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Jack McDevitt

Mr. McDevitt is a Science Fiction author.

(The screen-name lines are 'doubled' because of a necessary technical workaround.)



9/11/06 6:56:30 PM Opening "Chat Log 9/11/06"

Rose1533: Hi, Paul
Rose1533: We've been having t-storms off and on all day, so if I leave suddenly, you'll know why.
W2PSushi: hi there
WriterOfDreamz: hiya
Rose1533: Hi, Dreamz
W2PSushi: hi all
WriterOfDreamz: rosieposie! how are you?
W2PSushi: Hi all
CSImom86: hi everyone
WriterOfDreamz: Sushi what are the plans for this evening, or have I rolled up at a bad time, as usual? LOL
W2PSushi: I will be IMing with the guest to copy in his lines plus the Q&A
W2PSushi: please do NOT use IMs on me now
Rose1533: Our guest has tried to get AIM and then AOL, but he can't get into the chat room.

W2PSushi: Our guest this evening is Jack McDevitt
RLMorgan51: Finally made it 10 minutes in get in
WriterOfDreamz: ouch RL
WriterOfDreamz: that's too long lol
Mallie1025: I brought a friend, Wellnessmommy--ellen--to sit in
Wellnessmommy: hello

W2PSushi: I will speak for him, via IMs
W2PSushi: his biography:
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Philly native. Former teacher, cab driver, naval officer, motivational trainer. First story sold in 1980. Msxk111: Love writing SF
W2PSushi: he is a best selling SF author
PHeeren: hello
Rose1533: Hi, Tom
RLMorgan51: HI ALL

W2PSushi: his opening presentation:
W2PSushi: Msxk111: I'd rather do a seminar style than poke in a long presentation. Maybe only this--
W2PSushi: Msxk111: That writing is much more than telling a story. That it is creating an experience, and keeping in mind that anything pulling the reader out of that experience, like--
W2PSushi: Msxk111: long words that the reader has to look up, or too many words, or getting on a bandwagon, kills the experience. When the tide comes in
W2PSushi: Msxk111: The reader should get wet.....
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Readers don't want to hear a story. They want to live through an experience.
W2PSushi: (we need a queue keeper also)
Rose1533: I can do that
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Readers don't want to hear a story. They want to live through an experience.'
W2PSushi: Msxk111: It may be that we can talk about some of the things that allow editors to reject a manuscript-- Msxk111: --To read no farther than the first para or two-- Msxk111: --Which is what they want to do.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Which brings up a critical piece of advice: Msxk111: Have someone you trust look at your ms. before sending it out. Msxk111: You need someone who has taste--
W2PSushi: Msxk111: --and will tell you what she really thinks!!!!
W2PSushi: Msxk111: When you hear things you don't want to, do not get angry-- Msxk111: --but take her to lunch and decide whether what she said makes sense. Msxk111: Get angry once and you've lost your best friend.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Doesn't need to be a wife. Anybody will do.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Do we want to talk about writing tonight? cuebon4: yep Msxk111: I can provide some tips on how to get rejected
W2PSushi: Msxk111: I should say thanks to whoever figured out how to make this work.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Getting rejected?
W2PSushi: Msxk111: 1. Overwrite. Take too long, too many words, to get to the point. Msxk111: It's the most common reason editors kick manuscripts back. And it shows up right away. Para 1.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: It happens because teachers assign 500 word essays, or 1000 word essays Msxk111: Or the blue book notion that it gets graded by weight.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Not true in fiction. Msxk111: No unnecessary words Msxk111: No unnecessary scenes.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Few adjectives.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Shoot every adverb.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Most overused word in the language is 'very.' Avoid it. Let the nouns and verbs carry the freight. (Hemingway)
W2PSushi: Msxk111: 2. Start too slowly. Msxk111: Short fiction should begin as close to the climax as possible.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Fill in whatever you have to as you go along.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: That's the dark and stormy night joke in Charlie Brown. Msxk111: Never start with a weather report.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: 3. Fill in enough physical detail so the reader knows where he is.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Don't need much. Mention the fabric of the sofa, a couple pictures on the wall, a battered desk, rain at the windows.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Enough so the reader's imagination takes hold. But just that much and no more.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: 4. Give us real characters. Watch those heroes.
ABSHRINK: hi just wa dozing again
W2PSushi: Msxk111: When your character is the best tennis player on the planet you probably have a problem.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Give the reader characters he can identify with. And sympathize with.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Even the villainous ones. If you have to have one.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: The ideal kind of conflict is one in which both sides have a point.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: That should be 'ideal'

