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December 2, 2003

Open thread 12
Posted by Teresa at 08:20 PM *

Be kind to your slow-modem’d friends.

Comments on Open thread 12:
#1 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 09:12 PM:

Physics: 90% -- not bad for someone who left chemistry 24 years ago, but I'm annoyed about ml vs cm, having thought there was some redefinition that put them slightly out of synch. That's what I get for not keeping up.

And following up on the ]fruit[ discussion (I've been avoiding Comments 11 until I took the quiz, trying to persuade myself I wasn't getting an advantage from the comments.)

Yonmei: are palm "trees" really trees? I know bamboo is technically a monster grass but am not sure about palms given the way they leaf and segment; do you require real xylem and phloem, or is there a more general rule. (One of the weirder sights on my travels was the beach part of Virginia Beach just after Thanksgiving; I was expecting it to be desolate (except for the Xmas lights on the "boardwalk", which you can drive on then, but I was not expecting many of the palms to have been wrapped in clingfilm, compacting the ]branches[ into a plug that wouldn't catch freezing rain (or snow, when they get it).)

Xopher: apples and pears both make acceptable (at least) wines. You just have to be picky about what varieties you use -- as you do with grapes.

And like the first respondent, my first reaction was that a coconut is the only one to require tools. This could be a fascinating Rorschach-style test..... (And I hope you've all read Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See, which has a wonderful sample of his deadpan-and-sandbag writing in the discussion of coconuts.)

#2 ::: Scifantasy ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 09:21 PM:

...For a byte may be somebody's mother.
Be kind to your dialing-up friends,
Where the downloading never ends...

#3 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 10:53 PM:

So, I went to the physics-test-whatever-site, figuring "oooh, I'm a physics major, I'll do well."

We'll just say I was less than amused with the score I received, although I did manage to find a flaw with one of their explanations.

#4 ::: dragonet2 ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 10:54 PM:

CHiP, you gotta see what goes on here. vis a vis palm trees. We live in a circa 1900s neighborhood, Hyde Park. In Kansas City, MO. Depth of the cold, cold heartland. Apparently a tradition here (one which WE don't observe) is keeping banana trees. they put 'em out in their yard in the summer, then either put them in a conservatory with lights or the basement with lights for the rest of the year. You know summer is really here when the banana trees come out. We had a newspaper article about this about a month ago because someone's banana tree actually bore fruit, (they are lucky enough to have a conservatory/greenhouse).

#5 ::: --kip ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 02:35 AM:

Y'know, there's something heartbreaking about those "(laughs)". --And gadzooks, but that's a mighty reek wafting from the general direction of Publish America LLLP.

(Not that it's anyone else's problem, but such browsables aren't all that conducive to my getting any work done. On the other hand, I now know the difference between an LLLP and an LLP, so it's not a total wash.)

#6 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 04:43 AM:

I was thinking more along the lines of

...for a .doc file's often a mother.

(Inspired by recently running across an innocuous looking 100 kbyte or so one-page Microsoft Word file that, when converted to .rtf, or sent to a printer, ballooned into an *87 megabyte* file. It turned out to be decorated with little 1/4" oval smudges that were actually much-squashed copies of a 1200 x 1400 pixel astronomical photo of a galaxy.)

Oh, and 95% on the physics quiz, with much the same reaction as others here to the finicky nature of the wording of the questions.

#7 ::: Scifantasy ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 04:51 AM:

Now that I think about it, it would probably have the most accurate joke if it was

...for a process is often a mother.

#8 ::: Jaquandor ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 09:21 AM:

Gee, and I was this close to sending my manuscript to PublishAmerica!

(Kidding, obviously -- I'd never heard of them before. Here's a discussion-board thread I turned up about them. They apparently don't actually edit books. Sort of like Tom Clancy's publisher, in that regard....)

#9 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 09:45 AM:

Speaking of slow-modem'd, I never was able to view the Anabuki Construction ad -- it scarcely started to load during two or three minutes, so I had to give up. Oh well....

#10 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 10:01 AM:

Yonmei: are palm "trees" really trees?

No, they're not. They are extremely large herbs: a true tree is a woody perennial. (The difference between a tree and a shrub, I am sure Dubya-apologists will be glad to hear, can simply be growing conditions.) The only point at which this is actually an important difference, though, is that to get maple syrup, you can tap the tree without killing it or indeed doing any long-term damage: but to get palm honey, you used to have to cut down the entire palm and process the trunk. (After the Jubaea chilensis palm was driven nearly to endangered species status due to "enthusiastic overharvesting", I think harvesters have figured out a way of extracting palm honey without killing the palm, but it doesn't do the palm any good, according to eyewitness testimony from Barbara Kingsolver.)

#11 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 12:32 PM:

I got 87.5% on the physics quiz, though I do have a few quibbles with their answers or explanations.

For example, the bug hitting the train window. Since the corpse of the bug reverses direction and moves with the train, doesn't that mean it was hit harder by the train than it hit the train?

The liter is one of the messier stories. The sequence is more or less

  1. Meter defined as 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator.

  2. Gram defined as the mass of 1 cm^3 of water at maximum density (4° C) and standard atmospheric pressure.

  3. Liter defined as 1 dm^3.

  4. Problems with the physical measurements of the meter and gram cause them to be replaced by standard reference objects

  5. However, the standardized kilogram object isn't exactly equal to the mass of 1 liter of water

  6. In 1901, the CGPM (international organization in charge of such things) decided to standardize the liter as 1 kg of water. This made 1 liter equal to 1.000028 dm^3.

  7. In 1968, they straighten this out by defining a liter as exactly 1 dm^3.

Even though it's been 40 years, the older definition still shows up.

#12 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 12:41 PM:

I am currently slow-modemed. Sigh. It's a temporary curse though--I'll be getting DSL when I get my job, or when my boyfriend buys his house.

This is the first Open Thread I've participated in--checked out some links from the side.

RE: Liz Rohloff, the vanity published author - I just felt bad. I'm no grammar queen (although I did just pick up a lovely book called The Deluxe Transitive Vampire) but her use of "could of" instead of "could have" caught my eye. (Along with various and sundry misspelled words.) Deer. Headlights. Deer. Headlights.

Her biography reminded me of my own childhood and how I also used to make up stories in my head so that I could fall asleep. My first experience with the idea of the vanity press actually occured while reading a YA book by Betsy Haynes called the Great Mom Swap--one of the teenaged girls in the book wanted to be a writer and nearly got suckered by a vanity press. I'm not totally sure how PublishAmerica works except that despite their protestations otherwise (reeking of "methinks the lady doth protest too much") they seem to be a Print On Demand service, and the actual likelihood of getting Barnes and Noble or any other major chain to stock your book seem low.

Wasn't PublishAmerica the company that had the lovely page on how science fiction and fantasy writers were hacks who reused story lines and characters because their readers would devour anything?

#13 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 12:50 PM:

Oh, and without naming names, some of the other PublishAmerica authors have a terrible case of "no-saidism"....they can't use the word "said" to describe dialogue to save their lives. (I think David Eddings is my favourite example of this in the published SF&F world. If I had a dime for every time Silk's nose twitched or Barak rumbled, Mr. Eddings wouldn't have royalties.)

You know. He coughed. She elaborated. They chimed in. The short dark man joked. The nimble thief grinned. The beautiful enchantress complained. He ejaculated. (Another personal favourite.)

And so on.

#14 ::: Trogdor the Burninator ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 01:13 PM:

PiscusFiche,

I'm not a writer, and I've never even played one on TV, but your post on "no-saidism" reminded me of a wonderful article on Elmore Leonard's website, Elmore's Rules of Writing, specifically Rule 3: Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.

http://elmoreleonard.com/archives/010elrules.htm

IMO, Elmore Leonard writes some of the best dialogue I've ever read, and your comment really struck home!

Trogdor

#15 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 01:25 PM:

Ah, said. Methinks Mr. Leonard might go a little bit to far; there are, after all, some (some!) words that used in moderation (in moderation!) could replace said. The only ones that come readily to mind, though, are "shouted" and "whispered," and that's only because when you shout or whisper, you're generally not saying - you're shouting or whispering.

But that's just my take on it.

#16 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 01:38 PM:

I think you can use words other than "said" but you should do so sparingly and with feeling for the tone you are trying to create.

And as Jason said, words like "shout" or "whispered" are indicative of a certain manner of speaking.

I mentioned "ejaculate" because I first came across it in Girl of the Limberlost and the Anne of Green Gables series. (Different writers, I know, but similar era and style.) The Girl of the Limberlost also "panted" quite a bit, and when I went to re-read these books as a much older teenager, the new knowledge about ejaculation and panting seemed ludicrously inappropriate given the Victorian frame of these books.

#17 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 01:46 PM:

"Word 'said' is OK. . . . Besides, no one can go through all these emotional states one after another. Lon Chaney might be able to do it, but he is dead." -- Wolcott Gibbs (from memory)

#18 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 02:03 PM:

"How do you feel, Mr. President?"
"I feel GREAT! In fact, I have a bigger Dick than my dad!" he ejaculated.

#19 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 02:11 PM:

Most (but definitely not all) of my conversation seems to use "said", "replied", "asked", and "commented", if there's even a tag at all, which there very often isn't. I mean, obviously it's being said, it's in quotes, innit? :)

#20 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 02:12 PM:

Also, I disbelieve that you are the REAL TROGDOR! I see no CONSUMATE Vs!

#21 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 02:43 PM:

60% on the physics quiz. I feel oddly embarrassed. I'll have to see how my sister the physics buff does (she almost got her degree in it, but went, as I did, for the English literature).

