What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 30 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: Nathan Bransford, Most Recent at Top
Results 576 - 600 of 1,464
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco.
Statistics for Nathan Bransford

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 166
576. You Tell Me: Where Are Your Reading Habits on the Writing/Storytelling Spectrum?

Last week we discussed writing vs. storytelling and parsed out how it's often the storytelling and not the sentence-to-sentence prose that is drawing people in when a book is extremely popular.

Let's imagine two sliding scale spectrums:

0-10 on the writing scale
And 0-10 on the storytelling scale

10 writing, 0 storytelling would be experimental fiction and other prose-centric musings without much/any story.
0 writing, 10 storytelling would be novels where the story is fantastic but the prose is basically indistinguishable from another book or otherwise not very strong.

Everything in between would each be a combination of strengths. For instance, 7 writing/10 storytelling would be well-written edge-of-the-seat genre fiction, 10 writing/10 storytelling would be a book that melds beautiful (if challenging) prose with expert plotting, and 10 writing/6 storytelling would finely wrought novels where we mainly admire the writing.

So. How important is writing vs. storytelling to you? Which is more important to you when you choose a book? Do you have a sweet spot? Do you gravitate toward a certain combination of writing and storytelling? Do you have limits?

Speaking personally, my favorite books are close to 10/10, but as long as the storytelling is great I'm very willing to skimp on the writing scale. I can't do less than about a 5 or 6 on storytelling no matter how good the writing is.

What about you?

54 Comments on You Tell Me: Where Are Your Reading Habits on the Writing/Storytelling Spectrum?, last added: 8/13/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
577. Do You Suffer From One of These Writing Maladies?

[commercial voice] There are pernicious writerly germs out there infecting pages all around the world. Left uncured they can be fatal. Talk to your book doctor or literary health provider if you notice any of these symptoms:

Yoda Effect: Difficult to read, sentences are, when reversing sentences an author is. Cart before horse, I'm putting, and confused, readers will be.

Overstuffed Sentences: An overstuffed sentence happens when a writer tries to pack too many things into one sentence in convoluted fashion, making it difficult for the intent of the sentence to come through and to follow it becomes an exercise in re-reading the sentence while making the sentence clearer in our brains so we can understand the overstuffed sentence, which is the point of reading.

Imprecision: When writers just miss the target ground with their word using they on occasion elicit a type of sentence experiential feeling that creates a backtracking necessity.

Chatty Cathy: So, like, I don't know if you've noticed but OMG teenagers use so much freaking slang!!! And multiple exclamation points!!! In a novel not a blog post!!! And so I'm all putting tons of freaking repetitious verbal tics into totes every sentence and it's majorly exhausting the reader because WAIT I NEED TO USE ALL CAPS.

Repetition: Sometimes when authors get lyrical, lyrical in a mystical, wondrous sense, they use repetition, repetition that used sparingly can be effective, effective in a way that makes us pause and focus, focus on the thing they're repeating, but when used too many times, so many times again and again, it can drive us insane, insane in a way that will land the reader in the loony bin, the loony bin for aggrieved readers.

Shorter Hemingway: Clipped sentences. Muscular. Am dropping articles. The death. It spreads. No sentence more than six words. Dear god the monotony. The monotony like death.

Non Sequiturs: Sometimes when authors are in a paragraph one thing won't flow to the next. They'll describe one thing, wow can you believe that thing that happened three days ago?, and keep describing the first thing.

Description Overload: Upon this page there is a period. It is not just any period, it is a period following a sentence. It follows this sentence in a way befitting a period of its kind, possessing a roundness that is pleasing to the eye and hearty to the soul. This period has the bearing of a regal tennis ball combined with the utility of a used spoon. It is an unpretentious period, just like any other, the result of hundreds of years of typesetting innovations that allows it to be used, almost forgotten, like oxygen to the sentence only darker, more visible. And it is after this period, which will neither reappear nor matter in any sense whatsoever to the rest of the novel, that our story begins.

Stilted dialogue:
Character #1: "I am saying precisely what I mean!"
Character #2: "Wait. What is that you are trying to tell me?"
Character #1: "Are you frickin' listening to me? I am telling you precisely what I am feeling in this given moment. And I'm showing you I'm really angry by using pointed rhetorical questions and petulant exhortations. God."
Character #2: "Sheesh! Well, I'm responding with leading questions that allow you to tell me exactly what you mean while adding little of value to the conversation on my own. Am I not?"
Character #1:"You are totally doing that. You totally frickin' are. Ugh! I'm so mad right now!"

