Category Archives: Revision

Professional Critiques for Aspiring Authors

This is a Worldbuilders Blog.

At its heart, Worldbuilders is a charity for people that love books.

Given that so many of Worldbuilder’s supporters are readers, it’s not terribly surprising that a lot of them are aspiring writers as well.

Every year we run a few auctions where authors and editors offer to give folks critical feedback on their unpublished manuscripts. Generally speaking, every year, they’re some of our most successful auctions.

Since people seem to like them so much, this year we’re delighted to offer more critiques than ever before. We have an even dozen read-and-critiques being offered by skilled industry professionals: authors, agents, and editors.

First, I really want to thank everyone who is donating their time and talent to these auctions. You are all shining examples of humanity.

Second, I’d advise you to read the details of each auction carefully. Each of the critiques below is different, some are for the first 15,000 words of a manuscript, others are for anything up to 100,000 words. The different professionals have different skill sets and are offering different things.

Third, some of the folks below have laid out some guidelines in terms of when and how quickly they can offer their critiques. I’m going to add a general caveat on top of that, asking that you respect the fact that all the professionals below are busy people. That means if you win a critique with them, you’re going to have to work with them to schedule a time that works for both of you.

So, please be understanding. Besides, you rush a miracle man, you get lousy miracles.

If you win my critique, for example, it can’t happen until mid-February at the very earliest. I’m busy with revisions, and I simply won’t have time before that.

Fourth, when the auctions below mention that they’ll read “X pages” of a manuscript, assume they’re talking standard manuscript format. That means, generally speaking, double-spaced, 12 point courier font, one inch margins.

Finally, if you’re an aspiring author, but you don’t have the cash to win one of these auctions, don’t despair. I’m going to be throwing a *second* read-and-critique of my own into the lottery. That means if you donate at least $10 to Heifer International over on the Worldbuilders Team Page, you have a chance to win my critique, as well as over a thousand cool books and other goodies…. (more details below)

Also, need I mention that a professional critique would be an excellent gift for that hard-to-shop-for aspiring author in your life? It would. It seriously would.

Okay, on to the show:

  • A critique of the first 20,000 words of your manuscript by literary Agent Matt Bialer.

Matt Bialer (literary agent) will read and evaluate the opening chapters of one manuscript (up to 20,000 words) within three months of submission, not including the last few weeks of December. He will read and critique, and help the author think about the issues that could be raised by editors at publishing houses.

He will write a general evaluation of the book, both strengths and weaknesses, but line editing is NOT included. If the book is fantastic or has the potential to be fantastic then offering representation is not out of the question — but representation is not a guarantee.

Pat’s Note: Matt is my agent, and I really can’t say enough good things about him. He worked with my The Name of the Wind before we sold it to a publisher, and his advice was invaluable. He knows the genre inside and out, and he gives great editorial feedback.

To bid on Matt’s read and critique, head over to the auction.

  • A critique of a sci-fi/fantasy short story up to 30,000 words by award-winning author Brenda Cooper.

Award-winning Pacific Northwest writer Brenda Cooper will read and critique a science fiction or fantasy short story up to 30,000 words.   Her novel-length work is primarily science fiction written for nine to ninety year old readers, and her short stories range across genres and age-groups.

Brenda Cooper writes science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Her most recent novel is THE CREATIVE FIRE, which came out in November, 2012 from Pyr. Brenda is also a technology professional and a futurist.

In addition to the critique, Brenda will provide a copy of her latest novel, The Creative Fire.

To bid on Brenda’s read and critique, head to the auction over here.

  • A critique of the first 100 pages or 3 chapters of your novel by author Scott Lynch.
Scott will review one piece of writing, preferably a section of a novel-length work, up to 100 pages or three chapters. This work should be double-spaced in a common electronic format such as Word or TXT/RTF. Scott will provide a detailed overall response to the piece and cover specific topics such as plot, character, dialogue, theme, and other aspects of narrative craft. Line and copy editing will be strictly at his option. This critique cannot begin before January, 2013 and will probably require six weeks from receipt of manuscript.

 

To bid on Scott’s read and critique, head to the auction over here.

 

  • A critique of the first 100 pages of your novel by author Joshua Palmatier (aka Benjamin Tate).

Joshua Palmatier (DAW Books author of the “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy and the “Well of Sorrows” trilogy written as Benjamin Tate) will read and evaluate the first 100 pages of your novel within 3 months of submission.  The manuscript must be in standard manuscript format (typed, double-spaced, 12 pt font, etc).  He will write a general evaluation of the novel’s opening and mark up the manuscript using comments and track changes in the document itself, although this will NOT be a formal line or copy edit, simply commentary at specific points of the manuscript.

Joshua Palmatier has five dark, epic fantasy novels published by DAW, four short stories in various anthologies, and has co-edited two anthologies with Patricia Bray.  His experience is mostly with all forms of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  His intent will be to offer editorial advice on how to improve your novel and to use his experience as both author and editor to make it the best it can be.

In addition to the manuscript review, Joshua will provide the winner with two signed, personalized editions of his books:  WELL OF SORROWS and AFTER HOURS:  TALES FROM THE UR-BAR.

To bid on Joshua’s critique, head to the auction over here.