Some of the wordings, as people have said, are a bit fiddly (e.g. "A cloud is made primarily of water vapor"-- is 'primarily' 51%, 75%, 90%?).

I went 0 for 3 on kinematics. It's no wonder I don't have a driver's license (only the non-driver ID, which can [that is, did] cause problems, but never mind).

Re Elmore Leonard and "said" and so on-- does the genre, or more accurately the style, of novel matter in such decisions? For example, using 'averred' instead of 'said' for something might be done for comic effect (no example, except a dim memory of Terry Pratchett). Similar for the Eddings words-- going for a florid, high-myth, "Alas, the mighty fates have frowned upon me!" sort of tone. Maybe? I happen to agree with Leonard, but not necessarily so strictly. Shouted, whispered, muttered, hissed, etc. indicate things that the words themselves don't always-- volume, attitude, and such.

#22 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 02:49 PM:

Also, to follow up on Alan Hamilton's comment about the bug and the train-- if the forces were the same, shouldn't the windshield have a bug-shaped hole in it? Or at the least, some physical evidence on the windshield of the contact. The explanation (Spoiler alert) says "the forces are identical in magnitude but opposite in direction" which might make sense if the insect were buzzing along at the same speed as the train, but it isn't. Did they leave something out? Did I?

#23 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 04:00 PM:

Forces are made up of two parts, mass and accelleration. Basically, if two bodies of equal mass, going at the same speed, but in opposite directions, bump into each other, they both stop dead. But if one of the masses is greater than the other, it's going to take a greater force to slow it down. This is why being in a bus or a heavy SUV is inherently safer than driving a Mini: if the bus and the little car go front to front, the Mini is going to end up flat.
Besides, the windscreen is structurally somewhat more solid than the fly, which makes the fly more likely to break.

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 04:00 PM:

My dear friends:

I must apologize to you all for having just deleted an entire thread of this discussion, some six comments total, which was unobjectionable by any local standards. I deeply regret the necessity. We all have a professional geas or two we have to live with.

#25 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 04:19 PM:

You might want to see an ornithologist about that.

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 05:22 PM:

Sorry about that! You missed, one, though.

#27 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 05:56 PM:

Alan and Adam: Nope; the fact that the bug-corpse reverses direction doesn't mean that it gets hit harder in the sense of total force. Look at it this way: if you consider the bug and the train together as a system, there's no net force being applied to the system in the collision. Therefore, the sum of the force the bug applies to the train and the force the train applies to the bug must be zero, and therefore they're equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

(Note that this argument does not assume anything whatsoever about the nature of the interaction between the two, or their relative velocities. The train could be sitting still. The bug could be sitting still. They could miss each other and only apply forces by gravitational attraction.)

What then happens is that, since F=ma, and the mass of the bug is tiny compared to the mass of the train, the bug's acceleration must be substantially greater to compensate -- it accelerates almost to the initial speed of the train, whereas the train's change in velocity is very nearly negligible.

The fiddliness of the wording "cloud is primarily made of water vapor" question is somewhat irrelevant, though, since a cloud need not have more than a trace amount of water vapor in it at all; cold-weather clouds in particular will be almost exclusively a mixture of nearly-dry air and condensed water.

#28 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 06:07 PM:

Oh, and Stephan: Right conclusion, right axioms, but wrong logic in between.... The forces must be equal; the reason a Mini is less safe than a bus in a direct collision between the two comes from other things. One part of the danger is that the Mini will be accelerated much more than the bus will, in that it will pretty much bounce off while the bus keeps moving, so the passengers get thrown around much more violently. The other part -- why the Mini ends up flatter -- is because the (equal) force is concentrated in a smaller amount of structure, causing increased deformation -- and, beyond that, its being smaller means it gets flatter (a relative measure) per amount of deformation (an absolute measure); it takes only a little scrunching of Mini to get to the passengers, but a lot of scrunching of bus.

#29 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 06:41 PM:

Interesting Google search result:

Go to:

http://www.google.com

Type in:

miserable failure

Hit Enter.

#30 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 07:00 PM:

The problem with Gephardt — and I speak, more or less, as a Democrat — is that the phrase also applies all too well to his tenure as leader of the Democrats in the House.

#31 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 07:26 PM:

The Google result is a result of an effort to link the phrase miserable failure in both a literal and in an HTML sense. Lots of sites contain links to that page with the phrase miserable failure describing it. Since Google ranks pages based on links to them, this pushes this result higher in the Google result.

#32 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 07:27 PM:

Although he apparently came up with the label, Gephardt is not to blame for this search engine oddity:

http://www.amon-hen.com/index.cgi/Politics/Miserable_Failure

#33 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 07:31 PM:

Adam Lipkin writes:

"Re Elmore Leonard and 'said' and so on-- does the genre, or more accurately the style, of novel matter in such decisions? For example, using 'averred' instead of 'said' for something might be done for comic effect (no example, except a dim memory of Terry Pratchett)."

Ring Lardner.

"'Shut up,' he explained kindly."

#34 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 08:00 PM:

I, myself, would aver (hee hee hee) that sometimes the genre can determine those sorts of things, but I've honestly rarely noticed an oddity like that and not laughed at it. The times I didn't notice, well, I didn't notice, so I'd be willing to assume that "said" would have worked just as well.

Oh, as for "ejaculated," the first time I noticed it was reading a Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes wakes Watson up from a sound sleep and Watson immediately ejaculates some sort of protest. My my my...

#35 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 08:01 PM:

(saved this earlier when there was a posting glitch; hopefully this makes sense with the posts in context; continuing from the quote/link to the Orson Scott Card opinion piece...)

Orson Scott Card's "money quote" comes after the far less temperate statement:

And during a war, patriotic Americans don't blame the deaths on our government, we blame them on the enemy that persists in trying to kill our soldiers.

Ahem. Isn't it possible to do both?

Soldiers also have this tendency to get killed by people who weren't their enemies until the soldiers blew up their families along with their house. And anyone who can ignore this obvious fact is either a spin-doctor or an idiot.

If, at the start of this war, Bush had come out and said we were attacking Iraq because Saddam had been sending fruit baskets to Hamas and bragging about it, the "we must attack them, for they are a terrorist state" argument would hold more water. Except even Bush knows that sponsoring anti-Israeli groups is hardly a distinguishing factor in the middle east, it's almost a national passtime, and being anti-Israeli is not the same thing as being anti-American. There are plenty of Palestinian-Americans who would dearly love to see the state of Israel abolished the same as there are plenty of Irish-Americans who would like to see Northern Ireland out of British hands, and a smaller number of these who actively sponsor Hamas and the IRA to use terror tactics to accomplish these ends. But going against Israel and Britain is not the same thing as going against the USA.

If you want to find a "terrorist state," look no further than your own backyard. Every state has been sponsoring terrorist groups, except when you like them, you call them "freedom fighters." Like we did with Al Quaida, back when they were fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, and the Russians were of course calling them terrorists and insurgents.

I'm all for winning this war, but I'd like a slightly clearer statement of the objectives. If it's to "Stop Saddam and take away his WMD," I'd say it's an abyssmal failure, since Saddam is still at large (as is Osama) and it strongly appears that there weren't any WMD, so it's rather hard to take them away or do a little superiority dance about disarming him. If it's "Stop Saddam from sending fruit baskets to Hamas and bragging about it," I suppose we can declare victory insomuch as Saddam obviously has bigger priorities at the moment. But honestly, if you're going to want people to cheer our troops, you need to set goals such that we know when to cheer when someone achieves them.

A clear definition of who our enemies are, and why they're our enemies, would also be nice. In fact, it might have a great effect on troop morale.

#36 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 08:11 PM:

Sure, it’s possible to do both, but doing both falls outside Card’s definition of patriotism.

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 08:13 PM:

I don't want to start a major flame war with this. I'm just getting a bit uncomfortable with some of the discussion here.

I have a very good friend, someone who I'd trust with my life, who makes a living as an fee-based editor. She's won a PNWA award for best unpublished novel, and found it unsellable. She's had at least one film made from a screenplay she wrote. She puts a lot of time, energy and effort into writing critiques for unpublished authors, and gets a fee for it. I believe she is principled and good at what she does. She doesn't encourage incompetent people to keep trying, as far as I can tell; she does attempt to work with the spark of competence that some people show.

There's been nothing here, nor in other places, to show that some edit-for-fee editors are sincere, competent, and occasionally useful for unpublished writers. But given the woeful state of both copyediting and line-editing in New York these days, where can people hope to find some help in getting that little bit better that will make the difference between a publishable and an unpublishable manuscript? And where can someone get a real critique of what they've written without actually paying some money, especially if they want it in a timely manner? What's the backlog at (pick a NY publisher -- I won't single out Tor, because some here have inside information that it would be inappropriate for them to release)? At least six months, I'd wager -- if you want some professional feedback _in a timely manner_, why shouldn't you pay for it?

In terms of actual publication, I agree that the money should flow towards the author; sometimes, the best way to make that happen a bit more quickly is to put some money into getting an editor to look at it, one who will actually give a detailed critique. Workshops will do this -- but they cost a fair amount of money. And not all authors are willing to put themselves up in front of a group to get the critique.

And the "Prose and Cons" thread is clearly about someone who is seriously demented -- does that mean that all people in the same line of work are seriously demented? Or are we tarring a group with the brush that fits the least savory members?

I'm interested in hearing some actual discussion here -- and you should know that I've read "Follow the Money", "Prose and Cons", and most of the other relevant threads included here. Are we throwing out the (possibly very tiny) baby with the (undoubtedly voluminous) bathwater?