W2PSushi: we will now take questions
W2PSushi: protocol
W2PSushi: type a ? and the queue keeper will call you

CSImom86: how do you know if something is too wordy?
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Go through it on successive drafts--
CSImom86: let her go first if she did it right
W2PSushi: Msxk111: And see whether some words can be dropped out without changing the meaning.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: 'The thought entered my brain that--,' etc. What do you think? Msxk111: Where else would a thought enter?
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Anything that reminds the reader he's reading a book, like something stupid, destroys the illusion you are trying to create. Msxk111: Like the sense that I'm standing on the bridge of the Enterprise
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Giving Kirk sage advice--
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Can't do that if I talk too much. Or repeat myself.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: It's not a bad idea to read a manuscript aloud and see how it sounds.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Or use 6-syllable words
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Write natural dialogue. Is this the way people actually talk?
W2PSushi: Msxk111: The characters should come alive for you when you're writing.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Let them make jokes, feel their emotions, behave like human beings. So the reader identifies with them. And roots for them.
W2PSushi: g/a

Rose1533: GA, Mallie
Mallie1025: So it is no longer necessary to mention clothing and accessories, except where needed?
W2PSushi: others, go ahead and get in the queue now :-)
W2PSushi: Msxk111: It's necessary when it's necessary. Writer's judgment--.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: If the clothes send a message, like this character is frumpy--
Mallie1025: thanks ga
W2PSushi: Msxk111: If the clothes send a message, like this character is frumpy-- Msxk111: then sure-- Do whatever you have to to play to the reader's senses. That's where the payoff is.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: The reader doesn't need a complete picture. Just what matters.
Mallie1025: Just what I wanted to hear ga

W2PSushi: carol?
Rose1533: What do editors think about prologues? Are they death to a book these days? ga
W2PSushi: (Was afraid to crash and burn, but the data transfer is going smoothly so far.)
W2PSushi: Msxk111: No. For a novel, the prologue can be used to grab the reader (or the editor) by the throat and make sure he has to read on.
W2PSushi: That's the purpose of a prologue. It's a good place to start the action. Maybe some mysterious event from years before.


Rose1533: GA tom
PHeeren: what about writing stories for children? How do we writers proceed with getting um, adequate skills to write children's stories as well as mysteries for children? thks and ga
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Not sure. I suspect it's the same for all writers. We learn to write by reading a lot, and then honing our skills.
W2PSushi: The one thing I've heard about writing for kids is to be careful not to write down to them. ga.

W2PSushi: Jack has a great web site and has tons of advice for writers
W2PSushi: he has been successful in SF for two decades now
W2PSushi: Jack says this is only his third such chat, in any format
W2PSushi: he's doing great :)
Mallie1025: yes he sure is

W2PSushi: cuebon4: How did you break into publishing? We all want to know? Agent or sale first? How did you do this? (Tough to get into the biz these days)
W2PSushi: Msxk111: I always wanted to write SF. Since I first saw the Buck Rogers rocket ship in 1940. (I was 4.)
W2PSushi: ) Gave up early because I didn't think I was good enough. Never seriously tried writing until 1980.
W2PSushi: Got bored with my job. Said how one day I was going to start writing. My wife suggested I stop grumbling and do it. I wrote "The Emerson Effect," which sold to TZ. Never looked for an agent until I'd sold my first novel.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: That, by the way, is when you need an agent. After you make the big sale. ga.

