Archived Messages from October 6, 1998 to October 22, 1998

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Oct 22 23:13:31 PDT 1998
Sometime this weekend I will likely be archiving things here.

Hayden Thu Oct 22 19:30:40 PDT 1998

After parking the Porsche and walking all the way back to SNArly's rip-off of a gas station who gave me a butt load of lead....grrr...along with the gas, and having to stop and acknowledge Sassoon's fuel injection system above the conrods, let me just ask..

what is a writer? How do you become one? Is it like being the Kung Fu grasshopper who snatches pebbles and BECOMES?

Wooooooohahhh_zip_snatch_ah, thanks for the pebbles!

Not as hard as it looks for the rice paper and the long walk back to the Porsche. Cheers all!

Allein-chan Thu Oct 22 18:51:57 PDT 1998

I don't have a particular book. I always have my dictionary and thesauras. I also have Encarta if I have to look up something.

I decided to be a writer because I'm creative and have so many stories in my head - I just had to write them down on paper. So, I did. At first I was terrible at it, but I'm getting better.

Well, I have to go. Bye bye.

toby b (me again) Thu Oct 22 18:29:16 PDT 1998

OOOOPPPPSSS, I meant to say Olivia, beer never hurts...I'm losing it...:) It only takes a scroll down before I start forgetting who said what. Good grief. Time to go hide in a corner. Congrats anyway despite my faux pax.

toby b Thu Oct 22 18:27:10 PDT 1998

Barb: beer never hurts...

I though it was interesting that we were having a brief post-modernist discussion that paralelled one I was having in class. We had to read some Kafka (metamorphasis) this week. My direction in the class conversation was that Kafka gets us to shock away our preconceptions, and then as a writer can then have a reader with a blank slate going into the story. But I only think this works a few times, like the early imagist poetry at the turn of the century, one can only do so much with it. Ultimatly, new forms come and go...

On a lighter note, I just indulged and watched a movie, "With Honors", a good flick, I recomend it.

W. Olivia Race Thu Oct 22 16:42:12 PDT 1998

Barb: Thanks for the congrats. I have been sooo siked since I opened that darn envelope. Yesterday my best friend invited me to dinner and she and her husband bought be flowers to celebrate (the beer didn't hurt either). Actually it was she who first got me into trying short stories. I feel indebted to her for that.

Why do I write? Because the voices in my head would drive me crazy if I didn't. For years I said I wanted to write. Then, last year, after ignoring the voices I sat down at the 'puter and stared at the blank screen until I wrote something...anything. Now I can't imagine a day when I don't at least put pen to paper. The results often stink...but I don't care. Now I am a writer. It doesn't matter if I never get an acceptance letter again. I just have to write.

On a different note: Jack, when are we going to start the "round robin"? Can't wait to see what comes out of it.

Anyway, gotta go....Good Writing all

S.N.Arly Thu Oct 22 14:00:26 PDT 1998

Hey Hayden! There's a virtual gas station right over here. So would that be virtual premium? Virtual high octane? Or do you just want something with a virtual buttload of lead?

Jack - thanks for fixing that.

On post modernism - ick. Like Toby and others I usually write what I enjoy to read and that wouldn't be it. At the end of something with no plot I usually say, "And I read this why?" It might be fine too play with a bit and there's probably a market for it. It might even be educational to dabble with fringe projects in writing. I, however, am a story teller, and that entails a plot.

On why I am a writer - I was made that way. On November 1 my next column will be out on ShallowEND and it covers this subject, so I'm not going to do it here and now.

Had writer's grope, er group last night and we all pretty much didn't like anything. At least it was unanamous. Each story had a good idea behind it, but none of us were drawn in. So it goes. then I had the oddest dreams involving a great deal of death. It was kind of a good thing morning came so soon.

Where am I'm going? And why am I in this hand basket?

Barb G. Thu Oct 22 08:22:22 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

Before I grab my synonym book and hit the cyber-trail, I want to congratulate Ms. W. Olivia!! Great news!! Many, many excellent writers have begun with the *small* lit mags: F.Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Faulker, Mailer, O'Henry, etc., etc.

I have this wonderful book: "First Fiction" It's an anthology of the first published short stories by famous writers. Like the names above. Ursula Le Guin is in it, Henry Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Wm. Saroyan.

So W. Olivia, your name can now be added to the long list of those who went before blazing a trail for us in the field of the short story... (Why am I standing with my hand over my heart?)


Michele Thu Oct 22 01:19:26 PDT 1998

Hi gang !

On the topic of what book do I regularly use when writing as a non-fiction writer I find it tends to be Chambers Biographical Dictionary or the Concise Dictionary of National Biography. I have no head for numbers - the limited amount of memory in which I hold numbers is always full (the rest of memory being full of words) so I use this fairly often to remind myself of when people were born or died !

On the topic of deciding to become a writer I don't think I ever made a conscious decision to become one - I've been writing in some form practically ever since I learnt to read - either poetry (ack !), prose, letters, diaries, short stories, etc. (Before anyone takes me up on the "ack" comment that's because my poetry was the usual pretty pathetic juvenalia - these days I much prefer reading other people's poetry !)

Glad to see Hayden still has my porsche ! Hayden if you ever sell it I could use half the proceeds towards funding my degree course !

I keep plugging my web site because it's slowly but gradually expanding and if anyone wants to see what sort of non-fiction writer I am that's the best chance of finding my work.

Has anyone heard from Philip Mclaren lately ? Or have an email address for him please ?


Keep writing buddies !

Cat Wed Oct 21 23:39:01 PDT 1998

Hello Everyone,

On the subject of becoming(or choosing to become)a writer, for me, I would have to say that it was instinct. I'm 38 years old, and as far back as I can remember, I have either written down my feelings (in one shape, fashion or form) or they have been recorded onto cassettes or CD's as Lyrics. I freely admit that my love affair with the written word is still going strong.
Writing is an integral part of me. It's WHO I am. Some folks might judge my work and like it, others might prefer that I never pick up another pen. Either way, I was able to reach them in one way or another. For me, that's what it's all about, reaching out and touching others.

I can look out the window and find something to write about, but if I look in my heart, in my soul, in my life, I can find what's real.

I've never kept a journal, nor a diary. Somehow I always thought that it would be too painful. Plus, there was also the fact that I grew up in a very NOOOSSSYYY bunch, six brother's and five sister's. There was no way in this world I was going to give them ammunition (at least not concerning me!), so I kept my words inside. But even then, writing had already found a welcome home in me.

As far as a story with no plot, no direction-- What's the point in reading it? I ask myself that question every single time that I go back and try. For myself, I get more enjoyment out of a mechanical "How To" book then I do one of those monstrosity's. But that's only me. I just can't stop falling asleep within the first few pages.

Dallin: I lost you off my ICQ. This 'puter blinked on me again. My # is also changed. Can you e-mail me? Thanks


Hayden Wed Oct 21 21:11:35 PDT 1998

BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRMMM....cough......BRRBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRUHUHUHUHuhuhuhuh MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM...gosh, hope there's a virtual gas station here somewhere.....BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmm

ILLEGITIMATI NON CARBORUNDUM...Dont let the bastards do the ironing!!!

toby b Wed Oct 21 21:10:06 PDT 1998

I guess I could finger out a point in my life and say, that is when I decided to become a writer, but that wouldn't be that accurate. For me it was a gradual evolution. Lots of reading, focusing in on the genre I liked, then experemental bits of writing and whatnot. The day I realized what I had decided was after a bad episode with a teacher about what she had to say about my writing (it was not constructinve criticism), and at that point, I realized I was angry not because of what she said, but because she was saying that I could never become a writer, and that was something I had already decided internally. This realization helped me much, and has a lot to do with spurring me on, but I really think I would have decided to become a writer anyway...

What do I think of Post Modernism, it can be cute, at times, and sometimes there is some really cool stuff, but I am a real old fogey when it comes down to the basics, tell a story that the reader can understand readily and enjoy (you can add all sorts of levels, but at first glance the reader must not feel daunted. Well written books can be read by anyone IMHO), the object should not to be to confuse the reader. I'm not saying talk down to the reader, I'm saying, that I only write something I would read, and Post Modernism is an absolute pain to read sometimes, causing me to avoid some stuff like the plague. I try write with a style, but not something that hampers the ability of my reader to rapidly be completely drawn and hooked into my world. Structureless stuff tends to push away the reader, and not everyone (me included) has the time to force themselves into a story. When I sit down to read a piece of genre I am reading to be entertained, and it is always important for me to remember not 'is it cool to be able to write like this?' but 'would I, if this were written by another author, really enjoy and get a kick out of this'...I believe if the answer is yes, then by all means go ahead. Of course, feel free to totally disagree with all this, because who really knows...