Cheers,
Tom

#38 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 08:46 PM:

Tom, the simplest way to get “that little bit better that will make the difference between a publishable and an unpublishable manuscript” is to overshoot. Don’t just make it a little better and just barely publishable. Make it good.

It might sound like I’m being facetious, but I’m not. I think what an author needs most is not to get help from a professional editor, but to develop his or her own critical faculties. It’s easy to say “Well, I know my stuff is better than most of the crap that gets published,” but that’s aiming too low. It should be as close as possible to being as good as the best work you’ve ever read. A good author should be able to figure out both where it needs to be made better (not that having an honest and knowledgeable friend or three to run it by doesn’t help, there) and when it’s as good as it’s going to get. I haven’t been in this business very long and already I’ve seen far too many aspiring authors get stuck on the hump.

But now I’ll shut up and let my more wise and more experienced elders do the talking. :)

#39 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 08:57 PM:

re: said etc.
It's my feeling that, by and large, dialogue should be able by itself to carry a scene, and thus has no need of anything more than "said" in the majority of cases. What's more, if there are only two people having a conversation, there's little need for anything more than the dialgue itself plus descriptions of the action taking place during it: the characters can yawn, take a puff on a cigarette, walk over to the window, sip mead from a cup made out of a human skull, whatever, but their dialogue will in most cases be self explanatory. There are plenty of exceptions to this:

"But we're still going to the dance tomorrow." It sounded like a question.

"I'm not sure." He could barely hear her.

"Well, it doesn't matter to me," he lied.

When 3 or more people are having a conversation, there is the necessity of explaining who's talking, but it can still be kept to a minimum.

#40 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 09:08 PM:

At the same time, David, where can you develop your critical faculties on your own? Obviously there are classes and workshops to take, there are books you can read and you can go through the compare and contrast process ("I like Author X. What does s/he do that I think is good and worthwhile?"), all of which seem valid, but there are, of course, problems with each of these options. Tom's already mentioned workshops, books can be too general and so on.

Edit-for-fee, I would think, would be about the same: there are benefits to it (individual attention in a timely manner to your individual manuscript, say) but at the same time there are drawbacks (you've got to pay).

It's largely up to the individual author to decide which method works best for him/her. The most vital thing, in my opinion, is to know what you're getting yourself into. You have to understand that, no matter what you do, there are no guarantees and you could well be throwing your money away.

From my own perspective, I wouldn't give it a go, but I would (and have) read books on the subject, I would attend workshops if I could ever remember to and I have every intention of prevailing on various editor friends for opinions and critiques once I take a manuscript as far as I, personally, can.

But that's me. I can definitely see how someone else would be willing to pay for the individual attention and the help it might give their writing, so long as they understand that it's just one person's opinion, who is not necessarily a purchasing editor and so on.

#41 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 09:10 PM:

Tom,

I appreciate your defense of your friend. If she's great at what she does, okay.

I still think it is better in the long term for writers to improve so they don't need so much outside input. I want to know how to eyeball making bread from start to finish. I don't want someone to say, "Add more flour!"

I can't agree that workshops are too expensive. (Some are, I'm sure.) I am currently taking an online, month-long workshop class for the princely sum of thirty dollars from an award-winning, bestselling romance author. (So it's not like the class is some unknown junior college instructor). I've taken many classes that way; it's run through a specialized brach of RWA. I know of several other places to get inexpensive classes, advice, information, and editing. My class has to be cheaper than professional editing services.

And if authors are afraid to have a stranger critique their work, there's usually someone in their inner circle who can do it for free. I am not ashamed to say that my Mom is the first person to read my fledging novels. Based on the acknowledgements pages of my favorite books, I don't think I'm alone in that.

-Elizabeth

#42 ::: Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 09:27 PM:

Actually there is a much more direct and cheaper way to get a good editor to give you his or her opinion of your work. Write a story, type it up in proper manuscript form, and submit it to: Asimov's, Analog, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Science Fiction.com or any of the anthologies that accept uninvited submissions.

Yes, most likely you will receive a form rejection. Then you write another story and send it out. Repeat until you get a personal rejection letter. Keep repeating until an editor buys your story.

#43 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 10:10 PM:

I actually recently encountered a dilemma related to this topic.

A friend of mine just took an editorial position at a vanity publisher, and I had to write him a note that explained what I feel is the difference between "vanity" and "print on demand" after his initial note to me started out with defending the company. He's doing edit-for-fee. I don't think that edit-for-fee is necessarily itself a Great Evil, though I would not recommend it, but I looked over this site and its guidelines and its prices and... erg. What they charge can only be defined as usurious, IMNSHO. So... on the one hand, I don't really have a major issue with his particular job, but I hate his company, and he and I are going to disagree on whether or not they constitute a "vanity" press, I suppose (as we already do).

(We're not just talking a reasonable conversion fee to make the stuff print-ready, and then a chunk of the book price, which I could have lived with. We're taking Much Larger Base Setup Fee, Big Promises About What They Can Do, But Funny How They Never Mention How Much They Charge For Those Things, or, in short form, EVIL. I could go on, but I don't want to spoil my appetite. It took me downloading a PDF of the contract from the otherwise comprehensive web site and paging through to the very end to find the fees, too.)

Anyhow, Stuart, in terms of short stories I would tend to agree with you, but for novels it's a greatly more time-consuming process overall. Personally, I'm big on writing groups and crit groups, myself. And beta readers. I love me my beta readers.

#44 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 10:13 PM:

urk.

That self-published link reminds me of why I can no longer read the "Jean Teasdale" columns in The Onion; while I know "Jean" is not real, she's just too close to people I've known. And too sad to laugh at.

#45 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 10:23 PM:

Tom,

The trouble with for-pay freelance editing is the same trouble with for-pay fortunetelling: everyone knows at least one tale of a scam artist and a sucker, and those are the tales that get the play. Also, and unfortunately, there are some people who actively seek out editors and fortunetellers to tell them nice things, as opposed to truthful things, the whole writing-as-therapy genre.

My main principle, personal, is that I don't take money for either editing or fortunetelling. A friend of my mother's wanted my opinion of the first chapter of her novel, and wanted to know how much I charged. I told her I didn't, but I'd do it for free, and she could take me out for lunch if she liked. She was pleased, especially since her revised chapter won the first prize at the writer's retreat she went to. But the main reason I don't charge is because I don't want to work as an editor or fortuneteller, and if you don't charge, you don't have to worry about keeping your clients.

#46 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 11:14 PM:

Hey, Kevin, are you a Protean by any chance?

We have that same "don't force, don't trick, don't charge" ethic. Mycota (my coven) is sister to Proteus.

But of more general interest: if you won't do something for money, you can't be economically manipulated into doing it when it doesn't feel right.

And the guy who makes money when you make money is your ally. The guy who makes money when you lose it may not be your enemy, but he'll act like it. That's humanity for you.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 11:16 PM:

Oops, that's "don't harm, don't force, don't trick, don't charge." The oath is about "baneful, coercive, or manipulative magic" and doing it for money, goods, or services of any kind.

#48 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 11:45 PM:

Brooks, (upthread) I agree with you fully, although I may have stated my point somewhat clumsily. The forces are always equal.

#49 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 11:54 PM:

A good author should be able to figure out both where it needs to be made better (not that having an honest and knowledgeable friend or three to run it by doesn92t help, there) and when it92s as good as it92s going to get.

But aspiring authors are told at every turn to doubt their own ability to judge this. How many times have you heard some variation on "nobody's so brilliant they can't use an editor"?

I am, by my own estimation, a pretty damn good writer. I know where I want my work to go; I have a reasonably good idea how to get there, how to mold the elements so they contribute to the goal, and how to excise or change that which does not. I'm a harsh self-critic and a compulsive prose-polisher, I have a sense of style and pace, and I know how to punctuate a sentence so it (probably) won't make the literate cringe.

Nonetheless, I've had "Well done, genius, but you still need an editor" so well beaten into me that I am terrified - terrified - of the tearing-apart any manuscript of mine will undergo should I ever work up the nerve to actually submit it. And every other week I come across some new list of Rules I've probably violated that makes my Inner Critic cackle gleefully and whisper, "See? You're a fraud after all."

It's no wonder vanity presses rope in the suckers. I read Liz Rohloff's doe-eyed confessional and think "There but for the grace of god...." Because what reasonable person wants to go through that? If I, with a confidence in my craft that's founded at least halfway in reality, live in dread of taking my medicine when the Red Pen comes out, what must it be like for her?

For me, though I'd never be dumb enough to be a Self-Financed Author, I am dumb enough to consider being a Self-Published Author now that technology has started to catch up with need. And (realizing that I may be as gauche as a Frank at a Roman feast to say this here) I look forward to the day when self-publishing a novel loses the stigma of "Not good enough to get published for real, were you?" that it seems to have. (We respect indy musicians. We admire comics creators who self-publish. But somehow self-published novelists have a reputation as vain, semi-literate morons.) I'm about to dive into the last stretch of the first draft of a gothy urban fantasy novel, and I'm very happy with it - I can see that it's good, and fun, and something that people who share my taste for the magicians-in-big-coats thing would enjoy. But I'm... cautiously pessimistic about how marketable it is. I know damn well how the odds are stacked against me. It's nothing against traditional publishing - I just know that the market is flooded with would-be young authors, and I don't know if it makes any more sense for me to get in the ring with all of them than to play five hundred open mics in Nashville and hope I get Noticed as a musician. And part of me feels very strongly that maybe it's better to take a chance on becoming the Carla Speed McNeil of gothy urban fantasy novels than go through the soul-crushing exercise of papering my wall with rejection slips.

