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January 30, 2005
More on the Atlanta Nights story
Posted by Teresa at 06:51 AM * 202 comments

Some additional links on the Atlanta Nights sting:

Jim Macdonald gives the authoritative version of the project and its origins in a series of posts at Absolute Write.

A historical footnote: The hatching of the plot at AW in December 2003.

Sherwood Smith’s account in her journal, and Beth Bernobich’s in hers.

Crooked Timber picked up the story.

SF writer Derryl Murphy, who contributed a chapter, has written a series of posts about the project: My Worst Sale Ever, Updates on the Bad Book, PA and Da Nile River, and, very usefully, a list of known authors and their chapters.

A suspiciously similar cast of characters can be found in the book’s back-cover blurbs.

And here’s a chart of the book’s sales to date at Lulu.com.

Addenda:

Sorry about the inaccessibility of the chart at Lulu.com. Jim Macdonald used this laptop while we were both at Vericon, and he must have used his password to log in to the site.

Tenebris has been following the story. So has John Scalzi:
Here’s a quick rule of thumb: Don’t annoy science fiction writers. These are people who destroy entire planets before lunch. Think of what they’ll do to you.
MacAllister Stone let me know about a fine rant by Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb, about PublishAmerica taking advantage of naive writers:
Damage is done to a writer when he is told that his book is ready for press and will succeed when in reality it’s riddled with errors and inconsistencies. When a new writer is told that to receive a dollar advance for the book is normal, and asked to submit a list of friends and relatives who might buy the book, then we are treading on very thin ice between vanity press and scam. The Print On Demand copies of books that PA creates are expensive, most reviewers refuse to even look at them, most libraries won’t take them, and worst of all, most book stores do not carry them. Some book stores will order PA, but most refuse because if the books don’t sell, they can’t return them to PA. If you have a genuinely good book and you take it this route, you have most likely given it the kiss of death. … I hate that the victims are young or new writers, who really don’t know how the business works. I hate it when anyone is deceived on the basis of inexperience. It is not what PA does so much as all the assertions that it is ‘better’ than going through the old mill of the standard publishing. An “us against them” attitude is cultivated on their message boards, in which established writers and publishers are portrayed as deliberately trying to hold new writers down and out. This is so unfair to the many editors I know who are absolutely ecstatic when they discover a new talent and a great new book.
Digital Medievalist, a.k.a. Lisa Spangenberg, has written a couple of essays. One is about Atlanta Nights:
These writers engaged in public cacosyntheton, synchisis, acyrlogia, alleotheta, amphibologia, anacoluthon, and every vile cliché, transparent plot device, and literary offense ever to have thrived in the slush pile.
She liked it! The other essay, longer and more serious, is about PublishAmerica’s editorial practices:
I first heard about PublishAmerica while having dinner with a friend in late 2001 or early 2002. He told us he’d sold a novel; he was published as a scholar, but this was his first time as a novelist. We could see his excitement as he told us the publisher was “very Internet savvy,” and had said that they’d see his book got into traditional bookstores and well as being available on the ‘net. I’d never heard of the publisher, which was unusual given how much time I’d spent at libraries and book stores, and attending numerous ALA and ABA conventions, but I didn’t worry about it then.

Several months later we received a disturbingly amateur letter from PublishAmerica inviting us to buy a copy of our friend’s novel. I knew then they weren’t a legitimate publisher; the language on the order form and cover letter made it very clear that PublishAmerica was a printer, and I suspected, a poor one, judging by the odd syntax and blurred type on the letter and order form. Even the price of the book was odd. The order form price was $21.95, a hardcover price for a slender trade paperback.

