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About Writing Right: The Blog

WRITING A BOOK SCENE

Someone went online the other day to ask how to write a book scene. Not surprisingly, there weren't a ton of people jumping up to help him with an answer. For good reason, as you'll see from my response.

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How do you write a book scene? Simple. You sit down at your computer (make sure it's turned on first). You open up a blank page. And, you start writing at the beginning and continue until the end.

 

I told you it was simple.

 

What's not so simple is getting the responsive answer to your question you seek from someone else. That's because there is no responsive answer from someone else. You're the writer. You create the scene from the thoughts, visions, and images in your head. You do the heavy lifting. You take the reader wherever it is you want him to go. Read More 

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CAN YOU GET SUED?

Someone asked online the other day if he can be sued for novelizing a "secret" someone told him. As usual, Queenie was there to muddy the waters. I hope I helped to clear them. Here's what I said.

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Please forgive the Queen of Wrong for she knows not what she does. Or, apparently, says. Of course you can get sued for writing a novel based upon a secret someone told you. You can get sued for crossing the street in rush hour or drying your socks on a line in plain view of the public. In fact, you can get sued for damned near anything, including for telling someone you can't get sued!

 

That doesn't mean you should sit around stewing about every single thing you do. Being sued is common. Being sued successfully is another matter.

 

In the case that you mentioned, even if the person who told you a secret sues you, he or she won't prevail in court. That's because there is no legal precedent of which I am aware that makes spilling the beans an illegal act. Now, is it morally reprehensible? Sure. Does the person who shares the secret lack moral integrity? Probably, depending upon the secret. If the person told you in confidence that his brother is planning on blowing up a grade school next Tuesday, for instance, you would be morally obligated to notify the authorities. Whether or not you write about it afterward would be strictly a matter between you and your conscience. It's a case of protecting the greater good: In this case, that means saving lives above keeping secrets. Read More 

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IS THIS STORYLINE POPULAR?

A newbie author-to-be went online to ask his community a question: Will his specific Sci-Fi/Fantasy storyline be popular or not? Unfortunately, some ne'er-do-wells got to him before I could, but hopefully I straightened him--and them--out. Here's my response.

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Kudos to those respondents who answered your question positively—and accurately. It's true, the story you describe ain't new, and it's far from detailed enough for anyone of any intellect to give you a straight-up response. As those people have pointed out, the popularity of your story isn't in the storyline, which has been done to death, but rather in the telling. In other words, there are no new ideas under the sun. Do a good job, and you have a good chance of turning out a good book. Whether or not it will be "popular" (aka, financially successful) is anybody's guess.

 

Now, rat droppings to the initial respondent who greeted your question so negatively and imposed her own biases (which are obviously many) into her response. And the same to those who agreed with her, lavishing praise upon her lame and irresponsible answer. Here's where the Queen of Wrong missed the boat yet again.

First: The opening remark of Why are you even bothering to think about this? is ridiculous. Is she kidding? If a writer doesn't bother "to think about" the premise, storyline, and plot of his novel before setting out to write it, he's an idiot. Why would anyone with all his screws firmly attached and tightened say otherwise? Of course, you should think about it. Right now. Up front and ahead of any writing you may be pulling at the reigns to begin. Read More 

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TO PROOFREAD OR NOT

Someone asked me the other day if it's true that he should never proofread his own work. Of course, I had an apoplectic response for him. Here it is.

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Are you kidding? Where on earth did you get that notion? If you don't proofread your own work, who will? And how will anyone catch those errors in logic and even in syntax of which only you as the author are aware? If you don't proofread your own work, how will you ever know if it's ready for Prime Time … or the wastebasket? If you don't proofread your own work, how will you ever advance in skills as a writer? Or even know if you're making headway?

 

Now, if your question is simply a matter of being poorly crafted and what you really meant to ask was, "Why shouldn't you be the only one to proofread your own work?" my response is simple. I can't begin to tell you if you haven't already figured that out on your own. I return to my opening statement: Are you kidding? Read More 

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WRITING THAT ELUSIVE NOVEL

Someone asked in a forum the other day how he can write a novel. He has been unable to get a good story line or style and hopes to get some help. As usual, he received plenty of responses, not many of which applied to him. Here's what I wrote.

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Well, bad novel-writer, congratulations. You have accomplished two things with one question. First, you admitted your weakness, and that's a definite plus. Second, you elicited a number of ridiculous responses from people who should know better. Lynda was the only one who hit the nail on the head. I'll take her advice of, If you're bad at writing novels, why try? and go one step further.

