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Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan is a private writing coach.

1/9/06 7:00:01 PM Opening "Chat Log 1/9/06"

Lightningbug1957: I was hoping to share your websites. Is that ok?
Firezone77: Sure
W2PDee: we're trying out a new process with the room...so, forgive the bumps.
Firezone77: www.careerdoctorforwriters.com (Keyword to: http://www.careerdoctorforwriters.com)
Lightningbug1957: Jonathan has a couple different web sites you might want to check out
W2PSushi: the AIM link?
Firezone77: And www.ghostroadblues.com (Keyword to: http://www.ghostroadblues.com)
Which is the official website of my book series, which launches in June from Pinnacle
W2PDee: thanks...looking forward to seeing it.
Lightningbug1957: Jonathan, is it true that you sold 7 books in 2005 or is that just a rumor?
Firezone77: It's true-ish... I landed a 3-book novel deal in April, and got a provisional go ahead on a 4-book nonfic deal in December. Which was finalized Friday
W2PDee: Congratulations.
W2PLyric: We will start in a few minutes, since some of our members are still figuring out the new room
Firezone77: Anyone ever doubts the usefulness of an agent...there you go.
Lightningbug1957: Really great!
origjasstorm: Very exciting, congrats Jonathan
Lightningbug1957: Now all you have to do is write all of them! LOL
Firezone77: Good point. I have two done, and five to go over the next 22 months.
W2PLyric: okay, Paul, Donna do you think we're about ready to start?
Firezone77: Discipline is key to writing success. You can't let days pass without getting pages down.
W2PLyric: First off, I'd like to welcome everyone to Writing to Publish!
Lightningbug1957: Thanks for coming tonight. We have a great speaker for you tonight. On a personal level Jonathan Maberry is my mentor but he is also an award-winning writer with thirty years in the business.
W2PLyric: Tonight we're pleased to have a session sponsored by the Pen Hens, but before we do, I want to especially welcome our AIM members back after such a long hiatus. Welcome back, Jas and Michael!!!! and Coco Carol will be here shortly too.
W2PLyric: also welcome to our other guests tonight, too. Okay, without further ado, I am turning the floor over to Bev.
Lightningbug1957: He has taught writing classes and has lectured extensively on just about every aspect of the writing life. He is the author of fifteen books, over 900 articles, scripts, plays and much more.
Lightningbug1957: It's my pleasure to introduce Jonathan Maberry. He's my mentor and has been wonderful so I wanted to share his wisdom with you. He was gracious enough to agree to join us. He is a Board Member of the Philadelphia Writers Conference, a Mentor for the Horror Writers Association, a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and the National Writers Union. He's going to speak about Revision tonight so I hope you all have some questions prepared for him.
Lightningbug1957: Jonathan, would you like to take it from here?
Firezone77: Sure
Firezone77: Hello all! Thanks for having me. Hope I can live up to that stellar intro.
I'll type this in bits and pieces... And then open it up to Q&A
Firezone77: Let me give you just a little backstory on how I got into the biz.
It might help those of you who are looking to make the break.
Bottom line is that I've always wanted to write.
Back when we have that & what do you want to do when you grow up thing in 3rd grade, I said that I wanted to be a writer.
When I was in college I started submitting articles to magazines, and if there were 25 or 30 format mistakes that could be made..
...I made all of them and then invented some new ones. Got tons of rejection letters.
Still have the first one...framed. It says, in bright red magic marker: Are you serious?
The editor thought it was one of his colleagues having some fun by sending in the world's worst query.
Lightningbug1957: Glad you kept that one!
W2PLyric: ha ha
Firezone77: I actually took his question seriously, and I asked myself if I really was serious
Of course I had to determine what serious meant.
The way I defined it...
serious meant being both a good writer...
...and a good businessman.
Business person
In any case...
BrownDvs: Good PC check there, Firezone. ;-)
Firezone77: I'm quick!
I decided to learn as much about the business as I could.
I figured...the ability to write is partly a gift.
Business savvy is not.
F If I wanted to get ahead in the business I had to know how to manage my writing as a business.
So, that's what I focused on.
Paying attention to trends, changes in the market, the forms of business etiquette, etc
And that has been just as useful to me as improving the craft.
Not taking things personally was key.
Rejection letters mean nothing. Everyone gets them.
Stephen King, Janet Evanovich...everyone.
I approach writing and revision with the same business savvy approach.
When I plan a book, I don't just go with whatever idea is burning in my head...
...though that's certainly the fuel for the passion to write...
...but I plan how the book will be positioned in the market. I build it around a target audience and a specific location in the bookstores.
Because otherwise it just won't sell.
Once you stop writing, from that point on it's all marketing.
The revision process is the most fun for me.
I do, on average, about a dozen different drafts ...and don't let that scare you.
Some drafts are big, others can be done in a day.
There is no writer out there who has not been rejected.
Not one.
So, the real key to successful book production --at least for me and my students-- is to start out with a solid (though very elastic outline)...
...then write a complete first draft.
No revisions until the first draft is done. No matter how tempting it is.
If I had a dime for every client I have who has written the same %$@$-ing three chapters over and over and over again, I could buy Microsoft.
Lightningbug1957: LOL
Firezone77: A first draft is allowed to be the wrong length...it's allowed to be ugly, poorly written, boring.. ...all that it needs to have in order to be 100% successful is.. .. complete.
It needs to tell the essential story, and nothing else.
Then, when that's done, the 2nd draft is all about prettying it up. The crafting of words and sentences, images and nuance.
Additional drafts are often (to me) theme specific.
I do one draft that is just a chronology of events, with a calendar and (if necessary) a clock at hand.
I do a draft that is just dialogue. Going through and making sure each character speaks in a way that has integrity to that character's nature.
And with idiomatic flavorings that make the character unique.
J K Rowling is a good example of superb dialogue.
You can take almost any single line of dialogue and figure out who said it.
Another draft I do is to follow a single plotline from end to end...
...making sure that it has integrity.
I usually do another draft for technical points.
Readers HATE it when you get even the smallest facts wrong.
For example, I loathe poorly written fight scenes. I teach martial arts and I'm a former bodyguard. It annoys the hell out of me when writers get this wrong.
Lightningbug1957: Me too with legal stuff. Drives me crazy
Firezone77: I double check everything. Even down to specs on a car, the look of a flower (Google image searches are great)