Skip forward to Con José, the 2002 World Science Fiction convention. A fannish acquaintance showed me a table where her book was on sale by consignment. It was a thinnish trade paperback, for just under $20.00. The cover was a bit odd looking; it was obviously stock footage, but the bleed was wrong and the colors weren’t quite right. When I looked at the text my heart sank. There were lots of very basic errors, things like confusion between its and it’s, confusion between possessives and plurals, “would of” instead of “would have,” lines of text repeated at the bottom of one page and again at the top of the next, outright spelling errors … The typography was so awful that it was difficult to read the text. Lines were frequently dropped, resulting in short pages, and the text had so many rivers it was hard to read an entire page. The publisher made no effort to kern; none at all. There were reversed and unmatched quotation marks, broken ellipses … it was bad.

But worse than the amateur typesetting, proofreading and design, was the fact that the book desperately needed an editor, a real editor, someone who would have spotted the continuity problems, like the character whose name was spelled differently at different points, and the time and date problems. It was pretty clear that someone had performed crude formatting and made a token effort to proof read, probably relying on spell check, but mostly dealing with formatting issues. It also appeared that the formatter was someone who liked commas, I mean really liked commas, and thought every sentence needed one, or three. My acquaintance said that yes, there were commas introduced spontaneously, and some other errors, but PublishAmerica explained that the printer had introduced them and they would be corrected if the book sold well enough.

The errors I spotted were not introduced in the digital printing process, since digital printing relies on a digital file provided by a publisher. The book had not been professionally edited, copy edited, or proofed. It looked to me like the book was a straight dump from Microsoft Word to .pdf. I’ve subsequently learned from other PublishAmerica authors that my fannish acquaintance was lucky; others have had even more serious errors introduced into the ms. These are not the actions of a professional publisher, with genuine editorial expertise.
That’s a restrained telling, and true throughout. By report, PublishAmerica advertises editorial positions in their local Pennysaver. Their text production cycle is to conventional publishing’s production practices as those mockup cardboard computers you see in office furniture stores are to the real thing.

Here’s her own list of pertinent links.

One of the many unlovable characteristics of PA is that any of their authors who stop drinking the Kool Aid are subjected to crushing verbal abuse. This is a relatively short, mild example of a letter from PublishAmerica.

A local Maryland paper, the Frederick News-Post, has done its own story about PA: PublishAmerica: A friendly biz, or an author’s nightmare? Among other things, it discusses PublishAmerica’s misrepresentations about its brick-and-mortar distribution, which is nonexistent.

Ann Crispin is quoted on the sheer discouragement that hits most PA authors after they’re published and the realities of the situation sink in:
Ms. Crispin said her online group has tried to spread the word about PublishAmerica’s practices to prevent authors like Ms. Kendall from becoming completely disillusioned with the publishing world.

“Some people decide, after all this is done, that they’ll never write again. That’s sad,” Ms. Crispin said.

Online message boards at Writer Beware and Absolute Write are filled with page upon page of writers’ complaints against PublishAmerica. Ms. Crispin recalled one PublishAmerica author, Dee Power of Fountain Hills, Ariz., who said she submitted a manuscript to PublishAmerica in which she deliberately repeated 30 pages of the same words. She eventually was offered a contract by the company.

“I have the e-mail offering me the contract,” Ms. Power said.

“They claim to have editorial gatekeeping,” Ms. Crispin said, “but I’ve never seen evidence of it. … What they’re doing is not illegal in the ways we see with some of these fly-by-night companies, but they are deliberately deceptive and they treat their authors as though they’re dirt.”
As with all the other newspaper stories, ditto the letter referenced at the previous link, you also get to see Larry Clopper, co-owner of PublishAmerica, explaining that with the exception of a few chronic malcontents, all their authors are deliriously happy.

Yeah, right.

January 28, 2005
Open Thread 36
Posted by Teresa at 07:01 AM *

Gotta run—

Atlanta Nights and PublishAmerica
Posted by Teresa at 07:00 AM * 274 comments

I’m about to be internet-deprived for a couple of days. The timing is frustrating. After all the time I’ve spent helping the usual gang of SFWA scamhunters gnaw on PublishAmerica—the company I was mainly talking about in Follow the Money—we’re finally seeing some results. The Washington Post has done an article about PA, as has Hillel Italie in the Associated Press. This is from BookZonePro’s version of the story:

Authors Allege Publisher Deception

A little-known Maryland publisher with a large author list is provoking an outcry from some of those authors, who claim the company engages in practices both gouging and misleading.