Howard Wed Oct 21 20:10:24 PDT 1998

I remember it as "ILLEGITIMATI NON CARBORUNDUM" --"Don't let the bastards wear(grind) you down." Have it on a plaque somewhere.
What books? I have a whole stack that I've collected over the years, lots of oddball dictionaries, encyclopedias, and specialized collections of words and wordplay. Then there are several collections of quotations, online and in print form, Guinness (and other) record books, Greek, Roman, Norse, and Native American mythologies, and historical works of all kinds.
Also a big help for me (in more ways than one) is the Bible (in several versions), and various theological works.
Mostly, though, I get caught up in what I'm writing and forget to look at any of them.
The biggest thing is to read READ read READ !!! Look at each word, and how the writer uses it. Read every greeting card in the store, read the small print on the cereal box, read the newsletter from where you work (submit an article to it, too), read the short stories before and after the one you're assigned to read for homework (then do reports on them for extra credit).
Sorry, I got carried away, but I guess I'm trying to say that one of the best ways to learn the habits of words is to get out where they lurk, and watch them in action...

Caroline Heske Wed Oct 21 19:14:22 PDT 1998

er... why has everything gone into italics? (SNArly, did you forget to close your italics?)

SKS - Yes 'The Handmaid's Tale' is where I got that from, and SNArly was right on the translation. It's a damn good quote too - though I didn't realise it was feminist.

No-one seems interested in telling us why they decided to become writers, so here's another question:

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF POST-MODERNISM? DOES IT HAVE ANY PLACE IN LITERATURE? AND WHAT DO YOU THINK OF A STORY WITHOUT A PLOT? (or a nonsensical plot - not just warped a little bit to be funny, like a tall tale, but really crazily making no sense)

Rocket Wed Oct 21 18:36:22 PDT 1998

As for my favorite book... I turn to the Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. It has 20,000+ names and meanings so it gives me some sense of my character. I like to pick an appropriate name that personifies their personality... even if it's a foreign name. In my fantasy writing at present, I'm using Gaelic and Welsh names alot, although I do like to make up my own as well.

S.N.Arly Wed Oct 21 13:34:18 PDT 1998

SKS - it looks like a variation on a phrase I'm familiar with, and like as not means the same thing. Don't let the bastards get you down. That's a guess. My Latin's not so good and as I said it looks similar.


S.K.S. Perry Wed Oct 21 10:14:01 PDT 1998

All right Caroline,

You spelled the phrase correctly, and I've seen it before (usually in conjunction with feminist literature, and in Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," but I can't for the life of me remember what it means! Would someone please clue me in.

Caroline Heske Tue Oct 20 19:30:04 PDT 1998

I don't have *one* book (well, except for my thesaurus, which is actually really cool cause you don't have to look up tables at the back, it's ALL alphabetical, but cross-references are there if you want it), I tend to get most of my inspiration through reading other fiction books, or through my uni-studies. ie. I'll stop writing until I get another idea. For all you professionals out there I suppose that's not an option, but when it's a hobby like it is for me... More often I'll grab the telephone or the internet than a book.

SKS - Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (er... did I get that right?)

Jack - Yeah, it has been quiet. So, here's something I was wondering... What was it that made all you guys decide to become writers?

W. Olivia Race Tue Oct 20 18:13:15 PDT 1998

Hi all. Jack thinks the Notebooks getting kind of I'll spill my good news of the week. I'm finally going to get a short story published. The publications pays in contributers copies only, but the rights will revert back to me upon publication so I guess I can always try to actually make money off the story later...I'm just siked to get a publication credit somewhere...anywhere....

I guess in terms of reference materials I like to keep at hand when writing I'm pretty boring. I like my thesaurus and I also get inspriation from Bartletts'quotations of all thinks. When I dry up, I flip open the quotation book and for some reason, I get inspired. What ever works right?

Anyway, gotta get the kid to bed so I can write in peace.

Good Writing all.

S.K.S. Perry Tue Oct 20 12:14:54 PDT 1998

The book I grab for the most is acutually software--Infopedia. It's very easy to use and contains an encyclopedia, Roget's thesaurus, Webster's dictionary, Dictionary of Quotations, World Almanac, Biographical Dictionary, English Usage Dictionary, and Hammon Atlas. I just leave it minimized while I'm typing away on MS Word, and whenever I need a quick reference, there it is. I also have Encarta 98 for when I need to go a bit more indepth.

toby buckell Tue Oct 20 09:14:52 PDT 1998

I find the book I grab for the most is 'What to name your baby', a book with quite a few thousand names, brief explanation of what ethnicity the name is etc and other useful things. When I need to name characters on the fly or plain old need my main character I wade through until I hit a name that feels right.

At the very least, it is always amusing to have explain all that to anyone who walks through the door of my room and looks at my desk to see the baby book....

best writing...

Barb G. Tue Oct 20 08:12:57 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

Jack: A funny thing happened on my way to the notebook... (yuk, yuk)

But, I was wondering if any of you have a favorite book that you find yourself grabbing each time your composing a story, scene, whatever? Now I'm speaking of a book that is not a Dictionary, or a Thesaurus.

I have one. It's called "The Synonym Finder" by R. I. Rodale. Even with the marvelous things a PC can do, it still cannot do for me what this book can. This book has 1,000,000 synonyms!

Next in importance is the tiny little book: "20,000 Words" by Louis A. Leslie.

These two books should be on springs or have a pop-up technology so I can grab and go!! They are invaluable to me.

I'd love to know what you guys find the most help when you're writing. A book, books, folders, overall guidelines, anything that you'd hate to part with.


S.K.S. Perry Tue Oct 20 05:53:56 PDT 1998

Here's a kicker:

When I first came to the Writer's Notebook, I complained about waiting for a response from a publisher on my book for over nine months, and then receiving only a form rejection letter. Well, they must have really hated the book, because yesterday they sent me ANOTHER rejection letter on the same book. Maybe they were just rubbing it in.

Talk about feeling low!

Be Well

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 20 03:10:05 PDT 1998


Hope it is not something I just said, but the Notebook seems to be very quiet all of a sudden. If someone would like to come up with an alternate topic for discussion to spark things along I would heartily welcome it.

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Oct 18 22:25:05 PDT 1998

Just got back from Spokane and am absolutely forced to hit the road running. I have a long over due web page project that I really owe an individual to complete as expeditiously as possible. When that is finished I will try to get the Round Robin functioning. Also, I will attempt to come up with an alternate forum script for the postings so that each is saved as a separate page. That way it will make it a lot easier to print out, do edits on and so forth. Again, that will have to wait until I have a space to breathe in. Take care everyone and I will attempt to check in here as I can. Carolyn, I made the change in the link to your graphic. Oh, and Fran and I are going to be going to see Ursula Le Guinn.

Take care everyone

Goodweed of the North Sun Oct 18 10:32:42 PDT 1998

Thanks to everyone who has said that they will take a look at the piece I placed in the workbook. I will be looking at more of the submissions myself.

Jack, do you have any idea when the round-robins will start? I think this will be a great learning exercise. Also, how do we handle editing? I know you said that the originator has final say, but is there going to be a place where coments can be made?

Caroline, though I am not a feminist, and do not suport all feminist agenda (in the U.S., there has been quite a bit of anti-male and male-inferiority sentiment associated with the movement), I certainly do aplaud the efforts of sincere individuals to erase the inequalities society places on race, gender, and religeon. In addition, your topic shows concern and intelligence. I only caution you that though some of the things done to youth are inapropriate, some inexcusable, most are done because youth has little experiance with the adult world. In every culture I've experianced, there is a "generation-gap". This is natural and is a result of young adults trying to exercise their free-agency to choose individual paths and find out who and how valuable they are, where they fit in so to speak. Good parents attempt to assist the teen into the adult world, sharing information, which, seen from the teen as outdated (things are different now), is in fact based on a broader view of society learned through experiance. Often, rebellion occurs which frustrates both the teen and the parent. Both are trying to find the right path for the teen. It comes accross as overbearing and manipulative to the teen, and imature and (if you will excuse the term) pig-headed to the parents.

It's part of the cycle of growing up. Parents want to protect while youth wants to break free to be masters of their own destiny. Sometimes I half joke that teens are the way they are so that parents will tire of the foul tempers, disrespect, and selfishness of their kids and kick them out of the house, making them live on their own. Life is that way by design.
I say half joke because I have three teens and a twenty-year old living in my home, eating my food, and making messes that they refuse to clean up. I'm kind of looking forward to them moving out. Life will be much simpler. I know they are good people and will mature as time goes on. But right now, their world revolves around them.

Well, I guess I've gone off the deep end again and written a book. Sometimes I'm not very topic sensitive. Howver, giving the parents perspective adds to your knowdedge base. I hope this helps you with your report.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Caroline Heske Sun Oct 18 06:43:23 PDT 1998

Jack - Um... I know you just went to all the inconvenience of getting the last picture up with my bio, but can you change it (or put this one up with it) cause here you can at least see who I am... (rather than squint at the white dot)

Goodweed - I just visited your story and have copied it onto my computer so I can read it when I get a chance. I'm fairly busy and I'm trying to critique SKS's Naejin so it may be a short while, but I promise I will. I wouldn't worry about it being too long. It's shorter than most of the other posts in there, and only half as long as my chapters (why I don't post).

