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Rabbit
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm often asked to beta-read stuff that doesn't deserve an honest passing grade (in terms of spelling and grammar) in a sixth-grade classroom. So, I can sympathize with Mike here.

Also, someone who wants to post grammarless, mis-spelled incompetent crap should think about and have sympathy for the other authors. Your work will be posted right next to theirs, so that their stories will be judged by yours. If your stuff looks like something scrawled on a roll of toilet paper in middle of the night with the lights off and if J. Random Reader happens to come by and see your work first, said reader will never look at _anything else_ from said site. And rightly so. In fact, the fandom as a whole is systematically destroying any hope of generating a successful literary tradition in exactly this way.

A few years back I co-chaired a panel at a West Coast con. My copanelist was an established SF writer who gave her best. When the session was over the subject came around to our own work, and I mentioned that I had one of my own shorts typed up for a workshop later in the day, if she wanted to see it. Her face went sour, then she literally gulped down a sick-feeling of some kind and out of sheer forced politeneness said she'd be glad to look at my work. (I've never seen anyone so reluctant to read _anything_, or so determined to be polite regardless.) A couple hours later later I ran into her again. Her face lit up, she smiled wide, and the first words she blurted out were "My god! That was actually _good_!"

My point here is that the reason she thought all furry literature was disgusting crap is because we beshit ourselves on such a regular basis by posting poor grammar, poor plotting, and pure porn labeled as literature right alongside the work of authors who dedicate hundreds of hours-- indeed, much of their _lives_-- to getting everything right. The noise, in other words, drowns out the signal because it's presented in a manner that assigns it equal value to the signal. So we shouldn't be surprised that outsiders think we're all noise. Or all crap, as the case may be.

(And, let me just add as an aside that I've nothing against porn. I read and enjoy it just like everyone else. So I can hardly condemn it, and in fact consider it to be a significant literary artform in and of itself. But, it's not _literature_ in the classical sense, and shouldn't be mislabeled as such. That's all I'm saying, on this score at least.)

Thank you, Mike, for maintaining and enforcing _standards_. I'm tired of having the rest of the SF/F literary community look down their noses at us, and I'm even tireder of them having _good reason to do so_. Respect must be _earned_, at least in part via discipline imposed from both within and without. I'm very grateful whenever I see literary discipline in action within our fandom. We'll never get _anywhere_ until more people support and understand it. Many, many, _many_ more people...

Anyone can post crap, because it's _easy_. Far fewer post quality work, because it's _hard_. I believe that anyone can grow as a writer, and produce good quality fiction. I'll even help them do so. But it takes months and years of hard, difficult slogging (and lotsa being told "This needs more work") along the way. Why people think they can be an Olympic-champion-level writer right out of the gate without Olympic-level coaching and Olympic-level commitment and effort, I can't imagine. God bless those willing to tell the truth and say, "This story needs more work". Even more, God bless those willing to _accept_ criticism, _fix_ the damn thing, and _do better next time_.
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Teric
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here here, Mike!

I for one am happy to do some editing and make some recommendations to other authors, and I have done so for a number of friends here on PF.

However, I completely agree that when a writer puts forth pages full of errors and expects someone else to simply fix them, then that is just poor writing.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can only say amen to that.
I take pride in my writings and I thank Mike for the proofreading.
I know my grammar and punctuation is way of, thank you again Mike for correcting me. Very Happy
Mike does this voluntary so I think his request is absolut in the best interrest for us all.

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TwylaFox
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pardon me for sticking my tail into this convo, but there are a few thing I feel the need to add...


One of the first questions any writer REALLY needs to ask themselves is: "Is this MY story to write?"

There are three qualifiers to this question -

1 ~ Are you familiar enough with the elements of your story to write authoritatively? This doesn't mean you have to be an astronaut to write a space story, nor a sorcerer to write a story involving magic - it means that you need to have real-life experiences that relate to what you're writing.

If your family is/was notorious for 1000-mile vacations by car, you could certainly write about a colony ship flying through space or a family of homesteaders plodding across the Great Plains. You know the "intimate details of a traveling microcosm" well enough to apply them to the colony ship or wagon, giving your story the realism to draw your audience into it. Without this (say, like a virgin writing a yiff handbook), you're going to make the kinds of mistakes that will shake your audience out of their 'suspension of disbelief'.