The authors charge that Publish America presents itself as a traditional house, but acts like a vanity publisher. Nearly two dozen writers who contacted PW had a range of complaints, including that Publish America sells books to which it no longer holds the rights; offers authors only a 30% discount; doesn’t pay royalties it owes; engages in slipshod editing and copyediting; sets unreasonable list prices; and makes little effort (and has had little success) in getting books into bookstores. PA has been nonresponsive to complaints, said the authors (most of whom have not been published by traditional houses) and refuses to release authors from their contracts.
On top of that, Atlanta Nights has just come out. Here’s my review of it, originally posted at Lulu.com:
The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts.

“Travis Tea,” bless his nonexistent little heart, is the umbrella pseudonym of a group of professional authors and editors, mostly drawn from the SF and fantasy field, who each wrote a chapter or two in order to produce a book that superficially resembles a plausible novel, but gets worse the longer you look at it. The finished work was launched in the direction of Frederick, Maryland, where it successfully completed its mission of eliciting an offer of publication from a “traditional publisher.”

Now, through the miracle of the Internet plus digital offset printing, this unique and cherished work can be yours.

The prose is an education all by itself. The chapter numbering has to be seen to be believed. Watch out for the two wildly disparate chapters written by two different authors who were independently working from the same segment of plot outline. Then there are the characters who die in one chapter and wander back into the action in a later one, and the characters that idly change race, gender, and motivation (it was a very sparse plot outline). Space, time, and causality are trifled with shamelessly. The especially beloved and completely incoherent Chapter 34 was written by a text generator that had been fed some earlier chapters.

But the book’s moment of true genius comes, not when one of the characters wakes up and realizes that all of the foregoing chapters were a dream, but when that happens AND THEN THE BOOK CONTINUES ANYWAY.

(Kudos to author James D. Macdonald, wicked mastermind of this group writing project, for coming up with a plot twist that’s even more appalling than the “it was all a dream” ending.)

Buy this book, and guarantee yourself hour upon hour of innocent and educational fun.
Atlanta Nights did indeed begin as a sting operation which a bunch of SF and fantasy writers pulled on PublishAmerica, but it’s also a meditation on the many ways a novel can be bad. It’s available from Lulu.com. And it’s the occasion of my first published fiction—though I’m not going to admit which chapter is mine. Besides, I like Chapter 2 better:
The Atlanta sun slanted low in the west, rain showers predicted for later that afternoon, then clearing. Bruce Lucent looked from the side window of his friend’s shiny Maserati sports car as they wheeled their way westward against the afternoon traffic.

“I’m glad you could give me a ride,” Bruce Lucent muttered, his pain-worn face reddened by the yellow sunlight. “What with my new car all smashed and all.”

His old friend, Isadore, shook his massive head at him. “We know how it must be to have a lot of money but no working car,” he said, the harsh Macon County drawl of his voice softened by his years in Atlanta high society. “It’s my pleasure to bring you back to your fancy apartment, and we’re all so happy that y’all is still alive. Y’all could have been killed in that dreadful wreck.” Isadore paused to put on the turn signal before making a safe turn across rush-hour traffic into the parking lot of Bruce Lucent’s luxury apartment building. “Y’all’ll gets a new car on Monday.”

“I don’t know how I’ll be able to drive it with my arm in a cast,” Bruce Lucent shoots back. “It’s lucky I wasn’t killed outright like so many people are when they have horrid automobile wrecks.”

“Fortunately, fast and efficient Emergency Medical Services, based on a program founded by Lyndon Baines Johnson the 36th President of the United States helped y’all survive an otherwise, deadly crash,” Isadore chuckled. He nodded his head toward the towering apartment building, in the very shadow of Peachtree Avenue, where Bruce lived his luxurious life. So young, yet so wealthy, based on his skills as an expert software developer.