(This is Patricia, not Joshua, obviously.)

Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray (co-editors of the DAW Books anthologies AFTER HOURS:  TALES FROM THE UR-BAR and THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY) will each read and evaluate your short story (up to 7500 words in standard manuscript format) within six weeks of submission.  Each author will write a general evaluation of the story and mark up the manuscript using comments and track changes in the document itself, although this will NOT be a formal line or copy edit, simply commentary at specific points in the short story.  Patricia Bray is the author of six fantasy novels from Bantam Spectra and has published numerous novellas and short stories in various anthologies.

Joshua Palmatier has five dark, epic fantasy novels published by DAW and four short stories in various anthologies.  Their experience is mostly with all forms of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  Their intent will be to offer editorial advice on how to improve your story and to use their experience as both authors and editors to make it the best it can be.

In addition to the manuscript review, they will provide the winner with two signed, personalized editions of the books:  THE FIRST BETRAYAL by Patricia Bray, WELL OF SORROWS by Benjamin Tate (pseudonym of Joshua Palmatier), and AFTER HOURS:  TALES FROM THE UR-BAR.

To bid on Joshua and Patricia’s read and critique, head to the auction over here.

Bradley P. Beaulieu is pleased to offer one story or chapter critique of up to 7,500 words. Brad will draft a formal review that will cover such things as how well the story opens, complicates, and closes, how well the characterization works, dialogue, tone, pacing, tension, and a host of other issues. Essentially, he’ll provide a formal review on the positives and negatives found in the story.

Bradley P. Beaulieu is the author of The Winds of Khalakovo and The Straits of Galahesh, the first two books in The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy. The concluding book in the trilogy, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, will be released April of 2013. In addition to being an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award winner, Brad’s stories have appeared in various other publications, including Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies from DAW Books. His story, “In the Eyes of the Empress’s Cat,” was voted a Notable Story of 2006 in the Million Writers Award.Mailing details and contact with Bradley will be set up following the auction.

To bid on Brad’s read and critique, head to the auction over here.

Laura Anne Gilman, the former executive editor for Penguin/NAL/Roc Books, and author of over twenty novels, will read and evaluate your submission packet (cover letter, synopsis, and first three chapters up to 15,000 words).  She will read and critique, with an eye toward catching – and keeping- an editor or agent’s attention, and help you create hooks that will encourage the reader to ask for “more, please!”  She cannot promise to provide any introductions to agents or editors…but she won’t rule it out, either, if you knock her socks off.

Laura Anne Gilman spent fifteen years on the editorial side of the desk, including 6 years running the Roc SF imprint, before becoming a full-time writer in 2003.  She also runs d.y.m.k. productions, an editorial services company.

Pat’s Note: This is something really cool folks. I would have given a kidney for something like this during the two years I spent trying (and failin) to get an agent to look at The Name Of the Wind.

To bid on Laura’s read and critique, head to the auction over here.

D. B. Jackson, who also writes as David B. Coe, is the award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and the occasional short story.  His most recent novel, THIEFTAKER, written under the D.B. Jackson pen name, is the first volume of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston that combines elements of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction.  The second volume, THIEVES’ QUARRY, is currently in production and will be published in 2013.

Writing as David B. Coe, he has published the LonTobyn Chronicle, a trilogy that received the Crawford Fantasy Award as the best work by a new author in fantasy, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He has also written the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe.  David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.D.B./David co-founded and regularly contributes to the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), a site devoted to discussions of the craft and business of writing fantasy, and is co-author of How To Write Magical Words:  A Writer’s Companion.

To bid on Brad’s critique of up to 25,000 words of your manuscript, head to the auction over here.

  • A critique of the first 100 pages of your manuscript by editor David Pomerico.

David Pomerico is an Acquisition Editor at 47North, where he works in all the wonderful sub-genres that make up science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  Still, his passions definitely lie in the realms of traditional fantasy, space opera, military sci-fi, and dystopian novels. Before joining 47North, he was an Associate Editor at Del Rey Spectra.  Some of the great authors he’s been lucky enough to work with include Ari Marmell, Peter F. Hamilton, Sarah Zettel, Chris Wooding, Felix Gilman, Jeff Grubb (and many more that he’d love to list), and future projects by Dana Cameron, Jason Sheehan, Mark Barnes, Jeff Wheeler, SD Perry, and Aaron Pogue (again, among many, many others!).

He’s offering a detailed critique and commentary (but not a line edit) for the first 100 pages or so of your manuscript (double-spaced, please—and no margin shenanigans!), which he will get back to you within three months of receiving the manuscript. While he could possibly be blown away and want to make an offer on your book, this isn’t guaranteed (otherwise this might be a really pricey auction!).

To bid on David’s read and critique, head over to the auction over here.

  • A critique of a novel up to 100,000 words by author and editor John Helfers.

John Helfers is an author and editor currently living in Green Bay, Wisconsin. During his sixteen years working at Tekno Books (the largest commercial book packager in the nation), he co-edited more than twenty short story anthologies, as well as overseeing many others for publishers in all genres. He has worked with many well-known authors and co-editors, including Lawrence Block, Larry Bond, Elizabeth George, Dale Brown, Stephen Coonts, Nelson DeMille, Charlaine Harris, John Jakes, Anne Perry, Jeffery Deaver, Michael Connelly, Walter J. Boyne, Harold W. Coyle, Mercedes Lackey, Margaret Weis, Kevin J. Anderson, Ice-T, Richard Belzer, and Max Allan Collins.