As to Marion Zimmer Bradley, I've only read her historical stuff - and while the Mists of Avalon was excellent, the Firebrand was pretty poor... But since you guys all seem so fired up about Darkover, I'll have to get around to it. If we're recommending scifi, I'd have to say Sheri S. Tepper is probably one of the best. I mean, she varies, but when she's good, she's really good. Particularly: 'Beauty' and 'Sideshow' (though Sideshow's better if your read 'Grass' and 'Raising the Stones' first). I like her stuff better than Le Guin's cause when I read it I get this feeling... like my mind's turning somersaults. It really blows me away.

Hope everyone has a lovely day/night/life - whatever's happening in your part of the world.

Margaret Sun Oct 18 06:21:46 PDT 1998

I'm a published writer and poet with my own children's press. We're located in the mid-Hudson Valley area of New York. I invite everyone to come and visit us at and let us know what you think of the site, and how you feel about historical fiction for children and young-adults. I welcome your comments. Thanks.

W. Oliva Race Sat Oct 17 23:21:38 PDT 1998

Hi all. Working on that darn draft of "Bad Mojo" again. I am spending all my free time on it now (in between voracious periods of reading). Two of my favorite authors, Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton just release books, so that took up Friday and Saturday. Then it was back to my own work in progress. I will be posting the revised, and hopeful grammatically corrected section that I posted previously.

Goodweed: I agreed The Darkoever series rules. I can only dream of aspring to MZB's level. For now I just enjoy romping around in my own created universe. The day I, and have to thing positively, sell my series I think I'm going to drink myself silly.

Anyway, gotta go. Good writing all.

Sat Oct 17 08:16:43 PDT 1998


Allein-chan Fri Oct 16 15:05:22 PDT 1998

I'm as well curious. I didn't get anything about the piece (chapter 8) that I put in the workbook either. Did anyone here read it? If so, please respond.

S.K.S. Perry Fri Oct 16 13:52:46 PDT 1998


I promise I'll take a look at your work just as soon as I get caught up. I caught a quick peek at it earlier but just didn't have time. From what I've seen, however, it may be just fine as it is.

Remember, lots of succesful authors couldn't sell their first book. It often has nothing to do with the quality, just luck. Did you find an editor who happens to like your type of story. Maybe he was having a bad day. Is your heroine dark haired and green eyed, just like his exwife who took him for every cent he has. Did she spill mustard on your manuscript and can't be bothered reading around the stains. Who knows why perfectly good stories get rejected. Remeber those authors who couldn't sell that first book. Often, after they've made a name for themselves, it gets published and goes on to be a best seller.

Go figure!

Goodweed of the North Fri Oct 16 12:54:32 PDT 1998

Has anyone out there read the piece I put in the workbook? I haven't received anything. Also, is it too long a piece to proofread. If so, then let me know.

A method I use to proofread workbook submissions is to read the whole thing, then line-edit the first couple of paragraghs, then write a synopsis of the types of errors I found. I try to instruct the author to look for certain types of errors he/she is suceptable to.

Also, if it is a grey area for me, and I am not absolutely sure about something, I leave it. I try very hard not to give erroneous advice. I will only work from my strengths. I have received bad advice from some (not from this notebook) and new it was wrong by looking up the questionable topic in a reference book (I still have my writing text-boks from the University I attended).

To have my work proofread by others is an almost necessary part of writing for me. Like others have said, it is far easier to proofread anothers work. I am hampered in my self-proofreading by the intimate knowledge I have of my own work. That is, I know the feelings I try to express, and the thought processes which are used by my characters, and myself. Also, if I thought something was wrong, I wouldn't have written it in the first place. Even after seven revisions, I can find ways to re-write my first novel, to make it "better". At some point, you have to say, It's good enough.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Goodweed of the North Fri Oct 16 11:56:19 PDT 1998

I too have read work by Ursula K. LeGuine. I enjoyed what I read. Try "The EarthSea Trilogy. Not a bad trilogy. If you want something with a bit more meat, and some extroardinary writing, try andy of the "Darkover" books by Marion Zimmer Bradley. You won't be dissapointed. They are magic!

As for the buisness of finding an agent. I can only tell what I know. I have contacted five who responded. All said my novel was very readable. One said he couldn't take it because he had a similar work he was representing at this time. The others said it needed to be edited and offered the service for $1.50 per page. He said he normaly charged $2.oo per page but really liked the work. I thought to myself, Scam. Besides, he charged $25.00 per month for representation. Another said they loved the work but charged unpublished authors up to $350.00 per month to cover copying, mailing, and phone fees. They promised an itemized bill. They sounded legit, but I certainly don't have $350.00 per month. The others said good work, but not interested at present time.

I'm still looking for that "perfect" agent. In another writer's forum called "Poets and Writer's Speakeasy", there is a guy who told the same story. Finally though, he turned things around. Instead of submitting to the exact letter of submission policies, he dictated the terms to the agents, letting them know he was hiring them, not the other way around. After twenty years of frustration, he reports that he now has a good agent and a couple of deals in the works. He is a cartoonist. He took the bull by the horns and made it pull his wagon. He did stress that first you have to make sure your work is as good as it can be. Then, you must work from knowledge and not make unreasonable demands. Dickering is often expected, within reason. Proffesionalism is paramount.

I'm still looking for that perfect something that will get me sold. I know the story is good. I know it has been read and proofread sufficiently, not only by myself, but by others who are intelligent, highly educated, and well-read.
I've not shown it to anyone who didn't gush about it favorably. Obviously though, writing the story is only a part of the game.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Barb G. Fri Oct 16 07:53:36 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

Caroline: Thanks a million for your info re:LeGuin. My little side genre, Horror, is many times linked to SF/F in magazines so when researching a magazine, I read the whole thing. Lately, I've been slowly pulled into the genre from some of the excellent writing out there. And Howard's tale "Ken-folk" helped my focus to broaden.

Havahappi guys, and write your heart out today!!

Michele Fri Oct 16 03:29:38 PDT 1998

Hi all,

Hayden ! How nice to know you're still somewhere out there in cyberspace ! How's that Porsche I paid for doing ?

On the subject of Agents, earlier this year I bought a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook (an annual (as you might guess from the title) UK publication I have no idea if there's a US equivalent) which lists (amongst many other things) agents in the UK and what sorts of work they'll look at, how to approach them, what to approach them with (in terms of MSS or synopses, etc.) and whether they charge reading fees, etc. I then drew up a list of possible people to approach if I can get the nerve together to do so. Said book also lists UK publsihers of books, magazines and newspapers, many *US* publishers and also gives various other useful info. eg. on submitting MSS, copyright, etc. Other than that I can suggest nothing else. But at least Jack picked a topic that I (as a non-fiction writer - see my web site for further details if you're unfamiliar with the project I have in hand) can discuss !


Cassi Thu Oct 15 23:13:37 PDT 1998

Hi everyone

This is Cassi. I just posted my first poem that I would like some help on. I like everything but the last line. If anyone could give me some ideas, I'd be very much obliged.
I haven't been in here for a while because I haven't been at my comp. I will try to remedy that.


By the way, I really have no idea how to go about getting an agent, much less where to find one. If I ever have a need of one, which I know I will, I will be sure to follow everyone's advice. But please......don't joke around because I can be very dense at times and I might think that your jokes are for real....=)

Oh yeah......I'm 17/f so forgive me if I get too emotional.
Even so, I'll be back. (If anyone watched T2, I'm Arnold!!!)

Caroline Heske Thu Oct 15 21:07:52 PDT 1998

Barb - Ursula Le Guin... I have read the Earthsea Quartet and 'The Dispossessed'... They were both very good. I find, though, you have to be patient with her writing... she has some great ideas and writes well, but it doesn't have that 'magical' or 'page-turning' quality. I keep meaning to get around to her famous one 'The Left-hand of Darkness', but haven't yet had the time. Her stuff is feminist and anti-capitalist, but in a critical analysis way, not a propaganda way... It definitely does make you think. I'd highly recommend her work, but I don't know if it's the kind of thing everyone would like.

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Oct 15 19:58:13 PDT 1998


Do not feel too bad. I am quite sure that we all can run afoul of a research snafu on more than one occasion. You will not be the first and certainly not the last. It points out the importance of research, but also the point that we will all miss something sometime. Do something to make you laugh at the oopses of life and move on. Oh, and be quite sure that more than one editor or another will spot something they think is wrong that will be right and vice versa. Take that with a grain of thought as well. Er, grain of salt. Well, maybe I like the first iteration better ;-)

S.K.S. Perry Thu Oct 15 18:42:00 PDT 1998

OK, so maybe editors and publishers ARE all knowing Gods. I stand humbled. (Sheesh!)