W2PLyric: Jonathan, can you please explain what you mean by drafts, are you writing, as you say, only dialogue for instance, or concentrating in that draft on dialogue?
Firezone77: Sure...
When I finish the first draft, which is the complete barebones book. Written in the best style I can manage without rewrite or slowing down...
Then each successive draft is a whole-book revision that goes from page one to THE END.
I save each of these as separate dated files.
: So, with the book I'm writing now, I'm on the 3rd draft. As soon as I start one of these theme-specific revisions, I save the file as, for example, Dead Man's Song 3rd draft 1 07 2006
W2PLyric: thanks for the clarification
Firezone77: That way I know that this file has the most recent version
W2PDee: Might be a good point to see if there are other questions... before going on...
Firezone77: Sure thing. Fire away.
Lightningbug1957: that's right, isn't it? I skip everyone except the person I'm working on?
W2PDee: don't be shy
Firezone77: Yes. Except where they interact with another character.
Lightningbug1957: It makes it much easier to focus on that character
Firezone77: Sometimes a subplot involves the interaction of two characters, in which case a dialogue draft and subplot draft are done simultaneously.

W2PDee: Can you go into a little more detail on that elastic outline?
W2PDee: What do you include in it?
Firezone77: Sure. The outline is laid out in the old-fashioned bullet-pointed style you learned in 4th grade.
Chapter One (give it a title or not, your call), followed by a bullet point on which you record a short half sentence that cues you as to the content of the first scene
And then the second scene, etc.
Until you're done chapter one.
Outline it all the way to the whodunit
And then allow yourself to write the book as it comes out of you.
An outline is a guidepost, not a command from God.

JnsnAngel: I am using Microsoft Word. I try saving drafts, but it seems to mess up. Do you use Word?
Firezone77: Yes, I use Word exclusively. If you are having problems with Word, feel free to email me. Might take longer than we have here to solve it. Email is info@careerdoctorforwriters.com (Keyword to: mailto:info@careerdoctorforwriters.com)

Lightningbug1957: When should you show your work to someone? After the first draft?
Or shouldn't you show your work to anyone?
Firezone77: Only show the first draft if you're brave. I generally wait until the 2nd draft is done. The pretty draft.
That way you're getting feedback on a version of the book relatively close to what it should look like when completed.