The Old Spice Guy Effect (excessive rug-pulling). The character was standing on a rug. He falls through his floor to his death! The rug was actually a trap door. But wait, the character was already dead. He merely faked falling through the trap door. But wait, the trap door was actually a portal into another world. The character was actually alive, he just thought he was dead. Now he's really dead. Or is he? I'm

143 Comments on Do You Suffer From One of These Writing Maladies?, last added: 8/13/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
578. Page Critique Monday: My Critique

Thanks very much to Petronella for offering today's page, which instantly had me wishing that I had six brains, one of which would be plugged into a vast library. Um. When can I sign up for the surgery and do I need to bring my own Novocaine?

Honestly though, it's a very compelling premise and I'm curious about where this character will be taking their six brains. However, I had some concerns about the prose in this page, and there are two main culprits: imprecision and overstuffed sentences.

An overstuffed sentence happens when a writer tries to pack too much into a sentence in convoluted fashion, making it difficult for the intent of the sentence to come through and to follow it becomes an exercise in re-reading the sentence while making the sentence clearer in our brains so we can understand the overstuffed sentence, which is the point of reading.

Basically: overstuffed sentences tend to go off in unexpected directions (one clause doesn't lead directly to the next) and/or are filled with superfluous detail that obfuscates rather than clarifies.

There are two overstuffed sentences in this page ("I learned of other things I needed to know about when the day came for me to leave the gestation tank in which my body took form." and "Others of my kind would guide my automatic motions, and later teach me to undertake the volitional movements, which would be with me for the rest of my existence.") that would benefit from having superfluous detail removed or otherwise clarified (see below in the redline).

And in terms of precision, there was phrasing that didn't quite connote what the author intended and some grammar/spelling errors that tripped me up.

If this paragraph were smoother, the visceral experience of a character slowly becoming conscious with multiple brains would be more immediate and gripping.

REDLINE

Thistledown: Genesis
Genre: Science Fiction

Chapter 1: Jay’s Story: Birth

I became aware when the first of my six brains activated. At the same time "At the same time" doesn't really connote "simultaneously" for me, which is how it's intended here. It's more commonly used to mean "However," so I had to re-read it when I realized it was intended to mean "simultaneously", the Library, a vast fount of knowledge, linked to my newly activated brain. One of the many librarians allowed me access to but a tiny part of the vast database. In_spite of the small size of the area I find this confusing - is it a physical area? We don't normally think of electronic databases in terms of physical space , I delighted in all the knowledge I found there . Into my dark, silent world came light in a rainbow of colours, and sounds in a range of tones. I learned of other about the things I needed would need to know about when the day came for me to leave the gestation tank in which my body took form. It would be a long time before that would happen this feels confusing since it's in first person/past tense and presumably the narrator would know how long it took. Maybe just say "I spent X days/months/years in that state?. In the meanwhile, I played in my part of the library.

Moments before my birth, the second of my brains activated. This one governed movement, both automatic and volitional. Others of my kind would guide my automatic motions, and later teach me to undertake the volitional movements, which would be with me for the rest of my existence. This feels like it should come later - do we need to know this now?

I waited, impatient to be born. After an indeterminate period of time Reads

35 Comments on Page Critique Monday: My Critique, last added: 8/11/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
579. Page Critique Monday

Don't let any San Franciscans trick you -- yes, San Francisco is having the coldest summer in fifty years, yes, San Franciscans will complain like the dickens and act like it's the apocalypse with a side of brimstone, but press us and we will reveal that no, we don't want to trade with your heat wave, thankyouverymuch. The complaints are a ruse. You've been warned.

Now then! Page Critique Monday!

Refresher on how this works:

- If you're interested in submitting a page for a future critique, enter it in this thread in the Forums (and be sure and check out the directions in the first post).
- I use a random number generator to select the winning critique.
- Please please please remember the sandwich rule when offering your thoughts: positive, very very constructive thoughts, positive. I mean it. Err on the side of being nice.

As of this posting there were 410 posts in the thread, and the number that the good machine at random.org gave me was..........

59!

Congrats to Petronella, whose page is below.

Thistledown: Genesis
Genre: Science Fiction

Chapter 1: Jay’s Story: Birth

I became aware when the first of my six brains activated. At the same time, the Library, a vast fount of knowledge, linked to my newly activated brain. One of the many librarians allowed me access to but a tiny part of the vast database. Inspite of the small size of the area, I delighted in all the knowledge I found there. Into my dark, silent world came light in a rainbow of colours, and sounds in a range of tones. I learned of other things I needed to know about when the day came for me to leave the gestation tank in which my body took form. It would be a long time before that would happen. In the meanwhile, I played in my part of the library.

Moments before my birth, the second of my brains activated. This one governed movement, both automatic and volitional. Others of my kind would guide my automatic motions, and later teach me to undertake the volitional movements, which would be with me for the rest of my existence.

I waited, impatient to be born. After an indeterminate period of time, the top of the tank slid aside and a blurry red-lit world revealed itself. Two pairs of hands helped me to a standing position. The owners of the hands wiped the clear birth fluids from my body, making certain most the the jelly-like substance fell back into the tank.