Jack Beslanwitch Jack Beslanwitch Thu Oct 15 16:44:54 PDT 1998

Sorry: I have been out for most of the day or I could have shed a bit of light on the psychiatry question. All psychiatrists are M.D.s Psychologists can be PhDs but not MDs. The difference is that psychologists (that happens to be my degree) concentrate on strictly psyhology and can go as far as PhD and practice, but can be as lightly trained as an MA or MS and still do so. There are other additional acronyms that can be tacked on. Psychologists cannot prescribe drugs

Psychiatrists by contrast go through all the regular training for a standard MD and then take a residency in Psychiatry. The primary distinction between the two is that Psychiatrists can prescribe drugs.

John Boyle PhD would definitely not be true for a Psychiatrist, but it would for a psychologist.

S.K.S. Perry Thu Oct 15 15:39:26 PDT 1998

Thanks for the help Snarly and Lydia. The reason I asked is that in one of my short stories I described a psychiatrist as John Boyle, PhD. In the rejection letter (depressing enough in itself) they told me that I should check my facts more closely, because if he was a shrink, he'd have different letters after his name. I had come up with the same answers as you did when I intially wrote it, so I figured maybe I had missed something, but couldn't for the life of me figure out what. I guess this only goes to show that editors and publishers aren't the all knowing Gods we make them out to be. Hah!

S.N.Arly Thu Oct 15 13:47:41 PDT 1998

Master's in Public Health, I think...

S.N.Arly Thu Oct 15 13:46:23 PDT 1998

SKS - You might also find L.P. (licensed practitioner) or M.P.H. (I can't for the life of me remember what it stands for, but both our psychs at the clinic have it after their names). Not too many of them tend to be M.D.s although a lot are Ph.D.s.

Hope this helps too.


Lydia Sweet Thu Oct 15 11:19:35 PDT 1998

S.K.S Perry, I just looked in my University directory (I work at a medical university) and under Psychiatry the only letters after the names were MD or PhD.

Hope that helps.


S.K.S. Perry Thu Oct 15 10:24:14 PDT 1998

Does anyone know what letters a psychiatrist has after there name? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Barb G. Thu Oct 15 09:53:01 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

Have any of you read Ursula K. LeQuin's books? And if so did you like them?

They were recommended to me and I thought I'd get another opinion from you guys, since most of you write in her genre.


Jack Beslanwitch Wed Oct 14 23:35:16 PDT 1998

Howard: The shortstory area has been archived to allow for new submissions. It is working just fine, I just checked it. The archived stories are just that, archived, minus stories that have been critiqued for longer than a month. They are now in story heaven. Although, I have a copy on a separate medium for documentation purposes.

Howard Wed Oct 14 20:30:38 PDT 1998

Umm -- is anyone besides me having trouble getting to the short story posting and archive areas? All I get is the posting form, and in the archive area I get the stories, but they're overlaid by the archive area logo script, line after line.
-- "May a simile be like your umbrella." -- Philip Cohen

Allein-chan Wed Oct 14 16:09:28 PDT 1998

I just finished reading The Scarlett Letter in English. Such a good book. The language is a little hard to understand, but other than that, I had no real problems reading it.
Agents - don't have one, haven't looked for one and am probably far from looking for one since I'm a young writer and I haven't completed a story yet.
Well, gotta run, bye.

Barb G. Wed Oct 14 10:55:06 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

Snarly: Would that be the copyright-stuff you quoted from on the notebook awhile back? Or would it be the simple one I tried to explain?


S.N.Arly Wed Oct 14 10:49:33 PDT 1998

I do believe we've been buzzed by a virtual Porsche. Oh, the honor! I am overcome with rapture.

Hi Hayden/Gaenlaw

On topic - Haven't done the agent thing and don't expect to any time soon. I am my own agent for now. MAkes for difficult chew out sessions when things aren't goin gmy way.

In general I would be suspicious of anyone who shows a sudden incredible interest in my stuff. It's not easy to get a new, unfamiliar or not well-known name out, which is why publishers can be such... well fill in your own here. So unless I was Stephen King I would be reluctant to share with an agent who was frothing over my work.

Likewise, you'll never get published if you don't try. I just slap ye olde copyright crap on my circulating stories and hope no one is stupid enough to steal it. I'd hate to have to rip out their heart. And I try not to worry about it. In the words of blue eyes, "Whatever will be, will be."


Donna Manganaris Wed Oct 14 09:51:39 PDT 1998

Congrats on the big step!! Hard work and a little patience works out in the long run. Now, if I could only heed my own advice!*G*
I hope everything works out with this agent. My fingers are crossed.


Tabitha Wed Oct 14 09:32:41 PDT 1998

Just thought I"d ad my two cents worth on the subject of agents.
I have been looking for an agent for some time (years in fact) however
in the past little while I have had conciderable luck in at least
getting read. The current achevement is something that might
intereste those of you that feel placing work with on line zeens is
eather a waste or an invitation to plagarists.

In the middle of September I got an e-mail from an agent representing
a new agency setting up in Baltimore. This person had read a story
on a web site and thinking that it was a chapter asked if she could
read the rest. I e-mailed back saying it was only a short story but
I had nine finished novels and would she like to read the outlines.
She said yes and gave me a snail mail address. Well, a week ago I got
a letter saying that they would like to read two of my books.

There is a general rule that a lot of the agents trolling the web are
not to be trusted and I will continue to be very carefull with these
people but they have not asked for any money and are very business like
in their aproche.

The moral of the story? 1)You can't get anywhere if you aren't being read.
2) The term [long shot] wouldn't exist if it didn't sometimes happen.
3) the word plagarisum is a lot older than the web. If someone is
going to swipe your work they will take it if its in print or
on line.

Wed Oct 14 07:10:59 PDT 1998

Wed Oct 14 06:55:19 PDT 1998

S.K.S. Perry Wed Oct 14 06:53:17 PDT 1998


Gee, thanks--I think I'm blushing here!

As to the subject of agents. Basically, an agent will do two things for you. First, he will get your manuscript read (hopefully by the right people.) As most of you are probably discovering, that can be the hardest part of the whole process. In other words, your agent helps you avoid the slush pile.

Secondly, he will negotiate the contract once interest is expressed. This is where the agent makes his or her money.

Most of the stuff I've read on this subject--and I've read a lot--states that an agent should not charge any up front fees. This includes reading fees. I'm pretty sure the SFFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) do not support any agent that does--and there are a growing number of reputable agents who are taking the same line. This is not to say that there are not reputable agents who do charge a fee, it's just that the potential for abuse here is too great.

What's to stop an unscrupulous agent from making a fortune by charging reading fees and then never reading the manuscript. All they have to do is cash the check and mail out the "I'm sorry, you're manuscript doesn't suit our present requirements. Please feel free to send us any of your future work" form letter.They could make a fortune this way

If you're lucky, like Caroline, you know people who know people. That's often the best way to get your stuff read.
Unfortunately, if you're like me, you're on your own. It can be just as difficult finding an agent as it is finding a publisher.

Most of the professional writers recommend that new writers send out query letters to publishers, then send the manuscript if intrest is expressed(something Jen Holland pointed out to me when I first joined this little group here.)If the publisher makes an offer, then it's probably time to find an agent. I doubt you'd have much problem finding one then who would be more than willing to negotiate your contract.

Anyway, that's my two Canadian cents worth.

Barb G. Wed Oct 14 06:18:26 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

Jack: Blast "The Anniversary Waltz" into story-heaven any time you want to.

Caroline: I trust SKS implicitly (sp? Sorry Snarly) so seeing his posts re: Erannon (another sp?), you'll do great. And now with the added bonus of getting professors to read it is fantastic! Happy writing!


Caroline Heske Wed Oct 14 02:16:17 PDT 1998

Agents... Personally, I didn't even know you could get them until I visited this notebook. Since I have never tried to get anything published, I cannot vouch for this method... but I find if I just mention to people that I am writing a fantasy novel, they say, well hey! I know so-and-so whose best friend works as an editor in such-and-such. I've nabbed a few English lecturers at uni, who have agreed to read my stuff, and I'm hoping they'll write me good references that I can send with my manuscript when I eventually finish and want to send it.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 13 16:53:31 PDT 1998

p.s. I have created a secondary archive for the Short Story Workshop on the Workbook. When I get the chance I will do the same for the Novel Workshop. Also, some few stories are reaching the deadline for being eliminated. If people would like to get some last minute critiques on any of these, this is the time to do so. Take care everyone and good writing.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 13 16:05:29 PDT 1998

Well it is long past due for a new discussion topic. So, here is a new one. Use it or strike out in other directions. I have had several queries about how - who and what to do to get a good agent. Since I personally have not made such a search for myself as yet, maybe those who have might share their insights on what to look for, what to avoid and what are the best steps to secure a good agent. All of this said, many agents will not really look at you until you have a contract in hand when you are a new unpublished writer. If they do, many will try to get you to pay a reader fee or marketing fee or some other hidden cost and not give anything necessarily in return. This is not to say that all those that charge such fees do not return on your investment, but is a red flag to consider. Are there times when such reader fees or marketing fees are justified. There should be enough meat here to carry us for a while.

toby b Tue Oct 13 15:38:42 PDT 1998

Jack: this is me, on quest for hot tub. Not finding...I took the liberty of taking monday off and sleeping in today. Sleep is my cure all, and I was okay enough to practice soccer today, although my reward for all self sacrifice was a ball to the groin in scrimmage.