W2PDee: But, how do you know when you have a finished product? when to stop the
Firezone77: Ah...there was a poet who once said: A poem is never finished, only abandoned. I get to the point where the logical part of my brain and the artiste part of my brain are no longer at open way with one another...
...and then I let it sit.
I let folks read it again, and then a month later read it as dispassionately as possible.
If it needs changes, and those changes are obvious, I make them.
If not, I start sending out pitch letters (queries) and the synopsis.

PHeeren: Do we writers fail and succeed at all times? Sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed, see what I mean? ga
Firezone77: Few writers have a perfect track record. And it doesn't really matter.
What matters is that you keep writing, and constantly send your writing out.
Success is measured in big picture terms for writers. We've all written bombs. We just shove them in a closet and move on.

Dhewco: What are you doing in that month where you're letting it sit? Working on another novel? or doing something else? ga
Firezone77: I am always writing something else. I don't believe in waiting or being idle.
I write every single day. No exceptions. Even if it's a half a page.
And when one project is done, I already have another lined up

Trina Pink: What do you mean by, "logical part of my brain and the artiste part of my brain are no longer at open way with one another."

Firezone77: Glad you asked.
Writers are the only folks allowed to be schizophrenic. It's a job requirement.
Trina Pink: OH!! You meant "open war!" I got it. GA. And thanks.
Firezone77: When I write the 1st draft it's done by the Van Gogh side of the brain. Artistic, weird, way outside the box.
Then revisions are often done by the Spock side of the brain, who removes anything that doesn't logically fit.
When Spock can no longer find fault with Van Gogh, and vice versa, I call a truce and submit the book.
Lightningbug1957: I like that analogy, Jonathan

LGVernon: Two comments: Pheeren, I've been writing and paying taxes for same for just over 18 years---rejection is a constant---even from editors I write for with some frequency---kind of like finding out Lassie is really a werewolf.
LGVernon: The second comment concerns open warfare in the brain and letting your work cook. I've found that if I finish something---an article,a chapter, a scene---whatever---and then I let it cook for a couple of weeks, I tend to do a much better job of revising than one I would do immediately.
Firezone77: Sure, that's what I said earlier. I go away for a month (from the project) and come back to it with as much dispassion as I can muster.
Also.. ...Perspective is a wonderful thing, and time cultivates perspective, particularly in writing.
The real trick is nailing a good piece on deadline without the luxury of waiting for distance to sharpen one's view.

Firezone77: One of the best tricks to getting a good final draft, and for improving the process of doing earlier drafts, is to read the work out loud..
..and NOT in a boring monotone or at warp speed.
ACT the book out.
Say the dialogue in character.
read the prose as if it matters.
See how it sounds.
Another vital trick is storyboarding.
Put every major scene on separate 3x5 cards and then spread them out on a big table and move the story elements around.
Try them this way and that.
Change the order of events.
Often a missing element will become clear..
and very often the sensible order of the book will emerge differently than the one you outlined.
I've found this to be incredibly valuable.
With students in my classes who are visual learners, this works better than any other revision tool.
Another thing..
While writing one draft, keep an open Word document up titled REVISION NOTES.
Instead of going back to make changes on the version you're writing, make notes in that file and then use it for later revisions.
Questions on any of that?

Chris Sargent02: where do you teach?
Firezone77: I run workshops and classes as part of my Career Doctor for Writers business. Currently our workshops and classes are in Eastern PA, NJ and DE. But we're starting online classes in March....I also do a lot of classes at writers conferences.
Firezone77: Wait, let me add..

W2PDee: When you speak out the book, do you tape it and listen to it?
Firezone77: I sometimes do that and listen as I drive. I try to hear it like a book on tape.