(Mind you, it probably doesn't help that I hang around here, and am so deeply intimidated by all the people who are Real Authors and Editors and whatnot, to the point where I'm vaguely embarassed to admit that I, um, heh, scribble a bit myself, y'know. I feel like a community-theatre Hamlet who goes to the same diner as Ian McKellen and Ken Branagh, and is obliged to respectfully hide his script behind a Penthouse or something. All of which has strayed from topic at great length, and so I will desist further rambling.)

#50 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 12:17 AM:

Tom, I've worked as a fee-based editor. So has Jim Macdonald. Nancy Hanger and Elric have done several times more fee-based editing than both of us put together. Furthermore, there's some damned good copyediting and line editing getting done right now in New York publishing.

Chip. Shoulder. Unnecessary.

What you may not realize is how many scam editors there are these days. They're hand in glove with the exploding population of scam agents, who tell their hapless clients that no publisher is ever gonna look at their manuscript until it's "professionally edited." This representation has gotten so common that I automatically assume that anyone who makes it is either a crook or has been keeping bad company.

After telling their authors that this is standard industry practice, scam agents refer them to book-doctoring cronies who skin them for hundreds or more often thousands of dollars in editing fees, after which these "editors" hand the authors back to their agents for further skinning.

(Are kickbacks involved? Unless Jim tells me otherwise, no one's yet been caught in flagrante delicto handing over the money. Still, the same scam agents repeatedly hand their clients over to the same "book doctors" to be relieved of cash the agents might otherwise be able to steal outright. Given that there's less than zero reason for the agents to do that unless they're making money on the deal, you have to figure kickbacks come into the deal.)

(I still believe that G*n* St**nb*rg of *tt*ck *f th* R*ck**ds fame had passed through the hands of a scam editor who told him his manuscript was now commercially publishable.)

What usually happens? Mostly,, a variable amount of work and skill gets applied to a manuscript that was hopeless to start with. This is futile and expensive. Sometimes a plausible but subpar book gets turned into a different plausible but subpar book. Sometimes a subpar book gets turned into a marginally publishable one through the application of an edit that costs more than the author will ever get as an advance. Alternately, the edit may cost that much without making the book saleable to a publisher. I suspect the single commonest scenario is that the "book doctor" hands the author back to the agent, and the agent sells the author into a vanity house.

(Are kickbacks involved? Again, no one's been caught in flagrante delicto. However, it's observable that many of the really rank scam agents are in the habit of referring their clients to the same few vanity publishers, over and over again. You tell me why they should be doing that.)

Seriously, this stuff has exploded over the last decade. That's why some of us periodically get out our virtual Mr. Pointy and go hunting scammers. And if you're around SF organizations that hand out awards for service to the community, consider suggesting Victoria Strauss, who's consistently and reliably been fighting this fight, year after year. She's done an incalculable amount of good.

I'm sorry your friend the freelance editor has the real occupational title that's used by these scammers. You've got to know what that's like; you're a professional masseuse. I know: it's not fair. There are nevertheless non-trivial reasons why people talk that way about fee-paid editing.

#51 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 12:34 AM:

To self-publish respectably, you generally need to pull a William Morris and run your own small press, with enough other artists, layout and production people to make the work stand up well in comparison to books put out by more traditional publishers. But "I sold a novel" is a special rite of passage.

Xopher: No, not a Protean. I'm personally uncomfortable with taking any oath. Among other things, swearing not to do something seems to imply that I have the right, or at least the inclination, to do it anyway. Whereas such things I find not so much unspeakable as improper.

Aside from that, with the money angle, our society deems that if something's for sale, it has to be for sale to everyone, whereas favors are something which can be dispensed as one feels right. This is a strong incentive to not put a pricetag on something.

#52 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 12:43 AM:

Dan, I will tell you a true thing. If you can write two consecutive pages of grammatically-correct English with standard spelling, you're already in the top 10% of the slush pile. If you have a compelling story compellingly told, you're in the top 1% and your book will sell.

#53 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 02:54 AM:

OOOOooooOOOO. I want to borrow The White Dress. And I wouldn't mind having her hair color either.

MKK

#54 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 03:27 AM:

T -- yes indeed, there are people here who've done more edit-for-fee than either of us, and that's part of why I want a more balanced discussion. What I'm seeing here is too much on the "this is just evil" side, and not enough on "how can I tell when this is evil?" approach. I agree that there's far too much of the exploitation going on (working on massage licensing in CA, I've had to respond to folks who think that grandfathering in anyone who hasn't had appropriate "book larnin'" is wrong; I fall much more on the "let the market sort out who's competent" side); how can we tell who's exploiting, and who's actually giving useful info?

Stuart, see comments about time. If I can pay $100 and get something responsive and useful in a month, or pay nothing and just get a rejection in 6 to 9 months, what's better for me? This is not an obvious choice.

I have taken money for editing from a professional house (Tor). I've taken the equivalent of money for editing for a non-professional house (Underwood-Miller and Charnel House). I've done similar work for no pay, for individuals. I've turned down work that I didn't feel would help the individuals trying to write something saleable.

As with massage, I think it's important to work to separate the scammers from the people who are helpful. And my impression of what's going on here is that there's little to help the _naif_ find what's good. There's a lot of disparaging the flakes, the scammers, the folks who we all agree are evil. But there's little that helps people find what might help them actually produce a work that others will use.

What makes the work that you (T, Nancy, Elric, others, most of whom I seriously respect and care for) different from what you're disparaging? How can someone just coming into this field tell what's good and what's just designed to get them to pay more for less?

Cheers,
Tom

#55 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 07:15 AM:

Er, "masseur", surely, not "masseuse"?

#56 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 08:24 AM:

Dan, I will tell you a true thing. If you can write two consecutive pages of grammatically-correct English with standard spelling, you're already in the top 10% of the slush pile. If you have a compelling story compellingly told, you're in the top 1% and your book will sell.

Thank you, James. That's an encouraging thought, indeed.

#57 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 09:30 AM:

Re the sidebar story about the blue Fugates. Good piece. I'd heard about them a very long time ago, mostly because of a father who is an anatomist and fascinated by oddball aspects of human physiology.

The first blue person I ever met was Evangeline Walton. I think she was blue because of childhood treatments with silver nitrate while her family was in China. I seem to remember that her father was a missionary there. The second was a woman busker I saw one afternoon on the streets of Philadelphia. She was playing classical violin, and doing it brilliantly. I chatted with her very briefly between pieces, and found that she was from India, and that she really didn't know why she had developed her very striking blue coloration. She was interested to hear about the Fugates though. I never saw her again, and I've never heard about any blue concert violinists (from India or any other country)....

Anyone else out there who has met blue people?

#58 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 09:32 AM:

Oh, good link to the Blue Fugates. I was seriously considering something close to that in a work-in-progress. Now I can see that I need to do an Internet search to see if I can locate other examples of other colors besides those we're more commonly exposed to. Many thanks for that link.

#59 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 09:36 AM:

"When 3 or more people are having a conversation, there is the necessity of explaining who's talking, but it can still be kept to a minimum."

Look to Terry Pratchett for good examples of this-- the characters' voices are often so distinct that, after only the first usage of '____ said', they're dropped altogether and it's perfectly easy to follow who's saying what.

#60 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 11:32 AM:

Mind you, it probably doesn't help that I hang around here, and am so deeply intimidated by all the people who are Real Authors and Editors and whatnot, to the point where I'm vaguely embarassed to admit that I, um, heh, scribble a bit myself, y'know.

Ditto. Although the corollary to that is that I feel that this is one of the few places on the interweb that pushes me to improve my writing. Since I've been hanging out on the interweb on a regular basis, I've noticed a certain personal decline in grammar and spelling. I have homonym troubles more than I ever did before. Once I even typed "your" for "you're" as "your going to regret this." I spent the next ten minutes twitching. But HERE, I feel like I have to check myself and write coherent sentences. I can't just bullshit. (Well, I could, but it likely wouldn't go over so well.) This is one of the more truly educational blogs.

James: Again, thanks for the encouraging thoughts, even if they were directed at Dan. :)

RE: The Blue Fugates - That, and the reference to Evangeline Walton, reminded me of the colloidal silver mixes that get sold as home remedies these days. I read about it turning some senator or politician blue, and then I read up on it. I forgot about it for a couple of months, until one day last August, while I was visiting my kitty-infested family and sniffling madly, a friend insisted I try her colloidal silver. The nose spray and the half teaspoon that I tried did not do much for me except make my nose feel wet and dog-like. The next evening I flew out to Raleigh, and I had a new-age, holistic healing with crystals and Jehovah-Yahweh, "try my colloidial silver concoction or be doomed to failing health for the rest of your life" type of seatmate. (He believes in aliens at Roswell too--they invented the television. Philo T. Farnsworth apparently only gets credit for back engineering the broken parts found in the space ships.) He kept telling me that one day I would get old and dying and desperate and then I would see the light about alternative healing--in the mean time I obviously wasn't ready for the Way and the Path. I was a bit too polite perhaps, but the flight was very turbulent and we weren't allowed out of our seats AT ALL, so I deemed it better just to nod my head a lot, instead of explaining that I had taken colloidal silver just the day before and it had done exactly SQUAT. (That, and the ghost of Carl Sagan kept hanging out in the empty seat across the aisle and making sarcastic remarks.)

Adam: I ♥ Terry Pratchett, and you are right about his distinctive voices.