20 Comments on Page Critique Monday, last added: 8/9/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
580. This Week in Publishing

This Publishing Week!

Lots and lots of links to get to, but first I wanted to give a heads-up about the upcoming Central Coast Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo on September 17th and 18th. Spots are still available, and there will be keynotes and workshops and all kinds of good things. I'll be giving a speech on the internal combustion engine (or maybe the writing life, haven't decided yet), I'll be doing a query game/workshop, and there will be more! Here's the website, hope to see you there!

Now then, let's get to the links, shall we?

The big news this week that has everyone talking is Barnes & Noble's announcement that after being battered by a low share price, they might be open to selling themselves. What does this mean? Well, somewhat unclear. Investor Ron Burkle had been looking to increase his stake but had been prevented from doing so, and this could potentially open the door. But founder/chairman Len Riggio may be able to prevent that and has stated that he's considering organizing a private investment group. Stay tuned.

In other book news, Google has apparently determined that there are a measly 129,864,880 books in the world. Don't worry, we still need more!!

And in e-book news, Mike Shatzkin sizes up three new e-book formats about to hit the market.

Last week we discussed our favorite villains, and almost simultaneously The Millions featured a great article called In Search of Iago that traces Iago and other sociopaths through literary history.

In writing advice news, Eric from Pimp My Novel discussed why you still want an agent even if you're e-publishing, and Moonrat has a really terrific rundown of the pros and cons of every publishing option under the sun (or should I say the moon? Get it?? MOONrat? I slay myself.),  the LA Times took a look at startup OpenSky, which helps authors monetize their Internet presence/celebrity/authority with creative merchandising and branding, Rachelle Gardner compares the writing life with an Olympic athlete's, and the Huffington Post has a slideshow of 11 of the best creative writing programs.

Speaking of the LA Times, a big hearty congratulations to Carolyn Kellogg, who parlayed her terrific work with Jacket Copy 48 Comments on This Week in Publishing, last added: 8/10/2010

Display Comments Add a Comment
581. "Lost" and the High Narrative Price of WTF

The great TV show "Lost" may already have begun fading a bit from the cultural waters after its much-discussed finale, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. I thought I'd take a slight detour from our normal topics into the world of television and culture. (Spoilers below and all that, but seriously, you've had enough time now.)

The first season of "Lost" in 2004 was a tour de force - it combined the chills and thrills of classic suspense and sci-fi television with the promise of deeper characters with relevant and complex backstories. While HBO had been experimenting with more intelligent TV and the DVD/Tivo era was affording more narrative possibilities for serial shows, "Lost" was really unlike anything that had been attempted on network television.

In case you have never seen the show, it revolved around castaways who crashed on an extremely mysterious tropical island with a strange smoke monster.

I loved the Walt!!! out of this show. The elements that elevated it above X-Files meets Gilligan's Island were twofold:

1. The flashbacks, which interwove the events on the island with the mysteriously intertwined back-stories of the characters.
2. The mysteries, which layered upon further layers and folded back on each other like a Matryoshka doll wrapped in a seashell buried in quicksand on a planet where EVERYTHING IS MINDBENDING. There is a massive website devoted to keeping it all straight.

But if there was one signature element of the show, above all else it was the WTF moments: strange, unexpected, thrilling, out-of-nowhere moments that added to the mystery and blew our minds. Whether it was the discovery of a hatch on the island, then a light coming through the hatch, other people on the island.... all the way to time travel and immortality, these WTF moments were the show's fuel. But not all of the mysteries ended up being solved.

The High Price of WTF

Introducing a shocking mystery in a TV show (or any story) is kind of like borrowing from the future - the viewer gets a jolt of excitement in the short term with the expectation that they're going to be repaid with an explanation down the line. When a polar bear comes running through the forest on a tropical island, you naturally think, "WTF!! How did that get there!!" And then you keep watching/reading until you're told how it got there.

Thus, the price of a WTF moment is that the storyteller owes you an explanation. They've borrowed, narratively, from the future.

But throughout the entire run of "Lost," just when it looked like the characters were on the cusp of figuring out something meaningful and giving the viewers some answers, BOOM, the writers hit the audience with another mystery. Jacob! Time travel! Russian with an eyepatch! Walt is soaking wet! Ben is good! Evil! Good! Evil! Good! Meek! Giant statue with four toes! OMG the island is at the bottom of the ocean!

The writers spun mysteries upon mysteries upon mysteries, all the while maintaining the illusion that there was a master plan, that they had everything under control, that there was an explanation for it all, and the mystery would be solved in the end. Pretty soon the number of mysteries had exploded and snowballed to the point that I was tuning in just to see how in the world they were going to explain it all.