Now, ever onwards...

lydiasweet Tue Oct 13 08:22:15 PDT 1998

Hi all,

Been away from the computer for awhile and even when I have been near have had little time.

I'm here SKS Perry, anytime you are ready. I'm eager to hear your opinion.

I have read a couple of the stories on the workbook under the "Novel" heading, but am having a problem with the "Short Story" board. It throws me out on my b...

I hope work will slow down soon and I can give my 2 cents worth to the people who have posted. I know it can mean alot to hear from the rest of us.

I am not a very good critic however, I feel best qualified to give an over all opinion of how the story feels. If it is smooth and consistent. I have read stories here that I have no interest in, (doesn't mean they are not good stories) however I try to read most of them and give an opinion as to the progress, continuity and beleivability of the story. My grammar isn't good enough for me to be correcting others unless it is a glaring mistake. I try to keep it simple and helpful. Maybe as I improve my ability to critique will improve as well.

I better run now.


Rocket Mon Oct 12 22:27:33 PDT 1998

Hi all...

Just thought I'd be a regular :)

As for critiquing, I haven't had much experience, except in the writers' group I attend once or twice a month. I put in what I think, and try to keep it to the point, and try to lead with what I know, like the flow of an idea or a way to say something differently. (I still don't have the hang of lie/lay and other basic rules of grammer, so I try to stay out of line editing)

I just want to ask again if anyone has any comments on web publishing in the ezines.. if not, so be it.. Aaaaannnddd of course, if your interested, you'll find the first half of my fantasy piece at the web page listed above. At first glance it looks like a werewolf story, but it delves in the the psyche of the main characters motivations. It started out as an exercise in creating characters (especially female, since I felt I needed some experience toward that end). I liked the story that developed so much I've made it my first goal to finish this and polish it the best I know how. Any comments would be appreciated. And I would eventually like to see it in print.

That's all for now...

All the Best,

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Oct 12 21:05:12 PDT 1998

Hello everyone: Lots of new and old faces around while I was away for the weekend. I'll try to think up something new for a topic of discussion by tomorrow. For now, my brain is still more or less non compus mentus.

Toby: Drink hardy on the hot toddy. Since I have a hot tub/jacuzzi in the back yard, Fran and I have found drinking hot lemonade with or without a spiking of rum and sitting in the hot tub at about 103 does wonders. At least, until you stagger out, light headed and collapse into bed. Take care. I will be sending healing energies in your direction.

Barb G. Mon Oct 12 17:14:16 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

To the lady we all know as Snarly...were you speaking to me? Or is there another Barbara around here?


Hayden Mon Oct 12 16:10:48 PDT 1998

Brrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmm Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!

Allein-chan Mon Oct 12 13:10:33 PDT 1998

Wow! A lot of people have put long parts of there novels into the workbook! I can't wait to sit down and read them (I don't have the time - homework :p). The critique section is pretty empty though, so when (if) I read the stories, I'll critique and post in there.
I think I posted here earlier saying that the first story part on my webpage was down. If not, then it's up now and all the chapter have been put into one file each, so it makes it easier to read.
Hmm...well, I suppose I should get to working on the ninth chapter. It can't really be called a chapter, seeing how it's only about a paragraph long. Long weekend and I haven't had time to do diddly (this excludes homework).
Well, bye bye for now.

S.N.Arly Mon Oct 12 11:25:35 PDT 1998

Barbara - Sometimes it's actually helpful to make corrections in posts, as long as it's not just a stupid typo issue or something. We're all always learning, may as well try to get as much out of life as we can, eh? Especially if we're writers. I, myself, am an info sponge.

Howard - Thanks. It bugged me (no pun intended).

Since most of the time when using, gosh are they called idioms? Well when using a word or turn of phrase that has been used for some time and no longer means what it did when just looked at word for word, we don't often know the etiology behind the phrase, which can lead to mistakes. Sometimes the etiology is interesting. Sometimes it's not.

To nit-pick; to remove lice larvae, which is a pretty meticulous process. I would imagine that knit picking would have to do with pulling out stitches in knitting, although as I don't knit and never plan to, I'm not quite sure. So using the right words can result in greater understanding, less confusion, the whole deal.


toby b Mon Oct 12 11:18:24 PDT 1998

Barb: I love the wait ten days rule, but in my warped hands it ends up as something different. About once a month, on a weekend, I take a few hours to open up and wade through all my already finished stories, and revise and polish them. This way they actually seem new to me, as after a month or two of ignoring them, I can see them for the first time with fresh new eyes. It helps a lot. After just writing a story I refuse to edit though, I definitely need the wait time...

On critiqueing. I'm not sure what I can add, besides, be carefull. I myself have a really hard shell, comments like "it sucked" tend to bounce off of me. I also tend to ignore non-constructive crits, as one editor once told me he couldn't read past page three of a story I wrote, when a later editor used the same story and liked it. Sometimes, one has to remember, to each their own.

Well Jack, I'm getting the rum toddy warmed up. I've been one of the walking dead since friday (didn't help that I went to homecoming dance etc...), and am now going to get vertical until tommorow. Damn all the classes, full speed ahead...

Barb G Mon Oct 12 08:32:19 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

Dallin: There is really no mystery as to why we can critique someone else's work much better than our own. When we read our writing, we know what we're trying to say and we can miss the actual words staring up at us.

One trick I've learned over the years is to:

Let your ms sit for 10 days, then go back and re-read it. Many times you will see more clearly where the inconsistencies are and can correct them. BUT there is nothing like having another writer review for you. And here we have the luxury, thanks to Jack and his excellent workbook area.

As far as correcting a writer's entries as expressed here, usually in haste, seems very unfair to me. Hell we're all busy, we shouldn't have to re-write our thoughts on this forum.

Hope you all have a great day working, writing, and stuff!!


Howard Tuckey Mon Oct 12 07:50:57 PDT 1998

Dallin -- If you REALLY want to get "knit-picky," it's
:-) :-)

dallinsphere Mon Oct 12 05:50:16 PDT 1998

Well... it looks to me as if the subject is "critiques", so I shall speak on this.

It is true that I make more than my share of mistakes as I write, yet I seem to find everyone else's mistakes easier... almost to the point of me becoming "knit-picky".

Well, I first like to glance over the reading once... and pick out all of the confusing sentences. Some things just throw me off completely. I usually just post the sentence, and give a thought to what I think it means... with a "".

Secondly, I look for things that I feel are missing... which is usuually a more detailed description of a setting, action, or conversation.

Third, I get to the knit-picky part... I seem to find almost every little spelling and punctuation error... when I can't seem to find the greater majority of my own. Go figure!

Well... I also like to read over it a last time, to make sure that I left nothing slip by me. ....and then I sign my name. *g*

~ ~ ~


pS... I think I'm going to post a poem or two in the poetry section. I would appreciate any input on these. I'm still deciding whether to include a section upon my webpage for my sometimes poetic nature...

Goodweed of the North Mon Oct 12 04:38:15 PDT 1998

Hello, everyone:
Sorry I haven't had time to critique more than one posting in the workbook. After my wife's surgery this week, I should have more time available to me. Has anyone out there read the piece I put in the workbook, called "Critical Mass? If so, could you please give me an impression of its merits and demerits. Please be honest. Also, is the story interesting, how is the dialogue and charactr development? This one is in its infancy and I would like to know if it's going in the right direction. It will be my most ambitious work yet because there is a lot of room for suspense, intrigue, and some very difficult issues for the characters to deal with. It will touch on how they see life itself, there moralities, their religeons, there capacity for heroics and for the opposites of those traits. It also deals with self-preservation, and species preservation, and more.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

S.K.S. Perry Sun Oct 11 21:34:06 PDT 1998


Sorry, it seems your Email problems were my fault after all. It's,not naenin as posted in the workbook. I've since corrected the mistake.

S.K.S. Perry Sun Oct 11 12:49:59 PDT 1998


I send attatchments to hotmail all the time with no problem. I just sent myself an attatchment there (I used the ID on the note just before yours) and recieved it. Maybe you have a problem at your end. AS far as I know I've been receiving all of my Email (then again, I guess I wouldn't know unless someone told me here that they couldn't get a hold of me.) Anyway, try sending to me at I really would like to see what you've done on Migration.

Be Well,

S.K.S. Perry

Howard Tuckey Sun Oct 11 11:05:09 PDT 1998

Steve -- I've been trying to send stuff, but I get it all back marked "invalid address". Tried last night to send a note about your latest short story post, got same.
WIll try it all again, but I don't think you can receive an attached file at a free mail site. Should I send the WORD doc to your wife's id?
Is anyone else having problem sending to SKS PERRY? If not, how are you sending? I try clicking on the id in the posted stories and notes, and get returned mail.