He has also edited more than forty novels by such authors as Doug Allyn, Brendan DuBois, James Patrick Hunt, and Jean Rabe.  He has also published more than forty short stories in anthologies such as If I Were An Evil Overlord, Time Twisters, and Places to Be, People to Kill. His fiction has appeared in anthologies, game books, and novels for the Dragonlance®, Transformers®, BattleTech® and Shadowrun® universes. He has written both fiction and nonfiction, including the third novel in the first authorized trilogy based on The Twilight Zone™ television series, the YA novel Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers: Cloak and Dagger, and a history of the United States Navy.

Again, this is for a complete edit of a novel (up to 100,000 words, including line-edit and editorial comments.) This will be done within six months of receipt of the manuscript after the auction is completed.  The manuscript must be supplied in electronic format (MS Word preferred).

 

Pat’s Note: You see that thing up there that I made red? That’s big. Nobody else here is offering you line edits.

 

To bid on David’s read and critique, head over to the auction over here.

 

  • A critique of the first 75 pages of your novel by author Jamie Lee Moyer.

Jaime Lee Moyer is offering a read and critique of the first 75 pages of your finished novel. While she won’t line edit for grammar, she will comment on plot, pacing, character arc, voice, how well the “hook” or opening works, how well the story sustains her interest, and give overall, general impressions of the story. Critique will be done in MSWord via track changes, but please use a readable font and double-space your work. The critique will be returned to you within three months, edit letters and deadlines allowing.

Jaime Lee Moyer is a speculative fiction writer, poet and recovering editor. Jaime is the author of Delia’s Shadow, the first in a three book series coming from TOR beginning in September 2013. Delia’s Shadow won the 2009 Columbus Literary Award for Fiction, administered by Thurber House and funded by the Columbus Art Council. She doesn’t take herself nearly as seriously as that credit implies. Jaime’s short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Lone Star Stories, and two of the well-respected Triangulations anthologies. She was the editor of the 2010 Rhysling Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, a poetry and short fiction editor for a semi-pro zine for five years. For a short period of time she read slush for a literary agent, and has critiqued more novels and short stories than she wants to count.

To bid on Jamie’s read and critique, head to the auction over here.

Patrick Rothfuss (international bestselling author, lover of women, and hirsute iconoclast) will read your manuscript and give you critical feedback. (Up to, say, 250,000 words.) We’ll schedule this based on when your manuscript will be ready and my own schedular constraints.

I’ll read through your manuscript, scrawling notes and dirty words in the margins, then I’ll call you on the phone and we can discuss it. I won’t write you up a detailed critique because that’s not how I roll. But we’ll probably chat on the phone for a couple of hours discussing the various strengths and weaknesses of the book, your writing craft, and I’ll offer any suggestions I might have.

If I think your book is super-awesome, I might be willing to pass it along to someone. But be very aware that what you’re buying here is a critique, not a blurb or an introduction to the publishing world. A critique.

Mailing details and contact with Patrick will be set up following the auction.

To bid on Pat’s critique, head to the auction over here.

  • Lottery Item: A critique of your entire manuscript by Pat Rothfuss.

(That’s right, ladies. All of this, and brains too…)

Here’s the deal. I’m well aware of the fact that a lot of authors are starving-artist types. I spent more than a decade below the poverty line working on my books before I was published.

I know those people can’t afford to blow a bunch of money on an auction for a critique, and I feel bad about that.

So this year, I’m throwing a critique into the lottery.

Here’s how it’s going to work. For every $10 you donate to Heifer International over on the Worldbuilders Team Page, you have a chance to win my critique, as well as over a thousand cool books and other goodies we have listed on our main page.

Unlike the books though, who go to pretty much anyone that wins. This prize will be selective. I’m going to call whoever wins it, and if they’re not an aspiring author who wants help with a manuscript, we’ll draw another name. We’ll do this again and again until it ends up in the hands of someone that can use it.

So if the auctions are out of your reach, pitch in on our team page. The more you donate, the more you’re likely to win.

*     *     *

If you’d like to see all the auctions Worldbuilders is currently running, you can find them over here.

If you want to see the other items that have been donated to Worldbuilders, or learn more about the fundraiser itself, you can head over to the main page here.

 

Also posted in the business of writing, the craft of writing, Worldbuilders 2012 | By Pat29 Responses

Rothfuss and Brooks: Part IV

Here’s the final installment of the mutual interview I did with Terry Brooks. If you’d like to start at the beginning, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

And now, without further ado, Part 4….

*     *     *

Pat: What’s your revision process like? How many drafts do you go through?

Terry: I outline pretty thoroughly before I put pen to paper.  I don’t write anything until I have it all pretty clear in my head, then I do the outline, and then I do the book.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be changes, some of them extensive.  But it is my blueprint for the book’s foundation and support timbers.  I can pretty much rely on it to see me through.  That said, nothing tells you more about your book than the writing of it.  So I pay attention to newer, fresher ideas that crop up as I write.  I listen to my instincts.