On the other side of the equation, I'm reading Dune aloud to my boyfriend (who has never read it) and while Frank Herbert's characterisation is still pretty solid, descriptively speaking, sometimes it's hard to know who is talking when, and since he doesn't always put that information, and since I refuse to do voices, and lastly, since oral performance of a story can sometimes run two different pieces of dialogue into each other, even with vocal stops....sometimes I just add "Jessica said" or "Paul said" to make things clear. (I hope that doesn't make me evil. The other thing I sometimes add is "and" because Herbert often just slings clauses together without it. Since most people don't talk like that, it becomes slightly wearisome to read aloud, because my listeners keep expecting me to finish the sentence by adding another clause. Otherwise, I am learning A LOT by reading Dune out loud.)

#61 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 11:59 AM:

I used to have a Usenet attribution line that read "With a slow, stroking motion, Soandso proudly ejaculated:"

Despite its literal correctness, it had to be retired due to people (for some reason) taking offense. Sad, really...

#62 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 12:22 PM:

Piscus, and you'll learn something very different by reading DUNE MESSIAH out loud.

Like how good an editor John W. Campbell really was.

Or maybe not, since his forte' was plot and consistency -- that shows up less at the individual sentence level, and much more at the story level. Herbert was great when he was well edited (and who is the unsung editor of SOUL CATCHER, the one novel not edited by Campbell that really works?), and much less so when not well edited. For example, there's a lot in DUNE MESSIAH that would have made huge diffences in the plot of DUNE if the characters had known about the things everybody knows in the second book.

John W. Campbell, H. L. Gold and Cele Goldsmith -- the (relatively) unsung heroes who made science fiction. Remember the editors!

(Not to say that the current crop of Meacham, Windling, November, Datlow, PNH, Hartwell and many more aren't making a difference: we still have good editors. But they tend to get forgotten by all but a few. And they get a lot less publicity than the authors whose works they save.)

Cheers,
Tom Whitmore

#63 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:31 PM:

Tom Whitmore: [W]here can people hope to find some help in getting that little bit better that will make the difference between a publishable and an unpublishable manuscript? And where can someone get a real critique of what they've written without actually paying some money, especially if they want it in a timely manner?

Isn't that what writing groups 96 peergroups of writers who workshop each others manuscripts 96 are for?

#64 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:38 PM:

But aspiring authors are told at every turn to doubt their own ability to judge this. How many times have you heard some variation on "nobody's so brilliant they can't use an editor"?

Dan — absolutely. But paying someone to edit your story before you submit it is putting the professional editing at the wrong point in the process — or at least at an unnecessary point in the process. There’s a reason book and magazine editors are called “editors” — even an excellent manuscript is going to get edited, perhaps quite heavily, after it’s been accepted. That applies to Connie Willis just as much as it applies to you and me.

At the same time, David, where can you develop your critical faculties on your own? Obviously there are classes and workshops to take, there are books you can read and you can go through the compare and contrast process ("I like Author X. What does s/he do that I think is good and worthwhile?"), all of which seem valid, but there are, of course, problems with each of these options. Tom's already mentioned workshops, books can be too general and so on.

Jason — I don’t know the answer to that; I’m not sure there is a simple answer, and that may be part of the problem — a simple answer is what too many people are looking for. (One question worth asking is, how did the editor develop his or her critical faculties? Why not cut out the middleman?)

I do know that it helps to read, a hell of a lot, and not just to read the sort of thing you think you want to write — after all, a lot of us are motivated by the feeling that we could do better than most of what’s out there. It also helps to critique other writers’ work — both to develop the skills to critique your own, and to make friends that will do the same for you. Going to Clarion or Odyssey or Viable Paradise sure helps, but there are plenty of on-line communities, and in most places local writers’ groups too, that offer that for free.

The thing is, there is no magic short cut. If you can’t recognize the weaknesses in your own writing, or aren’t willing to work to improve them, then paying an editor to do a fix-up job on one manuscript is not really going to help you very much in the long run.

#65 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:39 PM:

RE: "Amazingly lame, this far into the campaign season."

I can see how some people, even nominally Republicans and Democrats, could have voted for Nader in '00. I can't see how anyone, even hard-core Greens, could vote for him in '04.

#66 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:44 PM:

Yup, that's what I said. But does anyone around here listen to me? (Well, probably not unless some of the readers here have text-to-voice readers, but...)

Mind you, my biggest objection to the idea of editor-for-fee is not that they charge -- not at all! -- but that weeding out the ones that are just scam artists has become (as I guess someone else mentioned) nigh-impossible.

I mean, I'd pay Teresa to edit my books. If I had that kind of money. :) But (really, seriously now), Joe Schmoe the Editor for Hire might be a worse editor than I am who has all sorts of hidden extra fees and connections to bigtime scam agents and vanity publishers, and how would I know, until he had been caught and ridiculed here on Making Light?

Hence the comment I would tend to not recommend fee editors, and certainly not before writer's groups and workshops and crit circles -- unless one is doing a one-time-only writing project and doesn't care if one improves one's skill, I suppose.

#67 ::: --kip ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:44 PM:

Whoa. The Christian Astronauts' bisexual robot is a psychosexual exegesis just waiting to happen.

#68 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:45 PM:

And of course, the "yup, that's what I said" part refers to Alan's post, and I really should have prefaced it with that information, since I should've known several people would sneak in between my post and his.

#69 ::: Alison ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 02:02 PM:

Nader is an IDIOT. Can't he see that he doesn't raise the level of national dialogue one WHIT? The only thing he'll accomplish is four more years of manipulative evil in the White House, the most selfish, self-indulgent, corrupting, horror house of any building ever built. You have to be an egomanical prick to live there. Why can't we have someone nice, who wants to do good things for the right reasons? This campaign is impossible.

And God, I've just finished Jonathan Carroll's The Marriage of Sticks and I'm afraid to answer the phone or close my eyes or turn on the radio. What happens when you have a real revelation like that? My hands are still shaking. I'm going to Borders now. I need something else of his, very quickly.

#70 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 02:11 PM:

Could someone please tell Ralph that there’s nothing out there, and he can stop exploring?

#71 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 03:03 PM:

Teresa: Your links seem very Christmas-y suddenly--what with the red and the green. Funny how I never noticed before.

#72 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 03:48 PM:

Dan, you said,

I am, by my own estimation, a pretty damn good writer. I know where I want my work to go; I have a reasonably good idea how to get there, how to mold the elements so they contribute to the goal, and how to excise or change that which does not. I'm a harsh self-critic and a compulsive prose-polisher, I have a sense of style and pace, and I know how to punctuate a sentence so it (probably) won't make the literate cringe.

Nonetheless, I've had "Well done, genius, but you still need an editor" so well beaten into me that I am terrified - terrified - of the tearing-apart any manuscript of mine will undergo should I ever work up the nerve to actually submit it. And every other week I come across some new list of Rules I've probably violated that makes my Inner Critic cackle gleefully and whisper, "See? You're a fraud after all."

I have to ask, have you submitted any work? Your phrasing makes it sound like you haven't.
If not, as one newbie to another, if you think it's pretty good, triple check the guidelines and get it out the door. And expect rejections to come back. That removes their sting.

I would definitely advise against going self-published until after you've exhausted the usual route. (By which time, you'll have another book or story ready to go run around the standard publishing route. or, if not, shame on you ;)

The nasty voices are always there. They're the thing that keeps a writer from falling into a rut. They're the reason most writers get better at certain aspects of their work over time.

Yes, all the places you can get advice on writing are problematic. But I found books sometimes brought into the open a problem I was chewing on subconsciously, and More, I learned huge things form my peers just by hanging out on message boards and doing a bit of work in a critique group once in a while. At this very early stage of my career, I'd trust a circle of reliable friends, epecially other writers, before a for-fee editor. Not because they're all rotten, but because rotten ones are there.

I *can* suggest guidelines for those determined to spend money on an editor.

One: Get the name out of a source other writers consider reasonably reliable. Magazines are not. Books... see what other writers say. And *don't* stop there.

Two: Do your own research. Check for their website. Think about what it looks and sounds like. Compare prices for what's suspiciously cheap, what's usual, and what's out the roof. Check Writer Beware or similar places (And there are others, message boards, general discussion forums, and semi-official sites) for any bad reports - and it's certainly not out of place to ask about something that looks suspicious that they didn't know.

Three: If you can find a list of prior clients, e-mail them and ask. If you can't, tell the editor you're considering their service, and ask if they can provide names as reference. If the editor tells you to get lost, that is, in itself, a warning sign.

#73 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 04:33 PM:

I have to ask, have you submitted any work? Your phrasing makes it sound like you haven't.
If not, as one newbie to another, if you think it's pretty good, triple check the guidelines and get it out the door. And expect rejections to come back. That removes their sting.

I have not. I'm just now getting to the point where I think it's good enough, for one thing, and of the right length, for another. (I have no desire to enter the short-story market, for a number of reasons that are surely of little interest here.)

But I have serious doubts as to whether anything will remove the sting of rejection. I have never gotten any advice about this that makes me feel like I'm able to cope with it at all, which is one reason I suspect I may be unfit for the world of traditional publishing. Too neurotic, too protective, too thin-skinned. I make no explanations nor apologies for these things, except to recognize that they're issues entirely my own.

I would definitely advise against going self-published until after you've exhausted the usual route. (By which time, you'll have another book or story ready to go run around the standard publishing route. or, if not, shame on you ;)

Well, sure. I figure it's worth a try. It's just that I have some sense of my own limits (see "neurotic," above). I love what I do too much to be too hell-bent on selling it, if that makes any kind of sense at all. Part of it is being aware that there are probably issues with the marketability of my work that I'm not interested in fixing - too much of a compromise. If that makes me a vain, difficult pain in the ass, I'm willing to live with that, and go unpublished.