“I don’t feel very fortunate,” Bruce complained as his friend helped him from the low-slung red car, “I hurt all over and I don’t remember a thing after I left that bar over on Martin Avenue. I wouldn’t be surprised if the police didn’t want to talk to me about what happened. Not that I could help them because I don’t remember anything” he added as an afterthought.

Isadore pulled the collapsible wheelchair that he’d bought at Saint Irene’s Hospital from the open trunk of his new Maserati and unfolded it on the curb beside where Bruce painfully stood, his recent ordeal only recently over. He helped his chum sit in the new wheelchair, and then pushed it rapidly toward the gleaming doors of the high-rise tower. The soft Southern breeze blew the sweet scent of magnolias over them as he said, “This is certainly something new for me.”

“Never say that,” he replied.

Isadore shook his head, his red ponytail flipping in the soft breeze, as he wheeled his best friend into the lobby, past the uniformed security guard named Amos who saluted them and then into the elevator to the fourteenth floor of the luxury high-rise apartment building, recently built in downtown Atlanta.

The longtime security guard saluted the pair as they passed. What lucky people, he thought, so young and rich, they can afford to live here. Not like me. I have to live across town and wear a uniform and salute the young rich kids who make more money in a minute than I can make in my whole life.

Bruce thought that the dark elevator walls were closing in on him and despite the chill in the air-conditioned air he could still smell the flower smells from outside. The upward elevator started slowly into motion as if it was reluctance to climb the hundreds of feet. “Hurry up,” Bruce cried aloud.

Bruce pounded on the arm of his recently acquired wheelchair as his friend asked “Bruce, what’s the matter? Is y’all so impatient to get home that the elevator is too slow for you? Imagine if y’all had to take the emergency stares in your condition” he chuckled.

Bruce glared at his friend who stood behind him and the wheelchair as the elevator hissed to a halt on the fourteenth floor, the dark paneled doors sliding open with the sound of well-oiled machinery, and then he was pushed by his friend out into the hall and then down to the door labeled 1414, his apartment door.

Bruce searched his pockets for the key that he knew he did not have. “Dammit,” he said, and then, “They kept everything even my wallet at the hospital, how am I going to get it?”

Isadore knocked once at the door, and then it at once swung open. The stunning vision inside, an echo of pulchritude in a bright red dress, seemed to take their breath away, it was Penelope Urbain, Bruce Lucent’s longtime and very beautiful girlfriends. Penelope, who had walked in the door of Lucent Software, asking for a job, and a good thing is being that she did, because he had one for her, a position, so to speak, that only a beautiful woman could fulfill, and she filled the role perfectly, as the beautiful girlfriend for those social occasions when he needed to appear on the front page of the newspaper with a beautiful woman on his arm. Everyone looked and thought he was lucky, but it wasn’t just luck it was planning that he fell in love with this beautiful woman and her with him. He gave her his glance and she gave him hers.

Bruce looked at her and whistled, thanking whatever god was listening that the auto accident that he had apparently been in had spared his family jewels for he wasn’t one to put to pasture his rampant desire for his stunning young woman, at least not yet. He snapped his fingers and snarled, “Take me inside, Isadore, or you’re fired from my software company.”

Something like anger stirred in Isadore’s breast, yet Isadore laughed at Bruce’s favorite joke as he pushed the millionaire software developer indoctrinated by New Agers into the stunning studio apartment that he rented in this exclusive high-rise tower. The walls were white as was the carpet. The walls met the ceiling at right angles, where glistening mirrors in gold frames studded the walls.

Penelope Urbain had been a poor girl she knew, though she pretended to have grown up rich and happy in the suburbs of Atlanta it was all a lie. Now she looked into one of the many mirrors on that studded the walls of her boyfriend Bruce’s apartment and liked what she saw. Two hazel eyes with perky eyebrows, red like the hair of her head and other places, met her smoky gaze in the mirror. She smoothed the hair back from her elfin ears, making it tumble down her back, past her shoulders, broad but not too broad, broad enough to support the luxurious breasts that filled the front of her scarlet sun dress, glowing in the afternoon sun, the hot Georgia orb of fire, that came through the window, as she admired her trim shape and flat tummy, in the mirror. She looked, she thought, like the bad-girl heroine of a tawdry romance novel.
Three guesses who wrote it.

