've read (and listened to, at our local sci-fi convention) is Jerry Oltion. He's published extensively in Analog, and I believe some other sci-fi short story markets. Writes sci fi. Has a couple of books out too. Another author who writes wonderful--but very very different and sometimes odd--short stories is Charles de Lint. His are more urban fantasy, but still they're very good.

Hope that helps.

JACK---LOVE THE NEW LOOK! Thanks, as always.


Harry Sun May 17 16:58:43 PDT 1998

Eddie, I'd suggest Theodore Sturgeon.

Eddie Torres Sun May 17 16:49:54 PDT 1998


Well, I just stumbled upon this site today, and I've already found some very useful things here--not the least of which is this board.

Anyways, since the topic of discussion is short stories, I have a question.

Well, I've read science fiction for a long time and I really want to become proficient at writing it in many forms: novels, short stories, screenplays, etc. Now, for screenplays I purchased a book by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. He gives a very good piece of advice in his book that I think can be applied to short stories also. He says to immerse yourself in what you want to write.

My question is: If I want to write short sf stories, which writers should I immerse myself in?

So far I have a very short list of writers with great short stories: Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury. Who else should I add to that list?



Toby Buckell Sun May 17 13:38:15 PDT 1998

By the way, the idiot who forgot to post his name and E-mail adress down there was me, Toby. But you probably knew who it was due to the tendency to ramble...:)

Sun May 17 13:36:30 PDT 1998

Good Lord! At first I thought I had loaded up the wrong page, but then I looked at it again and realized that I was really in the right place, it was just that it was changed a bit!

JACK-its awesome, I love it. You rock!

For the topic. I realize now that for my entire life I have read mostly novels. As much as I loved getting my grubby little hands on short stories, magazines of shorts were unavaliable to me as a kid, only the occasional collection or two ever came across. When I started writing SF I started with short stories, mostly because you can finish one in a reasonable amount of time, diversify your topics and ranges, and there were lots of magazines kicking around to send them too. The problem was and still is that the art of the short is a very different one than the art of the novel. Short language is very precise, and I spent five years learning how to use language sparingly in order to bring about the snapshot/plot that I wanted. Novels still seem to be something I lean towards, but I doubt that I would ever get paid much attention if I don't at first shoot towards the short market and attain credentials first. I am not complaining, learning and writing mainly shorts for the past five years has forged my writing much faster than writing novels could have, so I am grateful to the lessons I am constantly learning as I write the short.

On an entirely different subject, I am returning to the caribbean this summer for at least a couple days! My uncle is taking me as crew aboard a boat which will sail from the VI to Rhode Island. It's been three years since I've been on the ocean, I'm ready. We leave May 26, just a few days after I finish finals.


Davidson Corry Sat Nov 15 22:03:01 PST 1997

Nice new look for the page, Jack. I particularly like (forgive me) that the topic-of-the-week doesn't come up automatically in its own window -- it was tedious to dismiss manually -- yet is still just a click away if I need a reminder.

[On the other hand, I'll be interested to see if folks tend to drift off-topic more without the reminder... not that we had much difficulty doing that before!]

Byron, I'd take another look. How do you know some of those story lines aren't fit to write down, until you try putting them on paper? It's hard to imagine anything novelette length or longer (much less 600 pages!) that doesn't comprise a series of shorter scenes, and each of those scenes qualifies in some sense as a short story. You can rely on background elsewhere in the book, rather than having to put it explicitly in the scene, yes. But otherwise a scene has to have a beginning, a middle and an ending, and a reason to appear in the overall tale. I doubt you can have a novel that's worth reading, any short portion of which is not, ne?

But then, I'm writing exclusively short stories. I find it hard to imagine a story line I want to devote a whole novel to, at the moment. [It's hard to find time enough to write as it is -- I don't want to put everything down on one bet!] The longest story I've written so far is 17,000 words, and that was an early one. Lately I've been focussing on lengths between 1,000 and 5,000. And, no, it's not like I just pull that much off the bathroom roll -- I just take an idea and file off anything it really doesn't need, until it gets down to that size. I have a weakness for prolixity anyway, so it's good exercise.

I should qualify that: I do have a "novel" I'm working on that's currently in the 35,000-word range and will probably hit 75K by the time I'm done with it. But in fact it is a series of stories which happen to [various mixes of] the same characters, at different times in their lives, with references back to things that happened in earlier chapters, but each of which stands on its own as a complete short story. In fact, they are written as such, and I consider a chapter a failure if it *cannot* be enjoyed when read by itself, without reference to the other chapters.

I will admit to envy of a writer who imagines only vast adventures. I'm afraid my imagination is just half-vast.

Sun May 17 08:35:27 PDT 1998

Sara Townsend Sun May 17 04:14:30 PDT 1998

Hi, I'm from South London, England and I've been lurking here for a while, trying to think of something useful to say. So here I go with my first posting to the Writers' Notebook!
About the subject of writing shorter fiction:
When I made up my mind to make a serious attempt to get published (I can't say when I first started writing, as I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing), I was a novel writer. However, it seemed to be easier to get short stories published as an unknown writer than novels, so I turned my attention to writing shorter work. I read a lot of Isaac Asimov's short story collections at this time, and I felt I learned a lot from him about how to write short stories. He taught me that you must cut out the 'waffle' when you write short fiction - it is not necessary to go into great detail about a character's history or physical description; we don't have to know a great deal about this person to write a story about them. We only have to know enough about this character to understand them in the context of the story. A short story is like a snapshot - a brief image; a moment in a life. You are writing about that moment; you don't have to dwell on what happened before, or what happened after.
I tried writing short stories, keeping Asimoc in mind, and I have had several published. I am now thinking of focusing once more on novels, but I can now do so as a published author - OK, so I can't exactly give up the day job and work on the writing full-time, but I can say I have had things published, and that helps my self-esteem as a writer, even if it doesn't pay the bills. Of course, some writers are novelists, and their style does not lend itself to shorter works. However, if you can give it a go, I think it's worthwhile, because short stories are easier to sell than novels, and can act as a springboard to selling longer works later on.
I shall not ramble on any further, and will be coming back to this page on a regular basis to find out what other people think about this.

Jack Beslanwitch Sun May 17 00:55:41 PDT 1998

Hopefully the new look for the top of the Notebook is to everyones liking. Also, I have archived the postings and hope to have them up later tomorrow. As a suggested update to our topic for discussion, let me make the following proposal:

Let's discuss all the ins and outs of shorter fiction. This can range from the time honored short short and tomato surprise. What are the differences in how we approach sentence structure, hooks for the readers attention and character development. It may not be easy to do any of these things in a 600 page tome, but their is a lot more room for stumbles and pick yourself again than in the 1500 story or the story on a post card. This is a subject that has been touched on before, but it is probably time to give it another sale around the pond. Take care.


Byron Dunn Sat May 16 18:58:16 PDT 1998

Sometimes it seems like I have a billion stories in my head, but none of them are fit to write down, except for the ones that will take 600 pages to write. How do you handle shorter fiction, especially when having a vast adventure would probably irritate the reader?

Sandra Fischer Sat May 16 07:51:51 PDT 1998

New Authors and established authors a new Publishing and Marketing Company starting. For details put Publishing in subject line.

Goodweed of the North Sat May 16 07:48:08 PDT 1998

I will simmply offer a humble thanks for travois, sledge, and liter.
The consenses appears to be travois.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed

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