Yes, all the places you can get advice on writing are problematic. But I found books sometimes brought into the open a problem I was chewing on subconsciously, and More, I learned huge things form my peers just by hanging out on message boards and doing a bit of work in a critique group once in a while. At this very early stage of my career, I'd trust a circle of reliable friends, epecially other writers, before a for-fee editor. Not because they're all rotten, but because rotten ones are there.

Oh, I don't think I'd ever pay someone to edit me. As you say, I'd rather go to someone who I trust to a) be interested in the sort of thing I like to write in the first place, and b) tell me if something just doesn't make sense or come together for them. I've also spent a couple of years now in an online writing group and gotten pretty good at telling decent advice from the well-write-your-own-damn-story kind.

In any case, Lenora, thanks for the encouragement. Very kind of you, especially since I reread my post now and find it hopelessly self-indulgent. So much for my sense of editorial self-awareness, aye?

#74 ::: Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 05:08 PM:

Tom,
I can understand your desire for a trustworthy opinion right when you need it. Learning to be a writer is a time intensive process. I've been to Viable Paradise, Clarion, Turkey City, and the Wiscon and ArmadilloCon writers workshops. Even a really good writer or editor might not be able to tell you how to fix the particular story you've handed them.

The benefit of Clarion is not in having your stories critiqued or the close contact with six really fine writers. It is sitting there and critiquing a hundred stories over six weeks followed by going to class, listening to what your classmates found in the same texts and then hearing what the author intended.

In the end though, if you are going to be a selling short fiction writer, you have to go through the process I outlined. In any given year there are about 10 editors whose opinions of your story count and they are the ones who can write you a check.

#75 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 05:12 PM:

It seems to me (as an outside observer) that there are two benfits an editor offers to an author:

1. Critical evaluation skills, and associated knowledge about ways to improve any sub-par patches of the work.

2. A dispassionate viewpoint, able to stand back and evaluate a work as it will be viewed by typical readers.

#1 is why beginning writers need editors, #2 is why good experienced writers need editors. I suspect most authors need some mix of the two.

I'd think that authors would want to learn as much as they can of #1, but may never achieve #2, for emotional rather than intellectual reasons. In other fields, both doctors and lawyers have sayings about the danger/foolishness/stupidity of practicing on/for oneself or one's family.

I suspect this is why some people here seem unwilling to trust paid editors. #1 is an intellectual (or perhaps aesthetic) skill, which a knowledgable person can evaluate fairly well. #2 involves telling people possibly unpleasant things they can't see for themselves; if you pay an editor, and they say nice things, can you tell whether it's because they like your work, or because they like your money?

I think if I decided I needed a paid editor to edit something I wrote, I'd approach them as a sort of teacher. "I'll pay you to read my manuscript, and teach me how to make it better." The idea being that they're not just modifying my text, but sharing some of their knowledge, making me (I'd hope) a better writer next time.

#76 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 05:15 PM:

Heh, Dan, funny... I love what I do too much to not be hell-bent on selling it -- or, at least, pretty darn interested in selilng it. Which works out to: I love it, therefore I have the urge to share it... Plus, I hold out the vague hope that I could become a self-supporting writer, given enough effort, and the more I sell the more likely I will to be able to get to the point where I have the time to do as much writing as I like. Or that's the theory.

But as far as rejections go... I was really worried about it, too. To be perfectly honest, I was wondering, the first time I sent anything out, if it was going to be returned with the words "YOU MUST BE JOKING" scrawled in red Sharpie across a used tissue. (I exaggerate but slightly.) Surprisingly, the only rejection I've gotten that's actually bugged me is the one that came back sans comments, and that only in a brief "What? You won't tell me why?" moment. I admit it helps a lot my first two rejections came back with comments; I do not know if I would have been quite so sanguine had they been form rejections. But... all that worry? Pretty much down to normal levels of nervousness, now. Granted, I've only sent out a few things, and maybe the combined weight of rejections a few years from now would crush me, but honestly? I doubt it.

These submissions have been short stories, which puts me in a slightly different boat than you, I admit, though I do have novels to pimp, er, I mean, I will be querying an agent in re: my novels this month. I won't ask why you won't do shorts (or do you just mean you don't want to concentrate on them?), but I have to admit that I would have not wanted to send out a novel first, just because I know the waiting time would probably drive me insane. But the novel is next... and I'm not terribly worried about it. Sooner or later someone will want it, or one of the other ones, I tell myself, and I believe it.

Which takes me back to the writer's group thing. I highly recommend them. I'm in an online one, and the sheer support for the concept that I'm writing, that writing is an important thing to me, is worth it, without even figuring in crits and people to brainstorm with and even just talking about other people's writing. Without the writing group, I don't think I would've gotten this far.

#77 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 05:51 PM:

In the process of getting almost 900 of my works published, broadcast, or otherwise presented, I have gotten more than 5,000 rejections. I have filing cabinets filled with rejection slips, and drawers filled with rejection letters. I used to get, for the same story, one editor saying "too short", one saying "too long," one saying "too complicated", one saying "too simple-minded", and so forth. I had a story rejected by Analog as "too downbeat", at which point I mentioned that in a cover letter to Algis Budrys, who promptly bought the story, ran it in "Tomorrow", and it garnered more Nebula Recommendations than any other story that year.

I have learned an enormous amount from the kind editors who gave me reasoned critiques of submissions. I have learned much from the various workshops I've taken, and those I taught.

Heinlein's 5 Rules for professional Writers still apply. All 5.

As Saint Robert Zimmerman puts it: "there's no success like failure, and failure's no success at all."

The road to success is paved with failure. As they say in "Galaxy Quest": "Never Give Up! Never Surrender!"

#78 ::: LEnora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 06:10 PM:

Heh. I cut my teeth on rejections from MZB in my teens, and I was expecting rejections, so the only real pain was when I got the "earthquake" rejection. (Ask other writers. MZB's viciousness in some of her letters is pretty much legendary). Granted, she was right.

I found actually sending the stories out anticipating rejectin does stop the sting a little. Not that I don't still apply the necessary chocolate consolation once in a while.

It also meant that the first time I got an acceptance, I didn't notice. I was so busy trying to fast-forward to the right spot on the VCR to read the letter, though i glanced at it once or twice between checks, until I realised the word "Rights" was in the second Paragraph. Not kidding.

#79 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 07:47 PM:

The concealed garments website is particularly interesting. The cloth pocket with the coins and other tokens was something I immediately recognized as a nation sack, as per Robert Johnson.

#80 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2003, 10:39 AM:

Tina sez: "To be perfectly honest, I was wondering, the first time I sent anything out, if it was going to be returned with the words "YOU MUST BE JOKING" scrawled in red Sharpie..."

This is basically my view right now, which is why I haven't sent anything out. Granted, the fact I haven't written anything to send plays a major role as well. I don't have any short stories to submit anywhere, or novels; I've been stuck in a poetry mind-frame for a long time, working on those, although it's been a lot (I mean, a *lot*) of starts and bits and phrases, and only a few actual finished things.

November being National Novel Writing Month, I decided to give it a try, but modified from the past two years: rather than the novel, which had been what you might call a non-starter (or a starter and non-continuer-- "Oh, I'll make up the time tomorrow," and then suddenly it's the 30th), I chose to write 15 poems in the 30 days of the month. I ended up doing 22 or so, and only one of them was actually finished, and a number of the rest are only 5 or 6 lines, but it's a start, and something to build on. If I keep it up, which I intend to. But...

...It's tough though, because I've noticed that without the pressure of a deadline or due date (for a school assignment or similar), I find it hard to concentrate on it, somehow. In college in writing classes, I was fine, but now, it's difficult for some reason. It's faintly annoying (or, more accurately, extremely annoying).


And my sister got a 55% on the physics quiz. 60% is not good, but sibling rivalry dictates that I've won this round.

#81 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2003, 02:17 PM:

Lenora, above you make plain the second thing our dear host ever taught me: "If you are paying attention and do your research, you can easily avoid getting screwed by any of those unscrupulous pseudo-publishing folks out there." (The first thing being that there -are- those unscrupulous folks out there. And all of that on, I think, the first day I met her, too.)

Myself, I look at critiques in the same way that I look at learning (since, in theory, the critiquing process is a learning process): everyone has their own style of learning. Similarly, everyone has a particular form of critique that will most help them. If that comes from the individual editing and reading over pencil marks on the page rather than groups, well, so be it.

As for rejections, well, I'm far from the most qualified person on this page to comment, but certainly expectation plays a lot into it. There's something to be said for natural temperament and experience, as well. Of course in the end, if you never risk the rejection, you don't run the chance of being published, either. But that goes without saying.

#82 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2003, 02:20 PM:

Adam: I sympathise. While I write like an addict, I'm terrible about actually getting up and doing anything with art. It's the reason i keep putting my dread pottery in SF art shows - it's a *deadline*.

I do envy you one thing. Your November output of poetry is more than i've managesd in my lifetime. Not for lack of occasionally trying, either.

#83 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2003, 02:47 PM:

Based on the evidence from Fleming's novels and the canonical films, James Bond prefers champagne.

---L.

#84 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2003, 09:35 PM:

The thing about rejections...

This is something I keep saying in my writer's group. Here's the deal. You can choose to not submit, in which case, you don't get published. Or, you can submit, and get a rejection, in which case... you don't get published. So where's the problem? Either way, you ain't published... but with the second choice, you at least stand a non-zero chance of it.

Which is a different way of saying what Jason said, except with the emphasis on the part where rejections aren't any worse than not submitting at all.

#85 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 12:38 AM:

Tina -- I think the most succinct version of that I've heard was (IIRC) David Hartwell's:
"Don't reject your story. That's my job!"

If it wasn't Hartwell, it was another editor, and someone here will set me right.