And when the debt came due in the final season, rather than spend the precious final episodes tying things together and giving

79 Comments on "Lost" and the High Narrative Price of WTF, last added: 8/9/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
582. You Tell Me: Is Literary Fiction Losing Its Place in Culture?

Throughout this past year there's been a persistent idea percolating around the literati: could literary fiction really be dead? No for real this time?

No less an authority than Philip Roth wondered last year whether people still had the patience to read novels. Last month Lee Siegel wrote an article wondering "Where Have All the Mailers Gone?" and wrote, "fiction has become culturally irrelevant." A few months ago, in an article titled "The Death of Fiction?," Ted Genoways took stock of the explosion of creative writing programs coupled with the vanishing space for literary stories in magazines. Last year David Shields published REALITY HUNGER: A MANIFESTO, which examined culture's thirst for reality, and why current literary novels feel lifeless as a form.

Now, the idea that fiction as a whole has become culturally irrelevant is patently ridiculous when you consider that people are currently buying TWILIGHT underwear and when Avada Kadavra has been a trending topic on Twitter the last few days. The novel is far, far from dead, and Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy wrote a gleeful takedown of Siegel's article.

And let's also acknowledge that this is not a new idea. Here's a post from The Guardian in 2001 wondering about the end of literary fiction, and here's one from the Times in 1992 predicting the end of the novel as we know it due to, wait for it, hypertext.

But could there be something to all of this hand-wringing this time? Sure, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, and James Patterson are some of the bestselling authors of all time and have created cultural tsunamis, but that's genre fiction. What about literary fiction? Do our current literary luminaries pack the same cultural punch as their counterparts did in the past?

Major publishers are publishing fewer literary novels. Review space is almost nonexistent. The Internet has empowered the crowd at the expense of elites. Could it be real this time?

And if we are witnessing a slow decline in the impact of literary fiction, what's behind it?

Most of all: is this something we should fear?

(If you're wondering what makes a novel "literary," here's my take)

89 Comments on You Tell Me: Is Literary Fiction Losing Its Place in Culture?, last added: 8/7/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
583. Writing vs. Storytelling

In the comments section of last week's post about the one question writers should never ask themselves when reading (retroactive spoiler: the question is "do I like this?"), some people took the post to mean that I was essentially saying that if a book is popular it must be well-written, ergo the most popular books are the best written.

Not what I meant!

Now, partly this is a confusion of terms, because are we talking about "writing" as in prose or "writing" as in overall craft or are the books we like the ones that are well-written and the ones we don't like are the ones that aren't?? Everyone tends to mean something different when they talk about "the writing."

But for the most part, and you'll see below what I mean, I think when people criticize the "writing" they mean the sentence-to-sentence prose, so let's just go with that definition for now.

And let's also get one thing clear up front: there absolutely has to be a certain level of writing for a book to work, and I personally think the degree of writing quality in bestselling books is underestimated by many aspiring writers. I host page critiques because smooth and polished prose aids storytelling and in today's publishing world you need an extremely high degree of craft in order to be published.

But once you've reached a certain degree of professional-level writing, the further levels and degrees of writing is not the be all and end all of a book's success.

What I meant by last week's post is not that every popular book is written phenomenally well, but a popular book is doing SOMETHING very well, and it's far more valuable to try to pinpoint what that writer is succeeding at rather than simply dismissing a book as being horribly written just because you don't like it or just because the prose isn't top notch.

It might be the suspense, it might be the tension, it might be the pacing, it might be the setting, it might be the characters, or even more likely a combination of several different elements. But if a book is phenomenally popular, something is working that is attracting readers, and no, it's not just the marketing.

Several people mentioned this part of Stephen King's (in)famous interview about Stephenie Meyer in the comment section: "The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."

What people don't seem to remember is this part of the interview:

"People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it's not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet."

Whether or not you agree with King's assessment about Meyer's writing, at the very least he's making a distinction between writing and storytelling, or at least what I assume is a distinction between prose craft and storytelling craft, and is acknowledging what he sees as working in Meyer's books.

Yes, good writing aids storytelling, you need a certain level of writing for a book to work. But just because you don't care for the prose doesn't mean there's nothing that's working and nothing to be learned.

Do you have any thoughts on the distinction between writing and storytelling? Do you see one as being more important than the other?

584. Page Critique Monday: My Critique

Thanks so much to susanivt for offering her page! I think this opening has a nice spirit to it, and I think it does a good job of kicking off the novel with a whimsical tone and a good sense of character. While beginning with someone waking up is a bit of a standard trope, I nevertheless appreciate that this page doesn't try to do too much and instead just introduces us to the character.

My main concern about this opening is that the writing feels a bit stilted to me.

Stilted writing is a very common pratfall, and I think of it as a combination of three symptoms: 1) imprecision, 2) overly complicated phrasing, 3) the Yoda Effect.

