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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
October 26, 2020

The first word . . .

If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad. As to that regular, uninterrupted love of writing. I do not understand it. I feel it as a torture, which I must get rid of, but never as a pleasure. On the contrary, I think composition a great pain.

— Lord Byron

Tuesday evening . . .

We Zoomed in from out East—Kashmira in Virginia—to west of Dodgeville—John—and points in between to talk about the works of six of our colleagues. Here is some of what was said:

Kashmira Sheth (chapter 14-15, Journey to Swaraj)

Kashmira submitted chapters from her novel. Here were some comments to make the story stronger: show more unrest in the street. show that the horse gora is on is bigger so he looks a foot taller than the Indian officer, make Veena bolder with the police officers and realize later how brave she was, have more conflict between Veena and the police officer who knocks on the door.  Thanks all for your suggestions/comments.

Jack Freiburger (long poem, “The Archeology of Light”)

Archelogy received a warmer reception than I had expected with Jerry picking up the Billy Collin feel, not that I was trying to imitate.

 Amber Boudreau (chapters 35-37, Second Nature)

Amber shared all but the last two chapters of her urban fantasy SECOND NATURE with the group. Mike wondered when Mavis picked up the phone in the final scene. There was some question of whether a character would set a bag against a freshly painted wall, but someone else thought that fit with what they’d read of the character. Jerry had a question about names and Amber had to confess she found inspiration in The Lord of the Rings. But good news. Amber has signed a contract with GenZ publishing for the book and will be submitting her final manuscript to them soon.

Larry Sommers (chapters 24-25, Dizzy)

Kashmira pointed out that Izzy’s anxiety for Christine early in Ch. 24 is not followed up later. There was agreement that the narrative of the mountain drive was tense and harrowing, bit a tire spinning in air was over the top and the snow in the mountain pass would obscure Izzy’s view. John said more word play on “resume” was possible, but Izzy would know “pyrite” was not “pie, right?” Several people thought Izzy’s advice on hope from his father needed more fine-tuning. Amber suggested the mountain-driving fiasco could be Izzy’s first hint of his father’s fallibility. Thanks all for perceptive comments.

— John Schneller (chapter 28, Broken rewrite)

I raised the question as to whether the dynamics/question of Kotel’s incomplete scar and his conflicting “Call” could wait until this late in the book. The consensus was affirmative, but this is a dynamic that no one can answer with our TWS reading pattern. Occurrences of itch or pain associated with the scar were present from page 1 on but not remembered by most. Assessment will require a reading without interruption. The beaver interactions were enjoyed, but Jerry reminded me Kotel needs to dress up the ends of his new staff.

— Jerry Peterson (chapters 10-11, For Want of a Hand). . . John and Jack suggested a way to establish in the first sentence of chapter 10 who the point of view character is—Zigman. Kashmira and Huckle said the Nurse Angel/Quinn scene in chapter 11 was useless, that it lacked a purpose that would advance the story. John said Quinn could pump Angel for information on OxyContin and addiction that others in the chapter aren’t telling her. Kashmira and Huckle felt that’s the fix that’s needed.

Who’s up next . . . 

November 3

Kashmira Sheth (chapter, Journey to Swaraj)

Jaime Nelson Noven (chapter, Outsleep)

Huckle Rahr (chapter, Wolf Healer)

Amber Boudreau (chapters, Second Nature)

Amit Trivedi (chapter, Keeper of the Keys)

Larry Sommers (chapter, Dizzy)

From Jack

I have a series of poem about the farm/refection that I may submit that have a similar, if denser feel than last nights.

 I may not make election eve but will send notes to readers in any case.

Our editor . . .

This is Amit Trivedi’s final issue for the month. We now need an editor for next month’s issues of Writer’s Mail. A volunteer needed. How about you?

A brief history of indie publishing . . .

Excerpted from the September issue of The KWL Quill, an e-newsletter published by Kobo:

As modern-day independent publishers, you’re in great company. Many renowned authors––from Stephen King, to Jane Austen, to Virginia Woolf––have gone ahead of you, and by now we’ve firmly established that authors can successfully take control of the publishing process and hold their own in the industry.

So where did it all begin? In the beginning, there was spoken word, and for centuries, we passed stories through generations orally. The advent of publishing began when those stories were transcribed onto papyrus and parchment, creating the very earliest iterations of books.

In 1439, Johannes Gutenberg created the first printing press, and society changed forever, as for the first time the written word was accessible to the masses.

Fast forwarding way ahead to the 1800s (in which Jane Austen published Sense and Sensibility via a vanity press); to the 1900s (when Virginia and Leonard Woolf founded Hogarth Press and published their own work), all the way to the 1961, when Margaret Atwood self-published her first title, a collection of poetry. 

We’re going to speed into the digital era in the year 2000, when everyone and anyone had a LiveJournal, and could share their writing far and wide. By the year 2000, we were starting to see the first stirrings of a publishing revolution after Stephen King struck fear into the hearts of publishers everywhere when he announced that he would be publishing his book The Plant directly to readers on the internet.

By 2010, the first eReader devices had entered the market and online retailers had grown in popularity. Suddenly, authors had direct access to millions of readers all over the world, and began to publish in droves.

