The craft of manuscript editing

Here is some good advice on the craft of manuscript editing. Vonda McIntyre has this (pdf) good introduction to manuscript preparation. Or, in a nut shell, use 12 point courier font, double spaced lines, with Title / Author / Page in the upper right corner, one inch margins on all sides, printed only on one side. Oh yes, paragraphs are indicated by first line being indented and don’t use italics, use a single line underscore instead. Bold has a squiggly line underscore.

More of my links on manuscripts at

On showing not telling and a look at character based teasers

E. E. Knight has a couple of blog entries of note.  The first is on showing not telling, or, in other words, how to avoid exposition dumps.  This got me thinking about the opening scenes for the two short stories that I am working on and how I had ended up committing the expositional sin in both.  Having set about remedying these transgressions I find that, strangely enough, I am having fun replacing a paragraph of exposition with a page or two of character interaction.  Who knew?   Well, I did.  I had just forgotten.

The second blog entry of interest was about an old  Jackie Collins’ paperback and its character based back cover copy and front cover teaser.  It struck me that it might be a good exercise to try and do this for (some of) the characters in Tactics.  Fifteen minutes later I had a fun little set of six two sentence (more or less) character descriptions.  They’re a bit silly so I’m not sure how comfortable I feel in sharing it.  Perhaps later (if and when) I take a few more steps down the road to getting published.

Writers’ group report

Yesterday evening I had the second reading of “The Alchemist of Liberty” at the writers’ group that I frequent. It went over a bit better than the first part (see my rant from last week), which is not too surprising given its more intense action sequences and introduction of a plethora of new terms (which I have been working on cleaning up). The main critique was to more on the characters and not be so relentless in my introduction of new things, which is, of course, a good suggestion as compelling characterization will usually pull you through the rough spots.

One interesting suggestion to come out of yesterday’s reading was that I should try writing it up as a movie script and sell it to Hollywood as the SFX wizards could do better justice to its visuals. This is not the first time that I have been told, in not so many words, that my writing has a cinematic quality to it. On the other hand, I can’t help but think this is polite way of saying that I should give up on trying to describe complex and/or exotic situations and events. I will politely ignore that, if it is the actual intent of the comment, and continue on trying to describe said exotic complexities.

This does bring to mind one fond wish of mine, which is to have Matt Howarth illustrate a graphic novel based one of my stories. How is that for pie in the sky?

Orphan Stars Against A Dark Background

I ran across an article in about orphan stars and this made me think of one of book that I quite enjoyed. So I thought I would go back and find a mini-review (transplanted to the wiki) that I wrote on Against A Dark Background by Iain M. Banks back in 1993. Here it is:

A profoundly dark book. Banks kept me on the edge of my seat both with his intricate culture and well organized plot. Rather than giving all the pertinent details of the history and character backgrounds he leaves them lying like small mental land mines. As I made my way through ”AADB” I found myself stumbling over these cunningly crafted bits of information and each time I experienced an explosion of implication that would light up the background only to fade away leaving a spectral images of potential. An excellent read.

Miss Snark has been indexed

The excellent and extensive blog by Miss Snark (“Where Miss Snark vented her wrath on the hapless world of writers and crushed them to sand beneath her T.Rexual heels of stiletto snark.”) has recently become more accessible. While it is unfortunate that Miss Snark has gone silent, there is much to be gleaned by what she has left behind. Kelly McCullough at Wyrdsmiths has put together an excellent index into Miss Snark’s posts which I am just beginning to explore.

Wired Love by Ella Thayer

Seeking Wired Love — or, at least, I am looking for the full text of Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes, a prophetic novel by Ella Cheever Thayer. Published in 1879, Wired Love is not SF, rather it is a novel of two telegraph operators who fall in love over the wire. I first encountered a reference to this book in the Victorian Internet by Tom Standage (which is well worth the read, particularly if you think that Internet age is completely unique) and ever since then I have been looking for copy to read. I have seen copies of it available online through used book sellers, but the price was rather dear, and as much as I would like to own a physical copy of it, I would be quite satisfied with an electronic copy. So if you know where I might find an eCopy or a cheap physical copy (reprint would be cool), I would be grateful.

Update 2007/09/25

Added a wiki page for Wired Love.

Writing update

I’ve been working away at editing “The Alchemist of Liberty” and composing a two new scenes to be added to Tactics. Things are progressing a little faster than I had anticipated. Which means that I might be done with the third draft of Tactics by the end of October.

I met with Paul T. (my first alpha-reader for Tactics) last Friday after work and talked about, among other things, Tactics and “The Shaper’s Daughter”. He hasn’t read the “The Shaper’s Daughter” since I extracted it from the second draft of Tactics and polished it up with intent of turning it into a short story. In the process of converting it into a short story I added a frame to it (which some people have liked, and some haven’t), and I had Paul read just Prologue / Epilogue frame. I was gratified when he decided that he had to reread the story on the basis of the framing.

Query letter

As an unpublished / unagented writer (I’m not using the term ‘author’, as I reserve it for writers who have been published) it is always interesting to look at query letters that actually worked, one of which can be found at Pub Rants, a blog by Agent Kristen (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at this year’s NASFIC).

Kristen follows up with additional discussions here and here. The second post includes the letter to the editor that to getting the book published.

Reading for Writing Inspiration

Every so often I feel the need to recharge my batteries and immerse myself in some great writing. When I do I find that I consistently turn to P.G. Wodehouse, specifically Young Men In Spats (I particularly love “Good-Bye to All Cats”). I also find myself reading Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen, and, believe it or not, Georgette Heyer. What is the common thread among those authors? From my perspective, they are the best writers (that I have actually read) in the English language.

Reading good SF also gives me a good jolt. Something by Iain M. Banks, Louis McMaster Bujold, or pretty much anything new and in the action-adventure space opera sort of genre.

Tech Watch

This is the first in what I plan to be a weekly roundup of technological innovations.

The laser based non-intrusive cancer detection system is an important step forward both from a cancer prevention sense and in its implications for blood analysis in general.

The developers of the super-capacitor claim that it will have 400 times the energy capacity of an equal weight in chemical batteries. If this turns out to be true then we are on the cusp of a dramatic change in the way we transport energy. It may even open the door to electrically powered aircraft.

A 360-Degree holographic display is something that they have been working on so long that one is left wondering if the air-car will get here first.

A terabyte on a CD is enough to make me drool. ‘Nuff said.

Delicious Tags: Recent Tech+Watch tags.

Writing update

I just finished folding in a set of edits on my novella “The Alchemist of Liberty” and am proceeding with another edit pass that should only take a week or so.

“The Shaper’s Daughter” novelette is almost done and I am doing a few micro-fixes to clarify some issues brought up by a couple of beta-readers while I wait for feedback from few other beta-readers.

The Tactics third draft has languished while I worked on the two extracted short stories noted above. I will be folding them back into the body of Tactics, adding two new scenes and making another (quick?) edit pass to ensure that I’ve addressed all the draft two critiques. I’d like to think I’ll be done by mid-October, but I’ll be more realistic and say that it will be more like mid-December.

Looking for a new theme

I like the blogger cafe look, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t support widgets and I’m not particularly in the mood to hack the CSS and HTML.  So I am looking around for a new theme.  I’ve found this excellent page by WordPress God that has, among other things, a nice preview and selection of themes.  Just a question of sorting through them to find something simple and clean.