What is the Yoda Effect? Well, I'm sure there's a proper grammar name for it, but it's basically when the verb and subject are reversed in confusing fashion. ("Judge me by my size, do you?", "Impossible to see the future is.") The Yoda Effect creeps into this page in a few places ("his whine announced the Doberman's launch" "Jumping off the bed, Dargo crouched next to her" "His quivering bulk against her side dissolved her anger."), and I think the sentences would read much more smoothly if they were reversed. ("she heard her Doberman's whine before he launched himself on the bed" "Dargo jumped off the bed and crouched next to her" "Her anger dissolved when she felt his quivering bulk against her side")

The result of the combined stilted symptoms is that this page never quite got into a rhythm for me and I didn't always believe the action. While I'm all for physical humor, I just don't know that more is gained by describing her fall with every single action in its parts rather than a more streamlined description. I tend to think that "and she fell off the bed in a heap" works better than "Kathryn flailed beneath the blankets in an attempt to get away. Misjudging the size of her new bed, she spread her arms as she slid over the edge. She managed to grip the flannel sheet and execute an impressive flip onto the floor."

I think this page could work with some polish and I would think about whether a less standard opening could better show this character in her element and possibly introduce some conflict, but it's clear that the author has a strong sense of character and that's an important step.

REDLINE

Kathryn knew she would have a bad day when she woke up to the rumble of the snowplow. Sure enough, his whine I first read this as the whine of the snowplow and wondered why the snowplow was a "he" before I eventually realized it was the dog's whine announced the Doberman's seems odd to me to refer to the dog as "the Doberman" rather than "her Doberman" - this is her pet, right? launch onto her bed see Yoda Effect above. Amid the unpredictable impacts should be "impact" of his paws, Kathryn flailed beneath the blankets in an attempt to get away. Misjudging the size of her new bed, she spread her arms as she slid over the edge. She managed to grip the flannel sheet and execute an impressive flip onto the floor.

Thump! do we need the sound effect?

"Damn it, Dargo! It's just a snowplow for Pete's sake!" May be a personal/geographic response, but I didn't believe the "for Pete's sake" - it seems like something a much older character would say.

Jumping off the bed, Dargo crouched next to her Yoda. His quivering bulk against her side dissolved her anger Yoda.

"It's okay, boy. Nothing's going to hurt you." Bending her arm at an odd angle necessary detail?, she stroked his chest and sighed into the carpet. He pressed his cold nose onto her bare leg and she rolled sideways, driving her elbow into the leg of her nightstand.

"Ouch!"

Her cherry nightstand could withstand t

49 Comments on Page Critique Monday: My Critique, last added: 8/6/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
585. Page Critique Monday

I'm back in the office after attending a lovely wedding in Amish country, who I don't suppose are big readers of this blog. Ah well. What they lose in Bachelor references they gain in lack of Bachelor references.

Time for Monday's page critique! Refresher on how this works:

- If you're interested in submitting a page for a future critique, enter it in this thread in the Forums (and be sure and check out the directions in the first post).
- I use a random number generator to select the winning critique.
- Please please please remember the sandwich rule when offering your thoughts: positive, very very constructive thoughts, positive. I mean it. Err on the side of being nice.

As of this posting there were 383 posts in the thread, and the number that the good machine at random.org gave me was..........

192!

Congrats to susanivt, whose page is below.

I'll be back in a bit with my critique.

Title: Hope
Genre: Romance (paranormal)

Kathryn knew she would have a bad day when she woke up to the rumble of the snowplow. Sure enough, his whine announced the Doberman's launch onto her bed. Amid the unpredictable impacts of his paws, Kathryn flailed beneath the blankets in an attempt to get away. Misjudging the size of her new bed, she spread her arms as she slid over the edge. She managed to grip the flannel sheet and execute an impressive flip onto the floor.

Thump!

"Damn it, Dargo! It's just a snowplow for Pete's sake!"

Jumping off the bed, Dargo crouched next to her. His quivering bulk against her side dissolved her anger.

"It's okay, boy. Nothing's going to hurt you." Bending her arm at an odd angle, she stroked his chest and sighed into the carpet. He pressed his cold nose onto her bare leg and she rolled sideways, driving her elbow into the leg of her nightstand.

"Ouch!"

Her cherry nightstand could withstand the tremor, but she couldn't say the same for the item upon it. Looking up, she saw the large display of her alarm clock read 5:14 as it tipped over the edge, hitting her in the forehead.

"God, I hate Mondays."

An hour later, Kathryn stomped her boots in the lobby of Cameron IT Consulting. Leaving a trail of snow, she squeaked along the floor toward the security desk. Chuckling, the guard covered his mouth and turned away.

"Steve, I don't even want to hear it." Kathryn frowned,

24 Comments on Page Critique Monday, last added: 8/3/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
586. This Week in Publishing

This Week! In Publishing!