But here’s the good part.  With this method, I only write one draft.

Pat: Boy. I think I’d hate to outline everything. But I have to admit, I’m really jealous of a one-draft model. I end up doing somewhere between 50 and 300 drafts, depending on how you want to count them.

Hopefully I’ll manage to streamline that a bit as I gain more experience. I’m the first to admit my way isn’t very efficient. I end up going back and forth a lot. Once or twice I’ve gone back and realized the best thing for the book was to hatchet out an entire chapter.

What’s the biggest cut you’ve ever made to a manuscript?

Terry: I did a lot of cutting when I was learning the craft under Lester.  Lots of pages went by the board.  But along the way, I’ve learned a few things.  So I haven’t had to cut anything much in a long time.  I should add, though, that I decided a while back to curtail the length of my books.  I am an advocate of less is more these days.  I use fewer words and actively look for ways to cut bits and pieces as I write.  I was feeling wordy about my books about 15 years ago, and that was the end of big books for me.

Pat: Strange as it might seem, that’s actually my philosophy too. I really believe in less is more. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds coming from someone who just wrote a 400,000 word book. Believe me, it would have been much longer if I wasn’t constantly riding my own brake.

Terry:  I think you will do more of this the more you write and the older you get.  This isn’t meant to be a warning.  I just think that you learn how to say more with less (that less is more thing again) as time passes and writing skills improve.  You change because that’s in the nature of who we are as writers.

Pat: Roughly speaking, how many copies of your own books would you guess you have in your house?

Terry: I don’t know how many of my books I’ve got in my house, but I’ve got thousands in my book storage rooms, and about half of them are European paperbacks!!  Those guys insist on sending out dozens of author copies every time there is a new print run.  If you put them altogether I think you would find I have somewhere around 20,000 on hand.  Anyone need a foreign edition?  Croatian, Thai, Hebrew or Inuit?

How about Martian?

Pat: The foreign editions really do pile up after a while. And I’ve only got the two books. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you, so many different editions of so many books. There’s really only so much you can do with them, too. One to the library. One to a friend who wants to brush up on his Estonian, then the rest of them sit on a shelf…

Terry: Do you see yourself writing fantasy twenty years from now?  Or do you think you might go off and write something else entirely?

Pat: I don’t think I’ll ever stray very far from fantasy. Not only is it what I love best, but there’s so much room to write any sort of story you want.

Terry: That’s pretty much my thinking, too.  I’m writing what exactly what I want to.

Pat: Rumor has it that Edith Sitwell used to lie in an open coffin for a while before she began her day’s writing. Do you have any little rituals that help you write?

Terry: I’m kind of like Monk.  Very anal.  I have my writing space and I never write anywhere else.  I have my stuff all carefully arranged, and I don’t like it if something gets moved.  I have several recourses that I can turn to when I am stumped or bothered about a piece of writing to remove the so-called block.  I always write in silence.  No sounds, no music, no interruptions.  This is all weird, but it beats lying in a coffin!

Pat: We’re birds of a feather there. I’m not orderly or neat. But I do have my writing space. Nobody is allowed in there, with a few rare exceptions.

And I’m with you. Silence. No interruptions. I can’t understand how some folks write with music playing. I know it’s an issue of different strokes for different folks, but writing with music on strikes me as being profoundly counter-intuitive. Unnatural even.

Pat: The internet has really changed the face of fandom in the last ten years. Has it had much of an effect on the way you interact with your fans?

Terry: When I started out, there was no internet, of course.  My connection with fans was all by snail mail and personal appearances.  I’ve never been good about mail, but I loved going out and meeting readers.  I did it every year, sometimes for as many as 5 or 6 weeks a year, here and abroad.  Can’t do that anymore because my energy level and tolerance for airport security won’t allow for it.  Now I do maybe 2 or 3 weeks a year.  But the personal connections, face to face, always mean more.

On the other hand, the internet allows for instant communication, and a different kind of closeness between writer and reader.  Before, there was no central venue for communicating with readers.  It was all done one on one.  If you were doing a tour, you could send out fliers or the stores could print and distribute them.  You could rely on word of mouth, but you didn’t have video or audio mass distribution available that didn’t cost an arm or a leg.  The internet changed all that.  About ten years ago, I went out on tour and asked at every stop how many people were there because they had read about it on the website.  Web Druid Shawn asked me to take this survey.  The response was eye opening.  More than 80% were there because they had read about it on the site.

How about you, coming in later on when the internet was already the established form of communication? I know you blog regularly.

Pat: Yeah. I have a lot of fun interacting with my readers online. I’ve met a lot of cool people that way. It can be very rewarding….

But part of me also thinks that it would be nice to be able to go back to writing in a vacuum, like I did before I was published. I get about 10-15 e-mails a day from readers. That’s not counting print letters, or Facebook, or Goodreads. It can get a little overwhelming.

As for the blogging, I do that almost as a defensive measure. I know I can’t write a detailed letter back to every one of my fans that contacts me, but I can write something that anyone can show up to read. I use it to tell little stories out of my life and answer questions. I’ve run a contest or two. We’ve sold some t-shirts at our online store, The Tinker’s Packs, to support my charity.