Rose1533: How much do your workshops cost? And bTW, I think I'd have a wreck listening to myself reading my book in the car!
Lightningbug1957: I thought exactly the same thing! LOL
W2PDee: :-)
Firezone77: That depends on the workshop. This is a link to my class list: That depends on the workshop. This http://www.careerdoctorforwriters.com/workshops.htm (Keyword to: http://www.careerdoctorforwriters.com/workshops.htm)
Firezone77: I teach all sorts of programs.
Rose1533: Thanks. I'll look into it.
Firezone77: The most popular ones are NUTS AND BOLTS OF THE WRITING BUSINESS, which teaches how to break in. And WRITE YOUR BOOK IN 9 MONTHS
Rose1533: Took me seven years!
Firezone77: The books from that program are scouted by two NYC agents.

RLMorgan51: As the old saying goes "FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT," reading and re-reading something over and over to make revisions is great. But after a while it becomes stale as you already know what is coming next. Reading something aloud causes you to use another sense and you get to pick up all the errors that you missed previously

W2PLyric: Can you please tell us how many of your students do get published within the first year they work with you and what their average advance is?
Firezone77: 70% of my students sell within a year of my classes.
W2PDee: that's a tough question, lol
Trina Pink: Wow.
Firezone77: To clarify, though...
Lightningbug1957: that's great news!
W2PDee: good %...impressive
Firezone77: most of my classes, until this year, have been magazine oriented
W2PLyric: fiction? novels?
Firezone77: I am just now completing the first round of novel writing classes and nonfiction book classes.
W2PLyric: let me clarify, how many of your students sell fiction to real houses and what advances do they get
Firezone77: Of that list, one each has sold, and four more have landed agents, out of a group of 22
W2PLyric: I'm sure you have private students too
Firezone77: Let me add... I don't advocate self-publishing. All of the students of mine who have sold, sell to paying markets.

W2PLyric: can you complete the answer re advances, Jonathan?
Firezone77: Advances are another issue. The typical fiction advance for a first time author is only about $5000. A little more for nonfic.
W2PLyric: thank you, good info

PHeeren: do you think most writers fell victim to suspicious self-publishers?
Firezone77: There are very few self-publishers of real quality, and there are many scam artists. I've heard way too many horror stories.
When I ran the Writers Room of Bucks County we were a self-publsiher, however, and we approached it (because we are writers ourselves) in such a way as to value the writer and their work. But most self-publishers don't do that. Many are just book printers who call themselves publishers.
PHeeren: (I was an English graduate then)
Firezone77: Bottom line, though... ...I advocate that emerging writers value their work highly enough to at least make a serious try at conventional publishing before even thinking about self-pub.

BrownDvs: Why more for non-fic than fic?
Firezone77: Nonfic always sells better, and it has a longer shelf-life.
Firezone77: Unless it's a bestseller, fiction is there and gone in four months. Most novels are not bestsellers.
BrownDvs: Interesting, I didn't know that.
W2PDee: ah, the facts of life.
Firezone77: Nonfiction books tend to be on the shelf year after year.
Firezone77: As far as last comments...
BrownDvs: Do you know why that is?
Lightningbug1957: And with non-fiction, do you have to write the whole book first or do you query first?
Firezone77: No
BrownDvs: Hmmm
Firezone77: For nonfic you need an outline, maybe a sample chapter, and a nonfiction book proposal. Those are tough, but they are crucial sales tools.
Firezone77: For fiction, you need the whole enchilada