This Friday I am actually out of town and thus may have missed some news from the last few days. Please feel free to fill in any links that I may have missed! (and please forgive iPad-generated typos)

First up, while I really love spam sandwiches, I do not love spam Tweets (see what I did there?). My real Twitter account now has a verified tag, so please make sure the verified one is the one you follow and not one of the phony imposter fakeries.

Mashabale recently polled their readership about their reading preferences, and found that a plurality still prefer paper books to e-books. Though dare I say I anticipate these results chnaging quickly in the coming years.

And speaking of which, the price of e-readers continues to tumble as Amazon debuts a WiFi enabled Kindle for $139 and a 3G device for $189.

If you're looking for new ways to find good books, Lifehacker picked their five favorite book recommendation services: Shelfari, LibraryThing, Amazon, GoodReads and GetGlue. (via PWxyz)

Penguin is celebrating their 75th Anniversary, and Shelf Awareness had a great article about the history of the company, which famously helped popularize a crazy new fad in bookselling called the paperback.

And CNet took a look at e-book self-publishing options, so if you're considering that option you might check that out because it's quite a comprehensive and informative article. (via @JaneFriedman)

This Week in the Forums, the likability factor in TV and books, the temptations of the delete button, and how to write a character that's smarter than you?

Comment! of! the! Week! will! be! pushed! to! next! week!

And finally, argh because the iPad makes it virtually impossible to use YouTube to embed videos, but here's a link to one that has been making the rounds this week. Jane Austen Fight Club

Have a great weekend!

31 Comments on This Week in Publishing, last added: 8/3/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
587. Can I Get a Ruling: How Do We Feel About Acknowledgments Sections?

This topic came up in the Forum recently, and I'm curious how The Readers At Large are thinking on the subject.

What do we think about thanking the Academy? Do you like acknowledgment sections? Feel they're self-indulgent? Touching? Do you notice? Not notice?

If you're reading in a feed reader or via e-mail, click through for the fancy dancy poll:

56 Comments on Can I Get a Ruling: How Do We Feel About Acknowledgments Sections?, last added: 8/1/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
588. You Tell Me: Who is the Greatest Villain in Fiction?

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the greatest villain of them all?

Iago?

Ahab?

Fagin?

Voldemort?

Sauron?

Villains are just plain scarier when they only have one name, aren't they?

Who's your choice?

102 Comments on You Tell Me: Who is the Greatest Villain in Fiction?, last added: 7/31/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
589. The One Question Writers Should Never Ask Themselves When Reading

Over the course of writing and maintaining this blog, I've found that there is one sure-fire way a commenter can set my teeth on edge and make me bring out the snide comment gun. (Well, I suppose it would work for someone to write an ode to queries beginning with rhetorical questions, but so far I have been spared that unfortunate spectacle.)

Nope. The thing that makes me craziest is when people dismiss any book, especially bestsellers, using the words "trash," "terrible," or "suck" and its variants without further comment, or worse, when people say something along the lines of "well most published books suck anyway." My teeth are chattering at the thought. CH-CH-CH-CHAATTEERRIINNGGG...

Firstly, these books plainly don't suck if they are attracting readers in large numbers. You just don't happen to like them.

Secondly, call me an old fuddy duddy OMG I sound like my parents, but we have brains and we can use words, and in a perfect world those two abilities would combine to form a thought more insightful than "X sucks."

Thirdly, if this is all an aspiring writer is taking from a book, they missed the main point of reading it. All they figured out is whether they liked the book or not.

And quod erat demonstrandum pro quo tempura I don't actually know Latin, the one question that aspiring writers should never ask themselves when reading a book is, "Do I like this?"

Here's the thing about the question "Do I like this?" Who is that question about? Well, it's about you. It's about your taste, and whether the book fit in with your likes and dislikes. It's not about the book. It's about you and whether the book spoke to you.

In other words, all you're learning when you ask "Do I like this?" as you read a book is yourself.

Now, don't get me wrong. Knowing what you like is important. But by the time we're an adult we pretty much know our likes and dislikes. Sure, some things can take us by surprise (like my inexplicable and deep-seated love of The Bachelor), but plumbing the depths of our likes and dislikes is about entertainment, it's not knowledge that is overly helpful as a writer. Knowing your likes and dislikes will help you imitate, but it won't help you learn tools you can really use.

The real question aspiring writers should ask is not whether they liked a book, but whether they think the author accomplished what they set out to accomplish. How good is the book at what it is trying to do? Dan Brown did not set out to be Marilynne Robinson, and Marilynne Robinson does not set out to be Dan Brown. So why judge Dan Brown's prose against Marilynne Robinson's or Marilynne Robinson's chase sequences against Dan Brown's?

If they author set out to write a cracking thriller did they write a cracking thriller? If they wanted to create beautiful prose and make us think deeper about ourselves, how well did they do that?