For more info on PA, check out the Neverending PublishAmerica Thread on AbsoluteWrite. Lots of interesting stuff there.

January 27, 2005
Annals of the ownership society
Posted by Teresa at 06:12 PM *

Apparently some of the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital are now going to be charged for their meals. Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged pointed me to the writeup of this at No More Mr. Nice Blog, which got the story from Salon.

Maybe they could get a cut of the take on all those “Support Our Troops” ribbon decals I’ve been seeing?

Virtual panel participation
Posted by Teresa at 05:25 PM *

Patrick and I were delighted to have Jay Allen invite us to be panel participants at this year’s South-by-Southwest conference, but there’s no way we can make it to the convention. Here’s a little bit of what I would have said on Liz Lawley’s panel on “Spammers, Trolls and Stalkers: The Pandora’s Box of Community.” The text I’m responding to is taken from Jay Allen’s letter.

“Spam, Trolls, Stalkers: The Pandora’s Box of community” The ease with which people from all over the world can come together and create a virtual community is one of the most powerful gifts of the internet. Sites which facilitate community—from Slashdot and Metafilter to the single-author blog with comments enabled—do so first by making communication easy. Unfortunately, this also opens the gates to undesirable parasites who, at best, don’t care about your creation or, at worst, want to destroy it.
Yup. All points touch within the internet, and getting online just gets easier and easier. It’s an inescapable truth that for some people, the most interesting way to participate in online discourse is to kick holes in the conversation. Others—many of them young, but some, alas, old enough to know better—have a sense of entitlement that leads them to believe that their having an opinion means the rest of us are obliged to listen to it. Still others plainly get off on verbally abusing others, and seek out conversations that will offer them opportunities to do so. And so on and so forth: the whole online bestiary.
Must all good things come to an end due to the network effect and the shadow of anonymity? In this panel, we’ll discuss all of the things that exposure and user-submitted content might bring and how to mitigate its effect on your site’s health and growth.
Some things I know about moderating conversations in virtual space:

1. There can be no ongoing discourse without some degree of moderation, if only to kill off the hardcore trolls. It takes rather more moderation than that to create a complex, nuanced, civil discourse. If you want that to happen, you have to give of yourself. Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting that your front yard will automatically turn itself into a garden.

2. Once you have a well-established online conversation space, with enough regulars to explain the local mores to newcomers, they’ll do a lot of the policing themselves.

3. You own the space. You host the conversation. You don’t own the community. Respect their needs. For instance, if you’re going away for a while, don’t shut down your comment area. Give them an open thread to play with, so they’ll still be there when you get back.

4. Message persistence rewards people who write good comments.

5. Over-specific rules are an invitation to people who get off on gaming the system.

6. Civil speech and impassioned speech are not opposed and mutually exclusive sets. Being interesting trumps any amount of conventional politeness.

7. Things to cherish: Your regulars. A sense of community. Real expertise. Genuine engagement with the subject under discussion. Outstanding performances. Helping others. Cooperation in maintenance of a good conversation. Taking the time to teach newbies the ropes.

All these things should be rewarded with your attention and praise. And if you get a particularly good comment, consider adding it to the original post.

8. Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they’re valuable the rest of the time.

9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it, or at least make it hard to read. Do it as quickly as possible. There’s no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things. We can’t. We automatically read what falls under our eyes.

10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

11. You can’t automate intelligence. In theory, systems like Slashdot’s ought to work better than they do. Maintaining a conversation is a task for human beings.

12. Disemvowelling works. Consider it.

13. If someone you’ve disemvowelled comes back and behaves, forgive and forget their earlier gaffes. You’re acting in the service of civility, not abstract justice.
Let me know ASAP as this panel is a bit last minute (for program printing) and I need to move quickly to find the right people.
How’s that for fast, Jay? The panel hasn’t even started yet.