S.K.S. Perry Sun Oct 11 08:36:22 PDT 1998


Where have you been? I'm still waiting for the rest of Migration.


Are you still out there? I've downloaded all of Elaina and am working on it. I just thought it would be better to send it to you all at once. On second thought though,I may send it a chapter at a time.

Be Well,

S.K.S. Perry

Rhoda Sun Oct 11 00:37:32 PDT 1998


I appreciate the reference to Edison Marshall's books. They sound like a resource I could use. Actually my guys are Saxon pirates and their ships would have differed somewhat from Viking ships. There isn't a lot of information about the ships the Saxons used, but I would have to imagine they would have been a more primitive prototype of the Viking ship about which there is plenty of information. I just need to know how fast they could travel so I could have a reasonable idea how long it would take to go from Cornwall to Dover in such a vessel, and then how long would it take for this ship to move on to the Elbe River in Northern Germany. Since I have recently moved, I also have the added problem that many of books are still packed.

Regarding critiques:

I agree with Caroline. It is helpful to get a critique in your first draft. By the time you are into your later drafts, you've already invested much thought and energy in something that may turn out to be pure crap. It has happened to me.

Personally I have never critiqued a story or novel that hasn't had some redeemable thing in it. I think it is as important to point out what a writer does well as it is to point out the mistakes and weaknesses. Writers need to know when they are on the right track. Also a little praise is very incourageing and helps a person keep up his or her momentum to write.

Incidently, some of the best critiques I have gotten have come from contests. Organizations such as Pikes Peak Writers and Southwest Writers Workshop sponser contests every year that are judged by professional, published writers, agents, or even editors. These cost something, but I have found the critiques worth the money. Also they are good ways to make a positive contact with an agent or editor while you get feedback on your writing.

S.N. Arly:

I love line-edits. When I get these in a critque, I feel as if I have gotten a treat. I too line-edit when doing critiques.

I have to finish editing this blasted manuscript so I can get into the critiqueing fray. Sadly, my book is too far along at this point for a critique. I am basically looking for typos, leaps of logic, and stupid errors and I am double-checking my historical facts. This baby has grown up and she must soon sink or swim by herself in the cruel, hard world of modern publishing. I have really done the best I know how on this project. If it comes back tattered and torn with no one impressed with it, I might have some people read it for me to tell me what went wrong.

Happy writing, all,


S.N.Arly Sat Oct 10 14:56:13 PDT 1998

Caroline - Been there. Hated it. Actually I hae yet to fix it. In my second book, which was renamed Legacy about two years ago because the title fit bettter and I was into one word titles, the whole seocnd half is really well-written crap. There's no clear plot or point and it really leaves the reader empty. Ugfh. I'll eventually come back to it. In the meantime, it was a learning experience and it is fun to read because it really is well done. It just doesn't do anything for the story.

Howard - I'm a compulsive line editor. I will point out grammatical errors when I see them regardless of the draft. It's up to the writer to decide if they need or want to take my advice. I've found in a lot of cases those things slip through the rewrites, and the time I'm critiquing may be the only time I see it. May as well give 'em everything I see then, as I may not get another chance to help.


Howard Tuckey Sat Oct 10 12:42:08 PDT 1998

Rhoda: I'm not sure if "10 knots" would have meant anything to a Viking at all, so it might be unrealistic to have them thinking in those terms. Knots, or 'nautical miles per hour' are a much more recent term.
If you want some great reading about that historical setting, I would suggest "The Viking" or "West With the Vikings" -- both by Edison Marshall. They both contain vivid descriptions of Viking ships, and of the men who sailed them. There are others, too.
Critiques? It depends on the stage of the work. If it's an early draft, or even free-writing, then a critique should be concentrated on making sure the writer is focused on generating the ideas connected with the topic. If you get tangled up with grammar, tenses, and usage at that stage you can really confuse and discourage the writer.
Editing comes later, when a plot and story line become more clearly defined. Then you look for continuity and communication, making sure that the writer knows what she (or he) wants to say, and is, in fact, saying it.
We all have words we like to use, and sometimes we use them because we like the way they look on paper, and forget that they might not be conveying the exact meaning. That can be a sore subject, but it's an important one to bring out in a critique, because it's vital to use the correct words if we intend to communicate. There may be justification in using a word for something other than its accepted meaning, but if we do so, we do it at risk of confusing the reader, who might not be as quick to pick up on the intended wordplay. Remember Alice's encounter with Humpty Dumpty -- she was confused because he insisted that "When I use a word it means what I mean it to mean."
One technique that we used to use in critiques in the writing center at school was to read the work aloud to the writer, listening to the actual words, and the inflections put on those words. I realize we can't do that here, but it can be useful to have someone else read it aloud, to see if the writer's intended meaning comes through.
Above all, remember that tact and diplomacy are required on both sides of a critique. We're dealing with someone's creative instincts here. It does no one any good to simply trash something, nor does it do any good to get one's knickers in a twist over a few suggestions.

Caroline Heske Fri Oct 9 21:41:31 PDT 1998

Maria - cool. I find macabre beauty oddly potent, and I'm glad that comes across. (Actually that science class I wimped out, left the room, and wagged the subject for the rest of the semester!)

Shine Vang - you're right, 'specially since it's due on Monday!

S.N.Arly - yeah, I do. It helps if I try and be aware of my own prejudices... for instance, I simply don't like romance, so I try and veer away from criticising anything but word order in romantic sections, cause my gut instinct is to say 'scrap it'. And I don't like Australiana either, as a matter of principle as much as anything else, so I don't even trust myself to pick that up.

But my biggest problem is the first thing I notice about a story, and what sticks with me, is the imagery and the plot. Many people get very narky (funnily enough) if you criticise the latter... Well, of course because it's a helluva pain to change. I guess it depends which draft you're writing. When I was on about my third draft of Erannon, some nice bluntly honest friends of mine told me that Chapters 5 to 15 sucked and contributed absolutely nothing to the story (the damn thing only had 23 chapters) and the depressing thing was that after I thought about it for a while I knew they were right. After months of painful deliberation I came to the decision to scrap this whole section, which was more 'characters-doing-things-to-fill-up-space' than plot... It hurt a lot - that was 2 yrs of work down the drain - and it's dragged the whole project out, but I feel it's been worth it. I don't want to look at it ten years on and think 'Why didn't I just put in that extra effort?'

So if a writer's still in the early stages (or even their first finished draft), I do try and make recommendations about plot if I think their story has the potential to be worth going to all the trouble of making such changes.

Maria Fri Oct 9 16:57:58 PDT 1998

Ah, such a composite of knowledge here! It is refreshing to see so many who love to write.

Dallin, I feel concern over you wanting to co-author with your lady love. IMHO I find that writing is an essence of a person so really something that can not be shared. It's like....well...expressing one's soul. So obviously a soul cannot be shared. There are many things in a relationship that are shared....but writing shouldn't be one of them. Love your lady, but love your work.


I found absolutely NO offense in the reading of your prologue about the bird. In fact I was rather intrigued at your ability to make me visualize what you were seeing. It's beautiful. Don't let anyone thwart your creative attempts.

S.N.Arly Fri Oct 9 11:15:41 PDT 1998

Barb - I agree that it's important not to coddle a writer while doing a critique. However, I also make sure to exercise a certain element of tact. If a person is really honestly a writer, a crummy critique isn't going to put them off writing. But there's really no need to hurt people's feelings. When critiquing for someone who is new to the world of sharing their work, I take into account the fact that they may be slightly more vulnerable or fragile. So I keep the thoughts of, What the hell is going on here? Since when is this correct grammar? Learn to write you freaking moron! to myself.

Please note: I have not had anything critiqued by Barb and these comments are not based on her work.

And this brings me on to something related. How to critique something you don't like. I've done my initial read-through of both the stories I need to critique for my writer's group this month. I really didn't like either of them. On my second read through, I'm trying to focus on line-editing issues rather than the plot and storyline. Either way, it's harder than I'd expected and I'm sure the critiques won't end up being as helpful. I know some people who will only give their initial reactions if they didn't care for the story, but that seems like the wimpy way out. Anyone else have to do this from time to time?


Shine Vang Fri Oct 9 11:12:47 PDT 1998

Caroline Heske - You have a neat idea but you should put it to paper................

Rhoda Fri Oct 9 10:37:44 PDT 1998


I am polishing up my manuscript and realize that I have no idea about what it is like to sail a viking-type ship along the English Channel. Would ten knotts be too fast? Is it easier to go west to east or east to west? I'll start with weather reports and see if that will help. If anyone has some good links to weather sites or historical nautical sites, I would appreciate knowing about them. My historical sources here at home are oddly silent on this issue.