Once you start looking at an author's intent, you'll start to see where they succeeded and didn't succeed at what they were trying to accomplish. And you'll also start seeing that what most megabestsellers have in common is that the authors were phenomenal at delivering the thing(s) they set out to accomplish and at giving readers the experiences they wanted to give them. You'll start absorbing the positive attributes of books you might not even like all that much.

Asking this question and really thinking about it is the place where nuanced reading starts, and where writers will start noticing craft, technique, and things they can actually use when they write.

So

163 Comments on The One Question Writers Should Never Ask Themselves When Reading, last added: 7/30/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
590. Page Critique Monday: My Critique

Thanks again to darylsedore for bravely offering the page. I think this is an interesting high concept beginning, and the page is able to build a suspenseful tone, which I enjoyed. The "bring hammer" part of the premonition was a great touch, and I really want to know why she's under that bridge.

My concerns with this page have to do with the opening lines and with the overall polish.

I'm honestly not quite sure whether the opening rhetorical questions are meant to be taglines or whether they're intended to be the first lines of the manuscript. As someone who doesn't care for queries beginning with rhetorical questions, I'm afraid I'm not usually a fan of them kicking off novels either. I would suggest cutting the two lines and letting the mystery build on its own - "Sarah Roberts looked at her watch again" is a perfectly fine opening line.

And in terms of overall polish, I'm afraid I just didn't feel that the writing was smooth, and I was tripped up by some awkward phrasing and confusing descriptions, which are below in the redline. Lack of precision was the main culprit, and there were places where I thought a better word choice could have been more effective.

With more polish I think the reader will be more engaged as the plot unfolds.

REDLINE

Title: The Precog
Genre: Thriller
Word Count: 250


Would someone die today? Would she be able to save whomever it is she’s supposed to save? Confused by this opening
Sarah Roberts looked at her watch again.

10:15am.

Three minutes until the premonition came true.

This was the fifth one she chose to act on. She’d had seven in the last six months. The first two were neglected Passive voice. She didn’t know was happening then a tad awkward, and a word missing - it took me a little while to realize "then" meant when she was first receiving the premonitions. But now, she followed her notebook details "notebook details" the right word choice? exactly as they were written. Sarah didn’t question the cryptic words. Fear played a role, but confidence won didn't quite understand this - fear played a role in what and confidence won what? If she doesn't question the words, what does she fear?.

She reached back and found a few stray hairs above the nape of her neck. She massaged them until they were firmly in the grip of her fingers "massaged" the right word choice? do we need this sentence? . Then she tugged them out. She closed her eyes and leaned back on the dirty cement. The slight pain that oozed over her skin soothed her does pain "ooze"?, calming the nerves.

Vehicles crossing the bridge above came to her didn't quite understand "came to her". She made a mental note that the next time she had to hover under a bridge waiting for whatever was supposed to happen she would bring a pillow to sit on. The hard cement ground she inhabited angled toward a small river at forty-five degrees. It was hard cement. The grass on either side looked more comfortable, but the message was specific. If there was anything Sarah knew, it was to follow the messages with absolute precision.

Thinking of the message, she recited it in her head; Sit directly in the middle, under the St. Elizabeth Bridge. At 10:18am. Bring hammer great detail.

591. Page Critique Monday

Time for Monday's page critique! Refresher on how this works:

- If you're interested in submitting a page for a future critique, enter it in this thread in the Forums (and be sure and check out the directions in the first post).
- I use a random number generator to select the winning critique.
- Please please please remember the sandwich rule when offering your thoughts: positive, very very constructive thoughts, positive. I mean it. Err on the side of being nice.

As of this posting there were 347 posts in the thread, and the number that the good machine at random.org gave me was..........

10!

Congrats to darylsedore, whose page is below.

I'll be back in a bit with my critique.


Title: The Precog
Genre: Thriller
Word Count: 250


Would someone die today? Would she be able to save whomever it is she’s supposed to save?
Sarah Roberts looked at her watch again.

10:15am.

Three minutes until the premonition came true.

This was the fifth one she chose to act on. She’d had seven in the last six months. The first two were neglected. She didn’t know was happening then. But now, she followed her notebook details exactly as they were written. Sarah didn’t question the cryptic words. Fear played a role, but confidence won.

She reached back and found a few stray hairs above the nape of her neck. She massaged them until they were firmly in the grip of her fingers. Then she tugged them out. She closed her eyes and leaned back on the dirty cement. The slight pain that oozed over her skin soothed her, calming the nerves.

Vehicles crossing the bridge above came to her. She made a mental note that the next time she had to hover under a bridge waiting for whatever was supposed to happen she would bring a pillow to sit on. The ground she inhabited angled toward a small river at forty-five degrees. It was hard cement. The grass on either side looked more comfortable, but the message was specific. If there was anything Sarah knew, it was to follow the messages with absolute precision.