2 ~ Are you far enough away from the story to write it objectively? This is a very common trap for less-experienced writers - "This really happened to me, so all I need to do is write it down!" Though truth often is stranger than fiction, there are numerous pitfalls to this kind of thinking.

The biggest one is that the significance of the real event is based on every moment you've lived prior to it. That's a LOT of information to try to explain to your audience - doing it any justice would involve writing at least three novels of background for your (likely much shorter) story. Considering that you'll want the story to start as close to the beginning as possible, it's pretty obvious why this simply doesn't work.

Another is that such stories are often "in progress". A story you write needs a beginning and an end. How can you reasonably expect to end such a story? Even if you try to fictionalize everything, things you take for granted don't make it into your writing and anyone reading it will be scratching their heads trying to make sense of your story because these details are missing. Not to imply that it's anything short of awesome, but you're simply too close to the material to make it work for you.

3 ~ Do you truly believe in what you're writing? Let's face it... Even with our commonality as furs, we have a world of variegation between us. How can you convincingly write about something that you don't believe in yourself? Supposing you're an atheist - nothing wrong with that, though how can you write a story concerning a "supreme being"? Some don't believe magic ever did or could exist, others believe that the moon landing was a hoax, etc. Much as with familiarity (qualifier # 1), it's next to impossible to write convincingly about something you don't believe in yourself.



Once upon a time, happily ever after worked great for endings. Not anymore.

The driving force in any story is conflict. The phrase "happy people are boring" has been said so often that no one really knows who said it first, but it is as true a statement as has ever been uttered. If you stop to think about it, no one ever truly solves a problem - they merely exchange it for another one.

Up until the climax (which is the mother of problems in your story), things always get worse for your Main Character. Sure, there's the occasional reversal of fortune, though it should be a wolf in sheep's clothing - it *seems* like a good thing at the time, *but*...

Even your ending should have a catch to it, though it shouldn't be an obvious one. Yes, your Main Character succeeded (or not) - the main story question (dramatic throughline) is answered (resolved). But one thing always leads to another.

On the plus side, this gives you an easy lead-in for a sequel. When you succeed in marketing the story - and it does well - they're going to want another. Until you build up enough of a following to sell stories on your name alone, they're going to want a continuation of the last one - a sequel.

An extreme example of this is Book 1 in my AfteRealms Saga - The Fickle Finger. His enemies are defeated, he saves his daughter, and he gets BOTH the women in his life. *Seems* like a "happily ever after" *but*, in addition to the duties of his new position, one of his wives is still contending with ghosts of her sexual abuse and his daughter has an ingrained hatred towards the race which abused them both during their captivity - the same race as the Main Character's other wife. Neither of these draw attention to themselves through the first story, but they're obvious if one were to look - and there's still the unanswered question as to why he was singled out by his nemesis.

Sorry for staying abstract on the details, but this story is going through final revisions in preparation for copyright and marketing. Hopefully, though, this provides sufficient illustration of the point.

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anthony
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points.

Though, there's a real lack of magic academies these days, so it's a bit difficult to get the necessary experience for that kind of books.

Anyone read David Edding's books?
Notice how his characters are always getting stronger and stronger, until they can challenge gods?

Or books where magic is effortless, and it's obvious that the main character should have been able to resolve the problem on page two?

Always, when writing fantasy, write up the 'laws of the world' and make certain that EVERYTHING can be shown to follow those rules.
Yes, it's a huge task, and the main reason why I have yet to write a fantasy story.
It's also the reason why there's so much crap fantasy out there.
(Personally, I blame J. K. Rowlins with all her clichees)

'Puzzle rooms' with traps, hidden doors and all that, such as you find in Indiana Jones, The Librarian, National Treasure and all those movies...
There's one big problem with them.

They're all 'one shot' setups.
Sure, the hero may end up ground to a paste by giant rocks, or drown in a sea of sand, but the NEXT adventurer to come along will be able to walk across the traps with impunity.
Or the 'true believers' may find that the entrance to their most holy of places is blocked because someone didn't mind the holy goat as well as they should and it wandered off and triggered the collapsing roof...

One-shot crossbows works OK, assuming there's a way for servants to reload them.
(It may be that the servants died off hundreds of years ago, and no one is there to reload between the waves of adventurers. But it must be some logic around. )

Space... The fabulous frontier... Or the flubbed one...
Drawing up a star map, and actually measuring the distances, then calculating travel time based on 'your' technology isn't such a bad idea.