Cheers,
Tom

#86 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 02:17 AM:

The James Bond Martini was product placement -- the guys at Heublein were trying to find ways to sell Smirnoff to an American audience unused to vodka. They'd tried other gimmicks, like the Moscow Mule (Smirnoff and 7up, served in a copper mug because they had come across a large supply of surplus guess whats), and offered Saltzman and Broccoli tie-in advertising if Bond would switch to vodka Martinis. In at least the early books, Bond's drinking gin martinis; my recollection from the books (which is very old) is that in one novel Bond insists that it must be "stirred, not shaken," and in another it's the other way around. But then, he also had vodka with three peppercorns (to soak up the fusel oil in bad Soviet booze) and various other things that had Insider Details attached. The James Bond Coke would include a line about "They grow their own lavender, naturally." Fleming had adopted the Huysmans technique of Dropping Cool-Sounding Facts into his novels, but he was often very sloppy about it. And the movies, of course, occur in a parallel universe.

#87 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 02:38 AM:

Mr Ford: Odd. The Moscow Mules I've drunk all consisted of vodka and ginger beer. Are we living in different universes?

MKK

#88 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 03:08 AM:

MKK -- no, you're right, the original was ginger ale/beer. They did cut a deal with 7up later (probably at the same time that the 7 and 7 appeared, as they'd absorbed Seagram's by then).

Well, I was talking about sloppily dropping opportune props.

#89 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 04:23 AM:

Tom: I don't know about David Hartwell, but there's a famous anecdote about John Campbell talking with a fan at a convention. In the course of the conversation, the fan mentioned that he'd written some stories. Campbell said, "I don't recall seeing any stories with your byline." "Oh, no, I haven't submitted them to you, they're nowhere near good enough for that." To which Campbell drew himself up and retorted, "How dare you reject stories for my magazine!"

#90 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 11:12 PM:

...rejections aren't any worse than not submitting at all.

Well, there's the rub - deciding whether or not I think that's true.

#91 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 03:19 AM:

David G: I like the Campbell version a lot. Hartwell's seems to carry more push for the general author.

Adam and Lenore -- so agreed on deadlines!

MKK -- you beat me to the punch on ginger beer, one of my fave tipples (works much better with rum than vodka, IMO).

To return to the edit-for-fee thread, my friend Candy (and I'll forward her address to anyone who requests it -- she's not the most web-savvy of people, though she's a good editor, and has had trouble figuring out this site) comments that her mentor Elizabeth Lyon is working on a directory of edit-for-fee editors, and hopes to publish it in June. Lyon has done a book on proposals for non-fiction books that I actually have read parts of and found useful.

Given T's comment on those here who have done edit-for-fee work (and I'm kinda upset about the shoulder-chip-unnecessary comment -- I've heard you comment on the bad editing that often [NOT ALWAYS] is happening these days, and I tried to leave room for remembering that there are many editors out there that I completely respect!), and given that some people will do better with some hand-holding from a professional who will actually give them responsive comments (like, this is the format people would rather see a manuscript in, and this is a Mary-Sue story phrased in words that make it possible for the writer to re-write rather than just dismissing it), does this seem like a useful volume? I know that (for example) the existence of professional organizations like the American Massage Therapy Association leaves me a bit happier about doing massage. If I can get Candy to send me Elizabeth's e-mail address, would any of you like to let her know about your availability and specialties? Elizabeth is apparently trying to cross-code for specialties (non-fiction, sports, SF, movies, whatever) and also eliminate fly-by-nighters. I have no idea what criteria she's using for doing any of this, and I personally believe it's probably impossible to do either of those jobs well; that doesn't mean I don't think it's a good idea to try. I'm only a little less cynical than most folks here.

Cheers,
Tom

#92 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 03:49 AM:

Dan: To me, I can't see how anyone could not think it was true. It's the same exact thing, except one way you stood a chance, however small, that the answer would be 'yes', and that way sounds better to me.

#93 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 04:14 AM:

Heh, and apropos of this discussion, I just went out to check my mail and found another rejection waiting for me... Much quicker than I'd expected, actually. But that's three rejects for that story, time to decide if it needs rewriting before being sent back out... which brings me back, round-a-boutly, to my lovely writer's group, as I intend to ask them what they think. :)

The other nice thing about rejections -- well, in the silver-lining sorta way, anyhow -- is that means I'm not waiting to hear back anymore. :)

#94 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 09:47 AM:

I clicked on "European minority languages" and started skimming. I was a little suspicious when I got to Bokmal, and jumped to the N's and found Norsk. S is for Srpska and Suomi. M is for Magyar. Well, maybe. F is for Français. Dubious. E is for English.

What we have here appears to be a list of all the languages spoken in Europe.

#95 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 09:56 AM:

Yes, Tom, toss me Candy's contact info, or vice versa.

#96 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 11:51 AM:

To me, I can't see how anyone could not think it was true. It's the same exact thing, except one way you stood a chance, however small, that the answer would be 'yes', and that way sounds better to me.

I can only say that it seems that, for you, "fear of rejection" doesn't translate to "pathological phobia." It does, for me, as overwhelming and irrational as folks who have problems with snakes or spiders. I don't know what the solution is; even my therapist says things like, "Well, everyone deals with rejection," which has been the most singularly unhelpful advice I've ever gotten. (Weirdly, it was never bad not getting roles when I was involved with acting; I've just never been able to translate that confidence/not taking it personally into my writing, which is much more important to me.)

The only route I can think of is some kind of aversion therapy, where people I like and respect circle around me with my manuscripts in hand, shouting "You suck!" until I'm either cured or I autodefenestrate. Which would certainly solve the problem either way.

#97 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 12:00 PM:

With all due respect to my old friend Tom Whitmore, I've now read his comments in this thread several times and I literally don't understand what he's trying to get at.

To read Tom's remarks, there's been an ongoing and "unbalanced" discussion of fee-based editing hereabouts. Um: where? One of Teresa's ongoing interests has been the agents, vanity houses, and soi-disant "editors" who prey on people desperate to get published. But the focus has never been particularly on "fee-based editing," nor do I recall Teresa ever categorically dismissing or condemning the enterprise of taking money to edit somebody's work. Indeed, it would be remarkable if she did.

Tom calls on us to help people figure out "how can we tell who's exploiting, and who's actually giving useful info?" Gee, I thought that was exactly the function of SFWA's admirable Writer Beware page, which has been linked to and discussed several times in these discussions. Nowhere on that page will you find a categorical condemnation of editors who work for a fee from the author. What you will find is discussion of patterns to watch out for--such as agents who demand an up-front fee and who then "refer" their clients to fee-based editors.

I'm really not getting what's "unbalanced" here. Yes, many fee-based editors do good work; yes, the practice by itself doesn't signal scamfulness. To me, Tom's objections sound like someone jumping into a discussion of automobile chop shops to (semi-) heatedly argue that cars are often good and worthy things to have, or that there's nothing wrong with being a professional driver.

Maybe I'm missing something really obvious. It's been known to happen.

#98 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 01:20 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy:

Try this. It is NOT YOU that's being rejected! Your manuscript and a specific editor, at one moment in time, did not agree with each other. That's all. The editor may have had a bad day, and in a mood to reject a manuscript by anyone. The same editor at a differerent time might feel otherwise. Professor Gregory Benford told me once that, when a story of his won an award, an editor asked him "why didn't you send me that story? I love it!" to which Benford had the joy of replying: "I did. You rejected it."

Back when I worked for Boeing in Seattle, 1979-1982 (and saw the same revolving door between government overseers and company executives that just got Phil Condit forced out) I was submitting several things a week, sometimes several a day. I used a computer to track what went when where to whom, and then when they replied, with what rejection slip, rejection letter, "near miss try again" letter, or contract/check.

I had at one point over 300 manuscripts circulating. This was large enough to start doing statistical analysis on average length of response, and such parameters. For poems, which often fit on a single page, I'd wondered what the optimum number was to submit in one enevlope. One would waste the opportunity and postage. Too many, and they'd not be read.

Somewhere along the line I started adding in my listings my subjective assessment of the quality of the writing. To my amazement, I saw a statistically significant LACK of correlation between how good I thought the piece was and how long it took to sell. What I consider my BEST works have been rejected dozens of times each. There were things I wrote as sarcastic jokes, in a sense deliberately bad, which sold on the first try. It is not you or the quality of your work (above a literate minimum) being evaluated at all. It is (with all due respect to superb editors such as Patrick) essentially a random process.

So: here's my suggested therapy:
("I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV):

(1) Cognitive. Think again and again "It is not me at risk of rejection." When a manuscript comes back to you: "It is not me OR my writing ability OR the quality that has been rejected."

(2) Behavior Modification. Practice this action again and again. When the high point of the day arrives -- the mail comes -- get the mail and think through the cognative part. When the low point of the day comes, 30 seconds later when you open the mail and there's a rejection slip/letter, say OUT LOUD: "Good! Now I have the chance to send this to a better market!" Then, before the day is over, put that manuscript in an envelope with potrage and SASE and maybe a cover letter, and SEND IT OUT AGAIN. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Do this often enough, and you develop the HABIT of rapid resubmission. Again, one of Heinlein's 5 rules for writing success: keep resubmitting until you sell.

I personally hate being socially rejected, which is why I get so pained when a silly local con refuses to let me be on a panel discussion. But I no longer, through sheer dogged repetition, feel personally rejected by anything an editor sends me in the mail, or (now) snailmail.

