"Twelve Blunders Aspiring Writers Make" -Jack McDevitt

Discussion in 'Bred Any Good Rooks Lately? (Suggested Reading)' started by Ebdim9th, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. Ebdim9th
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    Ebdim9th A Man's Chord

    Uncle Stevie has recommended him as the logical heir to Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov, and he has some good advice on writing to all of us out there who are drawn to the career field, or at least just curious about it:

    12 Blunders Aspiring Writers Make


    (I just finished reading "Cauldron" his 2007 novel)
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  2. Ebdim9th
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    Ebdim9th A Man's Chord

    A follow-up, priceless comment about his Facebook page by McDevitt:
    Maureen and I had lunch today in Savannah with Jeff Huffman and his family. Jeff originated this website and I owe him for that. Putting together something like this would probably not have occurred to me. I'm a card-carrying member of my generation, still trying to get used to owning a cell phone. At one point we were talking about how the language is changing, with terms like instagram and twitter and snapchat, and I wondered aloud whether I'd ever done any twerking. The question convulsed the table. I'm still not certain why, but I'm not asking.
  3. GNTLGNT
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    GNTLGNT Idiot in Situ and Unholy Devourer of Cookies

    Naming characters can be a tricky business. For one thing, names have to be sufficiently different that the reader will not confuse them with each other. Anyone trying to keep track of Matt, Mark, and Martin (and maybe Jack, Fred, and Karl) is going to have his hands full. In this group, we need a Whitaker. And maybe a Satch. Diversity pays.
    They should also sound like real names.


    ...this is a well taken point...and something King excels at...
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  4. Ebdim9th
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    Ebdim9th A Man's Chord

    I really think that J. Micheal Straczynski (Babylon 5) though was a master at naming aliens, keeping some mysterious, and justifiably humanizing others... (sort of merging the two viewpoints of bringing aliens into a story)
  5. Mr Nobody
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    Mr Nobody Well-Known Member

    Re: sentence flow. You know what I hate? Really choppy sentences. The sort that last for a few words. Then a new one begins. Even though a comma would have sufficed. Or the sentence could have run on. A full stop (period) is a brake. Use it too often. And things grind to a halt. It's very annoying to read. Isn't it?
  6. VultureLvr45
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    VultureLvr45 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for posting this article. Love to learn so my writing can improve...Thanks again.
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  7. skimom2
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    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    The Road. I almost couldn't get through it because of choppy sentences and sentence fragments.

    BUT.

    Mr. Nobody, would you agree that there is a time and a place for short sentences and fragments? I think they can be useful to catch the reader's attention if the device isn't overused (this is true of other writing 'mistakes' and non-standard sentence structure and punctuation, as well). We know how a sentence/paragraph should be structured, so a change causes us to pause...unless the writer is doing it all the time. If that happens, the reader stops pausing and, if they keep reading, most likely decides the writer doesn't know what the hell they're doing.
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  8. Mr Nobody
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    Mr Nobody Well-Known Member

    Definitely agree. In general terms, a sentence, like a story, should be as short or as long as it needs to be to get the job done in the most efficient or effective way possible. As a device, the change of pace or even style can add urgency or signify a breakdown in a character (I can't think of the title now, or even the author(!), but I read something a few years back where a previously 'normal'-if-uptight character descended into insanity. The short-sentence (and single-sentence paragraph, often unfinished) device was used to show the chaotic thought processes interweaving, overlapping, contradicting and shooting off at random tangents, and was very effective because it was well done and used in fairly short bursts between longer pieces of 'outside' narrative).
    Goes back to what Uncle Steve said in On Writing re: having the right tool for the job at hand.
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  9. Ebdim9th
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    Ebdim9th A Man's Chord

    Peter Straub used sentence fragments and short choppy thoughts to give you the rather randomized mindset of a child in Floating Dragon, which I'm now just starting into...
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  10. Grandpa
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    Grandpa Well-Known Member

    Good stuff in there. I'll have to look again when I'm at a real keyboard. Thanks for the link. On at least one of them that I read, it's like he's talking about my efforts.
  11. blunthead
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    blunthead Well-Known Member

    I guess my thinking is that whatever sounds correct is correct. How we talk, that we use frags, for instance, and even bad grammar, will sound correct. No one speaks using a majority of frags or choppy sentences. That's partly why it sounds wrong.
  12. blunthead
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    blunthead Well-Known Member

    This is very handy. Thankee!!!
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  13. skimom2
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    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    Exactly why it catches our attention--we know how speech (or even narrative) should sound. If an author overuses non-standard structure (aside from in dialogue--rules are slightly different there, as we sometimes speak differently than standard narrative structure), though, it stops arresting the reader and can become annoying. IMHO.
  14. Garriga
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    Garriga Well-Known Member

    I've been taught to use short sentences during suspense.
  15. skimom2
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    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    Yup, that's pretty common. Shorter sentences work well for humor, also--the 'snappy patter' effect. No one did that better than Elmore Leonard :)
  16. Garriga
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    Garriga Well-Known Member

    Creative writing is more complicated than organic chemistry
  17. skimom2
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    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    It certainly can seem so! Reading good (meaning well-written) books often and everywhere makes it a little easier, as you get a feeling for the flow of words--your own sense of what 'sounds right' is enhanced. Add in a good writing manual, and it gets easier still. Don't give up!
  18. Grandpa
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    Grandpa Well-Known Member

    More moving parts, more unpredictability, and less finality as to whether the hypothesis is ever really proven.
  19. Mr Nobody
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    Mr Nobody Well-Known Member

    Well...I dunno, but maybe #1 on the list of mistakes aspiring writers make should be "Aspire to be a writer".
  20. Ebdim9th
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    Ebdim9th A Man's Chord

    There aren't nearly enough good or even great writers and a whole lot of mediocre ones so the aspiration might make for easier breathing through writing if the field wasn't allowed to get so crowded with imagination-challenged keyboard plunkers...
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