If travel time A -> B -> C is 1 + 3 weeks, but travel A -> C is two days, why does people from B travel directly, instead of going to A, then C?

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Nameless
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

anthony wrote:
Anyone read David Edding's books?
Notice how his characters are always getting stronger and stronger, until they can challenge gods?

Maybe a bit off topic, discussing his works, but there are a few points to be learned from his stories...

I read them, the first parts of the Belgariad as often as 10 times. But... I don't like them any more.

I have no problem with the characters getting stronger until they can challenge the gods (or become gods), that's a "normal" progression and perfectly fine if it fits the story. Still, I don't like his books any more.

Mainly, because his characters change suddenly and without much reason. Durnik went fishing maybe twice in the whole Belgariad, in the Malloreon he suddenly can't pass by any water body without dropping a hook in. There are many such instances where a character suddenly develops new abilities / skills / talents (or, more like suddenly uses a skill that comes in handy at a certain point in the story, ok. The problem is that there were several occasiona earlier in the story where that skill would have been useful, but the character didn't use it.)

Second, his villiains suck. They have immense power, true, but they have absolutely no idea what to do with it. It's not so bad in the earlier books, but it gets really bad in his later books.

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anthony
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just once, I would like an author to read 'The Evil Overlord List'
http://legendspbem.angelfire.com/eviloverlordlist.html
before creating a villain...

Or Sun Tsu's The Art of War.
(Highly recommended. Also available for the Kindle on amazon if you can't google a free copy)

Want to read proper Magic/tech battles of a large scale?
http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Fangs_of_K'aath_2:_Guardians_of_Light
And yes, Paul Kidd REALLY knows his firearms and tactics.
(I discussed quite a few details with him in emails, and if he could convince me that the details were right... )

The problem with magicians becoming as strong as Gods is...
Why doesn't the Gods do something about them before that happens?
In ost of these kind of stories, those Gods are evil, depraved, insane or 'just' bloodthirsty...
If I had Godlike powers, and someone was trying to encroach on my plans, I'd just... see if they can survive being teleported deep into the lava flows of an active volcano, or maybe change the iron in their blood a little bit... Lots of nasty ways of getting rid of heroes.

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TwylaFox
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

anthony wrote:
Good points.

Though, there's a real lack of magic academies these days, so it's a bit difficult to get the necessary experience for that kind of books.
Entirely true, though the "magic as technology" approach does pretty well. Whether it's alchemy (chemistry, cooking, etc), psionics (extrapolating mental capabilities "beyond the 5% we use"), or sorcery (physics, electronics, etc), there's always a "procedural" approach from real-world science that can be applied towards magic.

Quote:
Or books where magic is effortless, and it's obvious that the main character should have been able to resolve the problem on page two?
Which is why most such stories include a caveat - the most common being the inability to influence free will. Green Lanter's power ring can't affect anything yellow, Superman's X-ray vision can't see through lead, and Aladdin's genie's "phenomenal cosmic powers" can't kill, influence love, or bring people back from the dead.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 6:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Green lantern is an idiot...

If he makes a 'rail gun' shooting pebbles with his ring, it definitely will affect anything, even if it's yellow.
(In other words, he's always focused on 'direct approaches')

Superman...
The original flying 'Mary Sue'...

My favorite superhero movie is 'Mystery Men'...

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ScottyDM
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Getting Back to Rabbit's Original Post

My Personal Journey, a Story.

I remember when I finished my first two chapters of a furry fiction novella and posted them to my website (early 2003). I wanted feedback! I wanted people to read my story! Yes, praise would be nice, but I also knew that no matter how good something was it could always be improved, so I wanted constructive criticism.

This was also about the same time I discovered the furry fandom. I was sooo tempted to post stuff about my new story on James Bruner's Zig Zag forum, but I knew he'd ban me. I did write to another furry author whom I read and invited him to read my story. And I went looking for other venues.

I found FictionPress.com, but there are sooo many new things posted every day, and the site lacked any sort of focus, so that it was useless. No one reads your stuff because there is a mountain of dreck to shovel aside before you can find anything worthwhile.

A few people on FictionPress.com had posted articles (commissioned by the site managers) and one of those article authors had a private website and forum, so I went there. A small community of aspiring writers. We did manage a few critiques, but without a way to manage those critiques I ended up giving a lot more than I received.

