Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday: Open Discussion

Sunday is the day for characters and writers alike to mingle and talk about whatever is on your mind.

Thanks again for stopping in, everyone! It's been alot of fun and great practice with writing buddies.
As a possible discussion topic and for your writing edification:

Great rules of writing

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

~William Safire


Anonymous said...

anyone else found this particular sentence ironic?

"If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing."

Mira said...


the guy who wrote this is being funny.

Nice to see you MM.

Mira said...

Today I might actually do some writing.

I don't know.

Either that or take a nap.

Sometimes decisions are so hard.

What to do, what to do.......

Anyone else writing today?

DESTINY said...

I am writing the history of the world, and the annuls of time and space today.

I will thank you not to interrupt me.

Anonymous said...


No. I don't write.

I'm going to my grandmother's today. It is so boring.


shy said...

"When I split an infinitive, god damn it, I split it so it stays split."

~Raymond Chandler

Anonymous said...

I always use work as an excuse to get out of boring trips. You should try it, shadow.

I am supposed to be writing essays for school but am instead watching movies on youtube :(

Anonymous said...

ooh did any of you read Mary Walter's diatribe against agents and genre fiction? She was very mean. And I think its completely unwarranted because I have read some intelligent fantasy novels.

Here's a link:

What do you guys think? Are literary novels more important and valuable as art than genre novels?

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Mary makes some valid points. I don't think agents are the problem, but it's true that publishing is a business, not a charity. If publishers don't perceive a lucrative market for a book, they won't publish it.

I think having an Espresso machine (print-on-demand) in every bookstore would solve most of the problem. It would so vastly lower the costs of publication that companies could afford to take chances on manuscripts that don't fit the common mold.

The value of an agent is that he or she knows what publishers want. In theory, the agent saves the author a lot of wasted time submitting to publishers who aren't looking for their type of book. I'd say in actual practice, some agents are great, most are so-so, and some are terrible. Humans. Go figure.

I can tell from page one of Mary's book on Authonomy why it's garnering so many rejections. But readers seem to love it, which brings up the real problem with modern publishing: disconnect. Writers are given a laundry list of things to do and things to avoid, and they aren't necessarily things that readers give a damn about, or even notice.

It's okay to have corporate publication as a goal, but we shouldn't flout the current standards and then complain about the results. That makes about as much sense as a web designer complaining about being denied an opportunity to work as a defense attorney.

Self-pub becomes more respectable every day. I think it's better to submit a little bit, and if the results aren't very good, put the work out there however one can and go write something else. Then submit again. Don't bang on the doors of Big Publishing year after year until bitterness sets in. Once you get known as a a bitter, difficult-to-work-crank, it's over.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Many writers feel they don't have to "pay their dues" like they would in any other career. Even someone with advanced degrees doesn't leave university and become a CEO right off. I mean, just finding some job that pays in a year what a good advance is (say 50K) is tough going without proper qualifications and experience.

They also idealize the craft as "art," not realizing that once any piece of art (painting, interior design, sculpture, music) is put up for sale, it becomes a commodity, a product.

People who complain that publishing has so many problems often don't have the life experience with selling art--or selling anything--to know what the hell they're talking about. I'm not saying publishing doesn't have problems, but EVERY business has problems. Software design has problems. Insurance has problems. Big Oil has problems. ALL industries have problems.

btw, I'm Aidan and Kaelin's "creator". Thx Mira, for running this site. It's dangerously fun.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Sex Scenes at Starbucks, that's exactly true. Art for art's sake is great, and if that's the direction someone wants to go, they should have at it.

But an artiste has to be deluded to expect the corporate world to beat a path to their door. Maybe it will happen, but most likely it won't. Commercial success usually requires a solid understanding of what sells. Or stunning good fortune.

I think what makes writers bitter is that agents and published writers perpetuate the myth that only the best quality books get published and that if you're not published, it's because you're an incompetent hack. The discouraged writer then picks up some bit of mediocre trash off the rack at Borders and gets pissed.

Everyone should get a grip and quit spreading myths about publishing. Big publishers are in it for money first, with literary merit a secondary or even tertiary priority. Agents can't earn a buck if they don't deliver what publishers want, so they pass on excellent writing, too, if they know they can't sell it.

It's not personal. It's business.

Therefore, if a writer can't get in the door, it's not prima facie evidence of incompetent writing. Sure, maybe they do suck, but they might just be on the wrong side of the market trends. If we could all accept that great writing isn't always publishable writing, I think we'd see a lot less bitter ranting.

Ricky said...

I don't know much about the book business, but it sounds a lot like the music business. I regularly turn away bands and musicians that I know I can't market. I had someone contact me just the other day, very talented young man, but he sings traditional Hindi and Urdu songs and I market rock bands. I'm sure there's an agent just right for Arun, but it isn't me. My rejection had nothing to do with his abilities.