 

Don't try.

 

Huh? I can hear the naysayers and wannabe writers (and shoot-from-the-lip responders) castigating me already. How dare you? What gives you the right? Why would you say such a harsh and cruel thing? Why put down someone for simply asking a question?

 

To them I say, "Grow up and get a life." Read More 

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REIMURSEMENT FOR UNSOLD BOOKS

The question came up recently as to whether or not authors must repay their book publishers for unsold books. As usual, there were plenty of answers to go around--and most of them were wrong. Here's how I corrected them.

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Yes! Unlike the response from the Queen of Wrong and so many other respondents who, if I'm reading your question correctly, missed the boat entirely.

 

If you were talking about paying the publisher back for any advance against royalties received by the author but not earned out through the book's sales, the answer would be "no." Publishers don't traditionally require authors to repay unearned balances from the advances they pay their authors. But, you don't mention advances, royalties, or unpaid balances in your question; so, that's not at all the question you asked. Read More 

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BOOK REVIEWERS' RESPONSIBILITIES

I was perusing some online writing forums the other day when I came across an interesting question. The writer wanted to know what responsibilities a book reviewer has while reviewing a particular work. Not many people had answered the question (in fact, only two), and one of them was way off base. So, of course, I had to chime in. Here's my take on the subject.

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Well, while one of your respondents may know Hindi (his self-description, not mine), he certainly doesn't understand English. You asked about the responsibilities a writer has while writing a book review; he responded by explaining how to critique another writer's work. Two different animals.

 

Fortunately, another respondent to your question, Rodney, hit the nail on the head. His response is on-point and accurate. To that I would add a few things.

 

First, a book reviewer must be inscrutably honest at all times and not let a book's subject matter influence or taint his or her review. That may sound simple, but it could be unnervingly difficult. I've reviewed some books in which I didn't care for the author's literary style, but the books themselves were quite good—informative and entertaining. So, I overlooked my personal biases in stylistic preference and gave those books positive reviews. Read More 

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ARE DERIVATIVE WORKS LEGAL?

Someone asked the other dayif he could legally write a sequel to an existing work. Of course, he received a predictably muddled and incorrect response from one resondent in particular, who went out of her way to define what a derivative work is and what writing one entails--incorrectly, of course. Here's how I broached the subject.

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Well, the Queen of Wrong missed the boat yet again. Funny how often it sails away without her!

 

The truth is that copyright laws pertaining to derivative works and whether or not an author can create a sequel based upon an original, copyrighted work are complex and can't be answered with a glib, and inaccurate, "No!" Giving such an answer is irresponsible and harmful to the world of truth and reality, not to mention the derivative work's author and his or her potential for success. Who would have guessed?

 

So, with Queenie's misinformation out of the way, here's what the U.S. copyright office has to say about the subject. Read More 

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WHERE TO BREAK FOR CHAPTERS

Someone asked online the other day how to know when to break a fantasy novel into "parts" and how long those parts should be. As usual, the advice from other respondents was sketchy at best. One gal was really off base. Here's what I advised.

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Okay, listen up. Let's get one thing straight. As a teenage writer, you have my empathy. I was fifteen when I wrote my first "novel." Maybe fourteen. Who cares. What matters is that the Queen of Wrong misfired again. In her response to you, she assumed by "parts" you meant "chapters." That may be right, of course. But I doubt it, or you would have referred to them as "chapters." I'm assuming instead that by "parts" you mean "parts." As in "Part One, Part Two, Part Three" of a book, etc. And that your chapters will fall into those parts. (Forgive those who jump to conclusions and shoot from the lip, for they know not what they do.)

 

If this is true, your question can't be answered here. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

 

The number of "parts" you have in a fantasy novel is dependent upon one thing ONLY. How many do you want? How many do you need? How many do you end up with? You're the writer, after all. That means that you're the one who has the story rattling around in his head, waiting to be freed. And that means that you get to call the shots. No one else. Only you.

 

Now here comes the gut punch. The creator doesn't solicit advice; he creates. If you want to write a cookie-cutter junk fantasy novel filled with 5,000-word chapters (in general), go ahead. If you want to create your story in your words, go ahead. The difference? One will be the same old garbage that other writers always produce—formulaic, poorly crafted, unbelievably naive tales of fantastic proportion. The other will be yours. For good or bad, better or worse, it will be yours.

 

Now, you may be thinking, "Gee, that's really nifty. (Forgive me. My generation, you understand.) But he still hasn't answered my question as to whether or not I should divide my novel into parts. And if so, how many? Read More 

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