W2PLyric: Can you speak as to advances, what we can expect for first books fic and non fic, and then afterwards? This is something we rarely get real info on. how do those first time authors get multi book deals with huge advances? ( and I was paying attention to the 5K answer before)
Firezone77: For every first-timer who gets a multi-book deal or a huge advance, there are about 90000 who don't.
W2PDee: sigh!
Firezone77: Flukes happen, but they don't happen often.
BrownDvs: True that
Firezone77: And many fluke writers tank if their book can't live up to the hype.
W2PLyric: can you give us an idea of the pay gradation, though?
Firezone77: Five grand is the typical fiction advance. But that's okay, because once you earn it out (meaning that the book has sold enough copies so that your percentage of the cover price equals the advance)...
Firezone77: then you get royalties 3x per year.
And if the book sells over seas, that's just a sale with no work.
For nonfiction, the advances for beginners are a little higher, but not much.
It's 2nd, 3rd, 4th sale where you see those figures double or quadruple, and that's entirely based on sales performance.
The downside to getting a multi-book deal right out of the box is that you don't have sales numbers to warrant a big advance
So, you seldom get one...though you do have that multi-book deal.
Sometimes, if you're lucky, you get to be a fluke. Talent seldom enters into it.
Lightningbug1957: What does then, if not talent?
Firezone77: I had a fluke year. All that it proves is that animal sacrifices to elder gods sometimes pay off. Market positioning matters.
W2PDee: do the elder gods take mastercard?
G1ft0fgabn0t: hahahaha
Rose1533: LOL!
Firezone77: If the book has sales potential to a large demographic, the marketing department at the publisher will authorize more money.
Firezone77: Here's a fact: it is the sales marketing department who buy a book...not the editor or publisher.
Firezone77: If they don't think the book has legs with a given demographic, it doesn't matter how well it's written. It just won't sell.
W2PDee: Jonathan, this has been a good session...you must be tired...so might be good to tie it up with any last words of wisdom you can offer us...
W2PDee: I've learned a lot, as I'm sure the others have, too...
Firezone77: (I never get tired...but I can take a hint. LOL).
Lightningbug1957: You can stay as long as you want! can't he?
W2PDee: sure he can...
Firezone77: I'm good for another few minutes if ya'll are.
Lightningbug1957: great!
Rose1533: Got to put Em to bed. I can't stay!
Firezone77: If anyone has any questions later...email me
Lightningbug1957: How do you know what is going to sell?
Rose1533: Got your e-mail and your web site. Thanks.
Lightningbug1957: How do you know the market?
Firezone77: I spend a lot of time at the bookstore. I read the trades (Publisher's Weekly)....
W2PSushi: PW is expensive!
Firezone77: I read the market news on Publisher's marketplace (a valuable website)
Firezone77: So...read it at the library. Less expensive that way.
LGVernon: BTW---if you aren't aware, you can access PW and Publisher's Marketplace online.
But it is costly
Firezone77: And I talk to booksellers at bookstores, and other writers.
Rose1533: Me, too. Got to go. Thanks, Jonathan.
W2PLyric: Jonathan, I am going to invite you to stay and chat
Firezone77: Also, I have weekly chats with my agent. We plan!
Beccastrat: I've really enjoyed this session. Jonathan - thanks for coming :-)
W2PLyric: but I want to in the meantime thank you for coming tonight
W2PLyric: while we still have people left here to thank you!
G1ft0fgabn0t: <><><>applause<><><>
G1ft0fgabn0t: Thank you!
W2PSushi: thanks muchly :-D
Firezone77: I'm game.
Dhewco: I have to go, thanks, Jonathan
W2PLyric: so lets give him a round of applause guys
W2PLyric: <><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
W2PDee: Excellent presentation...
Lightningbug1957: Yay!!!!!
W2PLyric: thanks to the pen hens for sponsoring him
G1ft0fgabn0t: Thanks for the informative session! <><><><><><><><>
Firezone77: Thanks!
W2PDee: I'm going to try your suggestions on draft writing...
Firezone77: It was a real pleasure.
W2PDee: <<<<<clap>>>>>>>>
Firezone77: Hopefully we'll run into each other again.
W2PLyric: we have people here with other obligations like kids and medical routines, so I wanted to be able to close the session officially. Thanks to everyone for coming tonight.
W2PDee: I think you might be a repeat presenter, if you don't mind.
W2PLyric: Jonathan will stay and answer some more questions for those who are interested, for as long as he chooses.
Beccastrat: Goodnight all :-)
LGVernon: Thanks again for the invitation, Lyric.
Firezone77: I'm always game to talk to such a lively bunch.
W2PLyric: you are welcome Linda, please come again!
Lightningbug1957: Glad you liked our group. We real friendly!
Firezone77: So I see.