That said, some bands just suck. Apocalypse was like that. I marketed them to the best of my ability and they still sucked. I went broke and nearly ruined my reputation, too. Lesson learned.

If you're trying to break into any artistic field, keep at it. Work hard, but remember that business rejection is just business.

Oh, and if anyone can tell me who the hell keeps posting those ridiculous stories on the band's website, would you please give me a call? It's making me crazy, and I'm worried some of those stories will ruin the band's reputation.

Pure fiction said...

I'm still wondering what a 'literary novel' is. If I was to try and describe it I would say that maybe it's a genre that places as much or more emphasis on the use of language than on the narrative the language is telling. Looking at Mary Walters work I would have described it as popular fiction.
So at the end of the day, what exactly is the difference - or is there really any, and are 'popular fiction' and 'literary fiction' just handy genre discriptions publishers use to target particular markets?

Candy's person said...

"never use a long word when a diminutive one will do"

Sometimes, in my opinion, if a longer word is better for the rhythm of a particular sentence and means the same as the shorter one, it may be the one to use. But does he perhaps mean a less common word? If so, each has its own nuance, so the exact one which suits the story, creates the wanted mood and inner vision for the reader is correct, long or short.
Also, dumbing all books down (Don't they now say to an eighth grader's vocabulary level?) can only lower the general public's word power when it should be improving. I teach English as a Second Language to adults and know how important a good vocabulary is and how they strive to attain it.

OK, there's my rant for the week! The other ideas, I think are good and a great idea for a Sunday, Mira! I hope you're having a nap, with lots of chocolate chip cookies and milk close by.

By the way, I have a question - When I went to school in Canada and England I learned "alright". Since then in a writing class I was told to never use that, it should be "all right". I see both. Someone please tell me, which is correct?

Andre Vienne said...

I'm taking Goran out back and we're having a picnic!

No, not really. It's more like I'm beating him with a cricket bat (Why do I have a cricket bat? ¡I don't know!) until the rest of the story comes out of his rotund posterior.

Though, recently, I've been wondering why English doesn't use the upside down exclamation point. It sets off an exclamation much better at the beginning of a sentence, and helps set things off better. ¡It just feels right!

But that's just me. I mean, I want a useful irony mark and interrobang, because clearly there's not enough punctuation.

As for the whole "literary fiction" debacle, I assume that it's just a marketing description. Though, I dislike that word. While I am an Elitist Bastard, it's one of those words that just irks me, like when people use the word 'deep' to describe things that are philosophically no more complicated than high school thought.

But that would be a rant. I've gotta find my cricket bat before my father makes it in town for lunch.

Christine H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scruffy said...


Anonymous said...

Hi morphine-moniza,

I don't work. I'm 15. My mom makes me go to my grandmother's.


Christine H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine H said...

Very clever post, Mira!

I don't have time to read all this discussion today, although it looks very good.

I have some new posts at my blog that I think are relevant, though:

Random Thoughts About Getting PublishedMore Random Thoughts About Publishing

Christine H said...

P.S. I don't know why blogger runs my two links together. They are two separate links.

Mira said...

Candy's author - thanks. I took my nap - so lovely - and now I have to go out for awhile. But I wrote in my head both before and during my nap, so that counts, right? :-)

Hey I found a link about alright vs. all right. Here it is, but it's also okay to ignore it - I think.

Christine H said...

morphine-moniza said...

I am supposed to be writing essays for school but am instead watching movies on youtube :(
I am supposed to be grading papers for school but am blogging instead! Eeek!

Mira said...

Christine - thanks. And don't worry, your links click separately so people will know that they are different.

Andre - I love Goran. Don't beat him too hard with that cricket bat.

MM - I applaud you for watching you-tube rather than writing essays. I am so with you on that.

SSAS - oh good! I was wondering if you were posting. I like your site! I like Aiden and Kailin, too.

I'm glad that I opened this to 'real' people - it's fun to meet folks.

Charlene said...

Lol, I need to get some chores done, I also need to get some writing done, but I'm finding it difficult to do either.

I think the summer approaching is causing me to be lazy -.-

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

I'm thinking about editing - I put my book on the Red-pen diet.
I've found that my local Writer's Circle meets in the cafe in middle of our local park... so, keep fit v wall-flowering at my first meeting?
Decisions! Decisions!

Mira said...

The problem with the discussion is I agree with what people are saying.

So how can I argue?

Except maybe about the definition of literary fiction. I think it's the difference between snack food and gourmet food - one is for fun, the other to savor the experience. But there is bad literary fiction out there, as well as bad commercial fiction, which confuses everyone. Just because it's supposedly high brow, doesn't mean it's good. Just like Rickey is saying.

Ann - your idea about expresso POD at bookstores is brilliant. I also completely agree with your point about self-publishing. It's the wave of the future.