January 26, 2005
It’s not a freelance gig, it’s a calling
Posted by Teresa at 05:52 PM * 49 comments

Maybe it’s funny to the rest of you, but to me The Onion’s Someday, I Will Copyedit The Great American Novel is just plain heartwarming—aside from the miscapitalization in the title, of course.

Most of my coworkers here at Washington Mutual have no idea who I really am. They see me correcting spelling errors in press releases and removing excess punctuation from quarterly reports, and they think that’s all there is to me. But behind these horn-rimmed glasses, there’s a woman dreaming big dreams. I won’t be stuck standardizing verb tenses in business documents my whole life. One day, I will copyedit the Great American Novel.

“Sure,” you say, “along with every other detail-oriented grammarian in the country.” Yes, I know how many idealistic young people dream of taking a manuscript that captures the spirit of 21st-century America and removing all of its grammatical and semantic errors. But how many of them know to omit the word “bear” when referring to koalas? How many know to change “pompom” to “pompon”?

Copyediting is a craft. A good copy editor knows the rules of punctuation, usage, and style, but a truly great copy editor knows when to break them. Macaulay’s copy editor let him begin sentences with “but.” JFK’s copy editor knew when to let a split infinitive work its magic. You need only look at Thackeray to see the damage that overzealous elegant variation can do. Right now, there’s a writer out there with a vision as vast as Mark Twain’s or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. He is laboring in obscurity, working with deliberate patience. He isn’t using tricks of language or pyrotechnic plot turns. He is doing the hardest work of all, the work of Melville, of Cather: He is capturing life on the page. And when the time comes, I’ll be here—green pencil in hand—to remove the excess commas from that page.

With clear eyes and an unquenchable thirst for syntactical truth, I will distinguish between defining and non-defining relative clauses and use “that” and “which” appropriately. I will locate and remove the hyphen from any mention of “sky blue” the color and insert the hyphen into any place where the adjective “blue” is qualified by “sky.” I will distinguish between “theism” and “deism,” between “evangelism” and “evangelicalism,” between “therefor” and “therefore.” I will use the correct “duct tape,” and not the oft-seen apocope “duck tape.” The Great American Novel’s editor will expect no less of me, for his house will be paying me upwards of $15 an hour, more than it paid the author himself. …

Some people edit copy because they choose to. I copyedit because I must. It isn’t merely a matter of making a living. If it were that, I would have been line editing years ago. …
That’s almost frighteningly accurate, right down to the hourly rate.

January 18, 2005
January 15, 2005
Email
Posted by Patrick at 09:19 AM * 43 comments

Panix, our longtime ISP for email, appears to be undergoing some kind of problem with its domain name—possibly a hijacking of the panix.com name, possibly just a massive screwup in the domain-name registration system.

As a result, mail sent to our familiar panix addresses may not reach us. For now, please use patricknh at gmail-dot-com and teresanh at gmail-dot-com respectively.

Update: It looks more and more as though there’s some kind of wickedness afoot. Aside from having my mail tampered with—and I leave you to imagine how I feel about that!—I’m indignant on behalf of Panix.com. We’ve had accounts with them for years and years, and they’ve been a conscientious, diligent, and technically savvy ISP.

January 13, 2005
Displaced advice, and other sorts
Posted by Teresa at 01:19 PM * 150 comments

1.

I’ve been neglecting Making Light on account of the flu, and the catching-up that follows it; but when Neil Gaiman asked me to point him toward some good resources for people to who want to find an agent—apparently his readers have been asking about that—I sent him an infodump. You can find it here. One of the items in it is a longish list of Making Light posts about writing, editing, scams, and related subjects.*

Something I found myself saying along the way is that the more I look at the world of advice about writing and publishing, the warier I am of collecting my own articles on the subject. Years ago, Elise Matthesen and I tried to talk Patricia Wrede into letting us put together a collection of her online writing-about-writing. Thing is, Pat Wrede has a genuine gift for teaching writing. The idea of the book had come up because some apprentice writers had been carefully collecting all her posts on the subject, and had a substantial hoard. All we wanted was permission to organize them into a book.