Writer House Rules: Questions in Publishing (Jamie)

I’ve gotten a number of questions that are specific to editorial, so I asked my editor friend Barbara Darko if she wouldn’t mind taking a look. Here’s what she says. –Jaime

Q. How much do typeface, point size, page margins, and line spacing matter when submitting a manuscript? What is the desired font/size/etc. for each of those?

A. While manuscripts will be formatted in-house and/or sent to a copyeditor regardless, editors love a thoughtful, prepared author who knows the deal comes with a sparkling, consistent, well-set-up manuscript. The cleaner it is to begin with, the easier it is to look at, the better it is to review. Think of it like submitting a college paper, the standards are pretty much the same: Times New Roman, 12-point font, 1-inch margins, double spacing. But don’t use two spaces after a period, just use one. PLEASE don’t use a bunch of spaces for tabs either, there is a whole button on your keyboard for this! First paragraphs in a chapter or section after a line break should be flush left and every paragraph after that should be indented.

Q. What is something that I may not realize is going to get my manuscript thrown in the trash?

A. Not reading the submission guidelines. I got a lot of poetry submissions when I worked at an architecture/design/visual culture publisher. Read the guidelines and follow them.

Q. Is there an appropriate time to use italics for the character’s thoughts when writing in third person limited omniscient?

A. The use of italics for someone’s thoughts is up to the author and/or the publisher’s house style, as well as the kinds of “speech” there are in a particular book and if there needs to be a hierarchy of styles. I’ve worked on projects where we distinguished between certain kinds of thoughts so that some were roman and some were italics depending on the author’s intent with what was being said or thought. But generally they’re in italics, yes, I believe.

In this example from a 1940s Nancy Drew novel, you can see it’s a real mixed bag!

The last word . . .

I keep always two books in my pocket: one to read, one to write in.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Writer’s Mail
March 26, 2012

“I’m the hero of this story, I don’t need to be saved…” -Regina Specktor, “Hero”

First and Second Recap
Rebecca, The Cheese Logue.
• Jen suggested she change ballpark to stadium because we’re talking about football.
• Pat wonders if the part with Sophie should be in another chapter.
• Greg didn’t think it moved the story forward either.
• Millie liked the poem.
• Greg asks about who the target audience is; Rebecca imagines it for women between the ages of 18 and dead.
• Alicia thought the character, Rebecca, didn’t really react to being in the bar, though she didn’t enjoy it.
• Pat points out that if it’s an honest reaction, even if it’s bad, people will empathize with it.
• Amber wanted more trivia about how many Superbowl games the Packers have one.

Millie, Life On Hold.
• Just a note: in dialogue we speak the numbers, but in narrative we can leave the number as a number, like 1957. The key is to be consistent. (Ah-ha)
• Pat points out a section that could be cut because nothing really happens and we get to the debate faster. She also doesn’t think a serious debater would lose her cool.
• Alicia thought the argument was way too short and doesn’t think it got to the core issues; perhaps she could insert some additional points so you get the feeling that the debate went on the appropriate length of time.

Pat, Poems Hey You! & Open House
• Jen accidentally deleted the poem because she thought it was some kind of advertisement. (ROTFL)
• Rebecca wondered if there was any real driving. Pat was just trying to follow the format of the daytime commercial.
• Alicia thought the different types of poems got a little elevated and suggested getting rid of the asterisk but Jen liked it.
• Rebecca begs for a series of funny poems.
• Everybody enjoyed it though.
• Next Pat shares Open House. Jerry liked the last three lines.
• Alicia brought up the sad element of the poem, because it made their lives feel simply too routine.

Greg, Beyond Cloud Nine.
• Pat was really zipping along, turning pages, having to slow down and remember to review, but she had a problem with the twelve minute reboot.
• Pat wonders why the main character doesn’t say anything about the sabotage to her sister.
• Amber had a question about a couple of characters reaction. What happens to tears in zero gravity.
• Jerry wonders if someone pops up and spins in zero gravity, they keep going—she has to reach out a hand to stop herself.
• Alicia thought it moved really well and the dialogue was so good, some details could be peppered in, perhaps even some humor added.
• Jerry wants to know if Brooke’s going to survive the end of the chapter. (more…)

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January 14, 2010 by Cathy R.

“I have trusted to intuition. I did it at the beginning. I do it even now. I have no idea how things might turn out, where in my writing I might go next.” — V.S. Naipal,  A House for Mr. Biswas  

Writing Friends 

Found something lovely beneath our tree last month. A hard-cover treasure for the person who loves wondrous characters and silly predicaments: The Complete Peanuts: The Definitive Collection of Charles M. Schulz’s Comic Strips (1969-70.)

It was meant for my young son (nine), but I’m reading it now, too. Why not?

Schulz had a way with words, to put it mildly. Legendary newsman and Schulz admirer Walter Cronkite once described the cartoonist as a writer of  “tight discipline” who used genius to create with a few short lines “a panorama of life’s experiences.” Italian novelist Umberto Eco has said, “The world of Peanuts is a microcosm, a little human comedy for the innocent reader and for the sophisticated.” Modern illustrator and award-winning animator Mo Willems is also a big fan. (more…)

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