Rose1533: GA, Micki
Mallie1025: I see more and more em dashes use din place of a semicolon--Is this a good thing or just lazy writing technique?
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Semicolons seem to be going out of favor. Not sure why. I don't think it's lazy. Maybe it's the sense that a semicolon stops things almost cold.
Mallie1025: What should replace the semicolon then--comma, new sentence? ga

Rose1533: Is there a length that a prologue shouldn't exceed? My chapter one could be a prologue as it's ten years before the rest of the book, but I've avoided it. Ch. One is 18 pages. ga
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Yes, Rose. If there's a ten year gap, I'd definitely make it a prologue. Keep Aristotle in mind: the Unities. The shorter the time span in a piece of fiction, the more effective.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: There's no hard rule. Sometimes you can run things together with commas, because the impressions are moving past the character's vision quickly. Even though the grammar is questionable, it's still a valid technique. ga.

RLMorgan51: Is there a limit on the liberty you can take in creating the future?
W2PSushi: Good SF type question!

W2PSushi: Frank, I will pass along your Q next
W2PSushi: Or let Carol do her job! :-/
Rose1533: LOL!

W2PSushi: Msxk111: That's a broad question. Sure. But I'm uncertain where the limits are. The future has to be believable in the sense that the reader accepts it could really happen
W2PSushi: So if we're 2 mil years in the future, and we all look as we do today, you're going to need an explanation. ga

Fjm3eyes: Is your guest an editor?
W2PSushi: Msxk111: No. I don't do any editing. ga

Deluge7: You said never start with a weather report. Does that extend to never start a story with a newscast?
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Never start with anything that won't grab the reader. If the weather report includes a living hurricane, then you can get away with it.
W2PSushi: Keep in mind that the first para will give the editor reason to put the story down if he can. You need it to be rousing. Whatever that means. ga.
W2PSushi: any more ? the hour is nearly up! last chance!!!

Rose1533: GA, tom
PHeeren: how do you feel about ghostwriting used by wanna writers who are desperate to publish their works? is that bad manners? ga
W2PSushi: Msxk111: Ghostwriting is done in concert with the person for whom you are doing the writing. I doubt it's very satisfying, because you don't see your name on it. But you do get your work in print.
PHeeren: okay, thks and good night
PHeeren: bye for now
Mallie1025: Night Tom

W2PSushi: cuebon4: I have one more, okay? What do you think of crossovers, such as SF Romances? Business wise especially.
W2PSushi: Msxk111: If they're done well, they're fine. I do crossovers of a sort: SF narratives that are also mysteries. They seem to work well.


Rose1533: Paul, I hope you will send us the link to his website in an e-mail.
W2PSushi: yes, I shall, with the Log
Rose1533: Thanks. I must leave, too.
W2PSushi: again, Well or Simon, ask if you wish a copy of the Log
Rose1533: Night all.

W2PSushi: Msxk111: One final comment: If you put a reader through 400 pages, give him a satisfactory conclusion. Resolve the conflict. And, especially for a new writer, there's a lot to be said for a happy ending. Which I hope we're having.

W2PSushi: Msxk111: My pleasure, Paul. My appreciation to you and to everyone who came. Goodnight, all.


Mallie1025: Paul --Wellness--Ellen --is thinking about joining our group if possible'
W2PSushi: cool!
W2PSushi: its possible if she makes it possible
Mallie1025: she writes most excellent murder mysteries
W2PSushi: we have the Grueling Procedure, makes frat initiations look like kid stuff. ;-)
W2PSushi: love mysteries :-)
Mallie1025: Nah--she's tough--If I made it she sure can lol
Deluge7: Oh, I don't know, our procedure never killed anyone, unlike some fraternities.
Deluge7: Got to go. Good night all.
BrownDvs: Goodnight
Mallie1025: Night Dale
Mallie1025: Night Adam
W2PSushi: thanks everyone
Mallie1025: Paul -nice job in pulling this off so well
W2PSushi: whew!
Mallie1025: Night guys-gotta do a final--I hope--edit on a story
W2PSushi: every glitch happened, but we managed it anyhow
Mallie1025: It seemed togo very smoothly
W2PSushi: well I smell dinner cooking. In my best Homer Simpson voice : yummmmm
Mallie1025: We should have him back again--he sounds really nice
W2PSushi: yes he is, always responded to my fan emails

9/11/06 8:19:41 PM Closing "Chat Log 9/11/06"


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