A friend of mine at Boeing (a senior swimming champion) hated losing, loved winning, took rejections personally. He tried my therapy, and did what anothewr teacher told him at a workshop, namely write a short story every day for a month. He submitted and resubmitted those 30 stories over and over until about 10 ofd them sold. He then decided that he was cured. The rejection didn't cause agony. Just a habitual grab for the envelopes and stamps.

Best of luck

#99 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 01:46 PM:

Patrick -- It's also possible that I overstated the case. But it does seem to me that if all the threads deal with scam artists, with bad vanity publishers, with predators (who I indeed believe are out there!) and with crooks who are only in this for the money, that's kind of the equivalent (to refer back to T's mention of massage) of only having stories in a forum about prostitution masquerading as massage. It's a focus thing.

And hey, the ensuing discussion has been interesting to me! Pendulums that aren't swinging are pretty dull (and Foucault pendulums are much more interesting than clock pendulums, or should that be pendula?). The discussion has had a lot more light than heat, it seems to me.

Even this bit, he says with a smile, and a great deal of respect back.

Cheers,
Tom

#100 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 04:25 PM:

Deep flight winged submersibles:

Want. Wantwantwantwant. Hell, I'd be happy with a plain old non-winged submersible, but this would be much better.

#101 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 05:06 PM:

Dan: I cannot say anything Jonathan -- who has been around the block many more times than I -- has not already put better, but add an emphatic "Yes, that!" to it.

I suppose I understand it being a pathological fear, though. But again, aside from JVP's marvelous advice, I repeat my own shorter version: a rejection means one person didn't like your story enough to buy, and nothing more. If you can convince yourself that one person disliking the story (or even three or five) is just one person who isn't your target audience, it helps a lot.

(And sometimes they like the story in general but dislike one thing about it, leaving you with the slightly odd result where you get rejected but in an amazingly complimentary way. One of those offsets quite a few form rejections, believe me.)

#102 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 05:30 PM:

Jonathan, Tina: Thanks for the advice. It strikes me as both sage and helpful. We'll see how it goes.

#103 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 09:47 PM:

Diverging from topic--but since it's the open thread, I can do that, right?

Saw the link about Oolong's owner getting a new rabbit and got very excited. There was nothing to slake my thirst for photos of preternaturally cute rabbits, but now we have Yuebing! O happy day!

#104 ::: Kathy Li ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 02:11 AM:

Yes, indeed. Yuebing is bunny-cuteness, and so [i]sweet[/i], (which obviously comes from being a yuebing ;-). I can't help wondering, though, just what kind of mooncake that is, and how many egg yolks it houses.

#105 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:20 AM:

I was having a rotten day when I found out about Yuebing, and it definitely helped my mood, so I'm glad that it cheered up other people's days a bit as well.

#106 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 01:19 PM:

Looking at the "why alternative fuels matter to you" link --

This falls into the "worst designed graph with minimal information" category. There's no scale, there are _lots_ of very different categories stuck on the same graph, and the comparabilities of the different categories are -- shall we just say, problematic?

It's really a lovely Bad Example.

Cheers,
Tom

#107 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 04:53 PM:

I’m so glad someone is finally devoting themselves to the interests of sand. Not interest in sand, mind you, not the interests of sand collectors, but the interests of sand itself. That’s so selfless it makes me want to go bang some sedimentary rocks together in sympathy.

#108 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 06:27 PM:

Re: Sand Collectors, and David Moles

My sediments exactly. But how much volume do the collectors collect from each site -- quartz? Or do they have feet of clay? And do they meet at Silly Cons?

#109 ::: Christopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 10:58 PM:

An ode to the joy and wonder that is sand:
http://www.otisfodder.com/365days/archive/196.html

#110 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 09:33 AM:

The Cassini spacecraft is getting close enough to Saturn to start taking cool pictures.

---L.

#111 ::: Alison ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 09:36 AM:

Teresa,

Do you have days when you think it is just so cool that you work in a building that other people take the trouble of turning into Lego buildings? Or are you over that by now?

#112 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 01:40 PM:

We certainly have those days. Usually, the business of working in the Flatiron is much cooler when one is in London, or for that matter Omaha, and there's a picture of one's own office building on the coffee-shop wall. The actual building, while quite graceful from the outside, is depressingly utilitarian in its interior.

#113 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 03:48 PM:

<slavering envy> You work in the Flatiron?!! Cool! </slavering envy>

I think the most interesting place I've lived/worked in is an apartment building connected to the Calgary plus fifteen system, or what I refer to as the Habitrails. (The plus fifteens are a system of interconnected walkways which form a web between most of the major buildings in downtown Calgary. I think they have 16 kilometres of walkway.)

I'm a big fan of interesting urban architecture.

#114 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 05:55 PM:

Minneapolis and St. Paul each have a good number of elevated gerbil tubes between buildings (we all look forward to the day when they connect at Midway). It is a good system, though it has sometimes been embarrassing during conventions, because it isn't open very late (for perfectly sensible reasons of maintenance and security), and we're always having to explain that, yeah, if it were 5 PM we could get from the hotel to the restaurant in shirtsleeves, but it's 7 and one must crawl inside a pile of dead muskrats to get there alive.

It is, during business hours, possible to go from the Convention Center at 13th St. to just across the street from the Main Post Office at the riverfront indoors. It is, however, almost impossible to give directions for this trip, since the skyways rarely pass directly through blocks == they jog a lot, and occasionally go through shopfloors (as at Dayton's . . . uh, "Marshall Field's").

Not long after I moved here, there was an architecture conference at the U, and Some Famous Architectural Theorist Guy was quoted as saying the skyways were a horrible plan to isolate the wonderful life of the street from the corporate drones upstairs. He was, of course, from Southern California.

I believe it was Atlanta that started using high-level skywalks (above the twentieth floor), following the realization that having to descend thirty floors, cross the street, and then elevate thirty floors was . . . inefficient.

#115 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 06:09 PM:

Even cooler than being built of of Legos is the fact that the Flatiron Building shows up in one of Winsor McKay's "Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend"; if the copy I saw it in were either mine or spiral bound, I'd scan it in for all to see (along with the cartoon in which having to live in Brooklyn is treated as much as a nightmare as, say, getting all one's limbs cut off by cars as one tries to cross the street). But that is in the subjunctive, as a condition contrary to fact.

Cheers,
Tom

#116 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 06:21 PM:

Not long after I moved here, there was an architecture conference at the U, and Some Famous Architectural Theorist Guy was quoted as saying the skyways were a horrible plan to isolate the wonderful life of the street from the corporate drones upstairs. He was, of course, from Southern California.

I think it gives the cities a bit of an extra life, particularly in the winter time. A secondary street level if you will--and you can integrate the two well if you plan for interesting urban greenspaces, connecting lobbies and courtyards, multi-level stores, etc, etc. One of the cool places to hang out in Calgary's system is the Devonian Gardens--a set of indoor gardens within a massive atrium. They have fishponds and birds and everything--it was a great place to go and draw in the midst of winter.

It is, however, almost impossible to give directions for this trip, since the skyways rarely pass directly through blocks == they jog a lot, and occasionally go through shopfloors (as at Dayton's . . . uh, "Marshall Field's").

There's something satisfying about being able to navigate the warren of habitrails without having to reference the maps. I kept threatening to abandon my sisters in the Plus 15s on their first and only visit to Calgary. They referred to it as "That Giant Mall You Live In."

I'm currently using the system as the setting for one of the short stories I'm writing.

#117 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 08:36 PM:

Toronto doesn't have elevated walkways, but it does have The Path, which is what you get when you put stores and restaurants and suchlike in all the big basements of the tall buildings of the financial district and then connect them up.

It's possible to get quite spectacularly lost down there.

#118 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 08:56 PM:

Here's a URL that you might want to try out. Don't eat or drink anything when you try it.

http://img.tapuz.co.il/forums/20208414.htm

#119 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 11:25 AM:

I'd like to think the badger movies would have made more sense if I'd watched them in order, but I'm not sure that's true.

#120 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2003, 01:39 AM:

I just watched the second badger movie without sound, and it's very surreal even that way.... These folks are very strange.

Cheers,
Tom

#121 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2003, 02:16 AM:

I found these two screamingly funny too, in a Hunter S. Thompson way. (They should be watched in order.)

#123 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2003, 12:13 PM:

The most fun with Flash I've had since Badgers 1.

#125 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:13 PM:

Apparently I don't know how to post links anymore. Here they are:

What not to do at MegaChurch
http://www.livejournal.com/community/convert_me/63952.html

What not to do at ROTK
http://www.livejournal.com/users/blzbob/47176.html

#126 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 08:50 PM:

Tiellan: I suspect linking is per invitation only. I tried to make a link too, and got the same result. Teresa and Patrick, our gracious hostess and host, have had a lot of problems with spam in the comments, and disabling links for unknown and untrusted people seems a reasonable step to take, so maybe that is the cause of it.

On the other hand there seems to be no problems posting links on Jingoistic yahoos, over at http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002461.html. I nipped over and investigated, and if you are quick, you might see an example of the spam I was talking about.

#127 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:08 AM:

Tiellan: you missed to fill in the destinations for the links; it just read <a>What not to do at MegaChurch</a> (and "Things not to do at...").

And may I add a request that people please write out the entire link, including the address scheme (the http://, ftp:// part); otherwise web browsers will treat it as a relative link (ie, if you're trying to link to http://www.example.com/, and you're writing in a comment somewhere in http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/, and you just write www.example.com instead of http://www.example.com it will turn into http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/www.example.com/).

#128 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 07:50 AM:

I believe that, if you put the URL inside the tags inside double quotes, all will be revealed.

#129 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 10:27 AM:

A-ha! Well, next time I have a link to share, I'll try to remember that. Thanks adamsj!

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