Pat was perfectly gracious about it, but she said no. Why? Because, she said, there are already so many books about writing. We pointed out that there weren’t any books like the one we had in mind, but she still said no.

Now, years later, there are even more books about writing and publishing. When we talked to Pat Wrede, digital printing technology and POD publishers hadn’t gotten together yet. It wasn’t nearly so easy for J. Random Yourdog to write a book about writing and get it published by Xlibris, or iUniverse, or PublishAmerica, or 1stBooks/AuthorHouse (what is it about subsidy publishers and intercaps?), et cetera et cetera et cetera.

As I said in my letter to Neil,
A phenomenal number of articles about how publishing works are written by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. This is partly because writing about writing, or writing about publishing, is what wanna-be authors do when they’ve given up on writing, but don’t yet want to admit it.
When I ask Amazon to show me just books that are specifically about writing fiction—not writing a killer query letter, not marketing your self-published book, not writing screenplays or making money off your e-zine—I get twenty-eight pages of results.

Not all of those books are awful, but far too many are, and the latter always seem to have an aggressively self-promoting author attached to them. For instance …

… Huh. Okay, a weird thing just happened to me. I looked at the paragraph I’d just written, and found myself wondering whether I really wanted to get into arguments with four or five combative fuggheads at once. I don’t know where this is coming from. Is it possible that I’m finally developing a sense of prudence?

Anyway, here’s that same paragraph, only shorn of its links and its more identifiable character strings:
————, whom we last saw running ———— because she’d been unable to get her work published by conventional publishers, has written a book about ————. So has ———— (a reliable source of error in online writing discussions), on the basis of his vast and successful experience: two ———— published as e-books, one subsidy-published ————, and he’s edited two ———— that were published by ————. In all the years I’ve been listening to her whine, I have yet to hear a useful word come out of ————; but she’s now co-authored a book with ———— about ————. There are innumerable others written by people who have no particular ————. There are publishers who appear to specialize in ————. And then there’s ———— (some of you may remember him), who at last report had a book about writing coming out from ————.
Have fun.

2.

Contemplating this universe of bad advice makes me feel at once curmudgeonly and appalled. It makes me want to put out a book called The Oppressively Real Guide to Writing and Publishing. Sample chapter titles:
Why You Shouldn’t Write. A Taxonomy of People Who Are Out To Get You.
Myths and Legends of the Author Tribe.
Ever Wonder Why They Call It Submission?
Things That Won’t Happen.
Some Mistakes We Have Seen.
Recurrent Episodes in the Life of the Writer.
You Can Still Escape.
Alternately, I could just keep working at editing books. After all, it’s my job.

3.

This afternoon I was talking to George Scithers of the Owlswick agency, and toward the end of the conversation we got onto the subject of books about writing. He mentioned one I’ve never seen: On Writing Science Fiction: The Editors Strike Back, by George Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer, and John M. Ford (Owlswick Press, 1981, ISBN 0913896195).

I have to read this one.

Anyway, George told me the three rules of writing from their book:
1.You have to put it in a form someone can use.

2. You have to make it interesting enough to be worth the editor’s time and the reader’s money.

3. You have to put it where someone can read it and buy it.
That really does cover it. The best writing advice tends to be very simple. It’s using it that’s the trick.

January 10, 2005
Open thread 35
Posted by Teresa at 04:43 PM *

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day …

January 05, 2005
Influenza
Posted by Teresa at 02:42 PM * 162 comments

Patrick and I both have the flu. He’s starting to get better. I’m about two days behind him.

I’ve never had what you’d call a robust immune system. Normally I’d have gotten my regular flu shot last fall. We all know what happened there. This isn’t the first time I’ve had the flu, but it’s the first time I’ve known who to blame.

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Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.