W2PLyric: Jonathan, is you have some articles or things you'd like Bev to pass on to us, we are always interested in reading material from our guests
W2PLyric: thank you all, and I too am going to say goodnight!
W2PDee: night, Lyric...
Lightningbug1957: I think it was the guy who wrote The DaVinci Code - wasn't that like his 5th book?
Firezone77: Reading right now is a little tough for me. I have three books due this year.
G1ft0fgabn0t: Pumpkin time here too. Thanks again. G'nite, y'all :::poof:::
W2PDee: night, Gabby...
W2PLyric: no, sorry, Jonathan, I meant articles on writing YOU have written, which you'd like to pass on to US
Firezone77: Ah
W2PLyric: please let Bev pass them on to us. best to all, goodnight!
Firezone77: I haven't written many articles on writing. Though I do have three books in development with co-authors.
W2PSushi: thanks, all
W2PSushi: I will send along the Log tomorrow
Lightningbug1957: Jonathan, great job !Thanks so much for coming and sharing all this knowledge.
Firezone77: One thing for those of you who write short stories or poetry
Firezone77: I co-own an ezine called Wild River Review (www.wildriverreview.com)
Firezone77: Debuts in Feb. We have sections exclusively for First Bylines, etc.
W2PSushi: cool
Firezone77: Worth a shot.
W2PDee: what kind of stories?
Firezone77: When you submit, drop my name.
W2PSushi: with a pic of us shaking hands ;-)
W2PDee: lol
Firezone77: Pretty much any kind of stories. The mag is mostly a literary fiction thing, but we have sections for genre writing
W2PDee: thanks for giving us the chance...much appreciated.
Firezone77: Sure
Lightningbug1957: Does it cost anything to submit?
Firezone77: Nope. On the other hand, you don't make any money.
W2PDee: Jonathan...the response from the group was positive...we really enjoyed your session...
W2PDee: This is one I will be printing out...
Firezone77: We started it just to help writers get further in their career. Subscriptions are free, too.
W2PSushi: hey, it's a byline.
Firezone77: Yes it is.
W2PDee: I need to take off myself...so wanted to just say thanks again...you lived up to Bev's good press.
Lightningbug1957: Oh, I want a subscription. Keep meaning to send my short story in.
Firezone77: And literary mags swing a lot of weight when it comes to credibility.
W2PDee: Night all... take care.
Firezone77: Adieu
W2PDee: and keep writing
Firezone77: Getting pretty empty in here. I can hear echoes.
W2PSushi: LOL
Lightningbug1957: Well, it is 11:24
LGVernon: It's my perfume.
W2PSushi: we are a half hour beyond our usual time :)
Firezone77: Anyone else have any last questions?
Lightningbug1957: almost the bewitching hour
Firezone77: Sorry to keep you all up.
W2PSushi: no prob! they stayed voluntarily. must be a good sign.
Lightningbug1957: What should I do after the dialog drafts are over? I think I need to sit down and read the whole thing from start to finish and then show it to you again.
Firezone77: Go on to what I call a shakedown draft. Language and grammar...but not a full proofread. And then pass the thing around to folks who have never read any version of it .before.
Lightningbug1957: Do you really want to read it again? It's changed so much.
Firezone77: Of course I'm going to read it!
Lightningbug1957: ok. language and grammar.
Lightningbug1957: when do you do the full proofread
Firezone77: Yep. Make sure you unsplit your infinitives.
Firezone77: When I can no longer make any changes, then I get it proofed. And I never do my own proofing. Ever.
Lightningbug1957: take out all those "that's." I have a list of words like that and just. I look for them and take most out
W2PSushi: remember Tom's old sentence? The teacher said that that that that that boy used was incorrect.
Firezone77: And all the sentences that begin with and. But make sure to check for sentences that begin with but.
Lightningbug1957: Is there anyone from your group who you think would be willing to read the whole thing? And should the readers be writers or just regular folks?
Firezone77: Problem with my group is they're all professional editors. Unless you mean the students. In which case they're all in peer critique groups dedicated to each class. So, they're reading everyone else's stuff.
Lightningbug1957: Well, I meant the students like Janice or Kerry who I just met.
Firezone77: You should post the request on the Career Doc message board. See who bites.
Lightningbug1957: ok
W2PSushi: there is always critters.com, or was that critters.org. not hard to look it up.
Lightningbug1957: I know people who would read it but they're not writers. should I be focused on just writers?
W2PSushi: well, I am going. dinner time
Firezone77: You don't want writers to read it. You want readers to read it.
Lightningbug1957: Bye Paul
Firezone77: And I guess I should cash it in, too
W2PSushi: thanks again
Firezone77: Very welcome

1/9/06 8:30:32 PM Closing "Chat Log 1/9/06"

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