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Any advice for an upcoming author?

In the breaks in his writing schedule, David has promised to stop by and chat for a while!
Any advice for an upcoming author?
Post by HatchetMan   » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:04 am

HatchetMan
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Let me just start this post by saying that it was the Honorverse that has inspired me to become a writer. I love sci-fi worlds, when they are done well, and it's been my dream to make a series of books that develop as strong a fan-base as the Honorverse. So now that I've done enough boot-licking for one post: I am going to get on to the actual reason for why I'm writing this post.

I'm currently working on a story called "Hatchet Man". It's about a hitman who goes on a quest for revenge after being put in to prison for 10 years. It takes place a bit in to the future (nowhere near as far as the Honorverse, only being 2024). I want this book to be succesful, so I only have one question.

That is: do you have any advice for a would-be teenage author?
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Re: Any advice for an upcoming author?
Post by Michael Everett   » Sat Mar 12, 2011 2:16 pm

Michael Everett
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Location: Bristol, England

Let me summarise something written by David Eddings (in the book The Rivan Codex). The actual quote is far too long to post here, but the gist of it (as broken down into bullet points by yours truly) is:-

1 - Know where the plot is going. If you don't know the plot, you can't plan the story.

2 - Know the geography. If it is set on a single planet, sketch out the continents (etc) first, if only for story reference. If set in space, note down the transit times between stars and the possible intersteller polities involved.

3 - Research. Nothing ruins a good story like a lack of research. Having your character fire fifty shots a second from a flintlock will result in howls of derision from your potential readers. If possible, try to experience at least some of what you plan to have your characters attempt (like archery, horseriding, hangliding etc)

4 - Vocabulary. Sci-fi in particular relies on a large vocabulary. You need to know the words that match your ideas best, and simply making up words as you go along does not usually work. Yes, JK Rowling kind of got away with it, but she was using latin as the basis.

5 - Know your audience. Sci-fi geeks don't (usually) want pages of turgid romance while romance readers do not appreciate multipage infodumps. Pick a genre and use it as your base.

6 - Persistence. Gone With The Wind was rejected by over 35 different publishers before it was finally printed, and it is now one of the best-selling books around.

7 - Talent. You either have this or you don't. *Personal note, I have written several experimental short stories myself. I lack the talent to create anything longer than about 40 A4 pages long and my plotlines tend to wander. This is one reason of many why I don't try to make a living as an author.*

8 - Practice. Write a million words, then go through it and edit it. Repeat the editing and tightening until you have a half-million words and a coherant story. Then file it away and repeat. Wait six months, pull out the story and read it. Criticise it. See how you could have done it better, then re-write the whole thing. Repeat again. After six or seven iterations of this, you may have something that publishers won't simply throw away. Maybe.

9 - Luck. You WILL need this. Not kidding.

This may help, or not. Hard to say. Good luck, kid.
~~~~~~

I can't write anywhere near as well as Weber
But I try nonetheless, And even do my own artwork.

(Now on Twitter)and mentioned by RFC!
ACNH Dreams at DA-6594-0940-7995
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Re: Any advice for an upcoming author?
Post by innoBy   » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:55 pm

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Everett more or less covered it, but I have additional suggestions that may be helpful, they are more of the practical type.

Buy a thesaurus, if you are using what you think is an esoteric word, and want the effect an esoteric word has, look it up there. I guarantee you that you will find a better word for the concept you wish to describe there than you will in your own mind.

Buy the most recent version of "Novel & Short Story Writer's Market" the ISBN's on the book for the 2008 edition are:

ISBN-13 978-1-58297-498-9
ISBN-10 1-58297-498-5

Learn to type, if you already know how, practice speed. Write your outlines and basic plot devices as well as any thoughts or ideas for sentences in the book by hand. Yes it's tedious to do it that way, but the ACT of handwriting typically gives you more time to think. That's a good thing.

NEVER STOP READING, if you hit a writer's block, something another author wrote may give you insight on how to get around it.

And to temper the previous comment about research, do your research, but if it's a story involving a flight of fancy, be it Sci-Fi or Fantasy, don't be afraid to make shit up. So long as you make it up consistently the same way.
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Re: Any advice for an upcoming author?
Post by innoBy   » Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:00 pm

innoBy
Midshipman

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Sorry I almost forgot the biggest piece of advice.

People read fiction to escape into another world. The authors job is to make the world they want to escape into.
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Re: Any advice for an upcoming author?
Post by dscott8   » Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:55 am

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Plot is good, world-building is good, snappy dialogue is good, but what really makes a novel work is CHARACTERS and their relationships. A book will lose me if I can't find characters who I'd like to know personally. In genre fiction, especially, too many characters are either heroically perfect or evil through and through. Make your people real.

A main character almost always needs a buddy, an anchor, a wingman (or woman). Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn -- and later, Huck and Jim. Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. Holmes and Watson. Honor Harrington and Nimitz. Someone who can bring out the main character's deeper aspects, show us what others don't see. Even in tales where the protagonist is a loner, this can be done -- Adam Hall's Quiller novels, narrated in first person, Quiller actually "breaks the fourth wall" and speaks directly to the reader. IMHO, some of the best first-person narrative ever.

The "never stop reading" advice is good, but beware of the tendency to write like the author you last read. Adam Hall brought this to my mind. I've done a bit of writing, and find that I mimic his style if I'm not careful.
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Re: Any advice for an upcoming author?
Post by rdt   » Tue Mar 29, 2011 4:25 pm

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Doesn't having a literary agent help? At least to start with.
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Re: Any advice for an upcoming author?
Post by dscott8   » Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:26 am

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rdt wrote:Doesn't having a literary agent help? At least to start with.


In order to GET an agent, a first-time author has to present a completed piece of work. Far too many aspiring authors have a good idea, usually about how the book starts and how it ends, but get bogged down in the middle. An agent wants to see that you can write, and that you can carry readers from Point A to Point Z and keep their interest through all of the points between.
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