I mostly goof around, in all honesty. But in between the goofing around, I keep people filled in about events and new projects.

Plus it gives me a venue to do the occasional interview with another cool author….

Terry: I like your thinking about using the blogs to answer questions for a general audience when it is virtually impossible to answer individual letters.  I used to do that by snail mail before the internet, but I can’t manage it anymore.

Pat: It works out pretty well. It lets people know that you care. Plus you get to be helpful without having to spend three days of the week doing nothing but correspondence.

Terry: Hey, Patrick, this has been a lot of fun.  I love finding out how other writers manage their lives, why they choose to write what they do, and what makes them tick.  Especially writers I admire.  Thanks for taking time to do this.

Pat: The pleasure has been all mine, Terry. This has been such a thrill.

*     *     *

There you go folks, share and enjoy….

pat

 

Also posted in fanmail, Interviews, Me Interviewing Other Folks, meeting famous people, the craft of writing | By Pat22 Responses

Vision and Revision: Geek Redux.

So yesterday I read Just a Geek.

I found the book strangely moving, so when I finished writing it, I hopped online to write a review on Goodreads. When I enjoy a book, I like to spread the word about it.

I started to write the review, but it kept getting longer and longer. So I figured I should probably write it as a blog, instead.

So I wrote a blog, and it went terribly, terribly wrong. It was a complete trainwreck.

I considered not posting it. But when you spend two hours writing something at four in the morning, it’s hard to just erase it. So I shrugged and posted it up, figuring that while the blog itself was an embarrassing mess, the underlying theme was pretty clear: I liked the book.

But today I woke up and thought that I’d go onto Goodreads and actually write the review I meant to do last night. More to prove to myself that I could than for any other reason.

This time it came out fine. Easy as anything.

As a writer, this is extremely interesting to me. It’s important. If one day I try to write something and it sucks, then the next day I try to write and it works, something big is happening. There’s a secret here, something that’s close to the heart of my magic.

It took me a while to figure it out, but here’s what I think happened:

Generally speaking, I don’t worry too much about ripping off other authors’ styles when I write. It’s a common fear of newer writers, and I spent a couple years anxious about it, just like everyone else.

But eventually I got over that particular fear for the simple reason that I never found any real evidence that it was happening. At least no more than is strictly necessary and/or polite.

There was one exception to this. Back in 1997 I read every Sherlock Homes story Doyle ever wrote in about five days.

On the sixth day, I wrote a chapter in my book. And what do you know? Kvothe turned into Sherlock Holmes. He was deducing shit all over the place. Bast fell into an odd Watson role, too.

It took me years to get all the Holmes out of that chapter. Many revisions.

The point is, I’d soaked up so much Holmes in those five days, that I couldn’t properly assimilate it. So when I tried to write, it spilled into my book.

After a couple of days my brain managed to digest all the Holmes and get itself back into its baseline state. But I’d learned my limit. A thousand pages of compelling, distinctive prose in a week’s time is bound to influence my writing for a day or two.

(This is part of the reason I haven’t tackled Martin’s series yet.)

I suspect the same thing happened to me after reading about 150 pages of Wheaton’s strangely compelling anecdotal bloginess. I doubt very much it would have thrown a monkey wrench into my novel writing. But it sure as hell confused my blogging. What I wrote yesterday was probably some bastard hybridization of my style and his.

Why do I mention this? Partly because it’s interesting to me, and writing about things helps organize and clarify things in my own head. But I also mention it because I know a lot of you are writers, or are at least curious about the writing process.

Anyway, here’s the better write-up of Wheaton’s book.

*     *    *

I’ve always known Wil Wheaton as one of the greater internet Powers.

That’s how I think of people like Wheaton, Doctorow, Scalzi, and Jerry over at Penny Arcade. They are people who occupy the internet community on an almost deific level. They’re actively engaged in discussions about things like creative commons, and web freedom, and other bigthink information-age issues. When they speak on a subject, the air shakes, people tweet and link and perform other media-appropriate types of adulation.

These people are their own Metatrons. They’re like the totem spirits of the internet.

That said, I don’t tend to read their blogs with any sort of regularity. I poke around Jerry’s blog every week or so. I read Scalzi a couple times a month, or if someone sends me a link. Same with Gaiman. It’s odd. I find their blogs interesting and well-written, but I’m just not drawn to follow them in my regular compulsive way.

That means that when I picked up Wheaton’s book, I wasn’t wearing fan-colored glasses.

Don’t get me wrong, I know who he is. I liked Wheaton in Stand By Me and Next Generation. I loved to hate him in The Guild. I even wrote an epic poem about him, once upon a time. A poem I dream of reading in public one day, as he, Scalzi, and Felica Day perform an elaborate dumbshow, acting it out while dressed in period costume appropriate for a 9th century mead-hall.

During this reading, I would like to be wearing a fur cloak of some sort. And perhaps a crown. In this little mental fantasy, I look rather like a cross between Brian Blessed and an angry bear. I also imagine myself as being profoundly drunk on mead.

My point is, when I started reading Just a Geek, I didn’t know what to expect.