Then I found Elfwood.com. By this time I'd finished all seven chapters of my novella and so uploaded them. Elfwood has standards, and my work passed and was posted. One person did comment and give a little feedback, but no real critique.

I was still desperate for feedback. Then I discovered CritiqueCircle.com, an online critique group with a points system to insure we get as many critiques as we give. That partly satisfied me and I started rapidly improving as a writer and storyteller.

I also wrote two stories for Nadan's Watching Stone Anthro Story contest. The first one finished in the middle of the pack, the second story won.

I felt I could relax a bit after that. I'd proven something to myself. I also threw myself into learning more of the craft, connected with local writers, and took over management of Nadan's writing contest (and renamed it). My next step is to grow a pair and start submitting for professional publication.

I wrote all this because I suspect at least some other budding authors feel as I felt. They want validation, or help, or both. It's out there.


The Perception that Furry Fiction is Crap.

My perception is that everything on FictionPress.com, and everything that's self published, is crap too. Now that's not true. Only 98% of that stuff is crap. It's just that finding the occasional gem is so much stinkin' work it isn't worth it to me.

Mike Regan runs a story site with minimum standards. And AnthroArchives.org used to, until the site owner got sick and had to drop out (the domain has since been re-purposed for anthropology). And my own contest site seems to attract better writers than typically found elsewhere in the fandom.

But that's about it. If you want to find good furry fiction you have to read a lot of crap.

Maybe we need something like Miavir's site, but with some sort of minimum standard the author must meet to earn a link to his or her stories. And some sort of feedback mechanism so readers can read, comment, and rate stories.


Should Everyone Write Fiction?

Sure! Why not.

The real question is: Should everyone post their fiction and expect others to read it?

Who Should Not Post Their Fiction for Others to Read.

Those who say, "I write for myself." We should write what we want to write, write what interests us. Don't chase fads or write what's "hot" today. Readers can tell if you lack passion about your subject. But on the other hand if you're going to put your writing out for the public to see, then you owe them your very best effort. If you have no interest in learning the craft of writing, then put your stories in your diary and keep them under lock and key. Please.

Those who have a thin skin. If you put your stuff out there, no matter how fantastic it is, someone's going to hate it. And chances are they will be vocal about it.

Those who are just learning and know their writing needs work. Why build a poor reputation? Find a critique group. It's the fastest and possibly the most effective way to improve. Use Google to find online critique groups. Also check out Meetup.com for local writers' groups.


Well, that's about it. Writing fiction is probably the most challenging form of writing there is. It requires a broad skill set to do well. But the skills are learnable, so go for it!

S~

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anthony
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You forgot one site.

VCL...

It used to be that in order to get an account you had to post 5 pieces of your work in the forum for critique. If you survived, you got an account.
These days, though, the forum is missing but the rule still stands.
(Mostly... The relevant Wiki articles is linked in from archive.org, I think. They had a server crash some years ago they never recovered from.)

I have been asked a few times to edit stories for others.
(I believe in the 'school of tough love' style editing, and yes, I warn them)
Very few ever sends me more than one chapter.

One even came back with 'All my friends loved it and said it was perfect'
Anyone who says that a few pages of assorted typos, horrible cliches and lack of structure is fit for publication is no friend...

There's a site on the net, which we won't mention here because of PG-13 and all that...
I sometimes commented on stories there, and pointed out a few errors the authors often did, explaining why it was wrong and tips to fix it.
a few thanked me, most ignored me, and a few 'attacked' me.
'English isn't my primary language' isn't a defense. It's not my primary language either, and I spotted all the typos.
A few of the ones that thanked me followed up with fixing the errors in their posted material, and maybe even followed the tips for one or two chapters. Then they were back to their old habits.
Why bother if most of the readers are pre-teens who'll reward you with a 5star rating if you use the words c*nt, d!ck, f*ck and *[email protected] often enough?

Miavir was a good idea. The site is still alive, after so many years of inactivity, so someone must care enough that the domain is renewed regularly. Just wish they cared enough to update it, too.

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ScottyDM
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

anthony wrote:
I have been asked a few times to edit stories for others.
(I believe in the 'school of tough love' style editing, and yes, I warn them)
Very few ever sends me more than one chapter.