I am one of the people who have a great deal of trouble with the publishing business. I have more trouble with it than others because bascially, I think the way that it's run is idiotic. It is exclusive and incestous and makes a eeensy weensy amount of money it actually could. It's so entrenched, it's shooting itself in both feet.


I read the entire diatribe at Mary's, and I do have one question.

Who is this person, and why are so many people reading her?

Mira said...

Charlene - do I get a vote? Neither one. Go have fun.

I am such a bad influence.

Elaine - those sound like too nice choices. that's when it's really hard to decide.

It's lovely here today. The sun is out, I see butterflies and hear birds. My brother lives where it's snowing. Such a difference.

I was going to go out but.....maybe I'll just go take another nap.

Hmm, yes. Nap it is! :-)

Maxwell said...

Today, I set up my lab for an experiment.

I use three types of pepper sauce, hydrocloric acid and shredded dynamite.

I see what happens with different combos.

Fun day.

Anonymous said...

Mary Walters is cookoo for coco puffs

Brokerage said...

Don't invest in traditional publishing.

Amazon. Bird of a different color. Go for it.

Christine H said...

I am just passing through for a sec, glancing at comments.

I think that there are definitely genre novels out there that seem very formulaic, but sell quite well. There are also novels that are not formulaic and require a little more of the reader, which may or may not sell well. These tend to be called literary.

I think of the Harry Potter books as literary because of the themes they explore and the depth and breadth of the characters and plot, even though they are in the YA fantasy genre.

I think of Agatha Christie's mystery novels as pure genre mysteries. Classics, extremely well-written, but not literary.

Anonymous said...

Like Christine, I get confused. There are examples of "literary fiction" that are "full of similes" or boring, and others that are more mainstream and entertaining. Ones about character, others about angst.
I love beautiful writing and think it is findable in children's literature, religious literature, fantasy, science fiction, etc. -even humor.
All these rules of writing make my head spin. I love books and "stories" in many forms, but there seems this snobby place, where I can never get a ticket and have the right to comment too. What is that about? If I have a story, I want -badly- to bring you in.

word verification: litylig

Anonymous said...

I think it is possible that I break all the rules...

sex scenes at starbucks said...

agents and published writers perpetuate the myth that only the best quality books get published

I don't entirely agree with this statement. In the past four years I've met a lot of agents, talked to them via the web, and most agents I'd want to do business with perpetuate that they take on clients they think will SELL.

This is not always the best, but the world is not always interested in "the best". (Case in point: reality TV)

What is it, like 100K books are published a year? My magazine may be publishing our first book (in serial form) this year. Sounds like there should be plenty of choices for everyone, from a reader's perspective.

Mira said...

Anon - I know. Rules make me crazy. The only reason I want to learn grammer is to help with clarity. Once I learn it, I plan to break the rules at will. Is that what you meant?

SSAS - I agree. I think publishers and agents are fairly upfront about wanting to find books that sell.

Too bad - due to the fact that they have no concept of something called 'market testing'- they miss the mark by miles most of the time. Not market testing is like shooting blanks blind-folded.

Once in a while you hit something, and then everyone is very surprised.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I agree. What lacks in publishing are marketing organizations. My husband has run a half-dozen mostly successful startups, and marketing determines almost everything about design because they figure out what sells.

Thanks, btw, for the warm welcome here.

Mira said...

Absolutely! It'a a pleasure. :-)

I'm an outsider, so I can't be sure, but I suspect there's grandiosity and elitism in publishing.

"We don't need to market because we have special skills that tell us what books to print."

That kind of power and self-importance can be hard to let go of.

Mira said...

Half a dozen successful start-ups?

That's a skill.

He should start a publishing company. Market, and show them how's it done.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm sure there's some grandiosity in publishing, like in any industry. But by and far most professionals I've met are great folks. (I'm half an insider, being an editor myself and published--though not in novel form.) And writers are some of the most fun, generous people I know.

But there's always the exception...

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

SSAS, yes, some agents do admit that publishing is a market-driven business and that they have to turn away manuscripts they don't think they can sell. But on those same agents' blogs on some other day you'll inevitably find them saying that the key to getting published is to write a really great book. You'll see some of the same advice on agents' websites, which often read like they're in the biz for charitable reasons, and not to put food on the table.

When advice like that goes out without any caveats about the realities of the marketplace, it gives newbies the wrong idea.

Getting published is about having the right book at the right time and getting it into the right hands so they can do something about it.

"Write the best book you possibly can" is terrific advice, and I would add that once you've done that, you should go write an even better one. But publication isn't a given, and it's deceptive to imply that it ever will be.

Those finely-crafted manuscripts only guarantee that when the market is ready, you will be, too.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Yeah, he is business, personified. He's passionate about it.

I'm glad someone in the family is so he can support us!