Quite to my amazement, I was sucked into the story. It’s autobiographical, and covers a time in Wheaton’s life when he was going through a bit of a rough patch, trying to come to grips with his life, his acting career, his fluctuating celebrity, and his feelings about Star Trek.

Simply said, I enjoyed this book to a startling degree.

It was funny, touching, snarky, and remarkably sweet. I didn’t start the book as a Wheaton fan, but now that I’ve finished it, it’s safe to say I’ve swung over to that side of the fence.

In my opinion, you really don’t need to be a fan of Star Trek to enjoy it. (Though it probably wouldn’t hurt.)

But this isn’t a book about a guy that used to be on Star Trek. It’s not a book about being a celebrity. Or being an actor.

Ultimately, it’s a book about a guy dealing with being human. That makes it interesting to everyone.

It’s worth your time. Check it out.

*     *     *

There. That’s a good write-up.That’s what I meant to do the first time around.

Goes to show that if you write something that’s a shitty mess, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes all it takes to fix it is a night’s sleep and a willingness to get back on the horse that threw you the first time around.

Later space cowboys,

pat

Also posted in musings, recommendations, the craft of writing, Wil Wheaton | By Pat68 Responses

Book Two and a Reading in Duluth

Okay. In keeping with my tradition of slapdash scheduling. I’m going to be doing a reading/signing/Q&A session next week up in Duluth. It’s at the local Barnes and Noble on Tuesday the 12th at 7:00.

More details are over on the tour page. I also created a facebook event, if you want to use that to invite your friends without having to go to all the unpleasant work of actually talking to them.

If y’all would help spread the word a bit, I’d appreciate it. I hate doing these things on such short notice, but I only found out last week that I’d be up in the Duluth area.

And now, a piece of fanmail:

Dear Mr. Rothfuss,

As you are no doubt aware, in your April 28th blog post, you mentioned that the manuscript would be done by September.

I’m guessing you are furiously trying to put the finishing touches on the manuscript, but us fans would love an update about how the work is going. I really enjoyed your August 16th post about what revision work actually entails, and always enjoy getting a view of what your day to day work is like.

Thanks for updating the blog so frequently, it makes the waiting a lot easier, and we love hearing from you.

-Asa

Asa,

I did actually get the manuscript to my editor on schedule. She’s probably reading it even as we speak. Um. Type. Or rather, as you read what I have typed. In the past.

You know what I mean.

That means I get a little bit of a vacation while I’m waiting to hear back from her. Or rather, it means that I would get a bit of a vacation if I wasn’t still obsessively tinkering with the book.

Yesterday, for example, I re-read 87 pages of book two.

(Note that these pages aren’t the length of a paperback page or a manuscript page. They’re my own page layout that I use for editing.)

Anyway, I spend yesterday re-reading these 87 pages of the book. As I read, I try to winnow out the extra verbiage, making the book quicker and easier to read. My philosophy is that if I take out everything that is merely meh, all that’s left will be the parts that are really super-wow. That means that the book will be, in the parlance of our time, good.

Sometimes while I was reading I would get an idea for a different part of the book, and I’d skip off to another part of the book to make the change.  Sometimes I would make a change that necessitated making a few other changes throughout the book to maintain consistency.

But mostly I was just word-winnowing.

So yesterday I re-read 87 pages of the book. Pages that I’ve already read at least 100 times. It took 8 hours during the time that is, theoretically, my vacation.

At the end of those 8 hours, the book was 600 words shorter. I hadn’t trimmed a scene. I’m long past that stage. All the chaff scenes were gone months and months ago. These days if I want to tighten up the book, I have to hunt out little bits and phrases. Lines of dialogue that don’t sparkle. Non-essential snippets of description. Single superfluous words.

As I was going home, I wrestled with a familiar thought. Specifically, I wondered if I was insane.

Again, I’d spent an entire day making changes to the book that nobody would ever really notice. And I have to ask myself, is it really worth it?

Then I did the math.

A paperback page holds about 340 words, less if you use a lot of dialogue. (Which I do.) So by trimming 600 words, I’d effectively made my book about two pages shorter.

I’m guessing a quarter million people will read book two. In the US anyway. Last I heard, that’s about how many copies of NOTW have been sold.

That means, taken all together, I’ve spared my readers 500,000 pages of *meh* text.

Let’s assume it takes about a minute for a person to read a page. Roughly.

500,000 minutes = 8333 hours = 347 days.

That means, taken all together, I’ve saved my readers a full year of meh reading. That’s not counting foreign translations, book club versions, and people who read the book multiple times.

When I think of it that way, I guess it doesn’t seem so crazy. Which is good, because I don’t think I could stop being obsessive like this even if I wanted to.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in appearances, book two, Fanmail Q + A | By Pat108 Responses

Fanmail Z&A: (Zombie Apocalypse)

So just a couple minutes ago, I was reading through my fanmail and I got to the following letter.

Mr. Rothfuss,

I don’t know how to go about this, so I will just explain: I write a fictional blog set in the zombie apocalypse, and today in my post I referenced you… Since this is a work of fiction I have tried to get permission from any person I mention by name, and I wanted to make sure that this is alright with you. If you would like to read the entry, here’s the link.

If you would like me to edit you out, please let me know, and I will do so immediately.