One even came back with 'All my friends loved it and said it was perfect'
Anyone who says that a few pages of assorted typos, horrible cliches and lack of structure is fit for publication is no friend...

It gets back to: "Who Should Not Post Their Fiction for Others to Read."

Thin skin? Find another hobby, or grow a thicker skin.

Writing strictly for yourself and you don't give a flip what others think? Shame on you! Sending a private story to a friend is one thing, but as soon as you put something out there for the public--then you owe the public. You owe them your very best effort and that includes improving your craft. If you cannot, or do not want to, make the effort, then do not put your stories out there for the public to read.

I have zero patience for people who want it both ways. They expect adoration and want fame, but feel they owe the public nothing and can't be bothered to make any effort to improve. Screw 'em.


anthony wrote:
VCL...

Miavir was a good idea. The site is still alive, after so many years of inactivity, so someone must care enough that the domain is renewed regularly. Just wish they cared enough to update it, too.

I'd never considered that VCL contained stories. They are so strongly focused on the graphic arts it never occurred to me they had anything but art. At least Elfwood, Fur Affinity, and Deviant Art talk about writing a little bit. It'll be good when VCL gets fully back on line.

The Raccoon's Bookshelf and the former AnthroArchives.org were focused only on furry/anthro-fiction and had minimum standards for story publication. It's nice to know there's someplace we can go where most of the stories are readable.

Miavir was an external database of furry/anthro stories mostly hosted elsewhere. There was no minimum standard for inclusion, but at least they had a method for categorizing stories. I e-mailed them a couple of times back in 2003, but never a response. Apparently Miavir has been dead for at least seven years. I wonder how many of those links have gone stale?

A Miavir-like site is a good idea, but would be a tremendous amount of work to setup and maintain. Actually I might be inclined to build it, but disinclined to run it.

S~

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To me, one of the fundamental problems is that so few seem to appreciate how much learning and effort it takes to write fiction at anything resembling an "excellent" or "professional level". They seem to think that because they can operate a word processor, they're well on their way to literary immortality. While I'm all in favor of anyone trying to write who wants to, and have even been known to help along a few novices myself from time to time, well...

It's like this. No one ever seriously imagines that they're going to make their nation's Olympic diving team because they enjoy splashing about in a wading pool and a few random friends tell them they look good doing it. While making the national team is a laudable, achievable goal, everyone understands up front that making it happen is going to take years of work, pain, suffering and skilled coaching. Yet somehow people feel that writing _must_ be different, because fat guys sitting in comfortable chairs can be good at it without it physically looking like they're doing much of anything. So the novices crank out a few awkward paragraphs, then are shocked when _real_ judges, as opposed to their unskilled friends, effortlessly find hideous flaws in their "masterpieces".

The real tragedy is that so many get frustrated and quit then and there-- they're so ignorant of the nuts and bolts of what they're attempting that they really, honestly don't understand why they're not being proclaimed as the new Hemingway from Day One. We lose some genuine potential talent this way. Another smaller but more persistent group goes into denial, and all too frequently becomes so convinced their stuff is perfect that they self-publish instead of jumping through the necessary hoops to be published "For Real" which is how most of us learn the ins and outs of bonafide craftsmanship. (I very nearly fell into this trap myself.) This group will never improve, instead convincing themselves that the "judges" are blind fools. Only a tiny portion, probably less than one in fifty, will go on to apply enough time and effort, accept enough emotional pain, and seek out the proper coaching required to learn how to write _properly_ at the higher levels.

The journey is long and humbling-- even humiliating at times. I've published more work than I can honestly remember, and I'm still far from "top-drawer" myself. But I'm determined to learn every day as best I can. I also crank out fiction remorselessly on a daily basis in the hope of improving myself and learning how to better deal with my too-damn-many stylistic weaknesses. So, in turn I don't feel too terribly bad about being blunt with those who seem to think they deserve far greater success from far less effort. I was very lucky in that writing came relatively easy to me-- I ultimately sold my first novel, which a trick few writers manage. But I also had to listen carefully to my bluntest readers, find a pro willing enough to sit down and bluntly explain certain facts of writing life to me, and edit the damn thing somewhere between seventeen and nineteen times (I lost count) before it was _fit_ to publish.

<sigh>

I guess would-be Olympic divers who won't listen to anyone probably don't get very far, either. But at least the people in that field seem to have a lot fewer "born geniuses" to contend with than we do!
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