Happy writing, everyone,


Caroline Heske Fri Oct 9 07:56:25 PDT 1998

SKS - I'm taking a guess you might look at this site, and if you do, I'm on line at the moment so check hotmail. (This is rare - its 1am for me)

Barb G. Fri Oct 9 07:12:14 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

These are my critera when I critique:

First reactions - to story, characters, and message

Structure - Is the focus clear? Does the tension build throughout the story and peak *near* the end? Does the story get started in the first paragraph? Does the ending follow from what comes before?

Style - Does the story "show" what happens or "tell" it? Is the language crisp and precise? Are the sentences clear and direct? Are grammar, punctuation and spelling correct? Are verb tenses correct and consistent? Are there any POV lapses? Are the details correct (like historical, geographic, scientific, or any other kind of specific references)?

Hope this little offering is helpful. I think Critiquing is one of the toughest things to do about writing. But, if you're fair and honest, it can only help.

While I was still working (and getting a regular paycheck!) my boss brought in a short story his thirteen year old son wrote and asked me to type it. Well, I struggled with it for three days -- do I correct? do I make suggestions? do I clean up the usual structural problems? Finally, I typed it word for word, and error for error, and my boss was furious because his son got a D on it. It was a no-win situation...

Critiquing for a friend or a relative is almost impossible because you are either too critical or too lenient. Either way the writer is not helped. So hand those off to someone else. Also, I have critiqued for many of my new friends here on-line (not just in this group) and been called everything but NICE.

So if you want to be stroked and fawned-over, you won't get it from me. I tell it as I see it. (and anyway, my husband says: "If you're so damned smart, why aren't we rich!) So take what I say with a grain of salt. I get rejected many times a month, so I need help, too.

Thanks for letting me ramble and Havahappi

Dallin Sphere Fri Oct 9 06:29:26 PDT 1998

S.N.Arly )-- You hit the nail right on the head... not saying that I didn't appreciate everyone else's input... but this guy answered my question perfectly.

I don't mind writing with someone else... if fact, I look forward to writing with my future wife. Still, I don't feel that I should open up a world - I've been writing for about a year - to anyone else...

I know it sounds selfish, but I have many ideas that I have yet to use... and ideas of how to use those ideas, and concentration is crucial.

I appreciate everyone's input on this...

Goodweed of the North Fri Oct 9 04:31:52 PDT 1998

Gotta run to the day job. Gotta be quick. Please look at my story begining in the workbook. Give me some useful critique.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Caroline Heske Fri Oct 9 01:48:55 PDT 1998

Thankyou Sue, Rocket, and Steve for your comments on the paragraph. I don't feel so iffy about it anymore - I will leave it in, and I won't tone it down. (At least, not until my next crisis of faith.) For the record, it's the only scene in the entire book when we see that character, since the rest of the story's set about 900 yrs in the future. The Rebellion's significant because the rebels succeed, and it becomes the centrepiece of the ensuing culture's religious and social ideology (and for other reasons, but I don't want to spoil the fun, now do I?)

Dallin - I've tried to write a couple of stories with other people, but we've usually ended up losing enthusiasm and the project just trailed away... However, I do have some friends who are quite successfully working on a novel, and one of the difficulties they had was they had to plot out the thing so well before hand that it took ages to get to the actual writing. So I suppose it depends how much patience you have... If you're successful, it's much more fun to write with someone else than by yourself. Then again, it's harder to get the same depth of characters and details, cause you can't just add things in spontaneously and store the info. in your head.

In general - I am writing an essay on why so many young people (12-25) reject feminism, with the general premise being: many young people are more oppressed because of their age than they are because of their gender, so feminism appears at best a side issue... I mean, consider - we tell children that they should support womens' struggle for independence (economically, emotionally), and yet at the same time expect them to accept unquestioningly the same inferior position, which is (at least in Australia), generally more inferior than the women's. If a woman walks into a male bar and is 'appraised' by men, it's generally considered a demeaning experience... But if a teenage girl does the same, then it is one of the rare occasions she is being assessed as individual (albeit an objectified one), and desirable in her own right by adults... Many adult women feels make-up constrains them into a certain role, many girls feel make-up liberates them from childhood...

It's an unusual line to take, and I'm uncertain what kind of response I'll get... Anyone agree? Disagree?

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Oct 8 22:13:56 PDT 1998

Rocket: Just a quick suggestion. You might want to rethink the title for your fantasy novella. I think Robert A. Heinlein has pretty much put a lock and final stamp on 'Moon As A Harsh Mistress' as a title. It is true that people have had different novels by the same name, but this one carries such a name identification that you would be fighting an uphill battle to stay with it.

Rocket Thu Oct 8 18:04:51 PDT 1998


Ah, it pays to do one's homework Before one speaks...

I just read your opening on the Rebellion.. and you Did lead with that scene. It did capture my interest and flipped me into the next scene knowing more about Jameta... and I Liked your story. Nice intro..


Rocket Thu Oct 8 17:46:36 PDT 1998


I think, not having read your surrounding text, that you may be coming up on the reader without warning. This kind of imagery my be central to your character, maybe even a constant focus of her thoughts, which you'll be sharing with the reader as they get to know her more. Yet, for now you haven't hinted (I imagine) that she has any of this in her, and it becomes a shock.

Better to lead into this, hint at it along the way, or conversely, bring it up to the front so that your reader will know that this is the kind of stuff that she's Really about. That way they'll know up front.

Of course that would change the whole core of the story.

To the rest of ya...

I've been writing for the last three years or more (scifi -no aliens-, some essays, and fantasy) and I'm in the midst of finishing my first solid peice, a fantasy novella, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".

This site looks like a good place to be. It kind of reminds me of the boards back in the BBS days, only better threads than the drivel the local guys did back then. ("Oh, man, did you really eat your cat??? You're kidding, right?")

I have a question that I could find out on a FAQ somewhere, but here it is anyway...

How is it to publish on the web? Does your work become unmarketable because it's been in 'the public domain'? I have the first half of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" at You Can Scream Now (address above) on last month's issue and I'm sending the rest out as soon as I finish it.

BTW I don't think I've written my first million words of drivel yet..

and Caroline.. I will go to your site and check out the rest of the story


Jack Beslanwitch Thu Oct 8 17:11:22 PDT 1998

Gerrycoach: I concur with S.N.Arly's suggestion of talking with a lawyer. Although, my gut level feeling when I first read your post was that I would likely send a photocopy of the publisher's letter to the estate and the estate's letter to the publisher and ask them if they could clarify. Although, this might not be the appropriate approach which is why I concur with S.N.Arly.

Allein-chan Thu Oct 8 14:07:52 PDT 1998

Dallin - last year (around January) KC and I decided to write a story together. We got through about three or four chapters and it hasn't been touched since the end of last school year. So, it really didn't work out. However, we're both very busy people and usually only talk at school. If you and your fiance are living together and/or talk a lot (which I'm sure you two must contact each other every day) it might be easier to write together rather than if you didn't have much contact. So, in short, if you wanna do it, go for it.
Well all, gotta go. Bye bye.

S.N.Arly Thu Oct 8 11:24:10 PDT 1998

Garrycouch- Check with a lawyer, preferably one fmailiar with copyright and publication laws. Any information we could give you might not be quite right, and if you really want to CYA, you'd better do it right.

Dallin - Although I might co-write something with someone, I would not likely let anyone enter into a story I had already started or was a great deal of the way through. I might ask for feedback, but I wouldn't want soemone to help me finish the actual writing process. I don't mind sharing the editing, tightening, refining bits, but it's my story and only I know what I want to do with it.

My spouse sometimes disagrees with my style or plot (did you really have to kill off everyone?). One of my friends from writer's group has the same problem. It's one thing if you start the projedt together, it's another if you start the project yourself with your own plans and ideas.


garrycouch Thu Oct 8 10:46:04 PDT 1998

Greetings, World:

I dropped this little snowfkake into this hopper earlier, but I'm afraid that it got lost. My question is:

WHAT ACTION CAN I SAFELY (LEGALLY) TAKE TO PUBLISH STORIES BASED ON A DECEASED AUTHOR'S CHARACTERS UNDER THE FOLLOWING CIRCUMSTANCES ?-- the publisher of the author's books says I must get approval from the estate. The estate says I must get approval from the publisher.

I wonder if I have these statements in writing from both sources, whether or not I can just go ahead without fear of litigation. The follow-on stories can be either "continuations" or totally new with the same characters and settings.

Comments and thoughts?


Dallin Sphere Thu Oct 8 09:28:05 PDT 1998

If anyone remembers... I'm engaged.

Well, my fiance has asked me to co-write a novel with her... and she's asked to help me finish mine. Even though I could use the help, I'm a little hesitant to allow another personality into my story. I love her with all my heart, and am patterning my main character's love after her... yet I'm not too big on the idea of sharing my world with someone else.

Has anyone else been put in a similar position? ...and if so, what did you do? ...and if you agreed, what was it like?

May questions... few answers..

Sue Diment Thu Oct 8 05:02:04 PDT 1998

Hello all...