I am a HUGE fan, by the way. I have purchased no fewer than four hardback copies of The Name of the Wind, and two paperbacks. People love them as gifts.

Looking forward to Wise Man’s Fear.

Joshua

My first thought was that Joshua was terribly polite. So I hopped over and checked out the link to make sure he didn’t have me dancing around in a leopard-print unitard or anything like that. Then, when I saw that I wasn’t, I dropped him an e-mail telling him it’s all cool.

My second thought was that while he didn’t ask me a question, there’s definitely one implied in his post.

Specifically: If there was a zombie apocalypse, and society collapsed, would I still keep working on my books?

It’s a good question. And after thinking about it, I’m a little surprised to say yes. I would.

The reason this is surprising to me is that I’m at the end of a long, LONG, jag of revisions.

How can I put this in perspective for you…?

How about this: I’m assuming most of you have written papers for school. And, because I assume most of you are kinda like me, I’m guessing you put off writing those papers until the night before they were due. (Or, in the case of more involved college research papers, you put them off until the weekend before they were due.)

So let’s go back and remember those long, desperate nights of paper-writing together: It’s late at night. You’re exhausted. You are absolutely fucking sick of the paper because you’ve been banging away on it for hours and hours.

Then you finally finish it. Relief. You are free. You can rest.

But then you think to yourself, “I should really read through it one more time to catch any last minute mistakes.” Because while you might be a procrastinator, that doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.

So you start to read even though you’re weary. Even though you hate your paper so much that re-reading it is like chewing sand. You read it one last time even though the topic you’re writing about fills you with such loathing that you could just shit yourself with rage.

And, as you read it one last time, you find a handful of mistakes that would have made you look like an absolute fuckwit. So you’re glad you put in the effort. But still, it was pretty excruciating.

Are we unified in our shared experience? Do you remember what that last read-through is like?

I did that read-through of the book six months ago.

And I am still working on the book.

Now in the interest of complete honesty, I should mention that I took a bit of a break after that sick-to-fucking-death read-through.

And I don’t mean to imply that every minute is excruciating. Sometimes I read a bit I’d forgotten about, and I think, “Wow, that’s really good.” Sometimes when I finally fix a long-standing problem (like how to plausibly arrange events so Bast, Ambrose, and Elodin can have a threeway) it feels great.

But the fact is that working on revisions is just that: work. What’s more, it’s work I’ve been doing it every day for months and months. I haven’t seen a movie since I caught Sherlock Holmes in the theater.

No. Wait. That’s not true. In a fit of madness I rented Transformers II about five months ago. While I was watching it, I remember thinking, “Huh? This makes no sense. Has it been so long since I watched a movie that I can’t understand them anymore?”

But no. It was just a horrendous pile of shit. Someone deserves to be punched in the neck for that movie.

Wait. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah. Revisions.

My point is that I’ve been doing revisions when I’ve really wanted to be doing other things. Like play with my baby, or re-watch Firefly, or go outside on the rare, jewel-like days when the weather here in Wisconsin isn’t like living in the crack of Satan’s ass.

Simply said, as I’ve mentioned before, everybody hates their job sometimes.

That’s why I was surprised when I asked myself that question. It only took me a few seconds to realize the answer: Yes.

Yes. If society collapsed, I would keep working on the books. I’d do it even if I knew they’d never be published.

And you know what? I’d still be every bit as obsessive about my revision as I am now. The only difference would be that my timetable would be more relaxed, and I’d probably have to work a little harder to find beta readers….

This was actually a rather nice revelation for me. It’s easy to focus on the fact that I *have* to work on the book. That line of thinking can get overwhelming for me sometimes. There’s a lot of pressure. A lot of stress.

It’s nice to remember that I also *want* to work on the book. It’s nice to remember that I love telling this story and that I’m lucky to have the freedom to revise obsessively, as is my nature.

But for all that, I have to say, I’m going to be really glad when it’s finished and I can move on….

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, musings | By Pat86 Responses

Fanmail Q&A: Revision

Pat,

I know from your comments on facebook and your postings on the blog that you’re busy revising. What’s more, that you’ve been doing it for months. What I’m wondering is what, exactly, you do when you’re revising that it takes you so long to do it? Please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another bitchy mewling e-mails from people complaining about waiting for WMF. I’m genuinely curious. You see, I’m not a writer or anything. The most I’ve ever written is papers for classes, and those I pretty much write, spellcheck, print, and then hand them in.

Consequently, this whole revision process is a big mystery to me. I know writers do it. And I know some writers (like you) seem to spend a lot more time on it than others. Back when I was a kid, I read about Piers Anthony’s revision process in his author’s notes. Where he would write the first draft of his books longhand, then revise them as he typed them into the computer. Then he was pretty much done. I know your books are much more complex than his, and a buttload longer. But still, I’m curious. Is there anything you can do to explain to us non-writers out here what exactly happens in the revision process? Can you show us how it’s done?

A big fan,

James

When you ask about *the* revision process, James, I get nervous. Every writer has their own way of doing things. I can only talk about *my* revision process, because that’s the only one I know.

Still, you aren’t the first person to ask about this. So I decided to take some notes on what exactly I did over the course of a night’s revision.