Thinking of the message, she recited it in her head; Sit directly in the middle, under the St. Elizabeth Bridge. At 10:18am. Bring hammer.

29 Comments on Page Critique Monday, last added: 7/29/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
592. This Week in Publishing

It was a pretty eventful week in publishing this, um, week so let's get right to it.

The news that everyone is talking about is agent Andrew Wylie's move to deal directly and exclusively with Amazon for e-book rights to many classic works by authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Hunter S. Thompson, Philip Roth, and more. Basically, the original contracts for these books were signed before e-books were a glimmer in Jeff Bezos' eye, and Wylie is taking the stance that these rights belong to the authors and not the publishers.

This, as they say, is a pretty big deal for publishers. As author Jason Pinter writes in the Huffington Post, backlist sales represent a huge amount of money for publishers, and could drastically affect the publishers' revenue in the future if they don't have e-book rights to their backlist.

The publishers themselves have reacted strongly. Macmillan CEO John Sargent released a strongly worded statement, and Random House announced that they "would be taking appropriate action" and would not do any business with Wylie's agency until the matter is resolved. For his part, Wylie told the Times that Random House's response took him by surprise, and that he needed some time to think about the situation before responding.

For analysis of what this all means and the full ramifications, definitely check out Pinter's HuffPo article, Kassia Krozser's recent post on the matter, and Publishers Weekly's new PWxyz blog has a good roundup of the reactions around the Internet.

And meanwhile, there was other big e-book news as Amazon announced that e-books have been outselling hardcovers on Amazon for several months. It's not quite apples to apples considering the lower price of e-books, but still, another benchmark as e-books continue their rise.

And yet amid all of this e-book hullaballo, @OtherLisa linked to an article about how indie bookstore sales have risen this year. Go indies go!!!!

In life of a writer news, Tahereh has the five stages of querying, Susanna Daniel wrote an article on the quiet hell of taking ten years to write a novel, and oh yeah, now might be a good time to link to San Francisco legend Broke Ass Stuart's guide to the best literary bars in San Francisco.

Oh, and if that doesn't work you can cheer yourself up with the Times' r

38 Comments on This Week in Publishing, last added: 7/26/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
593. Top 10 Myths About Our E-book Future

As we look forward to our (mostly) paperless future, I have been noticing a few predictions out there that I do not agree with and wish to quash like bug. I've previously tackled the Top 10 Myths about E-books themselves, but I thought I'd do a broader one about the reading and publishing world as a whole. Behold!

Man, I love that word. Behold! I am wielding an exclamation point! Behold! Behold!

Ahem. Sorry.

Behold!

1. Due to an avalanche of self-published and poorly edited e-books, readers will be submerged in a big pile of suck.

The avalanche is already here. Go to Amazon and you'll find a million books for sale with more uploaded every day, and yet we're all still able to find the books we want to read. You won't have to go wading through a giant slush pile in order to find something to read. Good books will find you, just like they already do.

2. Publishers are going to disappear.

There's more to making a book than uploading it to Amazon. Even in the e-book era publishers offer a range of services that are not easy to duplicate. While they will no longer be the iron-clad necessity that they used to be in the print era, publishers will still be around.

3. Paper books will disappear.

Some people just love the paper, and not to worry. Even in a world where we read primarily e-books, print will still be an option. Where there is a customer, there is a seller.

4. E-books are going to destroy libraries.

As of last October there were over 5,000 libraries who offer e-books. While I haven't yet heard of an e-reader lending program, I have heard of libraries that lend iPods loaded with digital audiobooks, so e-reader programs can't be far behind. (UPDATE: actually they're already here. See comments section for more)

5. All authors will have an equal shot.

The future will definitely be more equal as authors no longer have to scale the print publishing gates in order to find readers and can upload their manuscript to e-bookstores. Everyone will have a chance, but some chances will be more equal than others. The advantage will still go to authors with platforms and those launched by major publishers. Sorry, all you egalitarians out there.

6. The book world will be divided between a few megabestsellers and everyone else selling only two copies. It will be impossible for authors without platforms to get anyone to pay attention to them.

While, as I mentioned in point number 5, the early advantage will go to those with existing platforms, hits will come out of nowhere, including from people without huge platforms and a built-in audience. Just like the Double Rainbow guy. All it takes for a book to go viral is one person recommending a book to two friends and the process repeating several million times.

7. We're all going to drop our e-readers into our bathtubs amid a massive, world-wide power outage and multi-government e-book deletion conspiracy that causes us to permanently lose every book the world has ever published.

Possible. But unlikely.

8. The reading world will be divided between those who can afford an e-reader and those who can't.

While I think this is a legitimate concern, over the lon

29 Comments on Top 10 Myths About Our E-book Future, last added: 7/25/2010
Display Comments