I've been lurking for a while, and thought it was about time I introduced myself. I've been writing for about a year (since I started again anyway!), and I'm not published. I'm just trying to pluck up courage to send some of my work out to magazines, competitions etc, at the moment actually. Oh, and for those that know it, I live in Sussex, England.

Caroline - I read the whole prologue on your web page, and I thought that paragraph was very effective. It created a much more sinister atmosphere, which then stayed with me whilst I was reading the rest of it. I didn't personally find it too graphic - but perhaps even if some people have, that proves its value. You can never please every reader - and if your book isn't what they like to read, surely its better they find out sooner rather than later? (IMHO - what does everyone else think?).


PS. This is a great site - thank you Jack.

Michele Thu Oct 8 02:38:38 PDT 1998

Hi to everyone who remembers me from former days. I am glad to say that I shall be able to come by on a regular basis again now that I am at college and get free Internet access for longer than a half hour (good old public library !!)

The course is going OK so far - although it is only week 2 !! There is going to be a LOT of reading and essay writing but hey ! that's what I'm here for !!

I've posted my web site URL above because the site now has several instances of my prose writing skills (or lack thereof) if anyone wants to take a look and make some sort of critical comments !!

Hope to catch you all again soon . . .


Caroline Thu Oct 8 02:12:06 PDT 1998

Sorry, that odd spacing in the paragraph is not an attempt to be artistic, it shouldn't be there.

Caroline Heske Thu Oct 8 02:11:11 PDT 1998

Allein-Chan - Yeah, I did the Iliad last year too. I found it difficult to picture unless I was reading aloud, but then it can be quite graphic... It's a great story though. The Ancient Greeks really had some wonderful ideas.

But speaking of violence, I've had a few negative reactions to my prologue, because the third paragraph (see below) is so entirely unexpected. A nurse is standing in a large closet picking out clothes for her young charge, and she's getting more and more agitated and her imagination comes up with this:

The air rasped in her lungs, and her head began to throb. Shuddering, she remembered the bird she had seen lying on the cobblestoned ground of the Server's
courtyard that morning. It had been dead for more than a day - ants had left its eye sockets gaping. With morbid fascination Jameta had moved closer, and she
noticed it twitching weakly. The Templians' secret whispers of the soul's survival through death had penetrated even her naivety, and she thought, for one heartfelt
moment, that the bird's soul was still trapped within its delicate, tortured body. The head lay limp, yet the flesh covering its guts rippled and swelled. As she watched,
the swelling grew more pronounced - feathers bristled and separated where bulging skin stretched taut, then then tore open to release a buzzing miasma of young
flies straining blindly for freedom. A fine mist of old blood rose, then sank slowly to stain the cobblestones.

I don't want to change it, cause in a way it's a microcosm of the even the prologue's talking about, but some people put it down at that point, refusing to read any more and said that I needed therapy. (In fact, the scene's almost an exact reproduction of a Yr 9 science video, so I think that says more about our education system.)

I also like it because my first chapter is so... ordinary. In fact, until about fifty pages in, there's not much to suggest the story's going to quite plunge into the suicidal despair that it actually does... And nearly all my main characters are basically in their young teens - but it's not a teenage story, and I wanted to prepare readers early on for just how... well NOT light-hearted most of the book is.

The paragraph is gory - but on the scale of gory things, a dead bird isn't that bad... It seems more to shock people cause it comes right at the beginning in the middle of a fairly ordinary moment.

So what are your opinions? Does it offend you? Get you in? Something else?

Allein-chan Wed Oct 7 20:05:24 PDT 1998

Hi all. I haven't posted in a while. I'm reading two very good books right now - The Iliad and The Scarlett Letter - both for English. Only problem is that I read the Iliad before lunch (because that's when my class is) and that book has some very descriptive blood and guts type stuff in it - yuck! But they're still pretty good books.
This weekend is a four 1/2 day weekend for us - 1/2 day Thursday, no school Friday (teacher planning day), weekends off, no school Monday (Columbus day). This means that I'll be able to do some serious writing. I want to get Chapter Nine of my story written.
Well, I should stop.
Bye all,

S.K.S. Perry Wed Oct 7 08:03:04 PDT 1998


We seem to have a real problem communicating, you and I. I hope all is forgiven. By the way, WET WARE is still sitting idle on my computer. I want to incorportate the ideas that you, Howard and Caroline have sent me before sending it off--I just haven't had time.


I received chapters 8-13 and will get back to you on them soonest. I read chapter 8 already--wow! More on that later.

Caroline, I'm just going to go ahead and read the rest of Erannon and I'll critique the rest when you get back to me as to where I left off--dopey me!

Be Well,

S.K.S. Perry

By the way, for those of you who inquired, the name is Steve Perry, but since there is already a well known Science Fiction author by that name,(not to mention singer) I go by my initals. Besides, it sounds kinda cool, don't ya think?

Barb G. Wed Oct 7 07:07:37 PDT 1998

Hi Y'all,

"I'm here," she said, with a shrub. In fact we all shrubbed!

God-awful typos are rife within my workbook offering. And, yes I'm embarrassed!! If you can get by them without too much difficulty, please give the second half of "Anniversary Waltz" a try. Any and all comments will be welcome. Thanks.

Jack: what we may have here, re: Scrivener, is a bookkeeping snafu on my part -- not positive yet. I've e-mailed Mr. Caris for the final word. (One folder in my file cabinet somehow was jammed inside another one. I've got to talk with that filing clerk!!)


Goodweed of the North Wed Oct 7 04:16:48 PDT 1998

I see this as a great thing. It my be a way for new authors to say that all important phrase; " I'm published", to a prospective agent. The only fly in the ointment that I see is that there will sometimes be those greedy types who will want to divvy up any profits based on amount of content. I think it has to be made known that whether you place ten lines of text, or 200 lines of text, the devision of any monies made will be equal to all participants. t
This frees the peprsons submitting ideas to do so based on what they think is appropriate to the story, and not just jam things in because they are thinking quantity instead of quality. In addition, maybe there should be a minimum number of lines required before submitting to the story.

Hope this isn't off-base. Just some more ideas to think about.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 6 23:12:52 PDT 1998

       Well: I got back to things a bit earlier than thought. I archived 127 k worth of comments. So, things are largely clear here and you have a tabula rasa to scribble on. I have made the decision to go with the general consensus of deleting postings to the Workbook that are a month or older.

       Also, preliminary thoughts on disposition of round robins. The individual that posts and suggests the first paragraph has the right to be overall editor of the project. By this I mean that when it is decided that the story is at its conclusion, the initial creator has the right to do the editorial task of tieing it together and editing out tense problems and so forth. He or she also has the right to hand the job off to someone else within the group of authors of his or her chosing. After that, others authors may submit their thoughts and criticisms of this updated draft, but the originator of the story gets the final say. If there is a decision to submit it to a paying market, all submitting authors must be included in authorship and share equally in any proceeds. If a consensus is struck between a majority of the authors that submission should be done via a pseudonym to increase the chances of publication, the majority rules, but any proceeds must be shared equally among the authors. If it is decided to submit it to a non-paying market, it is suggested but not required that the original author mail copies to all authors if it is a print zine.

       This is just a preliminary draft of my thoughts on the collaborative process. If others have additions, corrections, suggestions please let me know either here or via private email. In essence I am trying to short circuit conflicts and make lines of authority clear.

W. Olivia Race Tue Oct 6 18:32:55 PDT 1998

Hi all. Jack, I love the round robin idea. Free for alls are great for getting the creative juices flowing--and mine need all the help they can get.

I thing a month is cool before archiving, although, and this is probably because of the size, I didn't really get the change to see all the stories. I did get at least one critique on the novel excerpt I posted and it was really helpful.

I agree that we need an are for silly spouting. Somedays, this is all I'm good for, and heck, I could sure use the laughs.

Anyway, I'm still working on improvements to the "Bad Mojo"
excerpt and will be posting this week.

Good writing all!

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Oct 6 17:40:45 PDT 1998

Congratulations Toby

I have secured some help from a friend of mine to get the PERL script working so we can do the round robin collaborative story. To give you all an idea of what it will be about, I am leaving the short paragraph that will start the story and the picture it relates to. Please do not post here, but start thinking about how and what you would like to add to the story. When it starts it should be a veritable free for all. Also, the Notebook has reached epic proportions again. So I will be archiving it sometime tomorrow. Anything after this post will be included in the new Notebook.

          The wind kept whistling through his ribs. That and the churching chant that kept working its way through his consciousness. Gregorian condiments just out of reach and understanding. Phweetttlattl, the dolphin between his knees, tasted his thoughts and laughed. A rich, riotous, head rocking laugh, that almost bucked him off her back. He grabbed for a hand hold. But even if he was human and not a skeleton what was there to hold on to? Casting a gaze down he almost cringed as rock faces and crevasses appeared in front and then behind at a sickening rate. He knew their true names and knew these were not their true bodies. But where were they to find them? Souls in search of bodies. Usually, it was the other way around.

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