Here’s what I wrote down: (And don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers below. I don’t go in for that sort of thing:)

1. Changed a curse to be more culturally appropriate for the person using it.

2. Looked at all instances of the word “bustle” in the book to see if I’m overusing the word.

3. Considered modifying the POV in a particular scene. Decided against it.

4. Added paragraph about the Mews.

5. Changed the name of a mythic figure in the world to something that sounds better.

6. Spent some time figuring out the particular mechanisms of sygaldry to prevent consistency problems.

7. Reconsidered changing POV in same scene as before. Decided to just tweak it a little instead.

8. Trimmed two excess paragraphs.

9. Looked at my use of the word “vague” to see if I’ve been using it too much.

10. Removed about 20 instances of the word “vague” from the book.

11. Spoke with beta reader on the phone, getting their general impression of the book. Asked questions about several issues/concerns I have about the book. Took some notes.

12. Added two paragraphs to a chapter in order to adjust reader’s expectations for the following chapter.

13. Tightened dialogue in two key scenes, making them move a little more quickly.

14. Went through a manuscript copy of the book returned by one of my beta-readers. Fixed the typos they noticed, read their comments, and made a few minor adjustments to fix areas of the book where they were slightly confused.

15. Expanded scene to improve pacing and dramatic tension.

16. Considered moving a chapter to earlier in the book.

17. Moved chapter.

18. Read section of the book with new chapter order.

19. Moved chapter back to where it was before.

20. Re read several new-ish scenes to check their clarity and make sure they’re properly integrated into the book. Made small adjustments to smooth things out.

21. Invented several new religious terms.

22. Added paragraph to clarify character motivation.

23. Developed several new elements of the Commonwealth legal system.

24. Resisted the urge to add a 4000 word chapter so WMF would be longer than Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings.

25. Changed chapter ending to add slight foreshadowing.

26. Read the book for about two hours, making many small changes to tighten, clarify, and generally improve the language used.

That’s how I spent my Friday night, James. Altogether it took me about 11 hours. (10:30 PM to 9:30 AM the following morning.)

Some of these pieces of revision take more time than others. Something like #8 is relatively quick and easy once I’ve decided to do it. But something like 6  or 16-19 might take me an hour, and result in nothing at all in the book being different when I’m finished.

While most of these are in no particular order, the last one, # 26, is how I normally finish out my night, re-reading the book on the computer and tweaking the language it in a thousand small ways. When I do this, I also try to trim some of my excess wordage a bit. My first drafts are fairly verbose, and stories are better when the language is lean.

I know that sounds strange coming from someone whose novel is almost 400,000 words long, but brevity is something I really strive for. Everything in the book is there for a purpose. Every scene has to pay for itself. Every piece of description really needs to be worth reading.

During the two hours I tweaked the book, I trimmed out about 300 words, removing little bits of sentences and superfluous bits of description. I’d say over the last year, I’ve removed over 100,000 words from the book. Some of that was whole scenes and chapters, some of it just little bits and pieces.

I realize a lot of this is kinda vague. I apologize for that, but I don’t want to spoil any of book two by saying things like, “Added two sentences so it would be more of a surprise when Bast and Chronicler kiss.”

But since you asked me to “show you how it’s done,” I will. Since you admitted your letter that you only tend to write a first draft, I hope you won’t be offended if I revise your letter.

(Editor’s note: I felt weird doing this, so I e-mailed James to ask for permission. He said it was cool.)

Here’s how your letter looks after I gave it the same treatment that I give the book. I read through it twice, fiddled, tweaked, and tightened up the language.

Pat,

I know from facebook and your blog that you’re in the midst of revisions. I’m curious. What do you do when you revise, and why does it take so long?

Please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another bitchy, mewling e-mail complaining about the wait for WMF. I’m genuinely curious. The only things I’ve ever written are papers for school. I just write, spellcheck, print, and hand them in.

Consequently, the revision process is a big mystery to me. Back when I was a kid, I read about Piers Anthony’s revision process in his author’s notes. He writes the first draft of his books longhand, then revises them while typing them into the computer.

I’m guessing your process is more involved than that. Your books are more complex than his, and a buttload longer. Is there anything you can do to explain the revision process to us non-writers? Can you show us how it’s done?

A big fan,

James

First off, James, I don’t mean to imply that your letter was in desperate need of revising. There’s a reason I answered yours and not someone else’s. Your e-mail was delightfully polite. It had punctuation and capital letters. It even looks like you spellchecked it. It was a lovely letter.

I just did this to show you what exactly I’m talking about when I say I tweak things around. I like shorter sentences and paragraphs because they’re bite-sized and easier for the reader to digest. Also, now each paragraph centers around a separate idea. That makes it easier for the reader to follow your points.

Also, my revised version is about 30% shorter. I clipped out a few phrases and some repetition. I removed prepositions when I could and combined some sentences. It says pretty much the same thing, but it’s about 160 words long instead of 225.

That’s what I’ve been doing all these months. Except instead of doing it once to a tiny letter, I’m doing it a billion times to a huge, bugfuckeringly complex metafictional narrative.

Hope this clears things up a bit,

pat

Also posted in BJ Hiorns Art, Fanmail Q + A, the craft of writing | By Pat123 Responses
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